Now that the top three forward lines for the Minnesota Wild have received their grades, it’s time to move on to the fourth and possibly most interchanged line the team had all season. At times it was hard to keep track of who the fourth line was for the Wild as they changed players so much, but there were a steady few that made the list.
The first and probably the most veteran of the bunch was Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad. While he was in and out of the lineup for various reasons this season, he’s been in the league for 10 seasons and at this point in his career knows what to expect. The last couple weren’t his best, this current season included. However, he still brought some value and experience that the Wild utilized at times.
Bjugstad’s Rough 2021-22 Season
Bjugstad’s first couple of seasons in the league were very impressive. Other than his rookie campaign where he had one point, he went on to have three straight seasons with 30 plus points. However, his run with the Wild has not been great and 2021-22 was the worst of his career. He played in 57 games and registered 13 points. Seven of those were goals with the other six being assists.
Bjugstad missed 14 straight regular-season games due to an upper-body injury in early January that lasted until the middle of February. He was then a healthy scratch in his first game back but then rejoined the lineup until the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline hit and he gained a couple of new linemates in Nicolas Deslauriers and Tyson Jost who would also take his place throughout the rest of the season.
Bjugstad had a steady streak of appearances through the month of April but only accounted for one point, a goal against the Nashville Predators. It was the first goal of the game and on the power play, an area the Wild had struggled in most of the season and gave them life against a team they had trouble with. One of the main issues with him is, that while he scores goals in big games, they are few and far between.
Bjugstad did contribute a lot of hits throughout the season with 99 in his 57 games. His blocked shots were pretty disappointing with 14, however, he made up for some of that with his 18 takeaways. Obviously, those numbers should’ve been better but being on the fourth line is mostly about physicality, so he did nail that category.
Bjugstad’s play during the regular season didn’t impress enough for him to secure a spot in the playoffs. During the 2020-21 season, he played in all six of the Wild’s postseason games and had one point. It was a goal, but not enough to help them be successful. During his career, he’s played in three postseasons including the one time he was in for the Wild.
His first appearance in 2015-16 for the Florida Panthers was his best performance, as he played in five games and had four points. The next time was in 2018-19 for the Pittsburgh Penguins where he played four games and had zero points. Then his dismal single point for the Wild prior to this non-appearance. With how things turned out against the St. Louis Blues, despite his small numbers in previous postseasons, it may have benefitted them to give Bjugstad at least one game.
Things weren’t working and his experience, though minimal, may have been helpful. If anything, his added hits could have helped add some energy to the lineup and change the dynamic of the game. Besides the second line’s disappointing results in the postseason, the fourth line missed their marks in the physicality department slightly as well and it’s hard to say if Bjugstad would have made a difference or not.
Bjugstad’s Final Grade
Clearly, Bjugstad had a rough season with his injury and then being scratched before the playoffs started. While he had goals in big games, he was expected to produce more than he did and while he had a large number of hits it just wasn’t enough. He did do good things away from the puck, but again not enough, and he had no playoff input to speak of.
Bjugstad’s overall grade is a C+ because he really didn’t perform to what anyone expected. However, he deserved a somewhat decent grade with the points he did accumulate even if they were small. He had some flashes where he looked great but it didn’t last and the Wild need consistency out of all their players on the roster.
More than likely Bjugstad will not return to the Wild lineup next season even with a small contract. He fits okay on the roster but he could do better elsewhere and it would be better for the Wild for him to leave as well. With the bigger contracts they’re looking to sign, like Cam Talbot or even Marc-André Fleury, it would make a lot of sense to let him go. He’s an unrestricted free agent come July and he should be able to find a place on another fourth line where he can contribute. It’ll be interesting to see if he stays or goes and if he does end up leaving, where he’ll land for 2022-23.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.