Ahhh… New Year’s Day. Every year, cities around the world shoot off boatloads of fireworks, people get completely trashed, and some are brave enough to wear those dorky glasses that make up the four numbers of the new year (are 2023 glasses on sale yet?) There is always so much build-up and usually around 10 seconds after midnight, millions around the world are like “OK, that was fun. Let’s go to bed.” Maybe that’s just me.
Another time-honored tradition is figuring out what our New Year’s resolutions are going to be. I have had the same one for about five years now – that is, not to make any New Year’s resolutions. “I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to be financially responsible, I’m going to move to Bali and breed goats.” We’ve heard them all. I don’t need or want to have self-imposed expectations for myself when I know that I won’t live up to them. Not yet anyway.
Of course, the point of making resolutions is to fix and/or improve something that we feel could use some improving. That brings me to the Wild, who at 3rd place in the Central, are guaranteed to start 2023 with a winning record. Normally, that wouldn’t be a notable accomplishment, but after being right around .500 for most of the season until a recent hot streak, I feel it was worth noting – executive decision, let’s say.
Although the Wild were off to a slow start this season, I’d have to say that I’m a big fan of Wild Head Coach, Dean Evason. He’s a no-nonsense, no excuses kind of coach and I have to think that he and GM Bill Guerin are pretty similar in their leadership philosophies – contribute to the success of the team, or get the hell out of the way. Perhaps, that is why Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are no longer with the team. Not that they weren’t being productive, but not enough for what they were being paid – Suter is still eating up a ton of minutes in Dallas, by the way.
Up to this point in the season, the Wild have had (2) three-game losing streaks. The only teams better in the division are Dallas and Winnipeg, who coincidentally, are ahead of the Wild in the standings. Colorado has had a four-game losing streak, as has St. Louis. Nashville has had a five, and six-game losing streak – the same for Arizona. Chicago once again, finds itself in the basement, with 2 (eight-game) losing streaks. I mean, it makes sense – the longer and bigger losing streaks that you have, the farther down in the standings you’re going to be.
The Wild are 20-12-2 to date, and are two points ahead of Colorado and seven points ahead of St. Louis. So what do the Wild need to improve upon in the coming year? Well, let’s dig in. Last season, the Wild averaged 3.72 goals/game and this year so far, they’re averaging 3.15. *For your own safety, please sit down before you read this next sentence. The Buffalo Sabres are leading the NHL in goals for/game at 3.94 goals. That is not a typo. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. In a division with Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay, how is that possible?
Anywho, The Wild are 11th in the league in power play goals (23.4%) and 14th in the NHL on the penalty kill (79.8). Neither one are terrible, but they aren’t necessarily great either. They are 22nd in total points scored. They are 8th in the league for goals against, so that’s respectable anyway. Is there room for improvement? Obviously, but with the number of young guns coming up from Iowa to fill in for injured Minnesota guys, it’s not a sure bet that the numbers will improve dramatically during the rest of the season.
The players from Iowa will fill a critical role for the remainder of the season (and hopefully, the postseason) as injuries predictably start to become more frequent. The organization is blessed to have a ton of young talent, such as Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi, Adam Beckman, and Sammy Walker (who scored his first NHL goal last night against Winnipeg, if you didn’t catch it).
Knowing that the Wild will be in a salary-cap hell for the next two seasons as more than $14.7 million will be dead money from the Parise/Suter buyouts, the Wild will need the young studs from Des Moines to bring some magic with them.
Going into 2023, developing the young crop of talent will be the Wild’s biggest new year’s resolution. If they are able to do so successfully, which with Guerin and Evason at the helm, I’m sure they will, the Wild roster could be very, very dangerous in a year or two. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, we’ll just have to be content with watching BFF’s Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello rule the ice. So we got that going for us, which is nice.
Wild fans, the end of 2022 is near. Hopefully, the new year will bring all of us exciting new opportunities, good health, good times and a Stanley Cup. Party responsibly as you bring in the new year, do not drive if you drink and go Wild!!!!