Minnesota: Land of 10,000
Lakes bad contracts.
After crashing out of the playoffs in six games, what’s next for the Wild? The answer may (ok it probably won’t) surprise you:
Minnesota uh… made the playoffs, but they didn’t do a whole lot while they were there. Bowing out in six games to Dallas, they never really stood a chance, falling behind 2-0 and again 3-1. In their four losses, they were outscored by seven goals – not the end of the world, but still it was clear that Dallas (and nearly every other playoff team) was a step ahead.
There really were seven teams that should’ve made the playoffs in the Western Conference and Minnesota made it in as the eighth seed edging out rival Colorado, but to clinch a spot they only needed 83 points (they got 87.) Safe to say, they weren’t a bad team, but not exactly a force to be reckoned with. Had they had the exact same point total in the Eastern Conference, they would’ve finished in 10th place, and just six points ahead of 14th place. So sure, they made the playoffs, but excuse me for saying this wasn’t exactly the most inspiring team to ever make the playoffs.
Mikko Koivu led the team with 56 points. Regardless of the rest of their roster, it’s really hard to be competitive in the NHL when your leading scorer is a 56-point Mikko Koivu. Koivu’s touched point totals of 71 and 67 points before in the NHL, so he’s no scrub, but the team really lacked the offensive firepower to really be competitive this season.
Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper were incredibly consistent, putting up .918 and .915 save percentages, respectively. Not going to blow you away, but you can’t knock guys for being slightly above average.
Minnesota did have a 5-on-5 GF% of 52.1% which was 11th in the league, but they scored just 137 5-on-5 goals, 19th in the league. The stat was mostly aided by strong but not spectacular goaltending, and an offence that was just three goals better than Edmonton – and one behind Colorado. (Also one goal ahead of Chicago, but that team’s powerplay success nearly covered up the team’s 5-on-5 issues.
Minnesota had pretty well defined roles. Can definitely see a preference for “veterans” vs younger players. pic.twitter.com/o6ZQdUFLgN
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) June 3, 2016
There’s a lot of pieces to like in Minnesota for what they are as a player. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in the section below (or infer from the chart above), there’s still some trouble with the cap situation
Every conversation about Minnesota’s cap should start and end with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Subtle reminder their contracts end after 2024-25. They’re literally off-the-charts silly for two good-but-no-longer-great players.
But the problems don’t end there. Minnesota has $10.89 million left of cap space. They have only 14 players signed. Every team with less cap space has more players signed (and so do 20 teams with more cap space). There’s only nine teams that have 14 or less players signed, with an average cap space of 25.9 million for next year. Then there’s Minnesota, a clear outlier.
The charts speak for themselves. There’s a loooot of UFAs to re-sign. Or to find cheap replacements for, which might be the only option.
I think this team could use a tear-down and a rebuild, but how do you tell that to a fanbase after you were just in the playoffs?
At the very least, it’s important for Minnesota to try to move a big contract or two. Draft well, as always. Minnesota carries an average age of 28.5, which is right in the middle of the league, but it’s important for a team like this to get younger. Perhaps trade some veterans for some “B” prospects, even. At some point, this team needs to take a hard look at themselves and find a consistent plan in the future. Until then, they’ll be marred in mediocrity. It takes four series wins to win a Stanley Cup. They have four series wins in their history, and don’t look poised to improve immediately. It’d be nice to see them prove me wrong, though. Minnesota deserves a great hockey team. Unfortunately, they’re stuck with an average one.
Minnesota might squeak into the playoffs again next season, but excuse me if they don’t inspire a lot of confidence in doing so.
Minnesota: not a great team, not a terrible team. Just kind of… there. If they don’t figure it out soon though, they could be headed back to four straight years of missing the playoffs (like they did from 2009-12), rather than the four straight playoff berths they have right now.