Five Post-All Star Game Predictions for the Minnesota Wild


The goofy drafting of the teams, the skills competition, and the buzz around people’s thoughts about the All Star Game’s sweaters was also a time for big announcements.  The NHL announced it would be part of a World Cup of Hockey for 2016 as well as what teams will be a part of next year’s Winter Classic (Boston and Montreal) in addition to two Stadium series games between Colorado and Detroit as well as a game between Chicago and the Minnesota Wild.  For the Wild, the announcement of the Stadium Series game (to be held on February 21st, 2015) is a well-timed distraction on what has been a tremendously disappointing season.

So in a few days the Wild will be returned to their bleak reality of being a team that is at the bottom of the Central Division standings and 7 points out of 8th place in the Western Conference.  So with majority of the 2nd half of the NHL season season still ahead of us I think its time for predictions.  I may not be Nostradamus, but I really do believe that many are capable of coming true.  So before I begin let me say that I make these predictions with the idea that the Wild fail to make the playoffs.  Without further adieu.

"“At some point, we have to start to deliver. The coaches can only do so much. As players, we have to have some thicker skin and hold each other accountable. We’re missing that right now. It’s too easy internally to not compete and it’s too easy for us to quit. That’s the problem, that’s the biggest thing.” ~ Zach Parise on the Wild’s struggles"

1.  The Minnesota Wild Fire Mike Yeo at the end of the season.  This may seem like low-hanging fruit considering the Wild’s season and the practice tirade a few weeks ago, but as the old saying goes in professional sports, “It’s always easier to change the coach than it is to change the team (players).”  For their part, the Wild players seem to be in support of their coach as they’ve tried to take most of the blame for club’s disappointing performance.  Yet as the team continues to underperform, no matter what the players say how long can the team continue to lose and the coaching staff still be ok?  Yeo came very close to being fired last season.  I think among fans and media who watch the team closely, do not fault Yeo’s system or philosophy as it has demonstrated itself to be very effective earlier in the season.  However there are some indictable offenses.  Most notably his preferential treatment of veterans on the power play and top lines as well as his overuse of Ryan Suter a case can certainly be made that Yeo has played a role into some of the team’s struggles.  A coach is always an easy scapegoat for team failure and Yeo will be no different.  I can’t imagine Wild majority owner Craig Leipold will be ok owning a team with this much talent that fails to make the post-season without the axe falling somewhere and the most logical place to start will be the guy behind the bench.

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  • 2.  The Minnesota Wild fire or re-assign Chuck Fletcher.  As a General Manager you only get to fire two coaches before you are shown the door.  If Fletcher ends up firing Mike Yeo it might be the last thing he does before he finds himself dismissed or reassigned in the organization (maybe Team President) and is replaced by current assistant GM Brent Flahr.  While Fletcher’s boldness has been a hallmark of his time as the team’s GM, hiring two ‘rookie’ NHL head coaches, as well as some big off-season and trade deadline splashes as the team tried to place its name among the top teams in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.  Some of those moves have been pretty good, while others have not panned out nearly as well as hoped.  The nightmare that has become the goaltender situation has plagued the team the last two seasons.  Fletcher waited far too long to let the declining performances of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom before bringing in Devan Dubnyk.  By the time Dubnyk arrived, the hole that was dug was far too deep for the team to recover from.  While Fletcher made moves to lock down the team’s young core you have to wonder if he gave too much money and term to some of its young players like Charlie Coyle who may not turn out to be as good as some projected he would be. With Zack Phillips floundering (being a healthy scratch in Iowa) how does that trade for Brent Burns look now?   If Fletcher does somehow survive firing a 2nd coach in his tenure I would not expect him to go the rookie coach again.  Did someone say Dan Bylsma?

    3.  Minnesota Wild trades at least one member of its Top 6 at the trade deadline.  With the Wild not being a contender for the post-season it might as well make the most of its plight and look to send off some assets to team’s hungry for an extra boost for the playoffs.  Top 6 forwards are always in high demand and the Wild certainly have some in its top 6 it is unhappy with.  If the Wild wants to really tweak its Top 6 chemistry, so who should go?  I think Jason Pominville or Thomas Vanek and this might surprise some but Mikael Granlund might be dealt at the deadline.  Pominville, currently the Wild’s leading scorer has been disappointing in regards to goal production but other clubs might think he could be a valuable addition to their top 6 depth that would not just be a rental as he still has three more seasons remaining on his contract while Vanek has just 2 more years left.  Granlund is in the last year of his current contract and was having a lousy season prior to breaking his wrist.  While trading him would further complicate team’s situation at center you have to also consider Granlund’s struggles to stay healthy over the course of an NHL season.  Since coming to North America he’s spent at least a 1/4th of each season on the shelf with injuries.  So it might be a way for the team to cut its losses.  Zach Parise is the team’s best player overall and in my opinion a player this team cannot part with.  While I think many Wild fans would love to see the team be able to part ways with Mikko Koivu, the truth is his ugly contract, declining production and skills make him an albatross.  The team has two potential top 6 forwards waiting for the opportunity in Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter which would likely step in if a deal is made.  With 2015 being a strong draft, gaining picks could be beneficial for the long-term vitality of this team.

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  • 4.  The captain’s “C” is taken from Mikko Koivu and given to Zach Parise.  Some may argue wearing a letter on your shoulder doesn’t really mean all that much in today’s NHL.  That may or may not be true but I think deep down it does matter to the athletes.  A captaincy is a tip of the cap to a player’s leadership qualities both on and off the ice.  Mikko Koivu has been the team’s captain since 2009, but his status as the team’s leader came into question upon the arrival of Zach Parise.  It is virtually impossible to not find inspiration from the tremendous work ethic from shift to shift by Parise on a nightly basis.  Koivu is mostly stoic in public and his effort seems to fluctuate game to game.  When he’s in the ‘angry Finn’ mode he can be dominant but those times are few and far between.  The fact Koivu is captain complicates matters when his play would indicate he’s probably deserving of a reduced role on the team.  I think its time to end the illusion that Koivu is a major leader on this team and give it to the player who we know personifies effort, leadership and impactful play night after night.

    5.  Get used to Stadium Series talk, because we’re going to be hearing about it for the next 13 months.  If there is one thing this organization loves, is a positive story to promote until everyone is sick of hearing about it.  From a wave Charlie Coyle gave to a small child during warm ups to same question asked by Fox Sports Net rink-side reporters to any Wild player interviewed after a victory (“how is it to play in front of fans like these?”) this organization isn’t afraid to get every cheesy ‘aww’ moment out of its fanbase it can that would put most episodes of Full House to shame.  There is little shame in the Wild’s PR department and even though the prideful part in many fans was hurt over the fact that Minnesota’s star wasn’t quite big enough to lure a Winter Classic game and instead had to settle for the consolation prize of a Stadium Series game get used to hearing how ‘special’ and ‘unbelievable’ this opportunity is for Minnesota and the State of Hockey.  This is probably my safest prediction of the bunch.

    Only time will tell if the rest come true or close to it.  Either way, fans should get ready for a slow and painful death to the 2014-15 season.