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Minnesota Wild Midseason Report

minnesota wild analysis

After last season’s highs, much of the same was expected of the Minnesota Wild going into the 2022-23 season. These expectations were put on the team despite a cap crunch, a cap crunch that caused the Wild to trade star player Kevin Fiala before the 2022 NHL Draft.

However, despite sitting in a playoff position going into the All-Star break, it’s been anything but perfect for the Minnesota Wild. After nearly 50 games of the season of ups and downs, everything is in play for the final 36 games.

Minnesota Wild Midseason Analysis

The Good

Let’s start this analysis with some of the positive news for the Minnesota Wild this season. The obvious one to mention is the continued electrifying play from superstar Kirill Kaprizov. He has been phenomenal this season and has continued from his 108-point season with another season where he is on pace for 100-plus points. He has been a one-man army at times offensively, and his chemistry with Mats Zuccarello has been stellar once again this season.

To add to the offensive strengths, it has seemed like he has gotten better defensively and physically. With Kaprizov having another great season, a case can be made that he is a top-five player in the entire NHL. Without him, the Minnesota Wild wouldn’t be in the playoff hunt. That’s how good and vital he has been to the Wild.

Goaltending Tandem

Another positive has been the emergence of Filip Gustavsson. Joining the Wild in a highly talked about trade last July, after tension between Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot about the starting position, where Wild general manager Bill Guerin decided to trade Cam Talbot for Filip Gustavsson.

Before the season, this was met with criticism due to Talbot’s being a starting goaltender. Meanwhile, Gustavsson was a young promising goalie but also unproven in the NHL.

Many Wild fans feared that the trade would mean Fleury would have to play around 60 games the season due to a weaker backup option. However, Gustavsson has put those worries to shame. He has been stellar all season long with a .922 save percentage in nineteen games. It’s a phenomenal year for the Swedish goaltender, allowing Jesper Wallstedt time to learn and improve in the AHL. A major value for the Wild, who potentially could see a Luleå tandem in a couple of years.

For now, Fleury might be the starter, but Gustavsson has given the coaching staff a reason to look his way should the Wild make the playoffs.

The Bad

As stated in the intro, it’s been anything but a smooth season for the Wild. Despite the playoff spot they are holding and a good core from last season being the same, the team has felt off-beat for most of it.

Looking at some analysis, one of the key steps back for the Minnesota Wild has been depth scoring. Especially 5-on-5 has been nightmarish to watch at times, where it seems the rest of the team waits on the top line to do something magical and then hoped the goaltender can bail them out.

Only four players have more than 30 points, and the fifth-highest-scoring forward has a measly 22 points. That forward is Sam Steel, who, for the majority of the season, has played as the first-line centre with Kaprizov and Zuccarello. This shows how desperate the Wild is for a pure number-one centre. To make it worse, Ryan Hartman has failed to score more than fourteen points. That’s a massive drop from his previous season, where he had 65 points.

This lack of centre depth and lack of points have to change for the Wild to stay in the playoff picture. Regardless of the skills of Kaprizov, their strong goaltending, and the defensive prowess of the Wild, they have to find ways to win games without the usual suspects.

The Disappearance of the Comeback Kids

The lack of goals can, in many ways, be attributed to the departure of Kevin Fiala. Once again, the Swiss forward is on pace to be a point-a-game player. This time for the LA Kings.

It was a trade that the Wild had to make and got a lot out of in terms of futures, but it’s clear that without a true second offensive superstar, the Wild lack the killer instinct from last season. An instinct that last season made it feel like the Wild were never out of a game. The number of games where the Wild scored with the goalie pulled in the last few minutes was simply staggering. The comeback ability of the team was sublime and beloved by the fans who enjoyed the ride.

Compare that to this season, and it’s a totally different story. For starters, the late goals and goals with the goaltender pulled have vanished. Only a handful of times have the Wild scored a tying goal late, and neither with the goalie pulled. While the Wild has scored with the goalie pulled, it’s been when they were down by two already. Making it even worse is the fact that the Wild is one of the only teams in the NHL not to have a comeback win after being down by two goals. Last year they had nine of those comeback wins over the season. It’s a worrisome and depressing development that has to change in the final half of the season.

The Ugly

Digging deeper into the Minnesota Wild analysis, there is still a very bright future to look towards. However, it will require a few hurdles along the way. For starters is the ever-looming salary cap hell that the Wild has entered. The Wild had to trade Fiala due to the buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Especially with the extension of Matt Boldy at seven million dollars against the cap for the next seven years.

The Wild were already very limited in terms of options for next season, but with this move, sacrifices most likely have to be made. These could very well be the likes of Matt Dumba, Jordan Greenway, and Sam Steel. The Wild have about $9 million in cap space for next season. Nine million to resign players like Frederick Gaudreau, Mason Shaw, Brandon Duhaime, Addison, and Gustavsson, along with other roster players. A tough task ahead, without a doubt, for Bill Guerin.

Marco Rossi‘s ups and downs

An option Guerin might use is to dig into the strong prospect pool of the Wild. Players like Sammy Walker, Marco Rossi, and Adam Beckman could fill some of the spots next season. Especially Rossi, who is one of the main prospects for the Wild. Most Wild fans hope he can become that first-line center they have been starving for. Especially with his strong plays in Iowa so far this season, where he has 25 points in 24 games.

However, for most people, it’s a shock that he isn’t playing full-time in the NHL at this point. He had a great training camp and made the opening night roster but failed to make a great impression in the NHL. That led him to be sent down to regain confidence and play a larger role. This seems to have worked, as he becomes more dominant each game with the Iowa Wild. It’s a marathon and not a sprint with Rossi. However, it was expected he would be further along by this point.

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