Dean Evason’s Expectations as First-Year Coach of the Wild

While Minnesota Wild fans were able to get a glimpse of how the team plays underneath Dean Evason during the last 12 games of the regular season before the shutdown, this will be his first full year as the head coach after the firing of Bruce Boudreau back in February. However, even with that sample size, this is a different team and Wild fans are anxious to see what Evason can do in his first full year as the head coach.

Looking Back at the 2019-20 Season

After Evason was appointed the interim head coach, the team went 8-4 during the aforementioned 12 games before the shutdown of the regular season, finishing in sixth place in the Central Division. This was good enough to qualify for the Qualifying Round where the Wild would lose to the Vancouver Canucks in five games.

Dean  Evason Minnesota Wild Head Coach
Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During the playoffs, points were a hard thing to come by as Eric Staal led the team with five during the Qualifying Round. In those four games, the team scored just 10 goals, which averages out to be about two and a half goals per game. That is certainly something that we could see change under an Evason system. However, while looking back at last year gives a little context to what the team did in a small size with their new coach, what could this year’s team accomplish?

Analyzing the Roster

Whenever the NHL season will start, Wild fans will certainly be treated to all sorts of new faces. General manager Bill Guerin kept himself busy during the offseason. He made deals to bring in Marcus Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres in a deal that saw Staal go the other way, Nick Bonino from the Nashville Predators for Luke Kunin and drafting Marco Rossi with the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft.

Marcus  Johansson Buffalo Sabres
Marcus Johansson, former Buffalo Sabre (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The move that made a lot of Wild fans crinkle their brows was the decision to part with Staal to acquire Johansson, who has been seen as a better winger throughout his career. However, these two do have a history together from Evason’s time coaching Johansson as a member of the Washington Capitals. Evason saw Johansson’s capabilities in Washington and was able to convince Guerin that he could be a number one center for the Wild. But along with these various roster changes, there comes a decision that could influence the franchise for years to come.

Who’s the Next Captain?

One looming decision that will be upcoming for the bench boss is the decision of appointing the next team captain. Guerin has previously said that he does not believe in the three alternate captains philosophy, so that means that there will be a new captain when the Wild take the ice again. This will be a huge decision that will be made by not only Guerin but Evason as well.

As the person who is in the locker room, there is no doubt that Evason will play a key role in determining who leads the Wild into the future with the C adorning their jersey. While there are certainly two strong candidates in the current alternate captains, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, in an article from The Athletic, Mike Russo brings up the possibility that Jared Spurgeon is his odds-on favorite.

Jared  Spurgeon Minnesota Wild
Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As to why, Russo states, “Everybody in that locker room respects Spurgeon, both for his presence in the room, in the community and on the ice” (from ‘Wild next captain odds: Which player has the best chance to take over the ‘C’?’). But whoever the captain ends up being, that will be a big decision for Evason.

Final Thoughts and Analysis

There is no question that Evason will head into his first full season with a very different team. Longtime captain Mikko Koivu is gone, a new captain is set to be announced, and the roster has been overhauled to try and keep the team in contention for a playoff birth.

One of the biggest X factors going into this season will be Johansson. Many are projecting him to be the first-line center of this team, even though his offensive numbers were much more productive as a winger than a center. However, Evason has seen him play center in Washington and seems to trust him in that role. He would also likely be paired alongside last season’s breakout star for the Wild, Kevin Fiala, and would be asked to help him continue to develop. But whatever happens, Evason is the head coach of the Wild and his journey officially begins now.

Sign up for our free ‘Wild Substack Newsletter‘ for all the latest.