The 2018-19 campaign for the Minnesota Wild begins tonight in Denver as they drop the puck on the season against the Colorado Avalanche. As hockey begins, we look back on the offseason that came with high anticipation, but little fanfare. The only expectation this Wild team has on their shoulders is that there are low expectations. Let’s face it, this team is a regular season darling, but when things get hard and heavy in the post-season, the Wild possess a knack for wilting than going wild.
This season is hard to predict. Not so much as it’s unpredictable, but more of fighting what I want with what I expect. We know what to expect from these players. Mikael Granlund will likely finish with the most points on the team, as I see him eclipsing the 70 point mark for the first time in his career. Eric Staal may not have a franchise record setting goal producing season, but he will get his due. I expect more around the 30-35 goal range for him. So while those guys are expected to perform well, this team hinges on just plain better production from the rest.
Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, and Zach Parise, most notably, need to show stark improvement. This team will only go as far as that group takes them. They are this team’s big knockers. Or at least they need to become this team’s big knockers. Niederreiter has high expectations of scoring 30 goals. Coyle has aspirations for a consistent season. Parise hopes to be healthy. Jason Zucker has to deal with new expectations of being a top paid player on this team. It is up to this group to be the leaders on the ice, in crunch time, and when the team needs a spark. Parise may be a part of the the veteran corps on the team, but the rest of them, Coyle, Nino, and Zucker, must act like this is their team.
Defensively, this team has be better. Yes, the Wild are known as top defensive team in the league, but there needs to be a better attempt to chase the puck, create the turnovers, and get the puck up ice to the wingers. Far too often this squad gets hemmed into its own zone, only to chip the puck out to neutral to alleviate the pressure. Minnesota, under Bruce Boudreau, have been an anomaly in terms of the advanced stats. For a team that consistently loses the battle in raw shot share, they have a really solid expected goals for number. This has been because the team is content to let shots from the further out come through. That’s great and all, but there needs to be a conscious effort to turn those misses and saves back into offense. This means that the first pass out of the zone is an absolute necessity.
Goaltending is always going to be about Devan Dubnyk. He’s capable of having very successful months, and months where he disappears. I see that happening again this year, even though last season it seemed like we waited for Dubnyk to pop off. That’s where the back-up goaltenders need to step-up. Alex Stalock and Andrew Hammond need to be able to put up better than replacement numbers when called upon. It’s the one area in free agency where the Wild should have splurged, but didn’t. This means that as a group, and a coaching staff (looking at you, Bob Mason), there is pressure to be better than their normal selves.
Finally, I think this team will find a way get back into the post-season, even if they somehow just squeak in by way of a tie-breaker. The Western Conference is a lot tougher this year, and so is the Central Division. The Wild may have to face a real reality that they could surpass 98 points this season and only be a Wild Card team if not miss the post-season altogether. One in the post-season, it’ll be up to the match-up to know if the Wild could even make a series of it. But that’ll be about it. All we can hope for this season from the Wild is barely making the playoffs to hopefully get six or seven games out of the First Round series.
So there you have it, Granlund will be the top point-getter on the squad, with the MVP coming from Zucker, Coyle, or Nino out of sheer necessity for this team to be great. I think the Wild make the post-season, but barely, and bow in in the first round yet again.
Hopefully the rest of the Hockey Wilderness Staff can lift your spirits.
Pessimism looms large in the Minnesota Wild fanbase. This is a very fair position to take. How can you think anything less? Here’s the issue with this team. They’re, alright. The Wild are always a threat, and I know it might be shocking to hear, but this team has the talent to make some noise in the playoffs. Last season we saw Jason Zucker break loose with 33 goals and 64 points, Matt Dumba taking big steps in his development, Mikael Granlund has finished the past 2 seasons with 69 and 67 points respectively, and Eric Staal is the gift that just keeps on giving. Jared Spurgeon missed 20 games but was on pace for a 50-point season. Mikko Koivu is a long way from his old 60-point seasons, but he’s still good for 40-50 points and is a vital defensive asset. There is just all kinds of promise in this lineup, and that, in part, is the issue.
It’s just become increasingly difficult to get up for this team when they haven’t gotten out of the first round of the playoffs for the past 3 seasons and haven’t made it past the 2nd round since back in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. After missing the playoffs for the 4 seasons prior to 2012-13, the Wild showed their best run in their 6-consecutive playoffs appearances. It has been all down hill from there. With the absence of any big roster moves, the Wild will hope to stay out of the infirmary to bolster a solid lineup. At the same time, they’ve had a solid, healthy lineup for quite a while now, and they still haven’t had a sniff at the promised land.
Wild points leader
2 seasons ago, Mikael Granlund led the team in the regular season with 69 points with Eric Staal finishing in 2nd. Last season Staal led the team with 76 points, flip-flopping with Granlund who finished 2nd. This year, it’s Granlund’s turn once again. I went big 2 seasons ago, and I’m doing it again. Granlund, #80in19
If Granlund is potentially setting team records, if he can break Marion Gaborik’s high-water mark of 83 points in the 2007-08 season, you better believe he’s winning my vote for team MVP as well.
Where do the Wild finish?
Right where you’d expect them. Give them 105 points, good for 3rd in the Central division, 5th in the Western Conference, and right in line for another 1st or 2nd round exit from the playoffs. Sorry, again.
While every pundit, analyst, and expert finding no reason to be excited about this Wild team, it is hear that I proclaim that against the odds, this team puts together a surprisingly good season. While on paper the other teams in the division improved, it is rare that the paperwork exercise pans out. For instance, everybody seems to believe that Saint Louis has done enough to get better, and while they added a couple quality centers, they also lost one in Wild Killer Paul Stastny and they still must rely on Jake Allen in the net behind a Mike Yeo system. Not every team will improve as predicted. Trying to predict the Wild’s performance against a group of “improving” teams on paper is a fool’s errand.
The new GM was not seduced into making moves for moves sake and this team returns fully healthy with the only question mark being on Ryan Suter. And because of the close watch of the new management team, I believe it will be in a fine place to make a power move ahead of the deadline that can prove to be the tweak or the transformation the team needs to take that next step. The onus will again be on Devan Dubnyk, and the team will go as he does.
Wild MVP - Being the Nino apologist that I am it is hard not to pick the Swiss mister, but I believe that we might finally see a Zach Parise that lives up to his own expectations and puts together a fine season. Look for Zach to be a Masterton Trophy nominee and be the heart of this team.
Points Leader - with stiff competition from Staal and Parise, Granlund should carry the points lead, and should be expected to.
Where do the Wild finish - Bruce Boudreau teams get 100 points. This one will get 103+ and finish 2nd in the Central.
For the past few seasons it’s been slightly easy to slot the Wild into a playoff spot and have a strong belief that they will be there. Perhaps because the division had some weaker opponents, it made the route to at least a wild card spot very reachable. The Wild have eclipsed the 100 point mark for the last 3 seasons and generally, that equates to being a top 3 team in the division. This season is totally different. There is a new GM running the show and wants to put his stamp on this team while trying to evaluate what he truly has for assets. The off-season was filled with rumors of trades, none came to fruition. Is that good or bad? Time will tell, but it made for a uneventful summer. Pair that with just pure depth signings for free agency and we are looking at the exact same team as last season. Again, good or bad? We will see. Because I bleed green, (I’m not a monster like Gritty, just a Wild fan) I believe they make the playoffs, but as a wild card. That would probably put them at 4th in the division with roughly 95-98 points. There is an outside chance they get to 100 and still sit in the 4th place spot. The division on paper looks just excruciating and these teams will beat the piss out of each other all year. My heart is weary about this prediction, but that’s what I’m going with.
In order to continue their playoff streak they will have to count on the same players to get them back. Luckily, Parise is coming back healthy and ready to go. Could this be the bounce back year we all want him to have? I pray to the Hockey Gods it is. The Wild are obviously banking on their core to lead this team to the Promised Land, but which player becomes head and shoulders above the rest? My MVP prediction is Koivu. I’m just kidding, I just know that got some peoples blood boiling. I think the obvious choices are Staal and Parise up front and Suter and Spurgeon on the back end. They definitely need to be factors, but I want kind of an outsider that takes the next step and I have to look at Jason Zucker. This team lacks a pure goal scorer and Zucker can fit that (from what we have on roster). The problem is he can be too streaky. Last season, he put up 33 goals and was overshadowed by Staal’s mammoth year. Zucker has all the potential in the world to get to 40 goals. While if healthy, I like to think Parise leads the team with points, however Zucker is the MVP that helps them get over any hump needed to make the playoffs or even win a series when they get there.
Who leads the Wild in points at the end of the Season? Mikael Granlund. He will build on two solid seasons and further elevate his playmaking. His line with Staal and Zucker will continue to produce at an impressive rate, but the icing on the cake will be what he does on the power play.
Who is the Wild’s MVP this season? Devan Dubnyk. The Wild are a “do it by committee team” so it would be hard to isolate just one skater as the MVP. Fortunately, Dubnyk will be so solid and reliable that I won’t have to choose between a Granlund and a Suter. Last year, Dubnyk managed to avoid his annual slump, but also his annual hot streak. If Boudreau can resist the temptation to overplay him and actually give Stalock / Hammond 20-30 games, I think Dubnyk will put up another strong season for the Green ‘n’ Wheats.
How many points do the Wild end up with? 100 points. Three things we can count on in life: death, taxes, and Boudreau coached teams reaching the century mark. He coached an injury ravaged team to 100 points and the third place in the Division of Death last year, and he’ll get the Wild to 100 points again.
Do they make the Playoffs? If so, where do they rank? Yes. Despite all the prognostications and the increased competition from a team like the Blues, I think the Wild once again make the playoffs, and, once again, hold down the third spot in the Central division, even if the best thing for them would be to take the second wildcard spot.
You can pencil Winnipeg and Nashville in at the top of the division in whichever order you prefer, but after that? The Blues improved, but that is a lot of new pieces that you are not sure how they will fit and also their goalie is still Jake Allen. Colorado will take a step back this year after barely making the playoffs after an MVP caliber season from Nathan MacKinnon (though their future is bright with them holding Ottawa’s pick). Dallas? Your guess is as good as mine. Ben Bishop’s groin is made of glass, that blue line is a question mark after Klingberg (though Heiskanen has looked good), and you have to pray that the coach can fix (checks list) every forward not on their top line or named Radek Faksa. If Corey Crawford isn’t playing, Chicago will have an uphill climb in this division.
I think Nino Niederreiter leads the Wild in points. He’s being trusted more and more and has been steady over the past several years. This is his year to step up and be a leader in points as well as good hair, cute accents, and sweet socks. He’ll just eke out Zucker and Dumba, who will be the top trio for the Wild.
Wild’s MVP this year will be Dumba. Finally past the “defensively culpable” narrative, Dumba will be the leader he already has been. He’ll be a defensive rock, a power point magician, and borderline Norris-contention.
The Wild will end up with 101 points. Despite the struggles of last season, the youngsters will step in and really fill out the roster, giving Wild fans this year a heck of a season.
The Wild, at 101 points, do indeed make the playoffs. They’ll with the Western Conference championship and, on the back of some great goaltending, come close to the cup. They won’t WIN the cup, but they’ll get near it.
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, I think that Mikael Granlund will lead the Wild in points, right around the 70 point mark, and setting a career high in points this season. As you can probably tell, I also think that Granlund will be the Wild’s MVP of 2018-2019 producing career highs in points with his great (almost elite) playmaking skills and his offensive instinct, a long with very solid defensive play, will make him the MVP.
As for the amount of points the Wild finish with, I’m going to say they finish with 97 points (44-29-9). Yes, they do make the playoffs for the 7th year in a row, finishing 4th in the Central Division and claiming the Top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Another season, another reason to have fun. I think this could be a good one for several different players on the team, if only because at least a few like Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle surely must feel like they have something to prove with guys like Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway in position to start casting shadows. That being said, I think it’s the arguably most secure member of Nino’s and Coyle’s cohort, Mikael Granlund, that leads the Wild in points at the end of the season. While both Jason Zucker and Eric Staal could feature here, I think Granny takes it with a score in the mid-to-high 70s. He brings the playmaking and a scoring touch that neither Zucker or Staal will quite be able to match. Granlund, however, will not be the Wild’s MVP. That honor will rest with goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Unlike at the wing and defense, the Wild do not have the luxury of depth in the crease. All due respect to Alex Stalock and Andrew Hammond, the Wild are not prepared to go without their regular starter. Dubnyk has quietly been one of the better goalies in the league the past few seasons, but I think this one sees him return to superhero form. Why? I don’t really know. Goaltenders are magic and it feels like he’s due for an exceptional year. If Pekka Rinne can do it, so can the Duub.
Without many big changes to the team, it’s hard to see them straying very far from last year’s point totals. Another year of wear and tear on the leading centers Staal and Mikko Koivu isn’t likely to help in overtime, so I figure they (continue) to struggle in overtime situations and lose some extra points there. I think the Wild are going to fall just short of the century mark at 99, but if they ended up closer to 105 I wouldn’t be shocked either. The good news is that, once again, they will make the playoffs. While the Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators are the top dogs in the division, it’s pretty wide open from there. The St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Dallas Stars all are good teams but so are the Wild. While the Wild have struggled to prove much in the post-season, one thing is for sure: they know what it takes to get there. I’m picking them to make it until they prove me wrong. Slot them in as the first wild card in the Western Conference.
Jim Dowd’s Pants
After the rather underwhelming offseason moves made by new GM Paul Fenton left the State of Hockey visibly more apathetic toward the team than in years past, I too noticed myself feeling a bit less gung-ho about the start of the new Wild campaign than usual. But now that we’re through Training Camp, and the roster is almost entirely healthy (knock on wood), my hopeless optimism is slowly and quietly creeping back in. Though I still think that—barring an in-season shake-up of the team’s core—we are destined for another early-round playoff exit, I do believe that Minnesota makes it back to the postseason for the seventh consecutive year.
To accomplish this, I’m hoping for bigger things from healthier versions of Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, a full year of truly healthy Zach Parise, and big strides forward from guys like Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek.
My prediction: Mikael Granlund will be the team’s top scorer, Parise will be the MVP, and the Wild will squeak into the playoffs in the third spot in the Central, with 98 points.
And yes, I still think it will come back to bite the Wild that the team did not really address the back-up goalie position.
When the season is all said and done, I’m going to say Mikael Granlund will lead the Wild in points this season. Last year, he was 2nd in points with 67 in only 77 games. If he plays a full season, I see Granlund picking up over 75 points to lead the Wild.
My MVP. Easy choice here. Devan Dubnyk. This team will rely on him heavily if they want to make the playoffs for the 7th year in a row. The team will go as far as Dubnyk will allow them to go. If he gets in trouble or gets injured this will be a long season for the Wild.
I believe the Wild will finish with 97 points this season. This Central Division is absolutely loaded and for that reason I believe the Wild will sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team out of the Western Conference. Ninety-seven points for the Wild is hoping that Dubnyk can remain healthy, and the Wild will be able to do what they did last year. Win 45 games. This season, they need to do the same.
New year, same team. We all know how the story ends with this roster. A good regular season then once the playoffs roll around the Wild lose in the first round or maybe if we’re lucky, the second. Without a big roster move I see this team still making the playoffs, but as a wild card team. With the juggernaut the Central Division is, I don’t see the Wild contending or beating Nashville or Winnipeg in the standings, as well as St. Louis. The Blues added a lot this offseason and are healthy for the first time entering a season in a long time. So, the wild card spot is where I think the Wild will end up come April, with the team putting up around 96 to 99 points. Hopefully, they draw the bid and play on the Pacific Division side of the playoff bracket.
As for the individual performances this year, I think this is the year of Mikael Granlund. This year he will break the 70-point barrier that he has been hovering around the last two years and score more than 75 points. Granlund will be the Wild’s MVP this season and will finally gain some recognition for his talent around the league.
For new GM Paul Fenton, this year is a trial run. A year to see what this team can truly do. No excuses for injury. No excuses for goaltending. A pivotal year for the franchise, win or it is time for change. If this team produces the same outcome (early exit from the playoffs), I believe it will be time to blow up this roster. As much as we don’t want to hear it, enter a rebuild.
The Wild’s leading scorer will be Eric Staal. One of Chuck Fletcher’s best moves during his tenure as GM will continue to pay dividends, and Staal will lead the way in scoring for a third straight season. Granlund and Zucker will be up there as well, so will Nino and Parise if they can stay healthy. The Wild MVP will be Jared Spurgeon. As long as No. 46 stays healthy, his ability to contribute to the offense and make plays on defense will make him not only the most valuable defensemen, but the most valuable player on the team in general.
The Wild will finish the season with roughly 95 points, a few down from last year. I don’t think they will necessarily be worse than they were last year; they brought back essentially the same team. In fact, they could be better if they can stay healthier than they did a season ago. I do think, however, that the competition in the central division has gotten better, and that will lead to slightly fewer points this year for the Wild. I do think Minnesota makes the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Given the strength of the central, a top three spot will be hard to come by, but a wild card spot is within reason for Minnesota.
Personally, I believe Eric Staal to be the Wild’s points leader at the end of the season, assuming he makes it there as a member of the Wild. Staal’s good form with the Wild doesn’t seem likely to disappear now, and even if he does drop off a bit, he still has a good chance to beat Granlund to the Wild’s internal scoring title. If Staal does not make it to the end of the season with the Wild, possibly departing in a trade near the deadline, I could see either Mikael Granlund or Jason Zucker topping the team in points.
I feel like the team MVP will end up being Devan Dubnyk. He can make or break the Wild. Despite Alex Stalock in the past showing some short periods of starter level performance it seems unlikely that the Wild would have anyone to pick up for Dubnyk should he drop off. On the other hand, as seen in the past his performances, Dubnyk can also improve the Wild significantly, so if the Wild are to have a good season I believe he will end up as the MVP.
I’d say the Wild end up with 94 points, a slight drop off from last year, but not entirely out of playoff contention either though likely just outside of the playoff picture. The division has a likely much improved St. Louis team, a Dallas team looking to get back in the playoffs, Colorado looking to repeat last year’s performance on top of Western Conference powerhouses in Winnipeg and Nashville. It will be tough for the Wild to make it into the playoffs. I could see the Wild still competing and even beating some of the mentioned teams, or a disappointing performance from a team like Colorado or St.Louis allowing the Wild to find their way in. Though, I would not expect the Wild to be in, if all other teams perform up to expectations and the Wild do not get a breakout season from Luke Kunin or Joel Eriksson Ek.
I think it’ll be a rough year for the Wild. By this, I don’t think the Wild will particularly struggle, but I think it’ll just be more of the same. Which, depending on your point of view, could be worse than simply struggling. I think Staal will slow down a little and that Granlund will pass him to lead the Wild in points. Similarly, I think Granlund will be the Wild’s MVP for the season.
As for how their season will end… Well, best case scenario, the Wild make it to the second round of the playoffs and get booted from the playoffs without any major injury. Worst case scenario, the Wild only barely miss the playoffs, losing out to one of the several Central Division teams that improved while the Wild stood still this summer, and thus missing out on a high draft pick and a playoff run.