Sep. 23, 2016
Divisional Preview: Minnesota Wild
This week on Homers and Hat Tricks we take a look at the Central Division. We will preview each team this week and make our predictions next week. Let us know what you think in the comments below.??
Out with the old and in with an older coach for the Minnesota Wild.
As Minnesota was slowly sliding out of a playoff spot the Wild relieved Mike Yeo of his duties. Yeo couldn't replicate the success of a year prior when his job was saved by the unyielding play ignored Devan Dubnyk. After a disappointing first round exit against the Dallas Stars, GM Chuck Fletcher targeted Bruce Boudreau and put on the full court press to bring him in.
Boudreau inherits an eclectic team that blends grit, skill and question marks. Minnesota has never been an offensive powerhouse despite having players like Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Koivu led the team last year with just 56 points. To be fair, the Wild did have 10 players with double digit goals so more than one guy is contributing.
With the additions of Eric Staal and Chris Stewart, the offense has a chance to surprise a lot of teams. Add to that a defense that has the ability to produce on the offensive side and Minnesota has a shot at a fifth straight postseason berth.
A surprising set of statistics surrounded Ryan Suter last year. The 11 year veteran set a career high in points with 51 last year and tied a career high with 8 goals. It's surprising because with the powerful shot he has one would think his goal total in a season would have been higher. But playing in such a defensive system in Nashville and Minnesota maybe it's not not surprising.
In order for the Wild to succeed, though, comes down as it has the last few seasons to the goaltending. Devan Dubnyk had a productive regular season, posting a 2.33 GAA and a decent .918 save percentage. Unfortunately he fell apart in the postseason as his save percentage plummeted to .877. It's going to be crucial for Darcy Kuemper to shoulder some of the load in the regular season so Dubnyk is rested come playoff time.
A few guys to watch out for this year are Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund. Both guys had very solid seasons last year and Boudreau will look to them to take that next step and be go to guys when teams key on the Parise line.
With all of that said, if Minnesota can't improve on special teams it's going to be a long year in the state of hockey. A 15th ranked power play with Suter, Parise, Koivu and Matt Dumba isn't acceptable and a 27th ranked penalty kill is atrocious. Special teams will be the key to the Wild's season.
Will Minnesota bring a Cup to a very deserving fan base? Can Boudreau find success in the postseason again? Will the trap go away and the offense open up? Let us know what you think.