MN Wild End of Season Grades

Doug Pensinger

We asked Hockey Wilderness writers to give their opinions of the Wild's season. Some thought it was a hugely successful, and others don't want to give out the moral victory card. Read on and find out what we thought!


If you're still getting over the shock and grief of the season ending last week, join the club. But like every other year at this time, we ask the Hockey Wilderness writing staff on how they would grade the season. We all weighed in with what we liked about the season, what we disliked, and sectioned it by position groups, the coaching staff, and front office. Read, digest, and comment voraciously about your thoughts!

Tiffany - @1sadclown

Forwards


What I liked

The young players progressed more than even the most optimistic person would have believed possible, and when Parise and Koivu were out, they kept the team afloat. Granlund improved so much that he went from trade bait to cornerstone of the franchise's future. Nino was everything that I thought he could be, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly Haula transitioned to the NHL.

What I didn't like

The Wild were only 23rd in goals scored. That's a forward problem because ultimately, it's the forwards' job to score. Would an improved power play help that? Certainly, but shooting more often in all situations should help too. Also, the continuing development of the young forwards should also help increase goal scoring.
B


Defensemen


What I liked

I loved how flexible the defense was when it came to playing in front of whatever goalie might be in the net. They never knew who they'd be playing in front of from game to game, and it didn't seem to faze the D-corps.

What I didn't like

Too many players had slumps. Brodin's sophomore slump was the most noticeable, but also Suter went a long time without scoring. The Wild just didn't get enough from their defense. Much of the team is young, so this should improve over time. It would also be nice if Suter didn't have to play 30 minutes per night for the rest of his career because if he has to, he probably won't be healthy by the end of his contract.

B

Goaltending

What I liked

Adversity is a word that is overused in sports. But that seems to be the most fitting word to describe to the Wild's goaltending situation this year. Just when the starting goalie seemed certain, something awful would happen. And the goalies would respond to the increased pressure or someone else would seize control of the starting job. Their resiliency was truly remarkable.

What I didn't like

The uncertainty surrounding the future Wild goaltending situation makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I hope the team will be fine in front of whoever plays, but spending large portions of the season with only one healthy NHL quality guy was too stressful.

A

Coaching


What I liked

Yeo helped the team finally find their identity: a team that "battles" for each other because every guy respects and likes his teammates. No one wants to be the guy who lets the team down, and it shows in their play. I love that the coaching staff helped create that atmosphere.

What I didn't like

They need to find a way to fix the power play. It is not about the players although it might be about which players are deployed and when they are deployed. The power play fails because of coaching not because the Wild don't have skilled players. I will be very disappointed if this isn't fixed for next season.

B

Front Office


What I liked

They didn't sell the Wild's future for temporary upgrades. Fletcher and company didn't trade any awesome prospects for marginal NHLers and didn't acquire anyone who was too worthless. The Niederreiter acquisition might just be the best move the Wild have made under Fletcher. I was also incredibly impressed by how well Fletcher fixed an impossible goaltending situation with seeming ease.

What I didn't like

The quality of the prospects corps is decreasing. Partly, this is because the Wild have drafted guys who have become actual NHL players, and partly this is because they've traded prospects to get legitimate NHL players. This is fine, but they will need draft smartly over the next couple of years, especially since the team has developed to the point that there should be no reason to draft in the top fifteen for a while.

A

Final Thoughts

This season was so much fun. I wish it could have gone on longer, but I'm so proud to be a Wild fan. This is a team that could legitimately contend for the cup soon, and this year, they proved it to me. If that's not a successful season, then I don't know what one is.

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Eric - @goon48

Forwards:

The Positive

During the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we saw some of the younger players arrive on scene. Fans around the NHL were put on notice as Minnesota Wild forwards gave us a glimpse of their very bright future. Going into next season, Minnesota is going to be a fast moving team that plays on their toes and is going to give teams fits. The Wild proved that they can be a very good puck possession when they play on their toes, instead of their heels.

The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs was only the beginning of an exciting, prosperous, bright future for the Minnesota Wild. I know, I already said that, but I told a good friend of mine the other night, that the Wild are going to win a Stanley Cup, very soon.

Mark it down, you heard it here first.

With the emergence of some of the younger players, the Wild have a legitimate threat to have 3 solid scoring lines and a decent fourth line that can fill the checking line roll.

Leading the way for the Minnesota Wild, and my top performers: Zach Parise (29g-27a—56pts), Jason Pominville (30g-30a—60pts) Erik Haula (6g-9a—15pts , Mikael Granlund (8g-33a—41pts), Charlie Coyle (12g-8a—30pts), Justin Fontaine (13g-8a—21pts).

The Negative

I think the Wild are still missing the final piece of the puzzle. The Wild are offensively challenged and need a forward that can put the puck in the net and finish plays. They need a player that can get to the blue paint and score goals. How many times have we seen the Wild skate up and down the ice and make plays only to have the puck hit the goalies chest? Too many to count.

The Wild have two players with 25+ goals and then fall off drastically after that. They’re still a little offensively challenged team; they’re going to need three lines chipping in on the score sheet. Free agent needs, I think Thomas Vanek (27g-41a—71pts) or Matt Moulson (23g-28a—51pts) could play help the Minnesota Wild, both are going to come with a cost.  That being said, Vanek and Moulson are 1 and 5 respectively for top scoring available free agents. The down side, both players are 30 years old.

I know that this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I was unimpressed with Jason Zucker’s play and his attitude, this past season.  I would like to see the Wild move him for a prospect.


Letter grade: B

Defensemen:

The Positive

I thought that Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon were very good this season, and showed that they’re the heart and soul of the Wild defense corps. I thought that Clayton Stoner and Marco Scandella also very solid, reliable defensemen on the back end.  The rugged Stoner adds an element of toughness that the Wild need and he will protect one of his teammates when the time presents itself.

The Negative

I think the Minnesota Wild are still a player away from having a very solid, top flight D-Corps. I thought during the series against the Blackhawks that the Wild were exposed. At times, I thought at time they looked slow and lost. Sophomore defenseman Jonas Brodin took a step back this year, and I thought at times he was a turn over factory that made critical mistakes at key points in the game. Granted, he’s a young player with a very good upside.

Letter grade B-

Goalies:

The Positives

When he played, Josh Harding (18-7-3, 1.65 GAA and a .933 SV%) was simply awesome. Darcy Kuemper (12-8-4, 2.43 GAA, .915 SV%) emerged at the goalie of the future. Rent a goalie, Ilya Brygalov (7-1-3, 2.12 GAA, .911 SV%) performed well as a stopgap measure and I am not opposed to him coming back as a backup next season. Obviously, that’s not going to happen. There’s not much we can say about them, these goalies did their job and experienced a fair share adversity.

The Negatives

Niklas Backstrom (5-11-2, 3.02 GAA, .899 SV%), was again hurt for a fair share of the season and ineffective when he "actually" played. I would hope that he’s a candidate for an amnesty buyout during the offseason. If the Wild were able to free up Backstrom’s hefty salary of $3.416, 667, they could use that cap space to pick up a goalie that actually is able to play and contribute to the team’s success.

Letter grade B-


Coaching staff:

Earlier in the season, when the fire Mike Yeo crowd was out in full force I told people that Yeo was a good coach and the Wild front office was going to fire him.

Yeo led the Wild to a 43-27-12 record, good for fourth in the Central Division and to the second round of the NHL playoffs. I would think a natural progression for next year’s team would be the Western Conference Finals.

Today, Yeo is on the verge of getting a new deal. If the Wild had decided to not sign him, he would be picked up very quickly by another team.

Yeo’s finest moment was during the post-season when he led his team past the Colorado Avalanche. In the end, Yeo made all the right adjustments to get the job done and has earned the right to continue coaching this team.



Letter grade: A

Overall season

This season was a smashing, big-time success. Seriously, this season the Wild had one of the top seasons in their franchise’s short history. They’re a franchise that’s moving forward and the sky is the limit.

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Joe - @JoeBou15


Forwards:


The emergence of the young kids was really fun to watch. Mikael Granlund developed into the player he was hyped to be, Nino Niederreiter made Garth Snow everytime he scored for his "mis-treatment," and Charlie Coyle looked to take shape as the future power forward for this team. The vets had a decent year, but not great year. Jason Pominville was a bright spot as he lead the team in goals and Zach Parise was mostly consistent all season long. Mikko Koivu started slow out of the gate, but very quietly was one of the best forwards on the team, much to his detractors chagrin. Erik Haula's speed made a big impact and filled a whole as the third line pivot.

However, Kyle Brodiak couldn't score with a prosititute if he had tried. He had some of the best scoring chances all season for the Wild, many coming on a breakaway, but he couldn't find twine. The most consistent thing about his game was the pkya-by-play announcer asking his analyst, "How did he not score there?" Players like Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell were sent packing because they just weren't any good. Matt Cooke avoided suspension until it really mattered in the post-season, and Mike Rupp (Who? He's still on this team?) didn't play from the beginning to February and then took a cheap shot to the head of US Olympic hero and hometown kid, TJ Oshie. Everyone had to work their asses off to score. They were able to get good scoring chances and zone time, but the Wild's inefficiency at scoring was the difference in many games.

Letter Grade: B-

Defense:


Ryan Suter, by all accounts, had a subpar season and had a hard time producing offense - mainly on the PP - consistently. Jonas Brodin was jokingly nicknamed "Kidstrom" last season for his fantastic play, but an errant dumping attempt caught him up high and sent him to the DL for some time. Brodin seemed to scuffle all season since then and seemed less decisive and more timid. Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella were each one of the Wild's best defensemen all season long and Spurgeon got kudos from Patrick Kane in the handshake line after the series loss to Chicago. Keith Ballard was supposed to stabilize the third pairing, but he was inconsistent, in and out of the line up, and guilty of some absolutely awful turnovers. In fact, Clayton Stoner played better than him. Nate Prosser had a great Hockey Day Minnesota, but that was about it, and Jonathon Blum saw very little time in the NHL this year. The D-corp was good, but not great. We some some players step up, but I expect more from the vets. Wild could have used more scoring from the blue line.

Letter Grade: C+

Goalies:


Man...I don't even know where to begin. Minnesota saw five different goalies this season. FIVE, as in a handful. Josh Harding was the feel-good story of the season as he was on pace to a Georges Vezina trophy. He was easily the Wild's first half MVP. Darcy Kuemper brought swag and flare to the position as he stole the limelight in January. Ilya Bryzgalov did a fine job filling in for the rest of the season and in the playoffs and helped propel the team to and through the playoffs. John Curry, the ECHL call-up that stole the show in a late season game against the then Western Conference leader.

The bad thing was that the Wild had to even dip that far on their depth chart this year. John Curry should have never been in a position to start a game. It would be impossible to know what would have happened had Harding stayed healthy, but I would have enjoyed watching. Niklas Backstrom was mire in injury all season long and it was tough to watch his demise as he's neeb relatively solid for the Wild throughout the years. Kuemper will now be questioned on whether he can stay healthy after missing the entire Blackhawks series.

Letter Grade: I want to give a "F" for even getting to that point of using five goalies, but I can't because the Wild got to the playoffs despite the carousel and will give them a "C."

Coaching Staff:


Mike Yeo and his staff vowed to make changes heading into this season. The changes were very apparent as the Wild stormed out of the gate as on of the very best possession teams and lethal on the power play. Injuries plagued the team's biggest stars and somehow the coaching staff held the team together and the Wild were able to finish with the second most points in a season in franchise history and a second straight playoff berth as the first Wild Card team. Minnesota was able to get through the the first round of the playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche and Yeo had his team out play the Avs for all but one game of the series. Not to mention his even-keeled approach when the Wild could have unraveled in Game 5 when a number of calls from the officiating crew went against them. Yeo never made excuses and kept the focus on the task at hand.

However, after the first month of the season, the Wild's power play was atrocious. The penalty kill was putrid. There were extended losing streaks in the season that could have sent the team spiraling out of the playoffs. Why in the hell was Dany Heatley not scratched earlier in the season when he was clearly a boat anchor on any line? Why wasn't Jon Blum playing in the playoffs over a guy like Nate Prosser? Why wasn't Granlund on the top PP unit a lot more during the season? All these personnel decisions cause me to scratch my head, and special teams play from the Wild were reasons to wonder about Yeo.

Letter Grade: B+

Front Office:


Chuck Fletcher was again active this season. From working underneath a low cap ceiling and trying to improve his team. He was unable to re-sign Matt Cullen, but was able to extend Pominville to a brand new three year contract. Fletcher sent Devin Setoguchi north to The Wall, I mean, Winnipeg and turned around and signed Matt Cooke. Fletcher also waived Zenon Konopka and flipped Torrey Mitchell and a pick to Buffalo for noted goal scorer, Matt Moulson at the trade deadline. Not only that, but he had to navigate an extremely volatile goaltending situation and swapped a fourth round pick for Bryzgalov, who helped the team clinch a playoff berth and played well enough to win in the Blackhawks series.

Negatively, the Wild signed Matt Cooke. His knee-on-knee hit on Tyson Barrie brought the hockey world's eyes on the Wild, but for entirely the wrong reasons. Not finding a way to re-sign Matt Cullen was unfortunate. Fletcher also decided to start Mathew Dumba's entry level contract even though he played all of 13 games before being sent back to Red Deer.

Letter Grade: A


Overall Season:


The season was a solid season capped off with an extended playoff run. I hate to give moral victories. I know the Wild aren't happy with the ending. The Wild's lack of finish all season long was also their ultimate undoing in the post-season. It was frustrating to watch, and exhilarating to see the Wild respond when their proverbial backs were against the wall.

Letter Grade: B

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Ger Devine - @Gerdevine


Forwards:

I thought the forwards did well as a whole. Koivu, Parise and Pominville were excellent, Granlund and Niederreiter took huge strides in their development, Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle and Justin Fontaine made big contributions at times, Matt Moulson was effective while healthy and Cooke and Brodziak performed a thankless role admirably. Konopka, Rupp, Mitchell and Veilleux were all bad, though that wasn't surprising. Heatley was completely terrible.
The big issue with the entire group was the lack of offensive production.

[B]

Defensemen:

The defence was quite disappointing this year. Ryan Suter played a lot of minutes but wasn't as good as last year offensively or defensively, Jonas Brodin took a huge step back after an amazing rookie season, Stoner, Prosser and Ballard were just dead weight on the 3rd pairing and didn't make the team better at all. Matt Dumb and Jonathon Blum both impressed in small samples.

The saving grace for the defence was Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella. They led the group in EV scoring rate, Spurgeon moved the puck well all season and Scandella played some of the toughest zone starts of any defenceman in the league and yet looked great.

[C]

Goalies:

Put quite simply, the Wild aren't in the playoffs without their great goaltending. Harding, Kuemper and Bryzgalov all shared the starting duties and all finished in the top-10 of the league in 5v5 Sv%. Niklas Backstrom was disappointing when he played, but not enough to diminish the accomplishments of the whole group.

[A]

Coaching staff:


The Wild played some great hockey at times last season, but they also played some terrible hockey. I think the coaches got things together really well in the playoffs but they very easily could have been left with the wreckage of a lost season had the goaltending not been so hot during the regular season. Even strength play was just too inconsistent, though injuries were a big factor in this.
Special teams were just not good enough all season and particularly during the playoffs. Also ,there were some lineup decisions that I found baffling. Nino Niederreiter consistently being shafted in terms of linemates and powerplay opportunities while Dany Heatley continued to be blessed with beneficial situations, using Stoner, Prosser and Ballard in the playoffs while Jon Blum sat in the press box after being so good at the end of the regular season, choosing the scratch Justin Fontaine in favour of Stephane Veilleux down the stretch etc.
The coaching staff redeemed themselves with the team's performance against the Blackhawks in the playoffs, but it would be foolish to ignore the mistakes of the regular season.

[C]

Front Office:


The Keith Ballard signing didn't make sense to me at the time and still doesn't but I can't fault the front office outside of that. I think they drafted well and made some nice trades. Dumping Konopka on waivers was a smart no-nonsense decision as he was clearly making the team worse. The Moulson trade was excellent. The Bryzgalov trade was even smarter. Avoiding Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur despite all the hype was also fantastic.

[B]

Overall:


The regular season was a bumpy ride but I think the team showed what it's true talent level is in the playoffs. The season was a success because they made the 2nd round, but also because they, eventually, played some hockey that makes the idea of the Wild winning a Cup in the near future not seem so ridiculous.

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mntrumpterguy - @ChrisRayBoyd

Forwards:

Our forwards had a very up-and-down year. Our forwards, at the end of the season, were showing some possessive prowess, which is great. The Wild being able to keep the puck out of their opponent's hands and off their sticks will do nothing but help the defensive game of the Wild. Furthermore, we saw some promise from our young guns. Haula, Coyle, Granlund, Niederreiter, and Fontaine all showed that they have what it takes to be a part of a great team.

The Minnesota Wild had a hard time scoring (understatement of the year). Possession is all well and good, and it is a great indicator of who is playing better hockey, but as the dinosaurs say, the score is the only stat that matters. Unless the Wild can start putting the puck on twine, 2nd round exits are about as much as we have to hope for.

B

Defensemen:

Our defense had a pretty good year. We were a dominant team, defensively speaking, which was a big help to our platoon of goalies that we dressed. the number of teams that make it to the playoffs, much less round 2, with their 4th string goalie is pretty thin, and our defensive corps was a huge asset to Bryz and the gang.

Scoring goals is a team weakness, and the blue line needs to contribute to that. We have a lot of promise at this position, but promise doesn't win games. Our young guys need to keep taking strides forward, and our veterans cannot take strides back. Stoner and Ballard were pretty problematic down the stretch (despite Ballard's postseason, which was decent at best). Prosser also has a long ways to go if he is going to help this team- being from Elk River simply isn't enough anymore.

B

Goalies:

All 5 of our starting goalies (!) had some great times. 4 of the 5 also had struggles, but that is normal; everyone is going to go up and down. Kuemper showed signs of being dominant at times, and Harding was the best goalie in the league during the time he played. Even at the end of the regular season, his statistics were at the top of the table. When Bryz stayed calm in net, he also showed why he has a Stanley Cup ring.

All that aside, we started 5 goalies this year. That simply isn't sustainable. We need to get this position figured out, and we need it fast. Rolling with Kuemper is all well and good, but who are we going to have to spell him? Backstrom's play this year was subpar at best. Bryz was fine for the most part, but having 3 goalies with the big club can be problematic. Then there's the Josh Harding situation. I don't have a great solution, but Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo better find one quickly.

B+

Coaching Staff:

Whenever the Wild had their back to a wall, this team came through until game 6 against the Hawks. Mike Yeo showed that he can handle rising talent and help them prosper, as well as showed he can help older guys become leaders. Our defensive play was wonderful all season, and our possession play is on the rise.

Special teams. Do I need to say more? Special teams lost the Wild round 2, and very nearly lost them round 1 of the playoffs. We have to start scoring on the powerplay consistently, and we need to be able to kill penalties efficiently. This is a top-a, number one priority. Other than special teams, managing some struggling players was iffy at best- why was Heatley not scratched until the end of the season? Why was he not only on the ice, but on our powerplay? Yeo made some questionable decisions when it comes to sitting veterans in favor of younger guys.

B

Front Office:

Chuck Fletcher has shown that he is willing to do what it takes to win a cup. He is making the moves he needs to, and has a great sense of who will do this team some good. The Nino and Moulson trades were wonderful, and the Bryz deal was a great move down the stretch also. I love having Fletch run things for the Wild.

This is a huge off-season for Fletcher. The goalie situation, how to handle contracts for the rising stars, and what to do about scoring some goals are all problems that need to be solved. This offseason is what may cement Fletcher as either the long-time GM for the Wild, or may doom him to Shero-ville. My hopes are high, but the proof will be in the pudding, as they say.

A

Overall Season:

I thought the team did a great job, and took some huge strides forward. To expect the team from making into the playoffs last year to winning the cup this year would be preposterous. That said, there were some questionable decisions made, and there are huge question marks facing the team this off-season. We have some golden opportunities staring us in the face, now it's up to GMCF and Mike Yeo to take them.

A-, yes successful.

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Dan Larson - DanTheMan811

Forwards

What I liked:

Let’s be honest, this looked like a one-line team before the season started.  Parise, Pominville, and Koivu were high-end talent, but the rest of the corps was a mystery beyond some veteran role players.  It was clear going into the year that the team’s success would depend on the young kids.   Thankfully, almost everyone stepped up their game.  Mikael Granlund was the standout star putting up 41 points in 63 games.  Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Justin Fontaine, and especially Erik Haula all had solid seasons.  They provided depth on all four lines and give the Wild a solid foundation moving forward.

What I didn’t like:

This team still needs to find a way to score more goals.  The stretch in December and January was really rough when it was rare to put up more than one or two goals a game.  Not everyone had a great year.  Dany Heatley showed a severe decline, Jason Zucker had a disappointing sophomore slump, and players like Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville disappeared in the playoffs.  Overall, the pieces are there for a strong forward group.  They just need to finish a little more.


Grade: B-

Defensemen:

What I liked:

The Wild ranked 7th in the league in goals allowed with only 206.  As great as the goalies were this year, I think this stat speaks more for the strong play of the defense.  Ryan Suter had another Norris caliber year by playing half the game and being the rock on the blue line.  Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella were arguably the team’s best defensemen, playing tough minutes and being a reliable second pairing.  The third pairing rotated quite frequently, but was never a liability.

What I didn’t like:

Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser had decent years for their standards, but this team needs a stronger defensemen or two.  Having Ryan Suter play half the game is not a sustainable strategy as he gets older.  The team could also use a defensemen who can shoot the puck to give an extra threat on offense and on the power play.  Jonas Brodin had a rough season compared to last year, but his future is still bright.

Grade: B+

Goalies:

What I liked:

Despite starting five different goaltenders, the quality in net remained fairly stable.  Josh Harding put up a career year before ending his season early.  Darcy Kuemper showed flashes of brilliance and established himself as the goalie of the future.  Backstrom and Bryzgalov were adequate when they needed to be.  All four were crucial for the team to make the playoffs.

What I didn’t like:

The four goalie rotation is not an ideal situation for any team, especially a team competing for a cup.  Backstrom had a rough year with injuries and it’s unclear if he’ll ever be healthy enough to be a consistent starter.  Kuemper was great but he was still inconsistent, having more than a few shaky starts.

Grade: B+

Coaching Staff:

What I liked:

Mike Yeo and his staff are still young, but it is clear they are growing along with the team.  The players seem to have a respect for the coaches and the system.  The staff was also great at making adjustments, especially in the Colorado series.  Yeo’s system seems to work when the players all buy into it.  Also give goalie coach Bob Mason some credit.  He handled the typical Wild goalie drama with ease and got top performances in net all season.

What I didn’t like:

It was great that Yeo was open to changing up lines throughout games and the season in general.  However, some of the changes didn’t always make sense or help the team.  Putting young scorers like Niederreiter on the fourth line and waiting too long to scratch Heatley come to mind.  The team almost fell apart in December when they lost six straight.  These kinds of things need to be avoided in the future.

Grade: B

Front Office:

What I liked:

Chuck Fletcher has a smart mentality in that he wants to win both now and in the future.  He could have easily given away someone like Coyle at the deadline to get Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek.  Instead, he showed restraint in order to build for the future.  The Matt Moulson deal was decent in that he provided some added scoring for the end of the season.  Getting Bryzgalov for cheap turned out to be a phenomenal move.  The front office showed they have confidence in this team and they expect them to compete for a cup for years to come.

What I didn’t like:

Giving up two second round picks to essentially get Moulson could turn out to be a steep price.  Moulson contributed, but was never really an impact player in the regular season or the playoffs.  Overall though a great year for the front office.  The draft picks have been turning out and the offseason acquisitions have produced.

Grade: A-

Season Success?

Yes.  The Wild took a step forward in the right direction.  The kids showed improvement and should only get better in the years to come.

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The Noogie - @The_Noogie

FORWARDS

The Good
This has to go directly to the kids. Mikael Granlund coming in this season seems to have forgotten all about last seasons struggles and emerged as a playmaker alongside Zach Parise and Jason Pomminville. Despite his early season concussion, a hit that would have scared him into a shell last season, he came out strong and delivered. Highlight of the season has to be, in my opinion, him turning into Greg Zanon against the Avalanche and blocking shot after shot to help lead the Wild to a win in game 4.

I would be remiss however if I didn't at least give mention to Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula. Both players had their ups and downs during the season, Nino's seems to ebb and flow with what line he was placed on. We all got a great preview of what we will be able to expect from Haula in the coming years, great speed, good hands and if he can master that ability to finish he will turn into a very dangerous center for the Wild.

The Bad
This could be listed as an overall team score but I'm pinning this one on the forwards. The special teams were anything but special for the Wild this year. While the PK was a fine example of what you want to grow on in the years ahead, the PP was lethargic and uninteresting at best, especially on the road. Something needs to be done to spark the man-advantage next year because cycling the puck around an umbrella is just not going to cut it.

The Ugly
Sad to say but the once great and mighty All-Star, Dany Heatley, you were just plain ugly this season. I'm not going out on a limb when I say this was your worst season on the ice by far. Your lone saving grace is that you, despite what we have been told through your other stops in the NHL, did not turn the locker room toxic. This alone may have been the only thing that saved Coach Yeo when his job was on the line in late December because had you become a prick, things could have been much different right now.

Final Grade: C+

DEFENSE

The Good
Ryan Suter, even in a down year looked fine out on the ice, but once again the thing that impressed me most this year was the play of a couple youngsters in Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon. Spurg, you were lights out all year, and the praise you received from Kane in the handshake line was well earned. Much to many people's surprise Scandella took a big step forward this season as well. While he was not without his shaky moments he exceeded expectations and became and asset on the blue line.

The defense as a whole also saved the goats of the throng of goalies we dropped between the wickets this season. Time and time again they played the system, cleared pucks from the danger zones and showed some brilliant vision on the ice, rifling passes out of the zone to a forward springing free in the neutral zone.

The Bad
Jonas Brodin took a step back this season. Call it a sophomore slump, call it teams scouting him better, maybe it was the broken jaw he suffered early in the season that had him playing too cautious at times. Be what it may, Brodin had a bad year, but I'm near certain he will be able to bounce back next season and get back to the kid we all fell in love with in his rookie coming out party.

The Ugly
For me, the area of our defense that needs the biggest improvement has to be our ability to get shots through from the point. This is how dirty goals happen, a puck flies through 2 or 3 skaters, bounces around in the paint and gets jammed home. We did not see nearly enough of this in the past season. Sure, some of this was the better shot blocking ability we are seeing across the league, but out blue line tends to wait for the perfect moment instead of just taking a chance. Fire hard, fire low, fire often. That is the recipe for success on creating goals from the point.

Final Grade: C

GOALTENDING

The Good
Josh Harding came into this season looking like nothing could stop him, and this is something the Wild needed as Backstrom, whether due to battling an injury or just plain getting old before our eyes was not the man we have become accustomed to. Harding was on fire for most of the season, and had it not been for the ugly, we may still be watching Wild Hockey to this day.

Darcy Kuemper came into the season a mostly unknown asset, biding his time in Iowa waiting for his chance to reign on high in Minnesota. He got his shot early, but it did not go so well. This would not be his only opportunity. As we rang in the New Year a new sheriff was in town, Kuemper lead the Wild on a tremendous run heading into the Olympic break after Harding's season would be called off short due to the ugly. King Kuemper was fast to erase a lot of the doubts place upon him early in the season. He saved the Wilds season, and helped them secure a playoff spot down the stretch.

After Backstrom ended his season with abdominal surgery the Wild needed some more help and found it in form of one Ilya Bryzgalov. He came in here with one job to do, be ready to play when needed and he did just that. Bryz never had that humongous big moment (sick of hearing that yet Wilderness?), but he didn't lose any games for the Wild either, and isn't that the minimum requirement you place upon the netminder?

The Bad
Injuries, fuck 'em! Backstrom got his bell rung by some a-hole with a leaf on his sweater, plus was likely battling abdominal issues all season. Kuemper also very likely suffered not one but two concussions for the Wild in the final months of the season and playoffs. Just because these guys are stuffed with pillows for protection from the charging rhino's worth of shots they take in a season, does not mean they are immune to that injury bug as we learned all too well this season.

The Ugly
Dear MS,
Go fuck yourself! Seriously, and take Norm Green with you!
Thanks,
The Noogie

Final Grade: B

COACHES

The Good
Coach Yeo had his sights set high this season, and they fell short of the goal in bringing home the Stanley Cup. You cannot be mad at him for missing this goal, 29 teams fall short of this goal every season. When the team played the system Yeo had installed, the Wild were a very difficult team to beat. The kind of effort we saw the Wild put up, especially through the playoffs comes directly from what the coach is preaching in practice. Work hard and good things will happen.

The Bad
Once again, the PP will make an appearance in my grades. Something needs to be done, and it starts here, with the coaching staff. Perhaps they feel they don't need to be an elite special teams squad out there, but they are really just kicking themselves in the teeth by not making any distinguishable effort to improve.

The Ugly
It took you a lifetime to move Dany Heatley to the press box. I get it guys, he moves slow, he's getting old, but for Pete's Dragon's sake, do you think you could have got him a hoveround or hired a mobility expert, something to help him get up there? He took up valuable air at ice level that was better suited for the guy scrubbing the urinals in the locker room, no offense to the guy scrubbing said urinals.

Final Grade: B-

FRONT OFFICE

The Good
The Good, or should I call it "The Fleecing of Garth Snow". I would say this was impressive, shipping off Cal Clutterbuck for the beautiful beast known as El Nino, but GS seemed to be pretty keen on giving everyone a shot at robbing the Isle this season, no better example than trading for, and then trading away for significantly less value the future Wild Stanley Cup GWG getting forward Thomas Vanek. Fletch and Flahr have been the best tandem this organization has ever seen, and are a big reason why you should be paying attention this off-season.

The Bad & Ugly
I got nothing here folks. While the FO is responsible for bringing the players to the club, its completely on the coaching staff to make the puzzle pieces fit. They avoided the Ryan Miller auction and didn't get suckered into giving up the world for any of the big trades we saw this year. Thank you for not screwing the pooch guys.

Final Grade: A

The Minnesota Wild

The Good
We improved on last season, gave the Blackhawks just about all they could handle this year and thrived despite a terrible month of December and the constant goaltending issues brought on by injury and Harding's condition. They took a step towards the ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup to Minnesota. Nobody should have expected it's arrival this season, but soon Wilderness, very soon we, with the help of the hockey gods should be drinking from the most beautiful trophy in professional sport.

The Bad
Have I mentioned the Wilds PP yet?

The Ugly
Seriously, do something about that PP! It's not the only issues but I cannot get over it! It cost us game 6 against the Hawks and cost us plenty of other games throughout the season. Fix it, just fix it for fucks sake and I promise I'll stop bitching about it, deal?

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Tony - @TonyWiseau

Forwards:

Liked: There is a lot of youth coming through the ranks that look really good, or took big steps forward. Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Erik Haula in particular. Justin Fontaine showed the Wild he can be a decent, cheap contributor on a third scoring line next season, and even after Charlie Coyle struggled most of the year, he was able to turn it on in the last month or so and play at a really high level. As for the veterans, Jason Pominville kept the Wild afloat early on in the year, scoring his 13th goal on November 20th, and 30 on the season. He was probably the Wild's forward MVP. Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise missed time, but they each had respectable point totals, and influenced possession greatly. Matt Moulson won't get re-signed in Minnesota, but he deserved a lot better than the results he got.

Disliked: Actually scoring was still a major problem this season, as the Wild finished 24th in the league, scoring only 207 goals on the year. To put that in perspective, the Wild's 82-game pace in the 12-13 season was 208 goals. And they didn't have Pominville until the last 10 games or so. The comfort that we won't see Dany Heatley again is the silver lining I take from the Wild being bounced in the second round- he was invisible all season. Jason Zucker could have helped the Wild in terms of scoring, but he was held back by injuries and playing his way into the doghouse. The power play could be downright ugly. .

Grade: B

Defensemen:

Liked: Jared Spurgeon continued to evolve into an excellent defenseman, standing out among the Wild blue liners, and earning high praise from Patrick Kane to close the year. Marco Scandella's bad 12-13 season left him going into this season as a question mark, but he proved he could play a full season of good hockey, and he was able to shine in tough minutes. Nate Prosser probably played to his full potential. Jonathon Blum had a stretch of good play in soft minutes, I don't know why he wasn't trotted out once in the playoffs.

Disliked: Ryan Suter got some Norris consideration among those in the media, but that was just a make-up call from their decision last season. Suter took it to a better level in the playoffs, but in the regular season, he wasn't Ryan Suter. In fairness, he absorbed 29 minutes a night, and that's very hard to do, but there's no question it affected his overall play. Jonas Brodin broke a cheekbone and didn't seem right since, setting the tone for frustrating sophomore slump. The depth on the blue-line has been an issue all season, that needs to get better if the Wild want to reduce Suter's minutes to a manageable level. Also, I think the Wild's issue in generating shots had

Grade: C+

Goalies:

Liked: Everyone but Nik Backstrom played well when healthy.

Disliked: Everyone was hurt, always.

Grade: A-

Coaching Staff:

Liked: It's always hard to judge the coaching staff, because coaching and a team's talent is hard to separate. So, let's look at the results. The Wild pulled out of a tailspinning funk in order to make the playoffs, and do so rather convincingly. He seemed to be able to develop the young talent, too. Charlie Coyle was able to raise his game after a talking-to from Yeo. In the playoffs, the Wild did exceedingly well at home, which could hint at him being pretty good at matching-up lines. Also, the man gave us "#SillyHard" AND "#yeolo". He deserves his contract extension.

Disliked: A lot of coaches fall into this trap, but I don't like the extent he values toughness. He would routinely forgo a more skilled player like Justin Fontaine, or a Jon Blum for a Veilleux, McCormick, Konopka, Stoner, etc. I hope this will be less of a problem next season, as the Wild have a bunch of younger guys who can provide toughness and some skill. It also took way too long for Dany Heatley to be healthy scratched, and Nino Niederreiter saw way too many fourth-line minutes during the season. Also, Yeo has still yet to field an above-average special teams unit in three years of his coaching.

Grade: B

Front Office:

Liked: Nino Niederreiter for Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick was insanely good value. If Niederreiter continues to develop, the Wild could have a 30-goal scorer on their hands. Matt Cooke was probably Chuck Fletcher's first grinder acquisition that could actually play, his speed made a difference, even with the black mark of his knee-on-knee with Tyson Barrie. Trading Devin Setoguchi for a second round pick enabled the Matt Moulson trade, a fine pick-up. Even savvier was him getting Ilya Bryzgalov, who played pretty well in Minnesota, for a mere 4th-round pick. Brent Flahr and his scouting staff deserve a lot of credit for finding Gustav Olofsson, who could see some time in the NHL as soon as next season.

Disliked: Signing Niklas Backstrom for three years was a defensible move last offseason, but it puts the Wild in a bind right now, where they have to either roll with the unproven Darcy Kuemper, or go with injury risks in Backstrom and Josh Harding. Keith Ballard was a low-risk pickup, but that second year doesn't look terrific right now. While Moulson was a nice pickup, and a great deal, it's hard to fight the thought of what would have happened had Fletcher acquired more dynamic options in Marian Gaborik or Thomas Vanek. Complete hindsight, but this is what this part is all about.

Grade: A-

Was the season a success? Absolutely. The Wild completely dominated a team they should have in the first round, and went toe-to-toe with the defending Stanley Cup Champs. They're a big move and an underrated pickup away from really becoming Cup Contenders.

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