A Minnesota Wild Night At the Oscars


I will admit that I normally ignore ‘awards’ shows.   The only one that I watch is the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars.  I love movies and this award show gives me ideas as to what films I should consider watching.  I know there are a lot of politics and lobbying that goes along with those films pushing for Oscar awards but in most cases the best films and performances earn the hardware they deserve.  What would happen if the Minnesota Wild were to host its own version of the Oscars?  Who would the Wild’s Oscar awards go to?

So as I began to ponder this question I thought of 5 unique categories.  By popular demand there will be no acceptance speeches (“You love me, you really love me”), but I will provide an explanation for my selections, as well as mention who some of the other nominees were in that category.  Here are your 2014-15 Minnesota Wild Oscar categories.

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  • Best Special Effects (Special Teams) ~ This category goes to the Wild’s best special teams performance up to this point in the 2014-15 season.

    Best Actor in a Supporting Role (player) ~ This category goes to the Wild’s best player in a supporting role throughout the 2014-15 season.

    Best Director (coach) ~ This category recognizes the team’s best coaching performance of the season.

    Best Picture / Performance (Game of the Year) ~ This is a category to recognize the team’s best performance up to this point in the 2014-15 season.

    Best Actor (player) ~ This category recognizes the team’s most valuable player from game to game throughout the 2014-15 season.

    Our first category is for Best Special Effects (Special Teams).  And the Oscar goes to: the Penalty Kill

    This one should come as no surprise as the team’s 3rd ranked (86.1%) penalty kill has been a source of strength virtually all season long for the Wild.  Especially when you consider how much the penalty kill struggled a season ago as it finished 27th in the league (78.8%), its dramatic improvement has been nothing short of remarkable given the fact there has not been many major changes to its penalty killing personnel from a season ago.  The power play comes up short because of how inconsistent it has been this season and even though it has been a better in more recent weeks its still near the bottom of the league (26th).

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  • For Best Actor in a Supporting Role:  And the Oscar goes to, Marco Scandella

    This might surprise you given Scandella’s importance to the team.  Yet for a player who logs a little under 23 minutes a game, the minutes he does play are often at the most crucial points of the game as he’s a staple on the team’s penalty kill and often used against the opponents top offensive lines.  The fact Scandella does this and still has a +3 rating is really impressive.  The Wild coaching staff said they monitor his minutes because of the intensity of his shifts and the importance of him being able to go ‘all out’ which is why they do not use him on the power play despite leading the team in goals from a defenseman.

    I wrote about the team managing his minutes a few weeks ago.  Because he receives almost no power play time, I consider him to be a supporting player, albeit a very important one which is why he takes home the Oscar for his solid performance this season.  As for the other nominees; Justin Fontaine, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker put up their own challenges from time to time, but Scandella’s consistency this whole season was the difference maker.  Even the best actors had to prove themselves in supporting roles before they became the marquee star and Scandella is making a strong push to be given that coveted lead role.

    For Best Director (Coach):  And the Oscar goes to,  Rick Wilson

    He does not get nearly as much attention as perhaps he deserves but Rick Wilson’s performance with the Wild’s blue line and penalty kill has been tremendous.  Good goaltending certainly helps, but the Wild allow the least shots on goal (26.9 per game) and have the leagues’s 3rd best penalty kill which we mentioned earlier.  The improvement of nearly 10% from last year’s penalty kill is huge, and a big reason why the club has been able to pull out close games.  As for other nominees, only goaltending coach Bob Mason was the only other candidate to really consider but the flagging performances of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom forced the team to make a trade.

    For Best Picture / Performance (Game of the Year):  And the Oscar goes to, February, 3rd, 2015 Wild 3, Chicago 0

    Minnesota was coming off a 3-game winning streak on a Canadian road trip at the end of January and returned for a three game homestand starting with the Blackhawks.  After earning 3 road victories many expected the Wild to be humbled by Chicago as they had struggled against them in previous games, but the Minnesota took it to the Blackhawks in virtually every facet of the game.  They out-hustled, out-skated and outplayed Chicago at every turn as they rolled to a 3-0 victory that could’ve been far worse had Corey Crawford not played as well as he did (he had 40 saves).   Other nominees were the Wild’s 7-2 win over Tampa Bay in late October and a 5-4 win over the Islanders in early December.  Both of these victories were good but the sheer dominance the Wild displayed against a divisional foe that has haunted them in the post-season cannot be underestimated.  That was definitely a statement game for the Wild.

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  • For Best Actor (player):  And the Oscar goes to, Devan Dubnyk

    Prior to the trade for Devan Dubnyk on January 14th to say things were bleak would be a massive understatement.   The team had just been absolutely humiliated in a 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on national television (NBC Sports Network), and the vultures were swirling around saying that it was time for the axe to fall on Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo.  This performance combined with a month-long period of futility both home and away prompted Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher to swing a trade for Dubnyk, sending a 3rd round pick for the Arizona Coyotes’ ‘backup’ goalie.  

    Little did anyone know the goaltender would have such a transformative effect on the team, and suddenly the wins started to pile up.  Dubnyk has gone 12-2-1 since joining the team.   The confidence Dubnyk gave the team was contagious and the demoralizing sub .900% save percentage goaltending the team had with Kuemper and Backstrom became a thing of the past.  His arrival rekindled the fire of the whole team and suddenly we were not hearing the same tired cliches about members of the team having to step up as Dubnyk was not only making the routine saves but also bailing the club out with some exceptional performances.  If the Wild manage to make the playoffs, I think its not too far fetched to consider him the team’s nominee for the Hart Trophy.  Zach Parise was another solid nominee, but not even his outstanding effort each night was enough to right the ship the way it did with Dubnyk’s arrival.

    So those are my Oscar award winners for the Wild.  Who do you think is Oscar-worthy?  What performances did you feel I snub?  Feel free to leave a comment because just like with movies, everyone’s a critic!