The panic button is tempting isn’t it? I mean, it’s right there. Big and bright. Just begging to be pressed. With its diamond encrusted rim, raised red semi-sphere and big white splashy letters written across the top of it. PANIC! It calls to you in your sleep. It haunts your waking nightmares.
Every offseason the calls are loud and clear from the fans. The Wild need more elite scoring forwards, or any for that matter. Those calls inevitably echo into the regular season as they evolve into chants for the Wild to make some blockbuster (and backbreaking) trade to secure said elite scoring forward. They range in varying degrees of absurdity, from those, rare as they are, well thought out plans to secure the latest and greatest fad forward, to the oft seen public word vomit with absolutely no thought behind them besides “we need to trade”.
Have the Wild hit a scoring slump lately? Sure, I’ll concede that much. Not that they've ever posted gaudy numbers to begin with. These things are bound to happen throughout the course of any 82-game stretch of a season though. Is it time to panic? Not even remotely.
27 different skaters have suited up for the Wild through 18 games in this young season. That means on average, every 2 games the roster has been different. Sure, there will be some flux throughout the season. But given the injury situation this team has faced so far, it’s difficult to find any sense of normalcy in a lineup that has remained rather fluid. There are some prolific threats on this team that have missed some time early in the season.
Zach Parise and Erik Haula have played just 11 games this season. Jared Spurgeon has suited up for 14 games. Marco Scandella is missing some significant time right now after being placed on LTIR, he has played in only 7 games this season. Between those 4, the Wild have lost 29 man-games due to injury. That’s almost 10% of the man-games among skaters you'd expect in the lineup every night, lost to injury or illness this season.
This sounds like an excuse, and it definitely is, but it’s very valid. Scandella brings a cannon to the blue line which the Wild have sorely missed. Parise’s fiery style of play cannot be emulated. Spurgeon is probably the best defensemen on the team and Haula is one of the better bottom 6 forwards the Wild have seen in recent memory.
It’s not just injuries either. You have to remember this is a team playing in front of an almost entirely new coaching staff. That means new systems, new coaching styles, and new practice regimes. Coach Boudreau has said he expects the team to still be adjusting up to Christmas time. And you can clearly see 2 styles of play on the ice in almost every game so far this season. When the Wild get into a slump, you can see remnants of a foregone era where Mike Yeo roamed the halls. Rarely have we seen a complete game, this team tends to fall back into old habits in lieu of newer systems they are not yet so comfortable with.
Only a handful of players look like they are starting to thrive under the new coaching staff, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Eric Staal to name a few. Players that don’t come around will inevitably be shipped off, but don’t expect to see any changes until the offseason, and I’ll tell you why.
A little thing called the salary cap. This is probably the most over-looked, while being the most important part of any trade. Does the trade you’re looking to achieve keep the team cap compliant? Right now, the Wild are sitting at a projected cap number of $73,317,979. With the cap ceiling being at $73 million, the Wild find themselves in a very precarious position. Their backs aren’t even up against the wall, they are on the other side of it looks looking back at the wall wondering what life is like on the other side.
Any kind of trade you might be thinking is going to need to shift significant salary to another team. This could either mean you trade away one of your big ticket items who likely have a no-move clause embedded in their contracts (Thanks Fletch), or you get a team to retain a pile of the player your trading for’s salary and likely give up some draft picks plus lower teir players in return. Hell, you’d probably need to do all of that combined.
But the Wild have a glutton of defensive players right? Why not package one of them and get something in return?
I’m not sold on that notion at all. I like the defense the way it is. They can look quite good at times and they are still missing a key piece of the pie. Yes, it costs something if you want to get something, but you’re not going to be able to package Christian Folin or Mike Reilly and shed enough salary there to bring anyone worth a damn back in return, even if your trade partner retains a bunch of salary.
On top of that, the Wild are already without their 2017 2nd round pick. In 2018 we finally get back to the days of having all of our draft picks, and mortgaging that future yet again leaves a sour taste in my mouth, as it should with many Wild fans. It hasn’t benefited the Wild in the past, and my bet is the return on trading away more picks doesn’t net what you might hope this time around either.
Yes, it is not fun watching your team lose. Yet the Wild are 9-7-2 with 20 points on the season, and just 3 points separate the Wild, Stars, and Blues right now for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place in the division, while the Blackhawks surging 5 points ahead of the pack once again. It is hardly time to go all doom-and-gloom on the bit. Can this team be better? Of course they can. Will they live up to expectations? Well, this is Minnesota. What do you suppose?
If you’re out there imploring the Wild to make some big trade, you’re right, you should be doing your homework. In doing that, you will see it is not in the Wild’s best interest right now financially or from a personnel standpoint to do so. The best way to get better is through drafting and development, and if you’re willing to keep trading away picks and prospects for veterans you will continue to find the status quo with this team instead of the glory and riches you desire. Bemoan a lack of scoring all you want, but change right now has to come from within.