Tag Archives: Weekly Wild Whangdoodle

W(once in a while) Wild Whangdoodle – Trade Deadline

They've gone and done something haven't they?

Wild had a whole bunch of deals this week, and I think they pretty much all point to what Bill Guerin thinks the team needs to contend.

  • Nico Sturm for Tyson Jost

Well, so much for the Whangdoodle-crush on Nico Sturm.  Sturm was the kind of player that was easy to like, direct and fast and a very no-frills kind of game. The kind of player that has value on the fourth line, and scores just enough for you to wonder if maybe he could be good enough for second line minutes?  But no, he isn't.  And the Wild weren't going to resign him after this year when they have Dewar and Duhaime that play almost exactly this role. Getting something for Sturm before he walks is good business.

Sturm was third among Wild forwards in time-on-ice shorthanded this season, where he was slightly below replacement level according to Evolving Hockey's GAR model. This is a theme we'll come back to.

Tyson Jost is pretty similar to Sturm except he's got a longer track record and he's under contract through the next season.  Comparing their GAR defensive numbers over the past four years drives home that this trade was switching out players in the same role more or less.

PlayerMinutesEven Strength dGARSH MinutesShorthanded dGAR
Sturm 2018-2021638+3.165+1.9
Sturm 2021-2022627-0.990-0.4
Jost 2018-20212527+3.7128+0.2
Jost 2021-2022780-0.2112-3.5
  • 2023 3rd round pick for Nicolas Deslauriers

I mean, OK? Deslauriers isn't a great player as far as creating offense, but he's been a consistently adequate defensive forward who is willing to punch people when called upon. In the last four seasons he has contributed -0.4 defGAR and a -5.3 offGAR.

He's seen some penalty kill time on the Ducks this year, and been an adequate defender there.

  • Kaapo Kahkonen and a 5th round pick for Jacob Middleton

Minnesota had a surplus goalie (more on that in a minute) and Kahkonen was going to need a new contract after this season. I'm not a believer that Kahkonen was ever going to be a starting caliber goalie, but he has shown that he could fill in capably sometimes, and has actually outperformed Talbot this year in limited chances. Still, I think it's understandable that the Wild decided to move on from Kahkonen and look elsewhere for backup help next season.

Jacob Middleton is in his first year of consistent playing time and has acquitted himself pretty well. He has solid defensive numbers and the underlying numbers on offense look respectable (although the results so far haven't matched the analytics). He'll be an RFA next year, and should probably be a cheaper option than Goligoski if the Wild need to fill more spaces on the blue line.

I probably like Middleton the best of any of the skaters that the Wild acquired this week. Once again, he has played the penalty kill consistently, and has good numbers and results there.

  • Jack McBain for a 2022 second round pick (from Vancouver)

Vancouver should pick somewhere in the middle of the second round, and McBain said he wouldn't sign in Minnesota, so this is a good get for the front office.  I don't think that McBain is going to be a star in the NHL, but could become a third/fourth line player and contribute.

  • 2022 Conditional 1st-round pick for Marc-Andre Fleury (50% salary retained by Chicago)

Here's the big one. Fleury hasn't had a great year and even if you adjust for the defense in front of him, it doesn't look anything like his truly spectacular season last year.  Still, if the goal is to take a swing at a deep playoff run this year (which seems pretty reasonable for the Wild) then you absolutely add Fleury if you can get him.

How Talbot and Fleury share time is a question.  Whether Fleury can improve to anything close to what he did last year in Minnesota's system is a question.

What's not a question is whether Guerin is pushing in on success this year.  Adding Fleury is as much a signal as anything else.  This is a year where Minnesota is going for it.  Coming into the final 20 or so games of the season the team has been consistently good on the offensive side of the puck.

There have been a couple of swoons in their defense at 5 on 5, that you can see on the graph below that charts the team's even strength expected goals for and against.

But more recently, two problems have become obvious.

1. Penalty Killing

Woof, that got ugly right around game 30 and really hasn't gotten any better since then (the median penalty GA/60 in the NHL is 7.45).

2. Goaltending

The league median save percentage at 5 on 5 is .919, a number the Wild tandem hasn't topped in a five-game sample in the last month and a half.

And so Bill Guerin set out to address these two issues.  Deslauriers, Middleton, Jost all have some experience as penalty killers. (Jost's numbers this year are a little suspect, but has a better track record).  League-average goaltending doesn't seem like an unreasonable expectation from Fleury going forward. It will be pretty easy to assess these moves at the end of the year and see if they had the intended effect, because the intended effect is so clear.

Credit where it's due to the Wild front office, they identified the problem and tried to address it, now there's 20 games to see whether it worked.

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: All Hartman

Games this week:

This upcoming weekend will be packed with hockey.  A couple of back-to-backs for both the Whitecaps and Wild. The Whitecaps get another shot at the Pride, who swept the weekend series two weeks ago in Boston, but this time the games are on home ice. Meanwhile the Wild face the Panthers, who are very very good, and the defending Cup champion Lightning.  Not an easy weekend for anyone.

But first! The return of Ryan Suter! Thursday night the struggling Stars come to Minnesota and I'm sure there will be a whole bunch of pontificating about Suter and the buyouts and everything that went down this summer.

But even firster! The Sharks. Tonight.

Continue reading Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: All Hartman

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Out West Again

Games this week:

On the road again. A trip to the west gets 3 games in 4 days. Don't expect a lot of power-play goals on this trip, it features four teams at the bottom of the league in power play goal rates.  Minnesota (24th), Arizona (29th), Vegas (31st), and Seattle (32nd).

Arizona is truly terrible, they just got their first win of the season last week.  Any points dropped to the Coyotes would be a missed opportunity.

Vegas is really banged up, playing without Marc Stone or Pacioretty or new acquisition Jack Eichel.  This is a good time to run into the Golden Knights.

Seattle has struggled ever since they dominated the Wild a couple weeks ago, but are probably the best 5-on-5 possession team of the three the Wild will face on this trip.

Continue reading Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Out West Again

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Not So Thrilling

Games this week:

A weird trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, only to return to Minnesota to play the Islanders. I wonder if this wasn't meant to be a road trip that had to be changed because the Islanders new arena hasn't opened yet.

Three teams near the bottom of their divisions in the East (7th in the Atlantic, 8th and 7th in the Metro respectively), but the Wild can't really take any wins for granted at this point.

Also, we've got the start of PHF season and the Minnesota Whitecaps start with a rematch of the Isobel Cup final last spring as they play two games in Boston (both games stream on ESPN+).  Kind of annoyed that the Whitecaps and Wild play at exactly the same time on Saturday, but that's why multiple screens were invented I guess.

Continue reading Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Not So Thrilling

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Opening Weekend

Games this week:

Season opener on ESPN+ and Hulu! Actual options to see Wild games without buying NHL.tv!  Huzzah!

If you are out of the BSN market, you should be able to see any non-nationally televised game on ESPN+ throughout the season and watch any blacked out games 24 hours later.

The Wild start the season with a back to back in southern California.  Neither the Ducks or the Kings are expected to be any good this year, so this seems like a pretty favorable way to start the season.

Central Division Preview

The Wild are back in the Central division this year, and Arizona has been added to this division to make room for the Kraken in the Pacific Division. These are the teams Minnesota is competing with for playoff spots, so let's see what we can expect from all of them.

JFresh (@JFreshHockey) does pretty extensive projections for all 32 teams based on the analytics of Top Down Hockey and his own projection system.  Here are how all the Central division teams rank when compared to each other:

  • COLORADO AVALANCHE - The consensus best team in the division by a comfortable margin.  They have the best defensive corps maybe in the entire NHL and they have Nathan Mackinnon as a perennial MVP-caliber forward.  If we really look hard, we can ask some questions about their depth forwards and if Darcy Kuemper gets hurt, the goaltending might get shaky.  But even those things aren't glaring weaknesses.  Finishing ahead of the Avalanche is very unlikely.
  • WINNIPEG JETS - Once you get past Colorado, there is a crowded middle of the division with a lot of good teams but no great ones.  Example of this is Winnipeg.  They have one of the best goalies in the league, and they improved their defense over the offseason (at least on paper). How far does elite goaltending get a team that is average at best in every other facet of the game?  Watch the Jets to find out.  Most predictions have them 2nd-4th in the division.
  • ST. LOUIS BLUES - Another good team that added some good forwards in the offseason. Can they keep the puck out of the net? An uninspiring defense and average at best goaltending are the glaring weakness here. A middle of the road team in a division full of them. I could see them finishing anywhere except first or last in the Central.
  • DALLAS STARS - This is the team that I think will be surprisingly bad. Lots of predictions have them on the playoff bubble with the assumption that they will be healthier this year and get big contributions from a bunch of players that missed time last year. On the other hand they signed Luke Glendenning and Jani Hakanpaa as actual players they plan on playing and they're both not even replacement level players. Ryan Suter is their d-man, and Suter is still good, but he is by no means elite.  They have 3 NHL goalies, but none of them can stay healthy, so ... I just don't see it.
  • CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS - An absolute trashfire of an organization that enabled an abuser and continues to try to avoid accountability for it. Kane and Toews are back for another go-around and now they have Marc-Andre Fleury.  Like the Blues, they could be almost anywhere in the standings.
  • NASHVILLE PREDATORS - A playoff team last year, but they spent the summer selling off players. Expectations are low, but like Winnipeg, they have the wildcard of potentially elite goaltending. The problem here is going to be scoring enough to make that matter.  It's the worst forward group in the division except for ...
  • ARIZONA COYOTES - Do not, under any circumstances watch any Arizona games this year if you can help it.  They are bad. They are trying to be bad. It's going to be ugly.

Wild Season Preview

The future is .... coming in a little bit.

The Wild broke camp without any of their highly touted rookies.  Rossi, Beckman, Addison will all start in the AHL in Iowa (note to self - find out when the Iowa Wild come play the Chicago Wolves) and Matt Boldy broke his ankle in the last week of camp and will miss 4-6 weeks.

But last year's team didn't have any of those guys and they had a really good season!  Let's see who is new and who is one year older.

  • OUT
    • Ryan Suter - buyout, now in Dallas
    • Zach Parise - buyout, now on NY Islanders
    • Nick Bonino - Free agency to San Jose
    • Ian Cole - Free agency to Carolina
    • Carson Soucy - expansion draft to Seattle
    • Marcus Johansson - Free agency to Seattle (I think?)
    • Brad Hunt - Free agency to Los Angeles(?)
  • IN
    • Freddy Gaudreau - A center/wing who is probably best suited for third line duty, but will almost certainly get some looks on the second line while we wait for Rossi to be deemed ready.  Not an exciting signing, but a decent player.
    • Rem Pitlick - Winger. Late signing  young player who was put on waivers by Nashville. He's looked ... less than good in pre-season. He's currently lined up with Gaudreau and Fiala on the 2nd/3rd line. I have no thoughts about this person.
    • Alex Goligoski - Defense. Ryan Suter replacement, but with a one year contract. The question here is age. If he maintains last year's level, he'll be fine. If he falls off a cliff, then it will be a rough landing.
    • Dmitry Kulikov - Defense. Carson Soucy replacement, only less offensively minded. Ideally a third-pair player put on the ice to keep the puck out of the net for a while so the other D can get  a breather. Perfectly competent in that role
    • John Merrill - Defense. More all defense, no offense. Is he better than Jordie Benn? Is he better than Calen Addison? These are the questions that STrib commenters will hotly debate.
    • Jordie Benn - Defense. Already not a fan favorite after getting lost a few times and giving up some bad goals. Is he better than John Merrill? Is he better than Calen Addison? Probably not.
    • Joel Eriksson Ek - big contract, big role. He'll start between Kaprizov and Zuccarello
    • Victor Rask - at least initially it looks like he'll be the healthy scratch.
    • Brandon Duhaime - From the AHL last year to fourth line winger with Nico Sturm and Nick Bjugstad.  I like this fourth line, but liking a fourth line is maybe the most pointless statement in hockey analysis.
    • Ryan Hartman - gets to center Foligno and Greenway and continue the shut-down success.

If you spent any time looking at the table at the start of the post, and then you noticed that no mention was made of the goaltending in the "what's new" part of the Wild preview, you might be thinking that we need to spend some time thinking about what effect the Talbot-Kahkonen duo is going to have on the Wild's season.

There's an ongoing discussion in the stats/analytics community whether hockey is a game where it's better to construct your team by improving your worst players or if you are better off finding improvement at the top end of your roster. The arrival of Cam Talbot last year and his  mostly average and sometimes great play was probably the biggest difference maker that took a team that finished 10th in the conference the year before to a team that looked like a dark-horse contender.  JFresh's model doesn't like Talbot much and hates Kahkonen, so predicts some rough going for the goalie position for Minnesota this year. But it seems reasonable to me to think that Talbot will probably continue to be average to slightly better than that. And really that's what the Wild need. They have scoring (wait ... checking my notes ... yes,  it says here the Minnesota Wild have scoring ... huh) and a solid D corps (Spurgeon, Brodin, Dumba are all good to great). A good to great top end of the roster with exciting young players waiting in the wings plus average goaltending is a pretty solid recipe for an entertaining season.

Kahkonen ... he's more of a question.  He's a free agent after this season, and there are some cheap in-house options to replace him.  If he isn't better than replacement level,  I think he's gone. I hope he takes a step this season, but I have to say I'm not a believer.

Ok,  what else is there to say?

Kaprizov Korner

Oh yeah, who wants to watch Kaprizov play keep away from the Blackhawks for a while?  I started to almost feel bad for number 17.

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: The Schedule

The 2021-2022 season kicks off one week from tonight as the Wild find themselves back in California.

Welcome to the new season same as the old season.

The NHL will play a full 82 game schedule this year for the first time in a while and the league has returned to pre-COVID divisions.  The Wild will play every team in the NHL this season. They will travel to Canada almost every month and will mostly get back what you would think of as a normal NHL schedule ...

** looks at February **

Oh yeah, I forgot about the Olympics.  Never mind all that.

Let's dive into the Wild's season schedule and find all the weirdness that comes out.

* The Wild play every team in the Central 4 times, except the Blues and the Coyotes. Why have an asymmetric schedule like this? I cannot answer that. Their only home game against the Blues is the Winter Classic. That's also the only time they play the Blues until April.

* The Wild play every team in the Eastern Conference twice, and every team in the Pacific division thrice.

* The worst road trip will probably be in December, 4 games in 6 days with travel to EDM, SJ, LA, and Vegas.

* The Wild don't have a home game for 35 days between 1/24 and 3/1 (five road games in a row, with the Olympic break in the middle)

* After the Olympic break the Wild have 16 games in both March and April.  32 games in 60 days is a pretty tough finish to the season. 11 of those 32 games are against Central division opponents.

* The longest homestand of the season is at the end of March, with 9 games in a row at home.

* The last three games of the season are against Arizona, Calgary, and Colorado - so it seems pretty unlikely that those games will be against teams the Wild are directly competing with for playoff spots or positioning (Arizona will be terrible, Colorado will be far ahead of Minnesota, and Calgary is in a different division).

St. Louis

Women’s Hockey Whangdoodle: IIHF World Championships

Over the next 12 days, the best women hockey players in the world will convene in Calgary and play a 10-team tournament that will set the stage for the 2022 Winter Olympics.  In a fractured professional women's hockey landscape, this is a pretty rare opportunity to see the best in the world face off against each other in a way they don't often get to do.

Continue reading Women’s Hockey Whangdoodle: IIHF World Championships