The John Torchetti era in Minnesota Wild history is in full swing with the team in the midst of a turnaround that sees them back in the playoff picture in the Western Conference with an improved power play leading the way.
The players are all in, and the aggressive system that Torch has instated has been a godsend for a team that couldn’t find the back of the net. The Wild have seen improvement in all scoring aspects, but perhaps the biggest improvement has been in the power play production.
Since Torchetti’s first game in Vancouver on February 15th the Wild are 11/40 with the man advantage for an astounding 27.5% conversion rate, and have scored a power play goal in 9 of those 11 games. Only the Anaheim Ducks have scored more power play goals in that time frame with 18. The Wild under Mike Yeo were only at a 17.8% conversion rate and ranked towards the bottom of the league in power play percentage. Currently the Wild are in the top half of the NHL at 12th with a 19.32% conversion rate.
What’s changed to make those numbers improve so much? In my opinion, this is a direct result of the coaching change. The numbers do not lie, the power play under Torch is better, period.
Shuffling of Players
The shake-up of player units is certainly one of the biggest reason for the improved power play. Under Yeo, the power play lines were not juggled, as the same groups went out and made the same bad choices and mistakes on the man advantage. Torchetti from the beginning came in and changed up the lines to allow the hot hands a chance at logging time on the power play.
The top producer on the top unit for Torch is currently Mikko Koivu. Koivu has 4 power play goals of the 11 scored by the Wild under their new coach. Sometimes a player scores not just from his individual role and efforts, but from where he fits in with the other players’ roles and efforts as well. By putting players like Charlie Coyle on the top PP unit, Torch has sparked Mikko’s ability to score because of the chemistry created with the other players on his line.
Jason Pominville is definitely the player that has responded most to the coaching change, and the power play is certainly an area he’s stepped up his game. He’s produced 2 goals and 2 assists, as a consequence of moving to the second PP unit to play the point. You could say it’s just part of Pommer’s overall improvement, but there’s something to be said for the changed lines and corresponding increase in output.
System and Positioning Changes
The personnel changes are a huge factor but I’d additionally point to the change in system and positioning on the power play under Torchetti. Charlie Coyle in the post-game interview on Wild.com explained that “It’s nice to know that our man advantage is working for us…we’re movin and making plays”. It seems that the Wild players under Torch have been encouraged to move more constantly for better position and concentration of net presence.
Under Yeo, the power play usually was a one shot only proposition with very few rebounds taken advantage of due to poor positioning. Torchetti realized that players like Koivu and Coyle have the advantage of staying close to the net to screen the goaltender and pick-up the rebound. Sure hard shots are great, but oftentimes their prime purpose is to generate rebound chances and the new-look Wild power play has been taking advantage of that. It’s really all part of Torch’s emphasis on “net-presence” that he’s pushed since day one.
With 16 games left, the Wild will certainly need this increased production from its power play units. The numbers right now are an encouraging sign that the power play issues that have plagued the team for the better part of two seasons might finally be coming to an end. If the players and the coaches keep themselves committed to keeping an emphasis on converting with the man advantage, there’s no doubt the team will be a force to reckon with.
Danny Lambert has been covering the Minnesota Wild for some time now, and is back again as contributor to THW staff. A native Minnesotan he’s always had his eye on the State of Hockey and is proud to write and represent such a great market and fans. Follow him on Twitter at @dannylambert17