Hello Wilderness! Glad to be writing for the community! Now, it's time to get down to business or the boss will have me fired before I even start.
In the abyss known as August, we all are anticipating the start of a brand new season. With preseason springs eternal hope for your favorite team to become legit contenders for the best trophy in all of sports. In order for the Wild to become the Stanley Cup champions, they need to have a few tweaks to the team. I'm not talking about changes in the roster as we all know that this is more than likely the team the Wild enter and break training camp with. I am talking about system changes.
This week I am focusing on the succubus known as the Wild power play. The Wild finished the season with an awful 17.9 percent (27 for 151) clip on power play conversion. What's worse than what the stats show is that many times in game the power play had very little cohesion and almost no momentum. It became so bad that fans everywhere across that State of Hockey and in the Wilderness were clamoring for the Wild to decline the penalty.
Zach Parise led your Wild with seven goals with the man advantage while Mikko Koivu led the team in power play assists with 13. The first PP unit was so discombobulated being loaded with left-handed shots that they attempted to put Kyle Brodziak on it because he just happened to be one of the only guys that were right-handed on the team. Not because he is prolific scorer but because when it came down to it, Mike Yeo looked down the bench and said, "You! You're right-handed. I need you on the ice. I don't care what you do, just get out there."
Let's fix the power play for the 2013-2014 season. First off, let us look at personnel. The first unit comprised of Parise-Koivu-Coyle up front with Suter and Spurgeon holding down the fort on the blue line. This of course changed after the Pomminville trade at the deadline. The second unit had Setoguchi-Cullen-Heatley/Bouchard with Brodin and Gilbert/Stoner on the back end. This needs to be slightly tweaked to improve production. We should see Parise-Koivu-Coyle Pomminville-Suter for the first unit and Zucker-Granlund-Neiderreiter Brodin-Scandella/Spurgeon for the second unit. The Wild needs players that move the puck and needs players that can, and will, shoot from anywhere on the ice. I believe that this power play alignment solves that problem as Parise shoots and so does Zucker.
Next is the system being employed. Currently the Wild run a hybrid Overload/Umbrella style power play. Problem is there is almost no movement from other players on the ice when they do not have the puck. When players don't have the puck and are constantly in motion, it creates open passing and shooting lanes as well as creating mismatches, especially down low. Passes seem to lack the zip and purpose that other teams in Conference III (central division) possess. No place was this more evident than in the Western Quarterfinal against the Chicago Blackhawks. It directly led to the 0-for-17 ineptitude in that series. The lack of quickly moving the puck around and through the box to find the open shot leads to more shots being blocked and thus killing any chance of actually scoring. The Wild were, at times, single-handedly killing their own power play.
The Wild needs to swarm the net and pick up the trash. Simply put, the Wild absolutely need get shots on net and then be around the net to put away the rebounds. Goalies in the NHL are too good to get beat cleanly on the first shot. Their reflexes are quicker than they have ever been, they are bigger in size than that have ever been, and now they know when and where they have to be to make the save. To make a big improvement in the power play convergence (and the goals-for category, for that matter) the Wild must be potting more rebound goals.
Hopefully, with a full offseason and training camp these fixes (or some version of them) can be implemented. I don't know if it can get worse. I hope to never have to say, "Wild succubus brought to you by..." at any point this next season. With the new division, special teams are absolutely going to be a major deciding factor in which teams make it to the playoffs and which ones are watching hockey in May instead.