Minnesota Wild First Quarter Review

Mikko Koivu Wild Captain

Captain Koivu (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

Pre-season projection: Playoff team
Current stock: Dropping

Team record: 6-5-1 (11th in the conference, tied for eighth)

As the Wild thrashed the Avalanche on opening night, Mike Greenlay, Minnesota’s TV color guy couldn’t help but wiggle the forest green and Iron Range red tattooed on his butt by bragging, “We’ve been talking about the fact that the Wild either have one first line and then basically two second lines, or they have two first lines and a second line. There’s just that much depth now.”

After a quarter of the season, however, the Wild’s glaring weakness has been a lack of secondary scoring, second to last in the league with only 24 goals as of February 11th. And that’s not the only thing holding back the much-awaited Wild renaissance so far.

KEY STATS

  • 2.00 goals/game (29th)
  • 14.8 % PP (24th)
  • 26.5 shots/game (25th)
  • 5-2 record when outshooting/equaling opposition shots, 1-3-1 when outshot
  • 2.50 goals/against (12th)
  • 86.0% PK (8th)
  • 51 takeaways (30th)

Half of the Wild’s 24 goals have been scored by the first line (counting Heatley when on that unit). The power play has cooled off considerably. It is a silver lining that the Wild have managed to stay close with a number of forwards underperforming.

The penalty kill has been a bright spot, but Minnesota is tied for dead last in (the admittedly subjective stat of) takeaways after finishing middle in the pack last season. A talented goaltending duo has been just average, but the netminders could use a little more crease clearing.

OUTLOOK

It’s going to be a fight to the finish for the last playoff spot unless Backstrom or Harding step up or outside help is acquired.

Based on past track records, there’s hope for a little more secondary scoring, but perhaps not enough to make a difference. A leopard doesn’t change its spots, so a soft defense that concentrates on positioning isn’t likely to change. Despite this obstacle, both goalies can play better.

Minnesota does possess a deep pool of prospects to trade. A playmaker for Heatley or the right sandpaper with Suter could make the difference between the top eight and late lottery.

PLAYER-BY-PLAYER BREAKDOWN, ORDERED BY CAP HIT:

Zach Parise
Cap hit: $7,538,462
Pre-season projection: Franchise star
Current stock: Holding

A dervish of offensive creativity, Parise has been everything advertised and more, even managing to lead all Wild forwards with 15 blocked shots. Night in and night out, he’s been the team’s most dangerous player with his six goals and 53 shots pacing them.

Ryan Suter
Cap hit: $7,538,462
Pre-season projection: Franchise defenseman
Current stock: Dropping

Suter definitely misses having a hulk like Shea Weber clear the crease for him. That fact doesn’t take away from his still-impressive package of two-way smarts and puckmoving ability, but he needs more support around him to shine.

Dany Heatley
Cap hit: $7,500,000
Pre-season projection: First line scorer
Current stock: Dropping

The hands are still there, but the decline in skating is irreversible. Heatley desperately needs someone who can get him the puck, especially since he’s been moved down to the second line in an attempt to balance scoring.

Mikko Koivu
Cap hit: $6,750,000
Pre-season projection: First line center
Current stock: Holding

Koivu continues to be a rock. He’s truly underrated in every facet of the game and has excellent chemistry with Parise.

Niklas Backstrom
Cap hit: $6,000,000
Pre-season projection: Top-10 goalie
Current stock: Dropping

Backstrom has been inconsistent with especially poor rebound control. It appears that his star was made on Lemaire’s system; he’s good, but not “six million good.”

Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Cap hit: $4,080,000
Pre-season projection: Top-six playmaker
Current stock: Dropping

Has displayed exhilarating flashes, but there isn’t enough production to justify his shortcomings. However, he may be the Wild’s best hope to energize secondary scoring because there’s still hope that his timing might return.

Tom Gilbert
Cap hit: $4,000,000
Pre-season projection: Top-four, two-way defenseman
Current stock: Rising

The team’s most productive defenseman so far with three goals, Gilbert’s also been defensively responsible. He’s anchored Minnesota’s second pairing.

Matt Cullen
Cap hit: $3,500,000
Pre-season projection: Top-six scorer
Current stock: Dropping

Has picked up his share of chances, but hasn’t finished enough so far. Look for him to score a little more. His faceoff percentage, albeit in limited opportunities, is a surprisingly low 49.2%.

Devin Setoguchi
Cap hit: $3,000,000
Pre-season projection: Top-six scorer
Current stock: Dropping

After bulking up in the offseason, Setoguchi is a surprising second on the team in hits with 28; he also suffered a short demotion to the fourth line because of only a single goal tallied. The shot’s still there, however, so look for a bounce back.

Kyle Brodziak
Cap hit: $2,833,333
Pre-season projection: Two-way, third line center
Current stock: Dropping

Not much has gone right for Brodziak so far. Besides a lack of finish, after finishing tops or second on the team in takeaways the last three seasons, he only has two so far this season.

Mikael Granlund
Cap hit: $2,100,000
Pre-season projection: Top-six playmaker
Current stock: Dropping

Hasn’t shown the strength to handle the league so far, but has displayed tremendous creativity. The sky is the limit for Granlund, but may still be best served playing top minutes in Houston.

Josh Harding
Cap hit: $1,900,000
Pre-season projection: Top-notch backup goalie
Current stock: Dropping

A tiny sample size so far, but great in one game and awful in two other starts won’t cut it. In a short season, the backup’s efforts are magnified.

Torrey Mitchell
Cap hit: $1,900,000
Pre-season projection: Third line grinder
Current stock: Dropping

Ordinary + grinder = Torrey Mitchell. The Wild were hoping for more of a spark.

 

Mike Rupp
Cap hit: $1,500,000
Pre-season projection: Fourth line center
Current stock: N/A

Rupp gives Minnesota some needed size.

Jonas Brodin
Cap hit: $1,444,167
Pre-season projection: AHL star
Current stock: Rising

Brodin has been a revelation. Up to the task while facing top-four responsibilities as a 19-year-old, he’s a future top-pairing defenseman. That said, it’s not a good sign that he’s been forced into the third-highest ATOI on the team so far at 22:14/game. On a better team, he would be apprenticing on a bottom pairing.

Cal Clutterbuck
Cap hit: $1,400,000
Pre-season projection: Third line, two-way pest
Current stock: Holding

Clutterbuck is due for a sizable pay raise after this season as he continues to jaw, hit, and chip in an occasional goal with the best of pests.

Clayton Stoner
Cap hit: $1,050,000
Pre-season projection: Top-four defenseman
Current stock: Dropping

Perhaps destined to be a bottom-six defenseman, he’s coughed the puck up too much. For what it’s worth, he has been physical, filling a team need. The Wild need an immediate upgrade in their top-four, whether from Stoner or from the outside.

Charlie Coyle
Cap hit: $975,000
Pre-season projection: AHL star
Current stock: Holding

Has not looked very out of place so far, but it’s a sign of the Wild’s desperation to balance their lines that they called him up. Coyle should be starring in the AHL right now.

Zenon Konopka
Cap hit: $925,000
Pre-season projection: Fourth line center, enforcer
Current stock: Holding

Konopka has been a bargain so far with his eclectic blend of skills: Toughness (team-leading 48 PIMs and four fights, while not missing a game after this), faceoffs (team-leading 58.5%), Tweeting, and rabbiting.

Marco Scandella
Cap hit: $845,833
Pre-season projection: Bottom-six, two-way defenseman
Current stock: Dropping

The main thing required of a bottom pairing defenseman is to not make glaring mistakes, and Scandella’s made enough to be sat for a few games. He’s playing himself to a demotion.

Justin Falk
Cap hit: $825,000
Pre-season projection: Bottom-six defenseman
Current stock: Holding

Falk has been solid, but unspectacular. He would be an outstanding seventh defenseman.

Nate Prosser
Cap hit: $825,000
Pre-season projection: Seventh defenseman
Current stock: Holding

Prosser has held his own when called upon.

Jared Spurgeon
Cap hit: $526,667
Pre-season projection: Top-four defenseman
Current stock: Dropping

A heady defenseman who’s out right now, it was unfair of Yeo to put Suter and Spurgeon together to start the season as they did not complement each other well. For a team that desperately needs some blueline grit, he may not be the ideal fit at the moment.

Sheng Peng
Sheng Peng plants ideas like Wilt Chamberlain on Twitter and Google+. He covers the Los Angeles Kings for The Hockey Writers.
Sheng Peng
RT @JTDutch: ... Nope had enough pain thanks RT @Lakerella Prayers go out to my Dodgers fan peeps. Always next year. But for now let's all … - 8 hours ago

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