Hockey

There are few teams around that I can definitely say the Hawks will finish ahead of. And there’s only one in the division I can be certain of, and it’s this outfit. Or. to put it more accurately, if the Hawks don’t finish ahead of this collection of used rags and grill scrapings, everyone is fired. Let’s look in on this fine mess…

20180-2019

37-36-9  83 (!) points

2.56 GF/G (27th)  2.84 GA/G (12th)  -23 GD

50.9 CF% (11th)   54.1 xGF% (5th)

20.3 PP% (14th)  81.7 PK% (7th)

Goalies: So here’s a thing that Minnesota can’t seem to wrap their frozen brains around — their goalies were bad last year, and Devan Dubnyk has been kinda bad for a while now. Sure, .913 doesn’t look all that bad from Doobie on the surface. Except he had the best expected SV% in the league thanks to Bruce Boudreau trying to do everything he can to shield him. And he had the third worst difference at evens between his expected save-percentage and actual, behind Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones. That’s not a neighborhood you want to be putting down roots. It was the same the season before, and Dubnyk is 33 so he’s probably not going to jump forward at this point. The Wild got the best out of him, and now they’re going to have to smoke the resin.

Stalock wasn’t any better, and if the Wild are hoping for a .915-.920 that he’s spasmed out a couple times as a backup in Minny and San Jose, they might be looking down the tracks for a very long time. What’s so weird about the Wild is that even with this roster, Boudreau was able to keep them getting the majority of attempts and chances and severely limit what their goalies had to do. And they couldn’t do it. And there’s little reason to think they will now. Combine that with a distinct lack of finish and you get…well, make your own whoopee cushion sound.

Defense: It’s the same crew as it’s been, though they will get Matt Dumba back after he missed more than half the season last year. That’s not insignificant, and along with Jared Spurgeon that’s all the Wild’s get-up-and-go from the back. Dumba was on pace for his second-straight 50+ point season before a torn pectoral ended things prematurely. Spurgeon’s influence started to slip a bit last season. He was still ahead of the team rate on his metrics, but not by the wide margins he used to be. Perhaps having to cover for Dumba hurt him and they can set that right now. Ryan Suter is getting up there but can still economize his game to remain effective. Once again, Jonas Brodin will be solid but not much more. The third pairing will be some concoction they pull out of a steaming cauldron of Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn and Brad Hunt and whatever other eye of newt they find on the ground.

Forwards: And here’s your big problem. There isn’t a first-liner anywhere to be found, so they’ll have to shove Eric Staal, the eight minutes Zach Parise‘s back isn’t a puppet show, and Mats Zuccarello up there. Or Jason Zucker and however he’s decided to pronounce his name this season. Or they’ll have to force-feed Kevin Fiala, the first version of Eli Tolvanen, trying to prove the Preds wrong in that he can be a genuine top six forward in the league. Can they conjure another miracle out of Ryan Donato? His 16 points in 22 games after being acquired for Charlie Coyle suggest there might be something there. But doing it in 20 games that don’t matter and over a full 82 are different matters. Mikko Koivu is 187 years old and wasn’t good enough when he was 27 to do the things the Wild needed him to. Ryan Hartman somehow has ended up here, though St. Paul tends to be the last stop for the bewildered and lost. No matter what kind of magic and voodoo Gabby cooks up to keep the Wild in the right end of the ice, there’s not nearly enough here to make it really count unless a couple players get some spirits to conjure shooting-percentage spikes.

Prediction: It’s funny how the Hawks season is being viewed as some springboard to better and the Wild seem truly and deeply boned, and there was one point between them. Yet the Hawks do have some youth and growth on the roster and in the system. The Wild have lottery tickets like Fiala or Donato. With the goaltending heading south, there just isn’t enough scoring, or close to it, for the Wild to get around a playoff spot. Maybe if it’s truly awful they can start over, which they’ve needed to do for about two seasons.

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Hockey

Maybe it took me a week to really come to terms with this breakdown of Paul Fenton’s firing in Minnesota. Maybe I needed a week to remember why I should care about the Minnesota Wild (and I still don’t). Maybe it was just the time of year and things are moving more slowly. But if you haven’t read Michael Russo’s article here, you really should. Just not for the hilarity or schadenfreude of it–and there’s plenty–but then come to realize that it’s probably hardly unique in the NHL.

I can’t decide what my favorite part was. The immediate dismissal of a pretty impressive analytics team that’s so NHL it seems too scripted to work. The never actually scouting Viktor Rask before trading one of your best players for him. The being at the Pats Super Bowl parade mere weeks before the trade deadline while the Wild were self-immolating. The constant fear of leaks. The fascination with players who suck, and have clearly proven they suck.

And it’s easy to point and laugh…but can’t you see some elements happening here? Especially the fascination with certain players, i.e. ones that have played for them before. While I don’t think the Hawks just skip the due diligence part of players they trade for…Kimmo Timonen would like a word. Yeah, that was a long time ago, and recent trades like Caggiula have worked out ok (though they seem to have soured on Perlini pretty quickly, but he was the throw-in in that deal). Still, their fascination with players they already know has a very familiar ring to it.

Also you could probably make a link to the dismissal of analytics here as well, as there’s simply no way the Hawks have paid any attention to it, otherwise you wouldn’t be trading for Olli Maatta.

What’s kind of amazing is how bad Fenton was allowed to be at his job. Can you imagine some of this going on in any other sport? I mean, maybe with the Pirates or Knicks or Raiders or something, but those are known basketcase organizations. The Wild aren’t supposed to be that. They’re not the model franchise or anything–even though they loved to tell people that–but they haven’t been moronic. They just haven’t been all that noticeable. This is noticeable.

And this was hardly Fenton’s first job, and you can easily see where he’ll get another because this is the NHL. No one ever dies in the NHL, they’re just moved to a different office…or wherever Bob Pulford is now.

I suppose the question I have to ask is where was any of this when it was actually going on? I know the answer is that people are way more willing to talk when the dude has already been canned and there’s no fear of repercussions, but surely someone or someones knew about some of this while it was happening. Wouldn’t an outing and reporting of it had a chance of stopping the idiocy to come?

The protection of information is hardly germane to the Wild and Fenton. We see it with every team in hockey, and increasingly sports. These days, when teams have their own bullhorns–website, twitter, instagram, facebook, all with their own staff and writers–there’s little need to get anything to the press unwillingly. You can spin anything how you want before anyone even knows it’s a thing. Still, you have to feel that Fenton’s trip to the Pats’ parade from his job in St. Paul is something that should have been a big deal at the moment. What happened there?

You can’t help but think of the dysfunction in the Hawks’ front office, and yet we’ve had to (get ready Fifth Feather) read tea leaves to even suss that out. It was clear that Q and Stan Bowman couldn’t get along at the end, and were only getting along before because the team in place was winning. But we had to put it all together. Somehow, they were able to keep that all in house, and only after Stan basically admitted to spiking Q with Brandon Manning did we get official confirmation of how deep the dysfunction went. Five or ten years from now, the tell-all book is going to be comedy on a Python-esque level.

We know that the consolidation and shrinking of media is bad in a lot more important areas than sports. We know that everyone having an Insta or Twitter means players or anyone else can talk directly to fans with whatever message they want (that sometimes ends up way worse). We know teams have gotten better and better about keeping everything under wraps, even with all the avenues we have now.

I guess that’s how some of this patently ridiculous shit can go on with a team like the Wild even over as short of a span as a year. But I can’t imagine this level of mismanagement is unique to St. Paul. And you wonder how goons keep getting jobs…

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Ummmm…. ::checks notes:: ….yeaaaahhhh….so this game….to the bullets!

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– This game didn’t even become noticeable until mid-way through the second period. It wasn’t until Alex DeBrincat scored that the Hawks seemed to realize they were playing a real live game, but once Top Cat tied it up they actually started keeping the puck in the offensive zone and pressuring the Wild. In truth, Stalock was giving up a lot of rebounds in the middle part of the second period but the Hawks never had a man in the right spot, basically right at the top of the crease where the rebounds were just hanging. However, Cowboy Gustafsson had a slapshot to take the lead late in the period, which was not only exciting just for them having the lead, but it seemed kinda sorta like an offside play had set it up, so Brain Genius Boudreau challenged it. There was nothing even resembling definitive evidence that it was in fact offsides, so the Hawks not only got the goal but also a power play. Nothing came of the man advantage, although DeBrincat was very close to scoring on an open net and just whiffed on it. This was emblematic of the game—the Hawks almost doing something really cool, but really we just chuckled at Bruce Boudreau being stupid and looking like a reddened zit about to pop.

– But Gustafsson had himself a night! Two goals, including the game winner in OT, which was technically a power play goal as well. He had a total of four shots, about 22 minutes TOI, and a 55 CF% despite playing over half the night with Gustav Forsling. There were even moments where he poke checked and made actual defensive plays. There were a few of the usual miscues, but overall he just raised his trade value by about 700%.

– The power play continued to work, despite taking a couple tries to get there. They went 2-for-5 on the man advantage, although the second goal came on a power play in overtime at 4-on-3, so take that with whatever size grain of salt you want. The first power play goal was off a lovely pass from Kane to Toews who was hovering right at the goal mouth and tapped it right into an open net with Stalock going the other way. It was textbook.

– The Hawks only gave up 31 shots tonight, so that’s…an achievement? I’m going to say yes, yes it is. Seeing as they were underwater in possession in both the first and the third periods (43 CF% and an even more dismal 29 CF%, respectively), we’re gonna go with hey that’s neat, they didn’t give up 40 shots.

Duncan Keith‘s give-a-shit meter was around 1.2 tonight. He had a couple really lazy turnovers and a dumb tripping penalty in the second…none of this is new but it’s still a mix of irritating and depressing. With Seabrook he had a 38 CF%, and only a 42.4 overall. Woof.

Essentially this was an even matchup of two mediocre teams. It was downright boring early—even Perlini’s penalty shot, the one thing that might have been interesting that period, was crappy. Delia made some excellent saves and was certainly better than Stalock, but a .903 SV% isn’t actually impressive in its own right. Whatever, it’s fine, the Hawks got the two points and are somehow managing to claw their way closer to a wild card spot so…we’re into this? Onward and upward.

Photo credit: NHL.com

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 19-24-9   Wild 26-22-3

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBC (WHAT?!)

GOIN’ CRAZY OUT DERE BY DA LAKE: Zone Coverage MN

Whatever it is the Hawks are now, and it’s certainly been entertaining the past couple weeks if hardly artful, heads into St. Paul this evening to back up the what-have-ya in Buffalo last night. They’ll meet a Wild team that has an even more ridiculous back-to-back, coming home from losing in Dallas last night and only having to traverse essentially the length of the country in a night. Again, artful is not something you’d count on tonight from either side. So what a wonderful piece of programming for NBC to put across from Lakers-Warriors, huh?

Due to last night’s loss, the Wild handed the last automatic playoff spot in the Central back to the Stars, which they’ve been passing back and forth to each other like a handmade bowl, and slipped into the first wildcard spot. They have a three-point clearance on the Canucks, who are the first outside the cutting line. It’s been a  roller-coaster season for the Wild, who lost five in a row around Christmas to drop out of the playoffs altogether, then won four of five, and then have gone .500 in the 10 games since. Which is probably exactly what they are.

It’s not what you’d normally expect from a Boudreau-led outfit, as this is the best defensive team in the league in terms of chances and shots they surrender. As always with the Wild, they just don’t have enough front-line talent to bag in the goals. They’re 26th in goals per game, and 25th in shooting-percentage.This is never going to be a team that outshoots its percentage, not until it gets some more firepower. Missing Matt Dumba is huge, both on the power play and at evens, as he gets them up the ice better than anyone and can score from the blue line, which they don’t have anyone else to do.

Not that it seems like new GM Paul Fenton gets it, with the recent bewildering trade of Nino Neiderreiter for Victor Rask. Neiderreiter may not have put up the hard numbers to get anyone tumescent, but he was one of the best possession players in the league for years and had an acute case of snakebite this year. If you’re going to move him, you move him for someone who actually dents twine on occasion. Rask sets off toxic alarms everywhere he goes, and that’s all he does. Other additions around the edges like Pontus Aberg and Brad Hunt don’t really move the needle. The addition of Rask jumbled the lineup as well, moving Charlie Coyle back to a wing when he finally looked somewhat comfortable at center, and bestowing upon Parise the honor of looking at Rask confusedly, trying to figure out what in the actual fuck he’s doing. At least Coyle and Jordan Greenway have meshed nicely with Eric Staal on the top line.

The Hawks will get Alex Stalock tonight, after Dubnyk went last night. The latter really hasn’t been all that good this year, and has benefitted far more from the defensive work of the team in front of him than vice versa. Stalock hasn’t done either.

Speaking of goalies needing help. Collin Delia will get the start, and since his initial splash he’s been just this side of rancid. Sure, he’s getting no help, as the Hawks routinely are giving up shot totals that start with a “4.” But the last time Delia gave up less than three was December 29th, and you can’t hope that Patrick Kane is going to outscore that kind of surrender (even though he has of late). Delia has had a nice long break to reset, not playing since January 20th. This is still an audition for Delia to vault himself onto the roster for sure next year, whether as backup or not, but he’s not going to do that looking behind him four times a game.

Any other changes will be small. Maybe Koekkoek in for Dahlstrom or Forsling, though unlikely. Maybe Perlini in for Kunitz or Hayden, though unlikely.

Given how free-scoring the Hawks have been of late, this is a challenge. The Wild don’t give up much at all, and the Hawks’ two wins over them were basically goalie wins. The Islanders were able to keep the Hawks down in a way that the Caps and Sabres were not, and it’s a similar style. Mikko Koivu has been a particular annoyance to Jonathan Toews for his entire career, and were that to continue that quiets the big gun of the Hawks in Kane. Probably where most lies tonight.

The idea the Hawks can get back into it all is still ridiculous, but if they’re going to go on a run it’s right here. The Wild are nothing impressive, and the Oilers less so. The Canucks again are not anything special, and the Red Wings are worse than the Hawks. The Devils, Senators, and Ducks all appear on the slate in February, as do the Avalanche and Stars, teams the Hawks have handled earlier in the year. If they’re going to do something stupid, it’ll happen now.

 

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We’ve had a good bit of fun at the expense of Bruce Boudreau through the years. It’s probably not fair that some of that is due to him looking like he should be holding the princess hostage while waiting for Mario to come save her. But his constant thrashings-about in the playoffs and in the press have always been good for a chuckle. And while the regular season record is marvelous, the playoff record is clear to see. One conference final appearance. That’s it. A flush of blown 3-2 leads and Game 7 losses at home with Anaheim and Washington. He is the yin and the yang of NHL coaching, all while looking a bit like the Buddha.

And what we used to marvel at with Gabby was that he got the results despite having no structure whatsoever to his team. His teams played harder than anyone in February and March when most teams are running short on fucks to give, and by the time the playoffs came around his players were toast and suddenly opponents cared again and actually had a plan. Boudreau’s “Go Get ‘Em, Scouts!” approach didn’t work once it was spring.

Except that’s not how it works anymore. And the Wild would do well to recognize what they are to create the flexibility they need.

The Wild are the best defensive team in the league. Not in terms of goals allowed, but in terms of chances. They have by far the best expected-goals against per 60, at 1.97. The next best is Boston at 2.04. And this is the second year in a row they’ve been among the best. They give up the second-least amount of shots at even-strength as well, and are in the top-10 in attempts. They don’t create a whole lot, but they shouldn’t have to given they surrender next to nothing.

The thought around the Wild has been they go as far as Devan Dubnyk will take them, but that’s not necessarily true. Dubnyk has the highest expected-save-percentage in the league. Which means as far as starting NHL goalies go, he’s got the easiest job, or at least asked to do the least. And yet his actual save-percentage, at even-strength, hasn’t been anywhere near what it should be. He’s running the third-lowest difference in expected and actual save-percentage in the league, behind Roberto Luongo and Martin Jones. The Panthers haven’t been able to overcome that. The Sharks are so talented they can, but if it goes balls-up in the playoffs, you’ll know why.

The biggest problem for the Wild is that they don’t have enough, or maybe any, genuine top-line talent. Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise these days, Charlie Coyle if you squint…these are all second-line players at best. Eric Staal was a top-line player last year, but is not this year, and is headed for free agency anyway. The Wild don’t have a ton of cap space, and Artemi Panarin isn’t going to go there anywhere due to a lack of beaches.

The Wild have about $15M in space for next year, with only really Staal’s space to fill. They can get more space by trading Dubnyk. It’ll be poison to some ears in Minnehaha to hear that, but if the Wild are going to be this good defensively, and he’s going to drag that far behind what he should be doing, then the Wild can do better than him, and probably at a cheaper rate. At age 33 in May, he’s unlikely to get better. And given how slow NHL GMs are on the uptake, the Wild can free themselves of his $4.3M hit pretty easily, especially to any team that has a playoff flameout due to goaltending (Toronto we’re looking at you, and maybe San Jose as well). Dubnyk still carries a name, as multiple Vezina finalists do.

Maybe the Wild could use that money to upgrade at goalie, never give up a goal, and give themselves more than a pubic hair’s margin at the other end. Maybe it frees them to get a Mark Stone or Matt Duchene, or both, which they need. They can’t rebuild with this roster, and they need to get creative to maximize their shrinking window to get up amongst Winnipeg and Nashville. They’ll have to get creative, and this is one way.

 

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Giles Ferrell covers the Wild for ZoneCoverage.com. He also hosts Giles And The Goalie Podcast. Follow him @GilesFerrell.

Explain this Neiderreiter-for-Rask trade, because we don’t get it at all…
Paul Fenton has roughly 10 players on the roster who can play center or wing, yet he felt compelled to bring another center. In doing so, he dislodged Charlie Coyle — who had been playing pretty well alongside Zach Parise — from center shoving him back to wing and then pissing off Parise because Coyle has been the only center Parise has cared to play with this year. Rumor has it Fenton left a flaming bag of shit outside his analytics team’s office just minutes prior to making this trade (this did not actually happen but we can imagine it did because that’s what it feels like). Honestly, this trade makes no sense to Wild folks. They saved minimal cap space and added a 26-year-old center who can’t score and can’t skate. Makes perfect sense.
How big of a deal is it to lose Matthew Dumba for the year?
It’s been huge. The Wild power play has suffered heavily from his loss — just three or four power play goals since his departure — and it’s just had an impact on the offense in general. The Wild are now in the bottom third of the league in scoring, as Dumba was leading all NHL defenseman at his time of injury in goals scored. Now Dumba’s loss doesn’t entirely leave guys like Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu, or Eric Staal completely blameless for their drop in offense, but having him in the lineup added a dynamic that this team does not have without him.
The Wild are in a playoff spot, aren’t really structured in a way to blow it up, so do they have to make more moves before the deadline?
If you have seen Fenton’s moves recently, it makes one cringe thinking he could make more before the deadline. Everything depends on what his philosophy for the season is, and right now no one really seems to know what the hell that is. The owner obviously wants playoffs. But moves — see Niederreiter for Rask — leaves one wondering if he is trying to blow up the team and maybe just retool for the future. They won’t be buyers for sure, and with Staal being a UFA they very well could be sellers despite sitting in a playoff spot coming out of their break.
Are the Wild stuck in neutral a bit until after next season, when Koivu, Spurgeon, and Granlund will all be free agents and the team will finally have some payroll flexibility?
Jared Spurgeon has been invaluable to the Wild just about since the day he walked through the door from the Islanders back in 2010, so it is hard to see the Wild moving on from him. Granlund and Koivu, on the other hand, could very well be jettisoned — with Granlund perhaps being a hot name in trade rumors this upcoming summer depending on his next contract demands. With the lack of centers the Wild have coming it would not surprise me if Koivu did return after next season but it would have to be at a discount. The guys that Fenton might also try and cut loose from in order to free up some payroll could be Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker if he feels they are not performing up to par.

 

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Notes: Having played last night this is our best guess. We know Delia will start. Perlini could slot in for Kunitz or Hayden, and Koekkoek could come in for Dahlstrom or Forsling, but after Forsling notched a couple assists that’s unlikely…Kane now has 46 points in his last 26 games…Saad has five goals in his last five games…Once again that Saad-Kampf combo ran over whatever was in front of it, they may have stumbled on something here…

Notes: The Neiderreiter trade made no sense. Parise and Coyle had dovetailed nicely, and Coyle finally seemed to be settling at center. Now he’s back to a wing and Parise and Rask have combined for exactly dick…Staal has seven points in his last four games…Coyle at least has put up four points in his last three games, but they may have broken this toy…Dubnyk started last night in Dallas so clearly they thought that was the harder game, and the Hawks catch a break with Stalock…

 

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Wild 17-15-3   Hawks 13-20-6

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

VIKING HORN SOUND: Hockey Wilderness, Zone Coverage MN

The mini-Christmas break is over, and the entire NHL is kicking out the cobwebs, stretching it out, processing a big yawn, and getting ready to get back to the grind. And thanks to the CBA and the players’ union strange request, tonight is filled with games where the road team flies in day of and never looks like it’s all working together. You’ve seen some of them get really fed on this day, but the Hawks haven’t gotten this day right much at all over the years. Last season they got an extra night before shitting it against the Canucks in Vancouver. The year before that that they were nowhere against the Jets, and the year before that they laid an egg against Carolina. So just because the Wild are in the air as we speak doesn’t guarantee much.

Let’s start with the Hawks. Collin Delia looks to be getting the start, which should be the case until there’s a back-to-back (weekend after next) or Corey Crawford comes back. Cam Ward showed his true Cam Ward colors on Sunday, or should I say is true technicolor yawn, basically gifting the Panthers a couple goals and ruining what was a decent enough start from the Hawks. While he played well in a couple wins before the break, he still has a terminal case of being Cam Ward and we all know exactly what he is. Delia at least comes shrouded in mystery and some hope, and right now that’s good enough for the Hawks.

Other lineup changes see John Hayden slot in for Chris Kunitz, who sadly wasn’t banished to a sawmill in the country during the break. Dylan Sikura is dropping to the fourth line, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I guess Brendan Perlini has played well enough for a promotion? Whatever. I don’t think it matters at this point.

To the Wild, who are only five points ahead of the Hawks but have played four games less. They have been tumbling down the standings like Martin Sheen off a roof for the past few weeks now. First it was Devan Dubnyk having a month-long sneeze in November, and while that’s corrected their scoring has gone completely agoraphobic and they can’t get anywhere near the opening between the posts. Since the middle of last month the Wild are shooting just 6.4%, fifth-worst in the league. Which betrays their metrics, as just like last year they create far more good chances than they let up even if the attempts are more or less evenly distributed. But that doesn’t really matter if you can’t bury them, and if your goalie goes through a streak where he can’t stop them.

Further dampening the Wild attack is that Matthew Dumba is basically done for the year, out three months with a pectoral problem that required surgery. He was one half of all their push from the blue line, with Jared Spurgeon the other (it’s not really what Ryan Suter does anymore). This has forced both Nate Prosser and Greg Pateryn into the lineup, which is a place you want to be in less than a bus station at 3AM. Without Dumba, you can expect the Wild’s metrics to go down.

Up front they’re juggling things again, with Charlie Coyle doing his regularly scheduled shift from wing to center where he can flatter to deceive there as well. Jordan Greenway has got himself punted to a wing where he can watch Mikko Koivu wheeze and belch as Father Time leaves another counting the lights. Zach Parise was hot there for a minute but has cooled off, and Mikael Granlund couldn’t hit an elephant from five feet at the moment. The lack of a true front-line scorer is once again biting the Wild in the ass, just as it has for the past…well, existence.

I guess in the Hawks’ mind, not yours or mine, if they’re going to push anything out of this season they have to start now. The schedule is pretty light from now until their bye in January, with only one back-to-back and three-in-four stretch with two of those at home. We’ll see what they make of it, which won’t be much.

 

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You’re supposed to get a guarantee with Bruce Boudreau behind your bench. Your team might not have any defensive structure, or really any offensive structure for that matter, he’s going to be awfully red-faced, but your team will finish with over 100 points. Oh, and you’re going to do dick in the playoffs. Those are the guarantees. So what happens when your team doesn’t get those 100 points? Or even looks bang-on to not even get 90?

Bourdreau’s record is quite remarkable, both in its consistency and uniqueness. No team he has coached for a full-season has played at less than a 100-point pace (the Ducks had 66 in the season-in-a-can of 2013). The exception, if you want, is his ’11-’12 Capitals team that 25 points through 22 games before it fired him. But that’s really the only team before this Wild one that wasn’t going to clip triple-digits. And even that Caps team was on course for 93 points which may have been enough for the playoffs.

But obviously, that’s been combined with a startling, and honestly hilarious, lack of success in the playoffs. Boudreau teams have only gotten past the second round once in his 10 attempts to ascend the mountain. And even in that one, it was the third of four-straight Game 7 capitulations at home for the Ducks. No coach is ever going to be able to claim that again, you wouldn’t think.

Which makes Boudreau a hard coach to judge. Based on the far larger sample size of the regular season, you can hardly find one better. Even Joel Quenneville can’t match Boudreau’s regular season marks, and he had superior talent for most of it. And yet in a sport that only cares about what you do after that, you can’t really find anyone much worse. At least no one who’s had the chances that Gabby has had.

While you’re tempted to make a certain level of excuses for Boudreau’s playoff face-plants, and his two Wild teams really had no business going anywhere anyway, there’s only so far you can go when a team has led 3-2 four times with a Game 7 at home and whiffed on it every time.

So this season, when the Wild don’t look to be set for the regular season success, where do they go? The Wild are on pace for 86 points, which is going to leave them open leagues from a playoff spot. In the underlying numbers, the Wild still look good, Their 12th in CF% for a team, and 5th in expected-goal percentage. What they can’t get is a save right now, 22nd in even-strength save percentage, as Dubnyk had a simply abhorrent November and has only been ok in December. They also find themselves unable to hit water if they fell out of a boat, as they’re 25th in SH% as well. Is that really on Boudreau if he can’t get a save and his team isn’t converting the chances that his “system” is creating?

Still, you get the feeling the Wild know this era, such as it is, doesn’t have much legs left. Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, and Dubnyk are all on the wrong side of 30, and Jared Spurgeon reaches that next season. They hired a new GM in Paul Fenton, and presumably his main charge was to find a way out of the cap hell his predecessor Chuck Fletcher got them in. That probably means younger soon, and Boudreau’s teams have rarely been that, save for his first Caps team. Which then pretty much quit on him anyway.

Boudreau’s regular season record certainly warrants more than one bad one before a shit-canning. And yet when combined with nothing close to banner-worthy playoff success, and the wick on this candle may be a lot shorter than you’d first guess. But how do you find someone to squeeze better regular season results out of this? It’s also a hellish division, where the Preds, Avalanche, and Jets aren’t going anywhere for a while and one could assume the Stars and Hawks won’t suck forever (though they might).

It’s going to be an awfully tough decision for Fenton. Boudreau’s tenures haven’t lasted too much longer than a third full season. In DC he was fired during his fourth full-season. In Anaheim it was after his fifth. It won’t be long either way, you’d think.

 

Game #40 Preview Suite

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