Why Are The Minnesota Wild So Mediocre?

How are you doing right now? Are you doing good? I hope everything is going well. And even if things are going bad, that’s okay. I promise you things will get better, At least you’re not feeling mediocre because then you would be the Minnesota Wild.

The Minnesota Wild have to be one of the strangest teams in the league to get a gauge on. They’re good enough to be a playoff team but not good enough to the point where they could contend for the Cup. They have the foundation of a contending team but they don’t have the supporting cast around them. Kirill Kaprizov is a legit star in this league and can be relied upon as a number one guy who you can build your team around. Matt Boldy has started to establish himself as very good top-line winger and could continue to get better. Joel Eriksson Ek is maybe one of the best two-way centers in the game and is slowly starting to put up more points. Brock Faber has been a great rookie for the Wild and it looks like he’ll be the top defenceman for this team moving forward.

There’s some good pieces here, but that’s about it. They have some intriguing young guys who could turn into great players like Marco Rossi, Marat Khusnutdinov, Jesper Wallstedt and a few others are all interesting pieces that could be great for them but maybe not anytime soon (outside of Rossi). There’s reasons to be intrigued by the Wild but as of right now, they’re a bit of a mess.

This season was pretty disappointing for the Wild as they had hopes of making the playoffs but fell a bit short. This season was defined by some untimely injuries and mediocre goaltending. The Wild were dealt with some key injuries during the season that made life for them more difficult. Jared Spurgeon had season-ending injuries as he had to get surgeries on both his hip and his back. My goodness, his sleep must’ve been awful after dealing with that. Spurgeon at the time, was the Wild’s top defenceman so losing him was a big loss. Not to mention that whenever you lose your captain, it’s gonna hurt your team. Brock Faber was able to take over the role as top defenceman but there’s only so much you can ask of a rookie. The other big injury was Joel Eriksson Ek who got injured in mid-March which was right in the middle of their push for the playoffs. The Wild aren’t very deep at center so losing Eriksson Ek was a noticeable one, especially when you lose a a great two-way forward like Eriksson Ek. He returned recently but it’s too late for it to matter.

While injuries hurt the team this year, so did their goaltending. Filip Gustavsson was expected to take over as their starting goaltender but that didn’t really happen. He put up a .898 save percentage which is just not good enough for an NHL starting goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t any better either. Fleury had a .899 save percentage and it just felt like neither goaltender could catch heat this season. Even when it seemed like one of their goalies was getting hot, it was quickly derailed by an injury or one bad performance killing all their momentum.

So not a lot has gone right for the Wild this year and all they can do now is look forward to next year. The problem for them is they don’t have a ton of money to work with as they only have $7 million dollars to spend. That’s due to the fact that they have over $14 million in dead cap space due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts. This seems like a recipe for mediocrity to continue for the Wild.

Or maybe not. While the Wild don’t have a ton of money to work with, they could get some big contributions from internal additions. I talked a little earlier about some of their younger guys who weren’t quite ready to take the jump to be a full time meaningful player for the team, but that doesn’t mean they won’t develop into great players for next season. The Wild have a pretty solid prospect pool and some solid young players.

Marco Rossi has had a pretty good rookie season considering what it took for him to get here. A big part of his development got derailed because he missed quite a bit of time being on the sideline as he was dealing with long-term covid effects. Despite that, Rossi had a respectable season as he put up 38 points and 21 goals. He also looked decent in his showing as the top-line center when Eriksson Ek went out with an injury. Rossi may not reach the ceiling he had when he was drafted in 2020 but he has shown some promising development and he could take another leap next year and be the team’s second-line center and one that is more offensively minded.

Now that the Wild’s playoff hopes are gone, they are giving chances to some young players as these may be some guys who will be roster players for them next season. Liam Öhgren is a player that intrigues me a lot as he isn’t necessarily great at anything but he is reliable for many different things. He’s a good winger who can do a lot of heavy lifting and work well for smaller players who are more offensively minded. I don’t know about you but that sounds like the perfect linemate to have next to Marco Rossi. Öhgren could be a big player for them next year and I’m interested to see how things go for him.

With Marc-Andre Fleury likely leaving the team in free agency, this opens the door for Jesper Wallstedt to be the full-time backup. Wallstedt will eventually be this team’s starting goaltender in the long term and next season looks like it will be the season he establishes himself as a legit NHL goalie. If Gustavsson slips again next season then we could see Wallstedt become the starter and I feel like he could do well in the role with how confident he is. Regardless, he should have a good season next year with some expected growing pains in between.

Marat Khusnutdinov is also getting a shot and it looks like he could end up being the third-line center for next season. He hasn’t been too productive in the time he’s got so far in the NHL but next year is more so the year for him to shine if he does. If he works out for them then the Wild who once had some pretty weak center depth are suddenly doing pretty okay at that position.

There are a few other younger players I could talk about who could step in next year but you get the point. This is exactly the way the Wild have to go about next year because of their limitations with cap space. It helps them a ton that they’ve drafted quite well the past few years. Shout out to Judd Bracket.

Will the Wild be better next season? I think they should be better but I don’t know how much better. Having their newer additions be almost all rookies is a bit of a gamble as it’s pretty unpredictable to know how good these rookies will be. Either way, I think the Wild will be good going into the future, but they need to keep finding ways to add more talent.

It’s time for the Wild to break out of mediocrity and they’ve taken the steps to possibly do that soon. We’ll see how things go though.

See, even the Wild can figure things out so I believe that you can do whatever you want too. Just don’t spend half your money on a buyout.

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