Wild Talking Points: Scoring

Working down the list of things Wild fans and media are talking about, we come to scoring. This seems like an obvious problem, right? As football's John Madden would remind you, "The team with more goals at the end of this one will win the game. BOOM!"

The obvious is not always so obvious. While you always have to score more than the other team to win, that does not mean you have to beat them 6-2. Jacques Lemaire took three Wild squads to the playoffs, none of which was well known for blinding fans with flashing red lights. Thus the reason he isn't the coach here anymore.

Having discussed trading Brent Burns for a scorer, and having discussed Todd Richards' job security, let's take a look at the numbers, shall we? 

Here it is. The entire history of the team's scoring for the past ten years. We listed the leading scorer for the Wild, with some years having two players listed to show if there were any secondary scoring threats. Notes for the chart: Lats scored 25 goals for the Wild last year, 27 goals total. Playoff teams are in bold.

Please note this chart needs to be viewed in the "wide" format of Hockey Wilderness. You can change that in the top right corner on the front page.

Year

Leading Scorer

Goals

Rank

Team Goals

Team Rank

Goals Against

Rank

Shots For

Shot Against

2010-11

Martin Havlat

21

64

183

26

202

15

1944

2371

2009-10

Andrew Brunette

25

52

214

22

239

21

2266

2415

Guillaume Latendresse

27

43

2008-09

Owen Nolan

25

69

214

22

197

2

2257

2518

2007-08

Marian Gaborik

42

7

220

18

210

9

2218

2469

Brian Rolston

31

2006-07

Rolston

31

34

225

19

184

1

2431

2361

2005-06

Gaborik

38

16

226

25

212

5

2194

2460

Rolston

34

23

2003-04

Alexander Daigle

20

79

188

26

183

5

1982

2383

2002-03

Gaborik

30

27

198

24

178

4

2086

2335

2001-02

Gaborik

30

29

195

25

238

24

1954

2297

2000-01

Gaborik, Wes Walz, Darby Hendrikson

18

168

30

210

12

2020

2307

Total

Total

Total

Total

2031

2053

21352

23916

Goal Diff.

22

Shots Diff.

2564

What Does This Tell Us?

I'm sure if I were a writer for SBNation's Behind the Net, I could read all kinds of fun things into the above spreadsheet. Fortunately for all of you, I detest math so we won't get too in depth here. Without using chi squares, null hypotheses, or regressions toward the mean, we can still glean some interesting facts from the above information.

First, the Wild have only out shot opponents one time in their ten year history. One time. One. Let me say that again... ONE TIME. They have been out shot by 2564 shots on goal, and yet have made the playoffs three times. But all that talk about Wild goaltending being superb is hog wash, eh?

With all of these extra shots, the Wild have only given up 22 more goals than they have scored, or just over 2 goals per season. For most of Lemaire's tenure, the Wild actually outscored opponents. I know, sacrilege, right? The proof is right there in the chart, folks.

Next, look at the ranks. Only once have the Wild had a top ten scorer, only twice in the top twenty. The team has never finished in the top half of the league in goals for. Or, the "first division" as some would describe it. Under Lemaire, however, the Wild consistently finished in the top ten of keeping the puck out of their own net.

As the season sits right now, the Wild are on pace to have their third worst season for shots on goal, ranking near the original expansion teams. The easy money is that this will be at least a top five worst performance in that category. 

It looks almost certain the leading goal scorer will have the fewest since Alexander Daigle. Not a comparison you want made. It doesn't always work out this way, but you hope for your top player in any given category to rank in the top thirty, right? Thirty teams, so it would make sense. Havlat sits at 64th in the league in goals scored. In other words, on average, there are two players on every NHL team with more goals than the Wild's top scorer.

Not good.

Yeah, but What Does it Mean?

What this means is that the high-tempo, offensively minded system isn't working. Whether that is the players, the coach, or the GM is open to debate. The numbers don't lie, though. The Wild have almost ten full years of stats to show that they are still missing the basic premise of hockey: shoot the puck.

Is a goal scorer what they need? Seems pretty obvious at this point. At the same time, they need to re-learn how to keep the puck out of their own net. Finding a scorer will help with one column, but it doesn't help with others. Trading away guys meant to keep the puck out to get guys to put the puck in may prove counter productive.

What the numbers above show you is that the Wild have more than just one problem, and the solution may not be as simple as one player. They need to shoot the puck more, rather than looking for that extra pass. Sometimes, even if it's not there, they just need to put it on net and hope. They also need to camp someone in front of the net to take advantage of the shots being taken. I know, I know... basic hockey again. Sorry.

The Wild need to focus on their own end a bit more. Giving up and average of more than 250 shots a year more than the competition is just not going to get the job done. The math is the same as the above paragraph, more shots equals more goals. Fewer shots, fewer goals. Simple. 

Finally, yes, they need a goal scorer. Do they need a high flying young winger with a sniper's shot? Sure would be fun to watch, but not necessarily the only option. Goals can be scored down low as well. Ugly, gritty, nasty goals. Owen Nolan built a career out of the type of goals I am talking about. If it goes in the net, fans should be happy with it. It doesn't matter how it got there.

As we progress into the offseason, remember that the Wild's problems are complex. Hopefully we all know there is no simple solution to a complex problem. Defense, offense, and a focus on the basics. Seems simple, but it isn't.

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