It's no secret that the Wild are having problems scoring. 129 total goals in 57 games played is not an impressive number. Only the Kings have scored fewer goals in the
Western Conference NHL. Somehow the Wild are on pace to score fewer goals than last year despite adding Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The Wild and their fans got TWO shooters, but the offense is worse.
What's gone wrong? Well, it's pretty simple to see...the Wild's secondary scoring has totally disappeared. Who are the biggest culprits of hibernating in the Wilderness? Make the jump with me and let's find out who needs a big slap on the wrist.Kyle Brodziak:
Brodziak had a hot stretch of scoring when the Wild were winning. Brodziak had 5 goals during the 7-game winning streak. Starting with the Winnipeg loss, however, Brodziak has only found the back of the net 5 times in 26 games. Since being broken up from Heatley, Brodziak hasn't found the score sheet at all. He's a -6 in 4 games without Heatley. While he's not necessarily a top-flight scorer, Brodziak needs to be a little big more noticeable than this.
Like Brodziak, Cal was running well while the Wild were winning. 8 of his 13 goals came before the first Winnipeg loss. Also like Brodziak, Cal has only scored 5 total goals in the last 26 games. Cal is pointless in 6 consecutive games, but as totaled up 23 penalty minutes in that same 6-game span. People have gotten ahead of themselves regarding Clutterbuck as a top-6 forward, but even a 3rd line grinder like Cal should be appearing a little more consistently than this.
Pointless in 7. Cullen hasn't scored since the San Jose win on January 10th. Cullen is still on pace for his regular point production, but he needs to be better. Last year, Cullen got moved to a 3rd line center role. This year, he's been given the opportunity to play top-6 minutes. He needs to be better than 11 total goals all season.
Best Waiver Claim Ever is another forward who has just flat out struggled. He, like Brodziak, got a minor boost from playing along side Heatley. Like Brodziak, he hasn't been on the scoresheet since he was with Heatley. Johnson hasn't scored a goal since January 19th, so he's in the same kind of drought as Cullen. I don't expect Johnson to score 20 goals, but he's gone 10 straight games without a goal. That's a pretty long stretch for any top-9 forward in the league.
While I'm willing to concede that 6 games is small sample size, that doesn't change the fact that Christensen has been an absolute dud for the Wild. Zero points from a guy who is supposed to be a good playmaker and possess a decent shot is unacceptable. Being a shootout specialist doesn't help if the team can't score enough goals to force shootouts. Honestly, keeping Wellman would have made more sense than letting Christensen eat a roster spot. Wellman's two-way contract at least provided flexibility, and Wellman at least was helping Houston. Christensen is a warm body and nothing else. Hopefully the conditional 7th-round pick turns into something more useful than The Disappearing Man.
Yes, it seems odd putting his name on this list. Setoguchi has scored 4 goals in 4 games since Koivu's been back, but before the Kaptain's return, Setoguchi had only 1 goal in 9 games. When he was playing on a line with Cullen, he was contributing to the lack of secondary scoring. If he needs Mikko and Heatley to hold his hand, then he's not much better than Antti Miettinen.
Combined between 9 defensman that have played this year, the Wild blueline has scraped together 10 goals. To put that in perspective, there are 7 defensman that have 10+ goals in the NHL. The Wild have generated 4 total powerplay goals from the blueline. For some more perspective, there are 12 defensmen in the NHL who have 4+ goals on the powerplay. Fans knew it would be a tough offensive year from the blueline, but the struggles of both Scandella and Zidlicky have really exacerbated problems.
Are there any quick fixes on the horizon?
In a word, no. There are very few players who are actually on the trade market that can produce offense on their own, which the Wild would need. It's pretty clear that the offensive woes require a star player to fix. It took an offensive star like Heatley to snap both Brodziak and Johnson out of scoring slumps, and they fell right back into their black hole once they were separated. The problem is that there are really only two stars on the market: Rick Nash or Jeff Carter. Nash may not be moved until the season ends, and I doubt the Wild want the next 10 years of Carter's deal.
After those two, it's mostly complimentary forwards like Tuomo Ruutu or Ales Hemsky, and I can't see how either of those two make the scoring woes just magically disappear. Ruutu is streaky and Hemsky is an injury-prone playmaker. The Wild are pass-happy enough. Neither fix the dearth of scoring. I don't see a trade fixing the scoring issues.
It then falls on the current roster to turn the ship around. Depending on your view, the Wild are running out of time to fix this. I know some folks want the Wild to just tank out and get a better pick, but does that really fix anything? The upcoming draft is heavy with defensman. If you're not a fan of Russians, there's one or two top-six scoring forwards in the draft. This could be the worst draft to tank out for an offensive player.
Plus, the Wild as a team need to learn how to score goals. The work ethic and culture needs to change. Losing out doesn't fix the mindset of the team and the organization. It just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth and builds on a losing mentality. Signs of life would be much more welcome than drafting at #6, at least in my view.
Your turn, Wilderness. Who (if any one player) is most to blame for this lack of scoring punch? What answers are there? Can the Wild start to consistently score more than one goal a game, or is this just who the Wild are?