If you are a fan of Minnesota sports, the Wild’s loss to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs should come as no surprise. I mean, that’s the norm. It’s like saying mosquitoes are the Minnesota state bird, or that winters in Minnesota are miserable, or that the only thing that is higher than the taxes in Minnesota, is the amount of potholes on our roads. To my point, Minnesota sports teams have a long, consistent history of disappointing us all in the playoffs. EVERYONE knows it.
Sure, we have two World Series titles in the past 35 years, so it’s not like we’re Phoenix or San Diego. We’re not that bad. If you count the five Lakers championships when they were in Minnesota, and the two World Series titles from the Twinkies in ’87 and the best World Series ever in ’91, Minnesota teams have done almost nothing since. The closest were the North Stars in the 1990-91 season, when they went to the Stanley Cup Championships Finals against the Pittsburg Penguins – and lost the series 4-2 games. So, we have SOME success but not nearly enough considering we have all four major sports in the state.
Millions of Wild fans were expecting a deep playoff run this year. I guess if you consider six games as going deep into the playoffs, well, they achieved that. Which is more you can say for the Twins, who have a MLB-record 18 consecutive losses in playoff games. Ouch!!
Don’t get me wrong, the Wild had their best season ever, both as a team and an individual level. Many team and individual records were set including:
|Season Team Records||Season Individual Records|
|Overall record of 53-22-7||Goals – 47, Kirill Kaprizov|
|Number of wins – 53||Assists – 61, Kirill Kaprizov|
|Number of season pts – 113||Points – 108, Kirill Kaprizov|
|Goals scored – 310||Highest Plus/Minus – 41, Alex Goligoski|
|Goals allowed – 253|
|Home wins – 31|
However, the fact that they didn’t make it past the first round in the playoffs, puts a significant tarnish other an otherwise successful season.
Kirill Kaprizov showed why he is worth $9 million per season. Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek, all had great years. The defense was solid 5-on-5, but our penalty kill, is what killed us in the playoffs. Wild Captain, Jared Spurgeon and Alternate Captain, Matt Dumba had decent seasons. Overall however, taking dumb penalties and then being average, at best, on the penalty kill, is what did the Wild in this year. Of course, a completely lackluster power play game didn’t help matters either.
If you’ve been following the Wild this season, Bill Guerin did all that he could to transform a mediocre team that likely wouldn’t have even made with playoffs, if two guys named Parise and Suter were around. Yes, the next few years will be extremely painful in terms of the salary cap with the buyouts of the two former Wild stars, but that needed to be done.
He went all-in before the trading deadline by acquiring Tyson Jost, Jacob Middleton, Nick Deslauriers and “The Flower”, Marc-Andre Fleury. Jost was a decent pick-up and Middleton and Deslauriers brought some grit and toughness to the team. Fleury, not only brought in championship-level experience, but also leadership. His arrival also “pissed off” Wild goalie, Cam Talbot, who was demoted to second on the depth chart.
Bill Guerin has a LOT of big decisions to make this offseason, or at least a lot of work to do. Kevin Fiala had a career year, as he becomes a restricted free agent. We would love to keep him, even though he didn’t do much in the playoffs, but the question is, “how can the Wild afford him?” Do we trade Matt Dumba for salary cap relief? What about Fleury and Talbot? Can we even afford Fleury at this point? Who is ready to move up from Iowa to the NHL full-time next season to fill out the roster – Marco Rossi? Adam Beckman? Connor Dewar? So many questions for Bill and the front office to work through.
Even though we ended another sports season in Minnesota in disappoint, it was sure as hell an entertaining season. That is not something that we can say being a sports fan in Minnesota. Enjoy the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as much as you can. I just pray that Tampa Bay doesn’t three-peat. Watch for more hockey news and thoughts from me throughout the offseason. Everyone with me now, “Hey insert-Minnesota-team-name-here fans, there’s always next year.”