It seems like the Thanksgiving holiday was just here but nearly a month has passed and now Christmas is here. The Minnesota Wild will be going into their four-day holiday break with a record of 19-12-2, but their most recent game was a hard loss to the San Jose Sharks. Now that it’s Christmas, it’s time for another roundtable brought to you by the Wild crew at The Hockey Writers. Tyson McKay, C.G. Jones, and Mariah Stark will answer a few of the hard-hitting questions in regard to Christmas wishes.
What Should be the Number One Wish on the Wild’s Christmas List?
Tyson: The Wild are rolling along fairly well right now, but their first wish is the same as it has been for a few seasons now: a true number one center. They have had some good luck at finding players to fill the role in the form of Ryan Hartman and Sam Steel, but there has never been an obvious answer to the question of who belongs at that spot. Whether that player comes from a trade or a prospect, it will have to be solved before they can be a top-tier contender.
C.G.: The number one gift at the top of the Wild’s wishlist, if we’re including a trade deadline move, would be a scoring forward that can help the club on the back side of the season. As the postseason nears, it’s becoming apparent that the Wild are likely one or two pieces shy of being a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. I’m not sure who should be the target, but I’m hoping the Minnesota organization can work some magic this trade season.
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Mariah: I took a little different approach to this question but I think the Wild have a number of things to wish for after their most recent game against the Sharks. I think the top wish has to be getting their injured players back and keeping them in the lineup. Ryan Hartman recently came back and it was a boost the lineup needed; the same can be said about Jordan Greenway and hopefully soon Brandon Duhaime. While they’ll have to do some line shifting and some very good prospects will be sent back to the American Hockey League (AHL), they need their grit back.
What Area (Forwards, Defense, Goaltender) Should the Wild Ask Santa to Improve?
Tyson: If Santa could bring the Wild a top-six forward I think they would be overjoyed. The Wild have some serious depth, so much in fact that a healthy Duhaime is going to force the coaching staff to make some hard choices, but their top-end talent is lacking. Aside from the obvious quartet of Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Matt Boldy, and Joel Eriksson Ek the rest of the top six has yet to really solidify themselves as top-end talent, although I would accept arguments for Ryan Hartman on this matter.
C.G.: The Wild have to be targeting a scoring forward, or perhaps a two-way forward that can aid the backcheck. Either way, the club can’t simply be looking for depth. They need some difference-makers.
Mariah: While the talk has been about a top-six forward, they have plenty of forwards to choose from between their current roster and their prospects. Again, I took a slightly different angle to this question, but I believe their defense needs some improvement and not necessarily by adding another player to the roster. One of the biggest issues in their most recent loss that caused their winning streak to end was their defense wasn’t able to cover the weak-side player. They need to get back to the basics with their defense and push man-on-man instead of following the player with the puck around the ice.
It’s Over a Quarter of the Way Through the Season, Which Player Do You Hope Finds Improvement in the Next Quarter of the Season?
Tyson: While it is true that Jordan Greenway has battled through injuries to start the season, he just has not been living up to the player he can be. In 16 games, he only has three points (one goal and two assists) despite playing most of that on a line with Eriksson Ek who sits third on the team with 26 points (11 goals and 15 assists). I don’t expect Greenway to be a point-per-game player, but his current pace has him ending the season with just 12 points.
C.G.: My hope is that Marcus Foligno and Greenway improve this season. Eriksson Ek has been really producing on the offensive side of things, but he hasn’t found a ton of help in his linemates. If the Wild’s “GREEF” line can start producing, they’re going to be a miserable club to play against — every Wild fan dreams.
Mariah: It may be an obvious answer but Marc-André Fleury and Filip Gustavsson. While the goaltending struggled at the very beginning of the season, it has steadily made improvements only for it to take a step back at some crucial moments. The Wild really need their goaltending to continue to improve especially with Fleury, they need him to be the goalie that everyone expects him to be but do it with a 38-year-old body. He’s shown glimpses he can, but they need it consistently and they also need Gustavsson to become a strong backup. He also has shown he is capable of being a goaltender they can rely on but he needs to continue to do so.
It’s Christmastime, What Are You Looking Forward to Most?
Tyson: For me, it has to be the World Junior Championship. It has always been a large part of my family’s holiday traditions and the recent surge of Wild prospects flooding the tournament makes it that much better. Not only do I get to cheer for my country, but almost every game has at least one prospect to cheer for. Days filled with food and hockey are always going to make for a great time.
Related: 5 Wild Prospects to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors
C.G.: As I’m a little isolated here in Michigan, I’m looking forward to reuniting with family members and just taking some time to rest. The weather this week has been brutal for many parts of the U.S., and I just hope everyone stays safe and is able to hang out and spend time with the people they care about most.
Mariah: Oh man, there are so many things to look forward to. I love giving gifts, it’s one of my favorite things to do; putting a lot of thought and effort into that perfect gift means the world to me, especially seeing the smile on the recipient’s face. When I was a kid, after dinner and gifts, my cousins and I would lace up our skates and head to the local pond for some pickup hockey. It’s how I learned to skate and truly fall in love with the game I get to write about every day. This year my husband surprised me with tickets to the Wild/Kraken game in March and I can’t wait to see those two teams play. Also, my birthday is the 28th and this year I’ll be turning 30, so I plan to celebrate then as well. Hopefully, everyone has a great and safe holiday!
Wild Move Ahead
Sometimes all someone needs is a little break to spend time with family and friends to reset the mind, and hopefully that’s exactly what the Wild need to get back on the right track. Their first opponent after the break is the Winnipeg Jets, and they aren’t an easy team to beat. The Wild will have to give it everything they have to get past the Jets and restart their winning streak.