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Thursday, April 19, 2012

5 Things The Wild Need To Do To Make The Playoffs in 2012-13

5 Things The Wild Need To Do To Make The Playoffs In 2012-13

Anyone who had the unfortunate pleasure to watch the Minnesota Wild this year realizes that this squad needs a major upgrade in talent. After a season, in which, this team scored the fewest goals in a season by any NHL team since the infamous lockout year of 2004-2005, what, if anything, can the Wild do to make the playoffs next year? Not to mention, please the season ticket holders and fill the stands once again?

1. Sign 2010 first round draft pick Mikael Granlund!!!

Watch these examples of what he has to offer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3g1x8CC4GE&feature=fvst , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTv5SjjDJKo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghqeqQffoVU. Still not convinced? Seriously one of the Kardashian's could write this paragraph, which is why it is so obvious the number one thing the Wild can do this offseason is sign Mikael Granlund. He is already the most exciting Wild player since Marian Gaborik. (True this is like being the thinnest 40 year old in Wisconsin, not impressive, but still) The only thing of note he has done in a Wild uniform (offseason developmental camp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO2nHCX-fsY ) is sadly better than any of the previous five first round draft picks before him. (A.J.Thelen, Benoit Pouliout, James Sheppard, Colton Gillies, Tyler Cuma, and Nick Leddy) This six year run of futility in drafting has led to the Wild setting the NHL record for fewest goals scored since the lockout of 2004-2005. (by the way, that lockout happened in part to "open up scoring." )

2. Attempt more shots on goal

The only way to score in the game of hockey is by shooting the puck, and preferably hitting the net with said shots. The more times you shoot the puck, the more chances you have to score. Elementary thinking, but it works! The Wild, as a team have not shot the puck enough, as they finished dead last in shots on goal this season with an average of 26.5 per game. http://www.nhl.com/ice/teamstats.htm?fetchKey=20122ALLSAAALL&sort=avgShotsPerGame&viewName=summary. That is 7.4 shots fewer per game than the league leading Pittsburgh Penguins, who averaged 33.9. Now 7.4 multiplied by an 82 game season is 606.8. That means the Penguins had roughly 600 more chances to score this season than the Minnesota Wild. Unacceptable!. As 10, of the top 11 teams in shots on goal, made the playoffs this year, getting more shots on goal is crucial for the Wild next year. The Colorado Avalanche, at 8th the only outlier. .

3. Acquire skilled players.

In order to get more shots on goal, you need to have skilled players who can retrieve and possess the puck. How many times this year did the Wild dump the puck and either no one chased, or could do anything with their chase? Too many times to count! Injuries were definitely a factor, as Pierre Marc Bouchard and Gui Latendresse were sorely missed. (Mikko Koivu, the heart and soul of the team, gets his own paragraph later) How much longer can the Wild rely on these two though? It's been two years in a row that both have missed the majority of a season. I feel bad for both of these guys, but it's time to consider anything that we get from these two next season, a bonus! The Skill level in our developmental system looks great as Fletcher has drafted well in his short tenure as GM, but we cannot field six rookies next year and expect to be a playoff team. Some of this young talent includes; Granlund, Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, and Zach Phillips. Unrestricted free agents next year, include dynamic forward Zach Parise (a Minnesota native), and a smooth skating, hardnosed, puck moving d-man in Ryan Sutter (from Wisconsin). The Wild have a lot of room under the Salary cap to make a move. General Manager Chuck Fletcher's job is to get one of these two players to sign with the Wild. Adding a Parise or Sutter will reinvigorate a fan base that has not shown up in the same numbers, or with the same passion, these last two years. Fans "BOO" the Wild now. Just three years ago this would have been considered blasphemy.

4. Trade Nik Backstrom and re-sign Josh Harding

Backstrom is due six million next year, in the final year of his deal; while Harding is a U.F.A (unrestricted free agent). Backstrom, quite frankly with his shootout struggles, is not worth six million a year. In his career, he has saved just 57.1 % of his shootout attempts. For a team, that tied an NHL record this year with 20 of their games going to a shootout, the Wild are in obvious need of a starting goalie that excels in shootouts. Another factor is Backstrom is 34 and will be 35 in February. The last two years he has been constantly dealing with nagging injuries. By trading Backstrom away, you open up a spot for Harding to prove he can be a fulltime goalie. I, for one believe he can be, and has proven himself that he is ready for the opportunity. This move would also allow prospect Matt Hackett (who has shown great talent in the few games he played for the Wild this year) to play part time as the Wild backup goalie, and continue to get his feet wet at the NHL level. This would prepare him for becoming the fulltime starter in two years when the rest of the prospects are ready to contribute full time.

5. Keep Mikko Koivu healthy for a full season.

I believe this is the ultimate key for the Minnesota Wild next year. This guy is the most underrated player in the NHL today. He gives 110 % every game, and literally wills his team to be at the very least, competitive most nights he is in the lineup. The Wild's record with him this year was 27-20-8. That record extrapolated over an 82 game season would be good enough for 96 points and the 7th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs this year. When Koivu is healthy, it gives the Wild so much more depth, as it allows players like Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen to play in spots where they are most effective. His presence in the lineup makes this squad just so much better. Look at the late season stretch were the Wild sadly went from tied for the second fewest points in the league all the way up to seventh worst in the league. (Wrecking our chances at acquiring a top 5 pick in the process)

If GM Chuck Fletcher and head coach Mike Yeo can accomplish these 5 tasks we all could be watching the Wild in the playoffs next year. At the very least, this team would be a lot more fun/exciting to watch. Accomplishing these goals would make the Wild a realistic Stanley Cup contender in 2014 and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. I think they should also change the name... pretty horrible name if you ask me