The Minnesota Wild have allowed 14 goals in their first two games, losing both in heartbreaking fashion, and have just not looked like last year’s record-breaking team, at all. So, that leads us to asking our team of writers here at Hockey Wilderness, one simple question: Should we be worried about the Wild and panic about their performance so far?
Eric: I’m not ready to hit the panic button just yet. Allowing seven goals twice in a week isn’t good, but in both games they had more shot attempts and expected goals than their opponents. They’ve looked good for stretches of play and many players, especially Boldy, have been very impressive in the first two games of the season.
On the other hand, if you outshoot your opponents and concede seven goals both times, the goaltending has to be cause for a bit of concern. Fleury has just not looked very good in either game so far. Gustavsson looked relatively solid, but that’s a pretty small sample size and I still think you have to ride Fleury as the starter unless it starts to get really bad.
Many don’t see this as the go-for-it year, so even a really bad start to the year from Fleury wouldn’t set off alarms for me. That said, Anything Can Happen In the Stanley Cup Playoffs™ and the Wild have a great roster with lots of exciting talent, and we’ve seen lots of great young teams unable to perform in the playoffs because of a lack of goaltending. I’m still of the belief that it’s too early to panic about anything, but if there’s any spot for worry after just two games, it might be in net.
Max: I do not think we should panic, not because I think the team has played well, but because their play is more or less emblematic of the team that they have built thus far. The warning signs were there all summer, they were clearly going to be worse if there was regression anywhere in the lineup and there has been. The time has come and passed for panicking because it’s too late to make a change. All that’s left is to watch it burn (or get back on the bandwagon in a week if they win the next two games, it’s a long season).
Grace: Based on the current state of my recent tweets, I’d absolutely have you believing I’m in panic mode. Tank!!! Connor Bedard, here we come!!!! Actually, fold the franchise!!!! Buuuuut probably my mid game hysteria isn’t the clearest picture of how I’m actually feeling about The State Of The Team right now. I definitely feel more frustrated than outright panicked. The thing is, I do like this team, they are substantively the same as last year's record-breaking season — the combined weight of Kevin Fiala and Dmitry Kulikov were not the center of this defensive core. Clearly it isn’t the offense that’s struggling, the team is scoring!! I have some concerns about goaltending and defensive holes for obvious reasons, but man, at the risk of sounding like an armchair expert Twitter troll telling people who know a hell of a lot more about the team than I do, I am feeling the most frustrated, baffled, panicked by choices made by Dean Evason and co. The 7-6 loss probably wouldn’t be substantively improved by making Marco Rossi a first line center, but good lord the situation could hardly get worse.
I was shocked to hear Evason attribute giving Rossi a 4:33 minutes of TOI to hard line matching. That answer felt senseless. It feels symptomatic of similar issues we saw in the first-round playoff loss: an abdication of some of the responsibilities of actually coaching. I don’t know. I like to see Dean get riled at the refs, I live and die by the joy I get watching him punch someone in the mouth after a win, I don’t like being a fuddy duddy telling someone how to do their job when they probably know better than I do. But if we keep losing and don’t get better answers to questions regarding coaching decisions down the line, I know who I’m side eyeing.
Quinn: Long-term? No. Short-term? Yes. Depending on how much patience you have for this team, you might want to hit the panic button. Certain core aspects up front have looked really good, however the defensive zone coverage and goal tending have proven to be bottom of the league, making a Stanley Cup bid this year next to impossible.
Thomas: No. Just two games into the season of any sport — even the comparatively very short football season — is not enough to really get a handle on what any team can do over their full campaign. It is just a time for some publications to take what they can and run with the storylines of some teams being washed or disappointments, but that’s really it.
For the Wild specifically, they have had the second-worst goaltending in the league so far and have faced some pretty damn good teams as they try to navigate this new lineup. Some lines still look excellent, and some new ones do as well (Sam Steel, Matt Boldy, and Frederick Gaudreau are perfect) but it’s still just feeling out how this roster can gel with each other and its new parts. Also, they have to figure out the Marco Rossi thing. That’s the one thing where I can go into panic mode a little bit more on.
Matt: First off, Marco Rossi can’t be playing four and a half minutes in a game like the we had on Saturday. Either Bill Guerin needs to sit down with Dean Evason and figure out what needs to happen to get him something resembling top-six ice time, or they need to get him back to the AHL where he can get it. He’s not a centre, but minutes will only get tougher to come by once Jordan Greenway comes back from injury.Marc-André Fleury is 37-years-old, with a metric ton of games under his belt — already seventh all time for a goalie — and goalies are notorious for falling off performance cliffs. It is entirely plausible that the Flower doesn’t have it anymore, but the team has the time and the assets to address this if they are forced to. Gustavsson also looked good enough in relief in the game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Do the Minnesota Wild have something to worry about after two sub-par performances? Not likely, this is still mostly the same team that set a franchise record for wins last year. But there are some trends that can’t continue if they don’t want this team to underperform this season. Two losses to two of the dark horse candidates to take giant leaps forward shouldn’t change that.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!