Looking back on the 2015-16 season for the Wild, only one word comes to mind: inconsistent. Throughout the Wild’s first month, Minnesota fans would see a successful 7-2-2 record. By the end of calendar year the Wild would be looking on at a 20-10-10 record, 28-9-2 throughout final 39 contests and saw their final month to close out the season with a 0-4-0 record. Not the best of notes to end their regular season and start a good hype for the playoffs. The Wild ended their season in the first round of the playoffs with a first round knock out in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Dallas Stars. To have any hopes for success, the Wild need to have a better consistent performance not only from their young and upcoming stars, but their veteran players that management is investing millions of dollars in.
Return of Chris Stewart
Bruce Boudreau (HC)
HC Mike Yeo. Yeo went 173-132-44 in his time with the Wild.
Standings: 5th in Central Division
Postseason: Lost in 1st round to Dallas Stars (4-2)
Who to watch out for
A surprising addition to the Minnesota Wild. But then again, not so surprising when looking down the list of Centers on the squad. Captain Mikko Koivu is already at 33 years of age and could be looking for more of a regression as his tenure with the Wild goes on. He has missed only 2 games over the last 2 seasons, but his production has slowed to 0.64 point per game pace. There was certainly a need there to get the most out of his ability. Erik Haula has played 148 games in the same 2 year span registering only 48 points. Offensive upside was needed and Minnesota is a great place for Staal for find his scoring touch once again. The former 70+ point scorer has seen major regression over the last few years and should look to get every opportunity to see the 30-40 points he has seen bounce back to 50 or more. On a 3 year contract with an AAV of $3.5m, this could be a major win for the Wild.
The 24-year-old ranked 4th best on the 2015-16 Wild team with 44 points. However, he also lead the team with a -12 overall rating. Granlund has been a player that many in Minnesota have been waiting to break out now and are hoping that this is going to be the season it finally happens. Coming in to the upcoming season, he should be playing on the second line with the likes of Captain, Mikko Koivu and winger, Jason Zucker. The lineup combination should help Granlund as he starts to grow in to his own and hopefully become the player that the Wild have hoped they could become.
The 25-year-old, Erik Haula, not only finished 2015-16 with his 3rd NHL season, but also doubled his production from the prior year. Finishing with 34 points in the year, Haula should see an increase from his 12:44 ATOI and in theory, should see an increase in his production. Should he build on his 99 shots taken last season and 14.5% conversion rate, Haula has the talent to put up more points on the board and can look to be a leader in the future for the squad. However, if his performance does not increase, at the age of 25 already, he could be exposed to the expansion draft, or packaged together in a trade with one of his overpaid, veteran teammates.
Dumba saw his fair share of trade rumors in the offseason, but has found himself still on the Wild’s roster and uniform in training camp. The recently turned 22-year-old will likely need to do everything he can to earn his spot in the lineup during the upcoming season. After finishing 3rd in production amongst defensemen, and just three points behind Jared Spurgeon and the second spot, Dumba saw a 4.5% increase in production from the 2013-14 season to 2015-16. Buried behind Jonas Brodin though, the only way that Dumba may be able to squeeze his way in to a Top-4 role is if Brodin goes down with an injury, or Dumba flat-out plays him out of the role.
Speaking of Spurgeon, the 5’9″ right-handed defenseman has been seeing a steady increase in his production over the last 3 seasons. Though the 29 points in 77 games was a career high for him, his ability to play a full season has yet to be seen. Spurgeon played in 11 more games last year, compared to the 2014-15 season, and remarkably stayed at a 0.378 point per game pace. His defensive abilities though cannot be denied. Spurgeon’s team leading 157 blocked shots and 49.3% Corsi Rating should all be indications pointing up for performance. Playing Top 2 minutes per game with the 51 point producing linemate, Ryan Suter, however, cannot always guarantee production. Jared will need to be on his game this upcoming season and play well to new Head Coach, Boudreau’s system.
The 23-year-old defenseman saw, shall we say, not the best of seasons. Brodin’s fourth season with the Wild saw a 10 point dip in production to an alarming 7 points in 68 games, and an overall -4 rating. Though Brodin was able to see an average of 20:25 per night of ice-time, his 44.5% Corsi Rating proves that he should and Dumba should have been playing reversed roles. Though the Wild did have a down season, defensively, if Brodin wishes to remain on in the Top 4 role that he has filled in to, he will have to either earn it defensively, or by putting points up on the board.
Born a new man in Minnesota, Devin Dubnyk has seen new life with the Wild. After 106 total games played so far with the Wild, Devin has earned a stellar 2.16 GAA and 0.925 SV%. At 30 years of age, Dubnyk has been one of the brightest spots amongst a sub par Wild team. If his performance can stay the course throughout the new season, Dubnyk has proven that he can be a game changing factor for the Wild. With a new system being played in front of him though, questions and caution will circulate if this will bring back performances from his days in Edmonton and Arizona or if he can adapt and overcome to be the man in net this team needs to make a strong push for the postseason.