The Minnesota Wild are on the edge of falling off a cliff yet again into the abyss which is playoff disappointment. Yes, they are better in goal with veterans Cam Talbot and 3-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury. Kirill Kaprizov is on pace to likely reach 50 goals. Imagine if the Wild had a real, lethal PP. Kaprizov would be reaching for 60 goals by now. That's how much Evason lacks creativity. He doesn't maximize his players in the best way possible. Now you see where I'm starting to introduce one of the root of our problems. Our special teams which is more concerning than faceoffs at this moment. Talking in this post about our powerplay that can use a serious makeover if this team wants to do damage in the playoffs. They aren't going to get by with a lackluster powerplay. It's not even above-average. They are ranked 18th in the NHL with a PP% of 20.5. You want it to be at least top-10 for your team to be a legitimate threat offensively. In the playoffs at even strength teams tend to shutdown your top players and scoring does dry up, but with a legit powerplay that can score at will and open things up to create insane havoc at the goaltender is recipe for success. The Wild can't think that they are going to win a Stanley Cup with a bad powerplay. We will get into the penalty kill, it's more of a simpler fix than anything. We're focusing on the powerplay for now. This is a rant for Evason to start getting creative to fix his special teams. He's setting up his team and fans up for failure. We're still 5th in the league in scoring, but when we face teams such as the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, or the St.Louis Blues in the playoffs our special teams has to be on top of its game as much as our goal-tending.
I'm not pleased with our current powerplay setup. It doesn't have enough of a dynamic element nor shooting prowess. With all due respect to Jonas Brodin he's not a powerplay guy. He's better suited on the penalty kill more than anything. This is coming from someone who thinks the Norris trophy should be redefined as an award so Brodin can be recognized. Brodin is among the league's best positional and shutdown defenders. The NHL just cares about the numbers. He doesn't have the offensive creativity and shot to be a high producing defenseman in the NHL. However, his elite defensive play makes up for it along with his skating and puck moving ability up the ice. So he's truly a poor man's Nicklas Lidstrom. He's not a horrible PP option, but he doesn't necessarily add anything other than keeping the puck in the zone to continue possession and control the point. He's not a QB. He has his moments of being a good support guy around the perimeter. He doesn't have a specialty on the powerplay. Only if he knew how to QB a powerplay I wouldn't have any complaints about him. Freddy Gaudreau is someone I do have a problem with more than Brodin being on the powerplay. I don't know what's Evason's deal with thinking Gaudreau can contribute to a PP on a Cup contending team. He had him QB the point one time and I knew we weren't going to score. He doesn't have the vision to make plays from the half wall and set up deflections and shots. He's an average offensive player. His IQ is limited. He's not a natural goal scorer nor playmaker. He can somewhat do both, but it's not good enough to be on a powerplay. He's better suited as a penalty killer as his main role. Someone like Tyson Jost is better suited to be on the PP than Gaudreau. Gaudreau doesn't possess next level creativity. Jost can offer more. I'm looking for more. Evason doesn't necessarily have to change his line combinations. You want to roll 4 lines. We're talking about having a good powerplay to take us through the west when our offense dries up. We'll bump into teams who will suffocate us, but we'll get powerplays to take advantage of opportunities. Marcus Foligno is better suited as a net front presence, but doesn't really possess much creativity to be a PP presence.
What if I can tell you that Evason can actually pull this off and fix our powerplay to be dynamic, dangerous, and lethal? But creativity is a weakness of his. He doesn't like to switch things up a whole lot. That's his problem. Let's have a powerplay loaded of high volume shooting, smart passing, and an edge to always crash the net? It's not rocket science. If you want to win Lord Stanley you need to be willing to switch things up! Here's how I want to see our new powerplay units. I bet Evason will be pleased with these units. Let's fix the powerplay!
Top unit 1
Net front presence: JEE
Half wall 1: Kirill Kaprizov
Half wall 2: Kevin Fiala
Bumper: Tyson Jost
Point-man: Jared Spurgeon
Evason needs to split up Zuccarello and Kaprizov. Not at even strength, but on the powerplay. Both of them are playing a similar role and it's not getting us the kind of results we need. They often think of facilitating other than getting pucks on net. You need them to have a unit of their own to facilitate and QB. Kaprizov has his set of players while Zuccarello has his set on the 2nd unit. Making us deeper actually. Who takes Zuccarello's place? Fiala has more of the willingness to shoot than Zuccarello and has shown to score from tough angles too. Fiala can thrive off of Kaprizov setting things up for Fiala. However, Fiala isn't only the pure sniper. Teams will close in on Fiala taking away shooting space. He can pass too and make plays for Jost to set up JEE at the front of the net. Fiala can attract attention and let's say set up Spurgeon at the point. Spurgeon can get shots through for deflections and tips. He's a better point man than Brodin because of him having a little more offensive creativity. Spurgeon is the 3rd string with Kaprizov and Fiala. Kaprizov and Fiala can pour in shots left and right as JEE is prepared. Jost has more offensive IQ than Gaudreau, Foligno, and Hartman to be in the mid-slot. He can do more things with the puck. You can trust Jost to be the 3rd string between Fiala and Kaprizov as a center. Jost does get more of an offensive look here. You will see the goalie crapping his pants. Opposing defenses getting confused more than anything. This is Kaprizov's powerplay. The dynamic play will be on display and you will get more shooting. JEE's dominance around the net will be hard to contain too. Jost can easily feed Fiala and Kaprizov for tap ins as well. You need high level creativity. Make your PP unpredictable.
Net front: Ryan Hartman
Half wall 1: Matt Boldy
Half wall 2: Mats Zuccarello
Bumper: Matt Dumba
Point-man: Alex Goligoski
Here's a powerplay that's different than the top unit, but has the ability to be as lethal. Zuccarello's powerplay has a combination of high-end playmaking and shooting prowess. Dumba is in charge of one-timing pucks as the bumper. He's a pure shooter. Not much of a playmaker. While Evason won't ever do this he needs to put Dumba in a position to succeed. Are you guys tired of hearing Anthony LaPanta say "high and wide by Dumba" as Dumba rips one-timers? From afar his shot isn't accurate enough. He'll be a much more lethal threat up close. Making it more difficult for goalies to make quick saves. He can deflect pucks too. Primarily he's going to shoot the living out of the puck. Zuccarello and Boldy are going to be in charge of making plays from the perimeter. They are coordinated to do so. Dumba gets to benefit a lot. Hartman is going to be in front of the net. Foligno may be the bigger body, but Hartman possess a little more creativity than Foligno. You want to have a skilled and dynamic theme on your powerplays. Dumba gets to be the sniper, but in close. Hartman will get to rebounds and capitalize on deflections. Zuccarello and Boldy of course can shoot the twine as Boldy is going to be more of the shooter here. Both him and Zuccarello are going to give goalies a hard time understanding what they're trying to do offensively. Dumba is the primary shooter. Boldy's next. Goligoski is another shooting option. He can control the point. Zuccarello can too, but I need players to feed Dumba in the slot. Hartman will take care of the rest. Zuccarello and Boldy get to create their chemistry and magic of their own.
Evason still has time to fix this team so that by the time this team reaches May we'll be prepared to make a deeper run no matter who we play. We'll have a powerplay where it will make teams want to avoid going to the penalty box. They want to keep playing us at even strength because now they see we have a threatening powerplay to make a difference. You want difference makers and more offensively capable players. Let's not have anymore playoff disappointments please.