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Staal and Stewart make for fitting Wild pieces together a little more intriguing

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Day one of free agency for the Wild was an active one. With two new players added to the roster, the 2016-17 roster is coming into focus. Eric Staal, a player whose offensive numbers declined last season, but still controls the puck effectively, and Chris Stewart, a player that isn’t unfamiliar to Minnesota and head coach Bruce Boudreau. Stewart has been able to score goals while having less than stellar possession metrics. Not to mention, he is a type of player the Wild can add to the lower lines and have a physical presence that the Wild lacks.

Staal no doubt fills a void down the middle of this roster and allows both Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund to start the season off on the wing - a position they’ve shown to be successful at down the stretch and playoffs last season. Late Friday afternoon, the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo laid out the current depth chart for the Wild. Which got me thinking: what should the lines look like, and how would one go about assembling them?

New head coach Bruce Boudreau will have the final say on the forward lines and defensive pairings, but we can look at different stats and try to see how this roster can be constructed.

I went ahead and made some depth charts using different stats to rank each player. Now, I assembled them with two wingers, trying my best to keep players on the side they normally play.

Michael Russo’s Depth Chart

Courtesy of the Star Tribune

Forwards

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

??? - Tyler Graovac - Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Jonas Brodin

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba


I took this depth chart and then ranked them by Shot Attempt percentage. Shot Attempt percentage is calculated by taking all shot attempts for his team while a player is on the ice and dividing it by the whole number of on-ice shot attempts.

Forwards

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Jason Pominville

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Jason Zucker - Erik Haula - Charlie Coyle

Jordan Schroeder - Tyler Graovac - Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Nate Prosser - Mike Reilly

That first line certainly is intriguing as it allows both Staal and Nino, who are possession masters, control play against the best checking lines of the opposition. With Pominville, who isn’t a slouch off the puck (even if last year was an off year), he can look for the soft spots on the ice for scoring chances.


Shot Attempts are but just one factor on the ice. Hockey is, in its most basic form, about putting the puck in the net, after all. This next chart is the roster of players ranked by total points.

Forwards

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Jason Zucker - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Jordan Schroeder - Zac Dalpe - Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Jonas Brodin

A couple things shake out with this line-up. First is that Eric Staal is the 2nd line center, but with Nino and Coyle on his flanks, it makes for yet another beast of a line - at least on paper. This would also is yet another chart that frees Niederreiter from the depths of this roster and should allow him to play the minutes he’s deserved so far. And the third line is pure speed with Zucker and Haula on the same line.


We can drill down into the point production a little further by using rate statistics. Points per 60 minutes is different from the normal points per game as time on ice per game varies per player. This stat places everyone on an even keel, by taking the total points and total time on ice and dividing it by 60 minutes. Much like ERA is per nine innings for a baseball pitcher, this gives a rate that allows us to directly compare how efficient a player is for on-ice point production in the minutes they see in a game.

Forwards

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Zach Parise

Charlie Coyle - Mikko Koivu - Chris Stewart

Mikael Granlund - Eric Staal - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Zac Dalpe - Jordan Schroeder

Defensemen

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Mike Reilly - Christian Folin

So far, every depth chart has Niederreiter in the top 6, with these stats often having among the top two on the team. Now, I don’t think Erik Haula is ready for a first line role, nor would I want Chris Stewart in the top six. But to look a the line-up in a different way is intriguing nonetheless.


Overall, the way Russo has the depth chart constructed will likely reflect what we’ll see, but as you can see, Nino doesn’t belong on the third line, and there should be a concerted effort to play around with any and all line combos in training camp. Players shouldn’t just get awarded a first line role, or be subjected to a third line role just because they have large contracts, more years of service, or some other strange and odd way of assembling the line-up that doesn’t have to do with pure on-ice performance.