There's not a lot of good feelings among Minnesota Wild fans right now. The hometown club is mired in a brutal 3-7-2 slump for the month of January. They've not only been terrible at controlling play, they've been a complete non-threat on the power play, scoring just two goals with the man advantage in 2016. The Colorado Avalanche just passed them in the standings, and the Nashville Predators are just two points away from pushing the Wild out of the playoff bubble.
Needless to say, Wild fans are really nervous about their team's annual mid-season slump. And it's totally fair to be nervous. After all, similar slumps almost killed the Wild's playoff odds in each of the last two seasons, and unlike last year, there's not a fix as simple as putting a competent goalie in net. Of the rumored trade targets for Minnesota, none seem like an ideal fit. Jonathan Drouin is perhaps too young to make a huge impact on this team. Loui Eriksson is perhaps too similar to players the Wild already have on their wings- good two-way players who don't have game-breaking ability.
When you look at all of that, it's really hard to be optimistic about the Wild's playoff chances. But fret not! Despite Minnesota's struggles over the past month, this team is still going to the postseason. Here are four reasons why the Wild are going to snap out of this funk and lock down a Wild Card berth.
The Wild's shooting percentage will rebound
Minnesota is shooting just 6.3% in January, including an abysmal 4.7% on the power play. Those numbers are almost impossible to sustain over a full season. The only team since the lockout to shoot less than 7% over an 82-game season is the 2014-15 Coyotes (6.9%), and the lowest power play shooting% since the lockout was 7.6 (13-14 Panthers). This kind of slump just can't continue.
The Wild have scored on a respectable 9% of their shots since the beginning of the 13-14 season, and have had 6 players who have 20+ shots and 1 goal or less this month. In all likelihood, this is going to get better.
Power Play issues are fix-able
Yes, the power play is broken. You know it. I know it. Pretty much everyone but the Wild's coaching staff knows it. There's too much perimeter play, too much passivity, and the people who hold the puck the most have the least-threatening shots.
Luckily, the Wild have the personnel to fix those specific issues. Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, and Jared Spurgeon are all able to run the power play, and they each would represent a threat to shoot on the perimeter. That's something that is sorely missing with Mikael Granlund, Ryan Suter, and Jason Pominville on the #1 unit.
And that's just the beginning of changes that they could make. If you read this excellent article to your right, you'll find several possible changes the Wild could make to better tailor the Wild's strategy for their personnel. Even though the Wild have resisted making changes up to this point, they still can optimize the power play, and when there's possibility, there's hope. Even for this coaching staff.
The Wild's competition is sub-standard
Assuming the three California teams get the Pacific Division playoff berths, only one team Minnesota will be competing for a Wild Card spot scares me. Nashville's a great team getting burnt by terrible goaltending, but other than them? None of these teams are better than Minnesota. Despite having some All-Star talent, Colorado's at best Minnesota's equal offensively, and their defense is noticeably worse. Vancouver is a one-line team that's been 29th in possession on the season. Arizona's too young and has next to no scoring punch. Winnipeg is too far out of the race to cause concern. Can you say that any of these teams (other than Nashville) are really better than Minnesota? I can't.
When everything goes wrong, there's no better fail-safe than a rock in net, which the Wild have in Devan Dubnyk. While Dubnyk hasn't been able to replicate the superhuman second-half he had last season, he's quelled any fears that he would regress to mediocrity. He's solidly in the second-tier of NHL goalies- an absolute workhorse who can carry his team for stretches.
Even in January, how many Wild losses can you pin on Dubnyk? I count just two- the OT loss in Philadelphia, and then the loss to Buffalo. Other than that, he's been solid in net and if he received any goal support his .927 Sv% in January would've translated into more than 2 wins on the month.
So, sure. Things look really bad now, but the Wild have the players and goaltending to rise above the pack of mediocre competition and get back into the playoffs for a fourth-straight year.