[Wild About Numbers]: What Are The Wild's Strengths & Weaknesses In 2014?

Let's take a look at some team-level advanced statistics to see which areas the Wild succeed in and which they fail in.

The most predictive stat to use for team success is "Score Adjusted Fenwick". It's proven to be marginally more predictive than Fenwick Close and Fenwick Tied after 60 games and much more predictive early in the season.


-Here is every NHL team ranked by their Score Adjusted Fenwick so far this season:

Team

GP

S-A FF%

1

Chicago Blackhawks

72

56.20%

2

Los Angeles Kings

72

56.20%

3

San Jose Sharks

73

55.80%

4

Boston Bruins

72

54.90%

5

St. Louis Blues

71

54.10%

6

New Jersey Devils

72

53.20%

7

New York Rangers

73

52.30%

8

Tampa Bay Lightning

72

51.50%

9

Detroit Red Wings

71

51.50%

10

Dallas Stars

71

51.50%

11

Anaheim Ducks

71

51.20%

12

Vancouver Canucks

73

51.00%

13

Ottawa Senators

71

50.50%

14

Columbus Blue Jackets

71

50.30%

15

Pittsburgh Penguins

71

50.20%

16

Winnipeg Jets

73

50.00%

17

Carolina Hurricanes

71

49.50%

18

Phoenix Coyotes

72

49.50%

19

Philadelphia Flyers

71

49.30%

20

Minnesota Wild

72

48.80%

21

Nashville Predators

72

48.80%

22

Florida Panthers

72

48.80%

23

Montréal Canadiens

73

48.40%

24

New York Islanders

71

48.20%

25

Washington Capitals

72

47.60%

26

Calgary Flames

72

47.40%

27

Colorado Avalanche

71

47.00%

28

Edmonton Oilers

72

43.40%

29

Toronto Maple Leafs

73

42.30%

30

Buffalo Sabres

71

41.40%

  • You can see that the Wild are hovering just at the top of the bottom 3rd of the rankings thanks to their mid-season puck possession collapse. If you look at FF% Close instead of S-A, the Wild are only 0.20% lower, so there isn't a huge difference.
  • If you're wondering about whether or not these rankings are important, I recommend taking a look at the teams who make up the top-5. I think it's tough to argue against them being the 5 best teams in the league this season. Likewise, names like the Sabres, Oiles, Leafs and Flames hover near the bottom of the rankings, which should tell you all you need to know.


-The other stat that's important here is PDO. Teams with a high PDO at ES can over-achieve beyond their poor puck possession numbers while teams with great underlying numbers can struggle due to the percentages:

Team

Sh%

Sv%

PDO

1

Boston Bruins

8.60%

94.10%

102.6

2

Anaheim Ducks

9.60%

92.80%

102.3

3

St. Louis Blues

9.40%

92.60%

101.9

4

Colorado Avalanche

8.90%

92.90%

101.7

5

Toronto Maple Leafs

8.50%

92.80%

101.3

6

Minnesota Wild

7.60%

93.50%

101.1

7

Tampa Bay Lightning

8.20%

92.80%

101

8

Chicago Blackhawks

8.70%

91.80%

100.5

9

Columbus Blue Jackets

8.10%

92.30%

100.4

10

Philadelphia Flyers

8.10%

92.30%

100.4

11

Pittsburgh Penguins

8.60%

91.80%

100.4

12

Phoenix Coyotes

7.50%

92.80%

100.2

13

Los Angeles Kings

6.40%

93.60%

100

14

Montréal Canadiens

7.30%

92.80%

100

15

San Jose Sharks

7.40%

92.60%

100

16

Washington Capitals

7.60%

92.30%

99.9

17

Detroit Red Wings

7.80%

92.00%

99.8

18

Vancouver Canucks

7.30%

92.40%

99.7

19

Winnipeg Jets

8.00%

91.50%

99.5

20

Dallas Stars

7.80%

91.70%

99.5

21

New York Rangers

6.70%

92.70%

99.4

22

Edmonton Oilers

8.10%

91.10%

99.3

23

Carolina Hurricanes

6.80%

92.40%

99.2

24

Ottawa Senators

7.50%

91.70%

99.1

25

Florida Panthers

7.60%

91.20%

98.8

26

Calgary Flames

8.00%

90.70%

98.6

27

Buffalo Sabres

6.00%

92.60%

98.6

28

New Jersey Devils

7.60%

91.00%

98.6

29

New York Islanders

7.50%

90.70%

98.3

30

Nashville Predators

7.00%

90.90%

97.9

  • So the Wild, much like the Avs and the Leafs are over-achieving thanks to a high PDO which is almost entirely driven by their extremely high Sv%.
  • At the other end of the scale, teams like the New Jersey Devils and, to a lesser extent, the Florida Panthers are underachieving thanks to some percentages.
  • Some teams will always be just on the right or wrong side of 1000 because of extreme shooting/goaltending talent or lack thereof.


-Here's a visualization of the Wild's puck possession struggles as the season has gone on just in case you've forgotten:

Minnesota_wild_2013-2014_cumulative_5v5_close_ff__medium

  • It's pretty ugly. The rot started before the injury bug hit, but missing Koivu, Parise and Spurgeon for a lengthy spell definitely slowed down the recovery.
  • Things seem to be slowly heading in the right direction lately (as they should, given the talent on this roster now).


-Here is how the Wild performed at 5v5 at home vs on the road. These numbers are just regular 5v5 because home/road spilts aren't available for Score Close situations or Score-Adjusted:

5v5 FF%

Home 5v5 FF%

Road 5v5 FF%

49.0%

22nd

51.3%

15th-T

46.9%

26th-T

  • Obviously these numbers don't account for score effects, but you can see that there is a pretty massive gulf between the Wild's performance at home vs on the road.
  • Is this a psychological thing? Is it because other teams can counter Mike Yeo's line-matching because they have last change at home? It's hard to know.


-Here are the Wild's shot attempt generation and suppression rates (C=Corsi/Shot attempts, F=Fenwick/Unblocked shot attempts, S=Shots on goal) at 5v5 Close:

CF/60

FF/60

SF/60

CA/60

FA/60

SA/60

49.7

27th-T

36.7

27th

26.4

27th-T

52.8

9th

38.8

10th

27.4

7th

  • The Wild have struggled to score goals this year when the score is close partly due to a low shooting%, but also because they generate shots at a pretty pathetic rate for a team with the personnel they have. More shot attempts means more scoring chance so it's kind of a thing you should strive for if winning a Stanley Cup is your goal
  • On the other hand, the Wild have been really really great at shot suppression.
  • All of this suggests that they are being far too conservative and are playing an extremely low-risk brand of hockey. It's great that they limit shots against, but that shouldn't come at the expense of generating offence.


-Here is every team ranked by their FF/60 at 5v5 Close:

Team

FF/60

FA/60

1

San Jose Sharks

47.2

38.5

2

Ottawa Senators

47.1

45.7

3

Los Angeles Kings

46.7

35.9

4

New York Rangers

45.9

40.2

5

Dallas Stars

45.6

41.6

6

Boston Bruins

44.5

37.5

7

Chicago Blackhawks

43

34.7

8

Vancouver Canucks

42.8

39

9

Carolina Hurricanes

42.6

45.8

10

Tampa Bay Lightning

42.1

39.4

11

Anaheim Ducks

42.1

41.8

12

Phoenix Coyotes

42

43.2

13

Winnipeg Jets

41.7

43

14

St. Louis Blues

41

36.9

15

New York Islanders

40.3

41.8

16

Montréal Canadiens

40.1

42.7

17

Pittsburgh Penguins

40

39.5

18

Columbus Blue Jackets

40

38.1

19

Florida Panthers

40

41.2

20

Detroit Red Wings

39.9

38.2

21

Washington Capitals

39.6

42.1

22

Philadelphia Flyers

39.5

43.1

23

Nashville Predators

39

38.2

24

Colorado Avalanche

38.5

43.5

25

New Jersey Devils

37.6

32.7

26

Toronto Maple Leafs

36.8

51

27

Minnesota Wild

36.7

38.8

28

Calgary Flames

36.4

40.1

29

Edmonton Oilers

36.3

46.7

30

Buffalo Sabres

33.8

49.1

  • Look at teams like the Sharks, Kings and Blues, who all suppress shots attempts extremely well but also create them at the other end of the ice. This should be what the Wild are trying to become.
  • It's quite depressing to see the company the Wild keep at the bottom of these rankings. That should indicate that this is something that needs to be fixed for next season.


-Finally, here is how the Wild have performed at special teams in the last 3 seasons:

PP% 2012

PP% 2013

PP% 2014

PK% 2012

PK% 2013

PK% 2014

15.1%

27th

17.9%

16th

18.8%

13th

82.1%

15th

80.7%

18th

79.7%

27th

  • As you can see, under Mike Yeo, the Wild have struggled to establish themselves as a strong PP or PK team.
  • The PP has shown signs of life this year but has also cost them dearly at some key moments. Having an natural shooter like Moulson or Vanek in the line up from Game 1 next season should see it continue to improve.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In summary, the 2014 Minnesota Wild have been a mediocre puck possession team that lacks somewhat in shooting luck but has benefited from extraordinary goaltending. They're bad at generating shots but great at suppressing them. Their special teams are unimpressive.

For me, their Cup window starts opening next year. The core going to be over 30 and the young players are very useful but there's no generational talent there so the best shot at winning will be with the current core leading the way surrounded by an excellent group of young players. As soon as they sign a Thomas Vanek or a Matt Moulson, s*** gets real. They will need to figure out how to improve their shot generation, their puck possession and their special teams while still getting solid goaltending if they want to compete with the big boys in the Western Conference.

Next year will be hugely important and will be all about taking a big step forward from "happy to be there" Wildcard team to trying to hang with the Blues and the Blackhawks.

It might seem a little bit hasty to expect them to go from a Wildcard team to nearly a contender in the space of a season but I think that it's possible with the talented roster they are likely going to ice in October. They have a large mountain to climb to compete with the best teams in the league and they don't have much time to slowly build as the core ages and likely declines. Next year will be hugely important and will be all about taking a big step forward from "happy to be there" Wildcard team to trying to hang with the Blues and the Blackhawks. Drastically improving the numbers I highlighted in this article will be key.

The necessary improvements might just happen naturally with a more talented roster, or it might take some good coaching. I've been critical of Mike Yeo recently for some of his roster decisions and the team's stagnant offence, but he showed at times this season that he can get this team playing with an aggressive dominance along the boards, quick zone entries and all round solid puck possession play. He will need to work that magic again next season and, if he can't, then a different coach will be required.


What are your thoughts on this Wilderness?


*


Thanks to Extra Skater for all the data.

Follow me on Twitter for more hockey talk.


(P.s. I'm gonna be out of town for a few days so I don't think there will be a 'Wild About Numbers' article on Thursday. You'll have to make do with this one until next week.)

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