In a season where expectations were low, the Minnesota Wild surpassed those expectations and more. The Wild were in the fight for first in the Pacific Division until the bitter end with the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche. In the end, they finished third in the division and entered an intense playoff series with the Golden Knights, where they were defeated in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the process. However, it was still a season to remember for the Wild. Let’s take an in-depth look at the Wild’s 2020-2021 season.
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By The Numbers
Power Play: 17.58% (24th)
Penalty Kill: 80.75% (12th)
Goals For: 180 (9th)
Goals Against: 159 (15th)
Well, this decision took all of two seconds to figure out. The best player for the Wild was this year’s Calder Trophy winner, Kirill Kaprizov. One of the most anticipated rookies in quite some time, Kaprizov certainly lived up to the hype. He ended the year setting new rookie records for the franchise in goals, with 27, and points, with 51. He is the first Wild player to win the Calder Trophy. Without the contributions of Kaprizov, it is entirely possible that the Wild would not have made the playoffs this year.
There are a few different candidates for this category, however one sticks out because of what was traded in order to acquire him. This year, the Wild’s biggest disappointment was Marcus Johansson. Acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Eric Staal, who was one of the more productive players for the Wild in his time with the team, Johansson was brought in to play at center, a position the Wild desperately needed. However, history repeated itself as Johansson struggled as a center and was ultimately moved over to the wings.
But even then, Johansson struggled on the offensive end, scoring 14 points in 36 games. While the argument could be made that these struggles could be due to injuries sustained throughout the year, when you bring in someone to replace Eric Staal, who had 47 points in 36 games, and bring him in to play center and not have it work out, that is quite the disappointment.
Behind the Bench Analysis
In his first full year behind the bench, it was pretty successful for Dean Evason. The team gave him some help with some talented assistant coaches, bringing on Brett McLean as an assistant coach and Frederic Chabot as the goaltending coach. The team finished top ten in goals, and he was able to continue the development of Joel Eriksson Ek, who has become one of the top two-way centers in the NHL. He also wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions when needed, such as scratching Zach Parise for a majority of the season and the series with Vegas. He showed that he wants to help this team grow and win, and will do anything to make it happen.
Front Office Analysis
Bill Guerin had his hands full in his second season as the general manager of the Wild. But his biggest triumph came when he was able to do what his predecessors were not able to, and signing Kaprizov during the offseason. He also made several moves to shake up the team during the offseason, with some of them not being popular. He brought in the aforementioned Johansson as well as Nick Bonino in a trade with the Nashville Predators, and Nick Bjugstad from the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he also sent away the aforementioned Staal, Luke Kunin to the Predators, and Ryan Donato and Devan Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks in separate deals. In free agency, he had one of the best, if not the best, deals of the free-agent market signing Cam Talbot to be the new starting goaltender for the Wild, and he had a magnificent year.
During the season, Guerin acquired Ian Cole from Colorado, sending Greg Pateryn the other way. Cole became a huge asset on the third pairing for Minnesota alongside Carson Soucy. Of course, Guerin sent the hockey world into a frenzy with the buyouts of Parise and Ryan Suter last Tuesday. He has shown, just like his coach, that he wants to win and will do whatever it takes to make that happen, whether those moves are popular with the fans or not.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks
The Wild have nine picks in the upcoming draft, including the 22nd and 26th overall picks in the first round. They acquired the 26th overall pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Jason Zucker trade. There were conditions on their seventh-round pick as part of the Bjugstad trade, but the conditions were not met so they get to keep that pick. It will be interesting to see if the Wild dangle some of these picks for some trade bait with some of their expensive players to try and free up some cap space for the offseason.
Offseason Wish/Checklist & Prognosis for 2021-22
There are a lot of questions for the Wild going into the offseason. Can they re-sign Kaprizov? Can they satisfy Kaprizov and find a first-line center? Will they be able to re-sign Kevin Fiala and Kaprizov? These questions will be ever-present on Wild fans’ minds as the offseason goes along. Guerin is going to have a lot of eyes on him this summer, to say the least. There are some other free agents that the Wild could re-sign, like Bonino and Cole, but the biggest thing putting a cloud over that possibility is cap space. With Kaprizov and Fiala still unsigned, there’s a chance the Wild won’t have much cap space to work with by the time they circle back.
Looking forward to the 2021-2022 season, there will be several young players who will be looking to secure spots open in the lineup such as Marco Rossi, Matthew Boldy, and Calen Addison to name a few. But whether or not they make the lineup could all depend on what happens in what is sure to be an intriguing offseason for Guerin and the Minnesota Wild.
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