Better late than never. Before the chaos of the NHL off-season truly begins, we’re looking back for a few brief moments at the Minnesota Wild’s historic 2021-22 campaign and reviewing each player that played their part in breaking a handful of franchise records.
And of course, you can’t have a blue line without the bottom-pairing defensemen that will get blamed for a lot of goals or be a pleasant surprise. This isn’t just the standard fifth of sixth blueliner in the defensive hierarchy, we’re getting into the mud and dirt and starting with the true depth defensemen and grading their seasons.
The minute Jordie Benn put pen to paper on a one-year deal for the Wild last summer, question marks around where he would play and what his exact role would be started popping up. As someone that has spent his entire career as a bottom-pairing defender, it was easy to chalk his responsibility as just depth on this transitioning team, but his actual presence was still in question. Yet again, youngster Calen Addison had his path to the NHL blocked by more veterans and Benn was the target for a lot of that frustration.
That being said, there was not much you could ask of Benn and he started out the season either on the bench, or just being there and not doing much to benefit or harm Minnesota on the ice. That’s how the season started; he then went on to have more blunders in possession and lost defensive coverage on an alarming amount of goals. It’s not like he performed well in his underlying numbers either — posting 45.75 percent of the on-ice shot attempt share at 5-on-5, and 48.32 of the expected goals share at 5-on-5 as well. He was a rock in all the worst ways on the blue line.
I am sure that he was brought in to a least be somewhat accountable and provide just some semblance of depth for a team that just lost a pile of defensemen. Unfortunately, Benn just didn’t work out.
Jon Lizotte is here because we’re covering every player to wear a Wild sweater on the ice this season. He played one game. He didn’t earn any points. He got took one shot attempt and it managed to hit the net. He was on the ice for 18 shot attempts against and only six for his team. He kind of stunk. Bad.
Again, similar to Lizotte, Mermis was here just briefly during the chaos of the weeks where the Wild could barely ice a fully healthy team. He laced up his skates for two games, had not abysmal underlying numbers but did just manage to get one shot on goal. In the literal sense of the word, Mermis was an inoffensive presence for Minnesota this season. Good for him, but I could not tell you that he even played for the Wild.
It hurts to put Addison in here, but if we’re counting depth defensemen as blueliners that weren’t regulars in the lineup and was placed further down the team sheet, Addison fits in there even if he is a high-ceiling rookie. Through the 15 games he played for the Wild, there were spells of everyone being able to see the potential there as a top-four mainstay, but there were also blunders where you could see his skating and agility weren’t up to NHL speed.
Despite those flaws, Addison was an offensive dynamo during his time in St. Paul. He unloaded more than two shots attempts per appearance (36 in 15 games) and even scored two goals to pair with his two assists in that time. He also earned some of the stronger underlying numbers among his defensive teammates, being on the ice for 54.94 percent of the shot attempts share at 5-on-5, and a whopping 60.33 percent of the expected goals share at that same game state. He was really good on paper and that makes us wish even more for him to get a job out of training camp and for the other guys to give way to the 22-year-old.