How the Wild can Overcome Past Personnel Mistakes

Everyone has their own opinion of what their favorite team should do when it comes to trades, starting players, how to operate the team, etc. I believe there are a few things the Minnesota Wild should have done differently this past season and what they should do going forward.

Going Back in Time

The biggest mistake the Wild made in the past few seasons was letting go of forward Mikael Granlund. It was great getting Kevin Fiala in return for Granlund but if there would have been a way to get them both, Minnesota could have had a scoring machine.

The main reason Granlund didn’t have as much success with Minnesota as he could’ve was a lack of line chemistry. If they’d been able to pair him with someone of his caliber, there could have been a lot more goals scored. Fiala could’ve been that potential match.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Granlund consistently had 35-plus point seasons with Minnesota, other than his very first season. Once he left to join Nashville, his points weren’t the same and he doesn’t seem to be the same player he once was.

Most Recent Events

Another mistake the Wild made was letting go of forward Eric Staal. He was in the top three in points for the team in the last few seasons. He was both a leader and a scorer despite not having the “C” to show for it as he did in Carolina.

He was similar to Mikko Koivu in how he could bring the team together by either scoring the big game-winning goal or the goal that pulls the team back into contention.

In his first season with the Wild, he had eight game-winning goals. He was the type of leader that never gave up even if Minnesota was down by a lot. The team will miss his work ethic and ability to pull them out of ruts.

Past Mistakes Turn into Future Goals

General manager Bill Guerin made quite a few bold moves when the Wild lost in the playoffs this past season, the biggest being letting go of franchise captain Koivu. It’ll be the first time the Wild have to choose a new captain in over 10 seasons.

That’ll be the first major move Minnesota will have to announce, a new captain. Personally, as much as Ryan Suter and Zach Parise would make good choices, Jared Spurgeon may be the best option. He’s quiet, calm, and doesn’t like the spotlight. He would be the perfect candidate to lead the team in a similar way to Koivu.

The Way the Lines Should Look

Enough about who will be the next captain, who’s going to be in the lineup with all the holes that need to be filled? Kirill Kaprizov would obviously be on the first line, and with him would have to be Zach Parise for veteran leadership and at center Joel Eriksson Ek.

Joel Eriksson Ek
Joel Eriksson Ek, Minnesota Wild, November 11, 2017. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even though both Kaprizov and Parise are left wings, one of the two should be able to switch to the right side and see how things would hold up. As for Eriksson Ek, he really showed what he’s made of this last season by doubling his point totals from the previous season including setting up 21 goals, and would be the obvious choice to set up Kaprizov and Parise.

The rest of the lines can be messed with throughout the beginning of the season to see who really jells with who. Even the top line can be moved around, but it’s probably wise to start the youngster out with another younger player in Eriksson Ek and a veteran like Parise to keep the balance.

The defensive pairings would be next and of course Suter and Spurgeon would have to be the No. 1 pairing. They would be followed by Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, leaving Carson Soucy, Brad Hunt, and Greg Pateryn, who can be rotated in and out as head coach Dean Evason sees fit. Similar to the goaltending situation, he may have to play everyone to see what happens.

Three Choices for Goaltender

It wouldn’t be a bad decision for Evason to continue with goaltender Alex Stalock, who was the most recent starter. He was the hot streak goalie and could continue to be. Recent addition Cam Talbot would be a good backup choice – he’s capable of jumping into games when needed and knows what it’s like to play in the NHL.

The other choice is rookie Kaapo Kahkonen. In the five games he played for Minnesota, he won three and lost one. The main decision should be between Stalock and Kahkonen, with the favorite being Stalock. If things started to go downhill with Stalock, Kahkonen would be a suitable starter with Talbot providing solid backup.

Making the Right Choices

Everyone has different ideas on how their team should play. Personally, if I were coaching the Wild I would make the decisions I listed. Many others would make different decisions altogether. The Wild definitely needed to make some changes after their dramatic loss in the playoffs, but were they rushed?

Minnesota Wild Zach Parise Alex Stalock
Minnesota Wild Zach Parise and goalie Alex Stalock celebrate (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

It might have been wise to take a little more time to decide what their next move would be but when trying to build a team that has playoff potential, time is not always on their side. Players get picked up quickly and if the chance isn’t jumped on, they’re gone.

Had I been a coach I would be doing things quite differently but these new players may be exactly what Minnesota needs. Sometimes change is good and the Wild were in desperate need of some kind of change that’ll hopefully get them in the winning column consistently.