Minnesota Wild 2011-12 Season Preview: Special Teams

The Wild weren't the greatest team in the league last year. They struggled to score goals, prevent goals, take shots, prevent shots, or... well... much of anything. The mediocrity reigned supreme and permeated the organization. The power play clicked at 18.2%, good for 13th in the league. The penalty kill operated at 82.8%, finishing 14th in the league.

Mediocre.It's a word we know around here.

After jump, a discussion of this season's special teams.

Playoff teams have to be the best on special teams. A terrible power play or penalty kill will destroy any chance of success very quickly, especially against the best teams in the league. It is not a difficult correlation to make. Success in special teams equals success in the season, mediocrity to an average finish, and horrible to a near last place finish.

The frustration many fans felt in watching the five on five play was only magnified on special teams. No one thought the PK could stop the vaunted Oilers offense, and no one thought the PP could score on the debilitating defense of the... well, Oilers. By the end of the year, both were a punch line.

Question to Answer

Are the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi enough to be rid of the Minnesota Wild Succubus Power Play brought to you by Hoover?

Elise: I'm not ready yet to say that the powerplay will be fantastic this season, but it seems like it will at least be somewhat better. There are more options to move around that can be much more of a puck-handling and offensive threat.

JS: They'll certainly add a different dynamic to the powerplay, which was better than the Succubus name suggests. The main problem was a lack of shooting. Heatley and Setoguchi like to shoot. Problem solved? Probably. Two shooters a juggernaut does not make. Plus, the Wild's top three PP goal scorers (Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Burns) are all gone. I believe Heatley will replace Brent Burns on the point, and Setoguchi will replace Bruno or Mittens on Koivu's wing. The return of Guillaume Latendresse SHOULD help, as he likes to shoot as well, contrary to what most believe. The arrival of Matt Cullen last season was a boost to the Wild's special teams. If he keeps going at that same pace and Heatley and Setoguchi are firing on all cylinders, we should see an improvement.

Bryan: Simple answer? Yes. Heatley and Setoguchi shoot the puck. Shots on the power play have a better chance of, you know, gong in. It should be simple logic that they improve. The second unit will be the question mark, as Cullen stagnated, and there aren't a great deal of options after Latendresse and Cullen.

Nathan: Yes. The success of a power play unit thrives on four things:

 

  1. Puck control
  2. Creating scoring opportunities.
  3. Willingness to shoot the puck once in a scoring opportunity.
  4. Shooters with a high percentage of success

 

It's that simple.

Last season the Wild had major issues controlling the puck. Once they did, they created scoring opportunities because even at the worst of times they had well above average playmakers. However, once in scoring opportunities they didn't have the shooters willing to take a shot unless it was on a wide-open net and even then their shooters lacked the ability to hit their target.

This season they will have success in numbers 2, 3 and 4. Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu have shown a willingness to shoot and have historically above average shot percentage. So, if they get the puck, they can create opportunities and deliver pucks on target.

The biggest question will be controlling the puck. Say what you want about Brent Burns and Marek Zidlicky's inabilities in five on five play in their own end, but they excel at moving the puck and quarterbacking the power play. Zidlicky, Mike Lundin and Jared Spurgeon will need to take a bigger role in leading the breakout and controlling play. Then, once we see how Yeo likes to use a forward in the second defenseman role on the man advantage, we could be relying on Matt Cullen or Kyle Brodziak or even Casey Wellman in that quarterback role.

Prediction of the Day

What do the two power play units look like at the end of October? 

Elise: I'm not sure, but cross your fingers that no one gets injured.

JS: Supposing injuries don't play into this, I'm thinking the first unit is going to be Setoguchi - Mikko Koivu -Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Heatley - Marek Zidlicky and the second would be Latendresse- Kyle Brodziak - Call Clutterbuck - Cullen - Jared Spurgeon. Chances are Cullen would be center and Schultz would go on the point instead, just to have a sure presence in case of turnovers. Marco Scandella could also be a fixture on the PP if he makes the team.

Bryan:

1st Unit

Heatley - Koivu - Setoguchi
Zidlicky - Bouchard

2nd

Latendresse - Cullen - Clutterbuck
Scandella - Spurgeon

Nathan: Again, I'm still up in the air on how Yeo will look at the back of the power play, but it looks like he's going to overload the first unit as Bryan laid out, but I'm not so sure about the second. I think we might be looking at Latendresse-Brodziak-Clutterbuck up front with Spurgeon and Cullen at the back early on.

Part four of the preview complete. What are your thoughts on the special teams?

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