Minnesota Wild Mid-Term Review

Pre-season projection: Playoff team

Current stock: Holding

Devin Setoguchi Wild
(Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

Team record: 13-9-2 (3rd in conference, 1st in Northwest division)

7-4-1 in their last 12, the Minnesota Wild has clawed to the top of the Northwest.

As predicted, secondary scoring has marginally improved.  The Wild has also enjoyed more consistent goaltending, and possible defensive stalwarts have emerged in Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon.

However, being atop the Northwest must be taken with a grain of salt.  After a strong start, the Vancouver Canucks have gone 3-5-4, giving way to Minnesota.  Calgary, Colorado, and Edmonton don’t appear to be playoff-worthy vessels at the moment, making the Northwest the weakest division in the conference, if not the entire league.  Also, in the quagmire that is the Western Conference, just one win is the difference between the Wild being in the playoffs or not.

So with half the season left, what does Minnesota need to do to ensure that they get in?



Current, as of March 11th (league ranking) First 12 games (league ranking)
2.29 goals/game (26th) 2.00 goals/game (29th)
13 first period goals (30th)  
16.3 % PP (20th) 14.8 % PP (24th)
86 PP Opportunities (20th)  
27.9 shots/game (21st) 26.5 shots/game (25th)
35.6 Fenwick For/60 (5-on-5, Shots + shots attempts that missed the net/60) (28th)  
10-4 record when outshooting/equaling opposition shots, 3-5-2 when outshot 5-2 record when outshooting/equaling opposition shots, 1-3-1 when outshot
2.42 goals/against (7th) 2.50 goals/against (12th)
86.5% PK (4th) 86.0% PK (8th)
74 Times Shorthanded (1)  
53.0 % FO (4th)  

In the last dozen games, the Wild has scored 2.58 goals a game, which is slightly below league average. Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, and Spurgeon, along with call-up Jason Zucker, have brought home the bacon for a once goal-starved Wild squad.

Niklas Backstrom has solidified his overall play and unheralded Darcy Kuemper has backed up ably.

Minnesota has been very successful when outshooting opponents, making the improvement of their Fenwick For essential.  A team whose success is clearly tied with shots for must find a way to get more of the same or better quality shots through.

Getting a few more power play opportunities, especially for a unit that’s clicked at a 21.4 % success rate (6 for 28) in the last six games, would help.

To the coaching staff’s credit, the Wild continues to play disciplined hockey, on display with their team defense, penalty kill, and fewest Times Shorthanded.



While the view looks good on top, a number of underlying statistics suggest that the Wild is still in for a down-to-the-wire race to reach the playoffs.

Only three Western Conference teams have a goal differential of greater than +2: Chicago (+27), Anaheim (+23), and Los Angeles (+11).  Seven other teams are hovering around even: Detroit has a +2, Phoenix and Dallas are even, and Minnesota, Vancouver, San Jose, and St. Louis have a -1.

Minnesota must improve their 4-7-1 road record.  That’s the road record of a fringe playoff team.

The Wild’s tenuous playoff hold is also demonstrated by their nine one-goal wins, third in the league.  That, along with their league-leading five two-goal losses, suggests an about average team caught in a lot of tight games.

The team’s revived secondary scoring should hold as Heatley, Setoguchi, and Cullen are merely scoring at about their expected pace right now.  Overall team defense suggests that Backstrom will be given every chance to sustain his play.  However, whether Brodin or Spurgeon will be able to continue their impressive work is in question because their inexperience will be strained by their responsibilities.

While team defense has proven to be sound positionally, Minnesota needs a physical, top-four defender.  Another top-nine forward who can push play, drawing penalties and creating quality shots, would also separate the Wild from the pack.

With the April 3rd trade deadline fast approaching, the Wild does have an impressive portfolio of youngsters to offer for immediate help.  Personally, I’m against trading the kids, as they’re close enough to be of significant help within a year or two.

But if they continue their strong play, the Wild might consider putting some draft picks in play for a younger, but established asset.  They do have all their 2013 draft picks, including two thirds and sevenths, at their disposal.  However, exorbitant deadline prices will probably make trading top draft picks most unappetizing.

And if Minnesota falls out of the race before April 3rd, they boast an interesting pair of veterans who are close to unrestricted free agency: Cullen and Backstrom.  Tom Gilbert and Setoguchi may also prove expendable.



Zach Parise

Cap hit: $7,538,462

Pre-season projection: Franchise star

Current stock: Holding

Recently plagued by a recent mini-slump with only two goals in a 13-game stretch, Parise broke out with a clutch two-goal game against the Canucks last Sunday.  His mini-slump coincided with Minnesota’s improved secondary scoring, suggesting that defenses might have been keying in on him a little more.


Ryan Suter

Cap hit: $7,538,462

Pre-season projection: Franchise defenseman

Current stock: Holding

11 points in the last dozen stands out on paper, but what’s more outstanding is eating up a league-leading 27:29 minutes a game.  The Wild’s overall team defense is a testament to Suter’s strong influence on the game.



Dany Heatley

Cap hit: $7,500,000

Pre-season projection: First line scorer

Current stock: Dropping

Heatley still hasn’t found his place among Minnesota’s lines, but is still scoring when given a chance.  However, preventing him from getting chances is easier than ever, as his Shots/60 minutes on 5v5 Even Strength has dropped from 8.009 from 2007-10 to 5.819 so far this season.


Mikko Koivu

Cap hit: $6,750,000

Pre-season projection: First line center

Current stock: Holding

Koivu quietly leads the team with 20 points.  A few more goals would be nice, but they’re coming.


Niklas Backstrom

Cap hit: $6,000,000

Pre-season projection: Top-10 goalie

Current stock: Holding

Poor rebound control to start the season has given way to just spotty, which has been enough for Backstrom go on a 8-2-1 run with a 92.4 Save %.  However, consistency has eluded him since Jacques Lemaire resigned.


Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Cap hit: $4,080,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six playmaker

Current stock: Dropping

If the Wild released their 2002 first-round pick today, it’s not certain if any team would claim him.  A half season of perimeter play and general unwillingness to go into heavy traffic has put him at a career crossroads.


Tom Gilbert

Cap hit: $4,000,000

Pre-season projection: Top-four, two-way defenseman

Current stock: Dropping

After a good start, Gilbert’s play has fallen dramatically with just one assist, a -5, and 18:39 ATOI in his last 11 (before sitting out with the flu in Minnesota’s last game).  Inconsistent offense from a defenseman is one thing, but it’s been his inconsistent defensive coverage that’s caused his fall from 23:43 ATOI in his first dozen games.


Matt Cullen

Cap hit: $3,500,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six scorer

Current stock: Holding

Nine points in his last 12 have been a just reward for arguably Minnesota’s most dangerous playmaker recently.  He’s also been on fire in the faceoff circle, winning more than 61% of his draws in the last quarter.


Devin Setoguchi

Cap hit: $3,000,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six scorer

Current stock: Holding

Setoguchi keeps on hitting with 24 hits in the last quarter, also potting four goals in that stretch.


Kyle Brodziak

Cap hit: $2,833,333

Pre-season projection: Two-way, third line center

Current stock: Dropping

Brodziak’s two-way play continues to earn him a lot of playing time, as he ranks fourth among forwards with 16:33 ATOI, but at some point, a greater harvest of goals must be reaped.  His current 8.6 shooting %, after a combined 13.3 % the last two seasons, suggests that his luck might improve soon.


Mikael Granlund

Cap hit: $2,100,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six playmaker

Current stock: Dropping

With four healthy scratches in the last quarter, there’s no reason for this young, gifted playmaker to be freezing his butt off in Minnesota.


Josh Harding

Cap hit: $1,900,000

Pre-season projection: Strong backup goalie

Current stock: Dropping

On IR.


Torrey Mitchell

Cap hit: $1,900,000

Pre-season projection: Third line grinder

Current stock: Dropping

In and out of the lineup, Mitchell still needs to carry the play more to fulfill his cap hit.  His 10:11 ATOI is almost three minutes off his career average entering the season.


Mike Rupp

Cap hit: $1,500,000

Pre-season projection: Fourth line center

Current stock: Holding

With smoother hockey skills and smarts than Konopka, Rupp has helped solidify Minnesota’s fourth line.


Jonas Brodin

Cap hit: $1,444,167

Pre-season projection: AHL star

Current stock: Rising

For better or worse, Brodin has become Minnesota’s number-two defenseman, coming behind only Suter with an ATOI of 22:03.  A dark horse Calder candidate, how he continues to handle his increased responsibility may dictate where the Wild season goes.  To his credit, so far, so good.


Cal Clutterbuck

Cap hit: $1,400,000

Pre-season projection: Third line, two-way pest

Current stock: Holding

The Wild is happy to see him back after a few games off because of injury.  They’ll need a few more goals from him soon though.


Clayton Stoner

Cap hit: $1,050,000

Pre-season projection: Top-four defenseman

Current stock: Dropping

While Stoner’s 43 hits leads the blueline group, his defensive coverage and puck movement have been mostly shoddy.  His spot is Minnesota’s sorest need of improvement, as the team’s best defensemen aren’t very physical.


Charlie Coyle

Cap hit: $975,000

Pre-season projection: AHL star

Current stock: Rising

While Coyle’s hands haven’t caught up to big league pace, he’s surprised many by leading Minnesota rookie forwards with a solid, gritty 14:30 ATOI.  He also just enjoyed his “The Shift.”


Zenon Konopka

Cap hit: $925,000

Pre-season projection: Fourth line center, enforcer

Current stock: Holding

Konopka has taken an unnecessary penalty or two when in, but overall, has provided sound team play and leadership.


Darcy Kuemper

Cap hit: $900,000

Pre-season projection: AHL backup

Current stock: Rising

Able to get his large frame in front of most shots, Kuemper has gone well past projections this season, but may have too many holes in his game to make a lasting impact.


Johan Larsson

Cap hit: $870,000

Pre-season projection: AHL two-way forward

Current stock: Holding



Marco Scandella

Cap hit: $845,833

Pre-season projection: Bottom-six, two-way defenseman

Current stock: Dropping



Jason Zucker

Cap hit: $833,000

Pre-season projection: AHL star

Current stock: Rising

Four goals in 10 games with fourth-line ATOI (10:57) seems unsustainable.  Needs to get stronger and pay more attention defensively, but that’s probably for next season.  His uncanny ability to get open, if it’s for real, can make him a star.


Justin Falk

Cap hit: $825,000

Pre-season projection: Bottom-six defenseman

Current stock: Dropping

Has been okay, but would be a seventh defenseman on a deeper team.


Nate Prosser

Cap hit: $825,000

Pre-season projection: Seventh defenseman

Current stock: Holding

Has been okay, but would be a seventh defenseman on a deeper team.


Jared Spurgeon

Cap hit: $526,667

Pre-season projection: Top-four defenseman

Current stock: Rising

He’s emerged as third among Wild defensemen in ATOI with 21:29.  His and Suter’s offensive skill might make Gilbert expendable…if Spurgeon can keep it up.  A smart two-way defender who will always need sizeable backup.