Anyways, here’s some takeaways from the 4-1 loss to the divisional rivals.
1 — Addison forcing tough decision.
Calen Addison made his season debut on Saturday and he was probably the best player on the ice outside of Cam Talbot for the Wild. He didn’t get any recognition on the score sheet, but he just appeared to be the most active on the puck out of any skater — making plays, walking the blue line with ease, sharing the puck with teammates that would eventually just lose it or shoot it directly into Kuemper’s chest. That is why management is going to have a very, very hard decision in a week or two.
After Jordie Benn’s horrific game against the Seattle Kraken, causing him to be healthy scratched the very next game, we can at least pin him down below Addison on the depth chart. But with Dmytri Kulikov earning the top billing next to Jared Spurgeon in Denver, he will be in one of the six slots for sure, so that basically just leaves the decision between Addison and his partner against the Avalanche, Jon Merrill.
That is honestly tough. Maybe you opt for Addison and the rotate Merrill in when you need more of a physical presence, but if it requires a balancing act, then they might just rather have the rookie get experience in Iowa. That thought makes me shudder at the fact that it means a much slower, less dynamic blue line.
Through 13:54 TOI at 5-on-5, Addison was on the ice for 19 total shot attempts, and faced only eight from the Avalanche; and only his partner in Merrill had a better percentage. All while facing some of the best hockey players on the planet. He’s just too good to ignore and it’s as simple as that. The front office will earn their big bucks talking to Merrill as they try to convince him to be comfortable as a rotation piece.
2 — Stars aren’t shining at all.
The lack of scoring coming from Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala has been a theme in this early season and it was extremely prevalent against Colorado. Fiala had one measily shot attempt that didn’t show up anywhere really, and Kaprizov finished with five of those, but none of them were in a spot to get a true scoring chance; a familiar narrative for his individual season.
When the underlying numbers are fairly equal — the Wild finished with 52.58 percent of the shot share at evens — it comes down to the raw talent of your best players that puts your team over the top. We just saw Nathan MacKinnon do exactly that for his Avalanche team, but for the Wild, it was all long-range hopeful shots and relying on other guys to make up for your misplaced passes or sorry backchecking.
It’s tough to critique them when they have certainly dragged this team to the two points throughout the last year, but so far, it’s been a whole lot of nothing.
3 — Too dependent on high-danger.
The entire team decided to follow in Kaprizov’s footsteps and collectively with the Avalanche defense, there were just no real high-danger shot attempts in front of Kuemper on Saturday.
A parting of the green and blue sea around the crease is just not what you want to see and especially for a team that earns their wins in that area of the ice. There isn’t enough shooting talent on this team to get by with the mid-range attempts, they needed to grit and grind and sandpaper their way to the front of the net and get those greasy, nasty goals, to even have a chance against this Colorado team.
It is certainly not entirely the offense’s fault, but it was lacking.
4 — Young guys merging in well with roster.
While the star rookies aren’t here — and the two impressive ones in Addison and Adam Beckman just got called up — the young hopeful and “next tier” of prospects have gotten their call to the Wild’s roster; and they honestly don’t look out of place.
Of course there’s Brandon Duhaime who impressed enough to get a spot right out of camp, but also Connor Dewar, has certainly melded well with the rest of the crew. It might be a not-so-good thing if you don’t really notice a player, but he can only do so much when playing with not-so-good linemates and in a small sample size.
While it would be nice to have a clear path for the high-end prospects to get their rightful stage and just highlight them next to other young players as the future of this team; getting the young, cheap depth a nice little run is just pleasant. Duhaime has been a real surprise at how effective and important he has been to this forward core, and Dewar can certainly get up there. He was heralded as Iowa’s best player before he got called up, so there’s potential there if he just gets a little more runway and maybe some more skilled linemates than Kyle Rau (nothing against Kyle Rau).
Next up, it’s the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.