The first half of the season has not gone as planned for the Minnesota Wild. Through 41 games the Wild have an 18-18-5 record, putting them in last place in the Central Division. Very disappointing to say the least but fan don’t throw in the towel yet. Still only eight points out of a playoffs spot. If the Wild can turn it around quickly there is still chance you could see this team making a Stanley Cup Playoff run, they have the talent to do it.
Bright Spots of the First Half:
The Wild have been struggling to find wins as of late but when they do it is usually at the Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild’s home ice). They have a 10-6-5 record on home ice and always seem to have that extra fire when they are playing in front of their fans (which they should). If your name is Jason you have been playing well for the Minnesota Wild. Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker have been two, of the very few, bright spots in the Wild’s lackluster offseason. The veteran Pominville leads the team with 32 points and is on pace for is best season since 2011-12, when he was with the Buffalo Sabres. Jason Zucker is in his first full season playing for the Wild and is leading the team with 15 goals on the season. Zucker has been a spark plug to the Wild’s offense and looks like a young Parise out on the ice. Speaking of Zach Parise, he is on pace for his best season as a member of the Minnesota Wild. We all know Parise is going through a lot, with the recent passing of his father J.P. Parise, and you can’t help but commend and respect Zach for still getting it done on the ice (Thoughts and prayers to the Parise family, RIP J.P.). The Wild’s D-men have had a hard time staying healthy but Marco Scandella has been a force on the blue-line when he is in the line-up. Scandella is 10th in the NHL in goals amongst defensemen with 9 and has more goals this season than he previous four combined with Minnesota. He also leads the team with 4 game winning goals. Another bright spot for the Wild in the first half of the year.
Disappointments in the First Half:
When you are assessing a team, you look at how they are doing against the leagues top teams. The Wild are 0-4-2 against the top 3 teams in the Central Division and 0-4-0 against the top 3 teams in the Pacific Division. You can’t contend when you can’t even pick up one win against the “top 6.” When you have disappointing record, you have to look at the lineup and see where the problems lie. Thomas Vanek was brought in this offseason to add goal scoring, only has 7 on the year, disappointing. Charlie Coyle was supposed to be the up and coming physical threat with a knack to find the net but only has 4 goals on the year. He also just signed a contract keeping him in the Wild sweater for another 5 years. He better start becoming the player he was suppose to be because that contract is already starting to look disappointing. After a miserable 0-42 start on the power play, the Wild have started to pick it up on the man-advantage as of late, but are still 26th in the NHL on the power play. No one likes to point finger when it comes to losing but… whom am I kidding, I’m a writer I can point all the fingers I want. The main reason for the Minnesota Wild’s poor first half has to be their GOALTENDING!!! So-called goalie of the future, Darcy Kuemper, has been shaky, to put it in a nice way. He has been pulled 5 times, a poor .902 save percentage, and an awful 2.68 goals against average. With Kuemper playing bad, you would think Backstrom would be having some success, but no, he has been worst. He has a 2.83 goals against average and .892 save percentage in 18 games played.
What Needs to Happen for Wild to Contend in the Second Half:
The Wild need to find a goalie. We have seen from the first half of the season that they can not rely on Kuemper nor Backstrom to get it done. Whether it is a trade, a free agent pick-up, or a call-up, there has to be a change in Minnesota’s net. Is Mike Yeo the right coach for this Minnesota lineup? Recently Jeremy Roenick was quoted saying, “it’s time to fire Mike Yeo…” With Yeo just signing a contract extension last summer, I think it hurt the team more then help them at this point. I think the should stick with the young Yeo and see if he can get this team to get hot at the right time and make a push for the playoffs. Injuries have hurt the entire Wild team but the defensemen especially. The Wild need to get health if they want a chance on making the playoffs. The might even have to explore trading away some of their young talent in order to gain more depth on the blue-line. The lackluster offense needs to start finding ways to score goals. Vanek needs to not be afraid to shoot the puck and fire it every time he has it. No more looking to pass, you are not a distributer. Shoot shoot and shoot some more no one is going to get mad at you.
Minnesota Wild’s First Half Grade- D
The Wild return to action tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a top 3 team in the East. Lets see if they can start their turnaround tonight. Thanks for reading.