On July 4th, the Minnesota Wild signed two players to long term contracts. You may have heard about it. One, a perennial 30-40 goal scoring forward, the other a big time defenseman who is capable of putting up 40-50 points in a full 82 game season. These signings came because Chuck Fletcher noticed that the Wild had a major problem completing one of the fundamental tenants of hockey.
The Wild could not score goals.
Last season's roster boasted two twenty goal scorers in Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak. The top point producer was Heatley with 53. That monumental total landed Heatley in the 81st position on the NHL.com stats page. His 24 goals earned him the high honor of 64th. Keep in mind that with 30 teams, that means every single NHL team (on average) had at least 2 more players score more goals than the Wild's leading scorer.
On defense, it was even uglier. Jared Spurgeon led the team with three goals and 23 total points. Those totals good for the 106th and 74th listings for defensemen on NHL.com, respectively. Keep in mind, there are quite a few ties in the defensive listing, so it is likely more like 75th and 54th. Behind Spurgeon? Marco Scandella with 12 points (3G, 9A).
It is absolutely not difficult to determine why Craig Leipold and Chuck Fletcher were willing to throw money at the problem, especially with the caliber of players the Wild were bringing in, and the impact these two players could have on the scoring capabilities of the team. The Wild also brought in Finnish phenom Mikael Granlund, whose promise was to be the 2nd line center and add some punch that would make teams ease up on the new top line.
Here is how it has played out thus far:
|Goals For/ Game||2.02||1.92|
|Goals Against / Game||2.46||2.65|
The Wild cannot score goals.
The scoring has actually dropped by a tenth of a goal a game. The Wild have more scoring potential, on paper, than any team in the franchise's history, and their scoring per game has gone down. Down. $196 million dollars committed, and the scoring has gone... down.
The Wild have scored one goal, just the one, in regulation in six straight games, and done so a total of 8 times in 13 games. In 82 games last season, they scored one goal in regulation 26 times. At their current rate (61.5% of games), projected over the full season, the Wild will do so 29 times. Over an 82 game schedule, that would be 50 games.
Those numbers are unlikely to become truth, as no team can possibly be that inept for that long without someone accidentally potting two all by themselves. Still, they should be eye opening for the Wild. Scoring one goal a game in regulation is not how to win games. At least not without Jacques Lemaire behind the bench. Scoring one goal a game is not the way to keep an owner, whose pockets still hurt, happy about his decision to spend ludicrous amounts of money.
Surely, though, this is just bad luck (not the fancy stat version) and the Wild just aren't getting the bounces. After all, Zach Parise is a shoot first kind of player (293 SOG last season), and Ryan Suter has never been afraid to shoot at will (134 SOG last season). The Wild's leaders last year were Heately with 238, and Spurgeon with 92. The shots on goal just have to be up. Right?
|Shots For/ Game||26.5||26.5|
|Goals Against / Game||31.4||27.4|
The good news is, though, they have shave 4 SOG / G off the opponents totals. Having played twice against the Nashville Predators, and once against the Calgary Flames might have something to do with that, though.
The solution, once again, is simple. Shooting the puck creates chances, chances lead to goals. Put bodies in front of the net, and shoot the stupid puck until it goes in. This is something we all learned playing hockey when we were six. It's time to stop offering rum at the altar of Jobu and do it themselves.
If they continue to plod along hoping that the opposing teams are going to let Parise score out of respect for his career, it is going to be a very long short season. If they are "Waiting for Mikko" to do something, as has been the case for the past four years, people are going to end up very fired, very fast.
This is a team that has players that know where the net is, and know how to find it. They need to quit being so timid and just start blasting away. Talk all you want about the system, it works. They have the puck. They just cannot seem to get past the idea that they are not in a long term, committed and loving relationship with the 3" piece of circular vulcanized rubber and send it on its way every chance they get.
Get over yourselves. You aren't Pavel Datsyuk. Quit looking for pretty and just score.
Hit the curve ball, boys.