Minnesota Wild 2021-22 Season Recapby Carson Babbini May 25, 2022 0 comments
For the Minnesota Wild, the 2021-22 season was a tale of two teams, the regular season team and the playoff team. In the regular season, the Wild finished with a record of 53-22-7, which was a franchise-best. Kirill Kaprizov proved that he was worth the five year, $45 million deal he signed this past offseason as he shattered the franchise points in a season record, tallying 108 points on the season with 47 goals, also a franchise record, and 61 assists, which is also a franchise record. They also had career-best years from Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala, among others, during the regular season.
They made some massive moves at the trade deadline to acquire Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks for some much-needed goalie help, as well as acquiring Jacob Middleton from the San Jose Sharks, Tyson Jost from the Colorado Avalanche, and Nicolas Deslauriers from the Anaheim Ducks. However, the playoffs brought a different Wild team. The offensive firepower dried up, and the special teams struggled mightily in their first-round series with the Blues, which resulted in them being eliminated in six games. So now, let’s break down everything that happened during the 2021-22 season.
Make sure to check out all of our other NHL Season Recaps.
By the Numbers
Power Play: 20.54% (5th)
Penalty Kill: 76.14% (25th)
Goals For: 310 (5th)
Goals Against: 253 (18th)
It doesn’t take a detective to figure out that the Wild’s best player was Kaprizov. Kaprizov came into the season with a lot of questions after many fans wondered if he would live up to the aforementioned contract after only playing 55 games of NHL action, albeit he still won the Calder Trophy last year. Initially, Kaprizov did start the season slower than many expected, but he was able to pick up the pace. Not to mention he was also the Wild’s best player in the playoffs, scoring eight points during the Blues series, seven of which were goals. Kaprizov fully established himself as a bonafide star and will be a star for the Wild for years to come.
In terms of the biggest disappointment, there are multiple ways to look for the biggest disappointment. However, for a playoff team, the first place one must look for the biggest disappointment is in the team’s playoff performance. And while many players performed a vanishing act during the playoffs, there was none more noticeable than the vanishing act of Kevin Fiala. After being on fire for the second half of the regular season, finishing with 85 points on the year, easily a new career-high for him, Fiala finished the series wth St. Louis with three assists and no goals. While assists are a crucial part of the game, with the hot streak Fiala was on, many fans expected at least a goal out of Fiala. With Fiala looking for a new contract in the offseason, this playoff performance could cause concern for his future in Minnesota.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Whenever a team sets a franchise-best record, their head coach has a hand in it, which would be the case for Wild head coach Dean Evason. Evason was able to unlock an offense that finished in the top five in goals per game in the entire NHL. Not only that, but Evason was able to foster the culture in the locker room that is crucial to a team’s success.
However, in the playoffs, Evason seemed to refuse to make adjustments to the Wild’s gameplan as the Blues dominated on the power play and the Wild’s power play never seemed to get off the ground. Evason also admitted during the Wild exit interviews that special teams were horrible throughout the season. In addition to the special teams issue, there was the controversy regarding Evason’s handling of Fleury and Cam Talbot‘s rotation during the playoffs, which many fans took issue with. Overall, eyebrows may have been raised towards Evason, and he won’t be out of the spotlight for quite some time.
Front Office Analysis
If there was anyone who realized that this might be the Wild’s best chance to compete in some time, it was general manager Bill Guerin. With the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter quickly increasing, Guering knew that if there was a time to push for the Stanley Cup, it was this year. So he started before the trade deadline, acquiring Jost in exchange for Nico Sturm to help strengthen the penalty kill. The biggest move he made was acquiring Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks to shore up the team’s goaltending, which was struggling heading into the deadline.
While Fleury was the biggest name, the most impactful deal was acquiring Middleton from the Sharks in exchange for Kaapo Kahkonen. Middleton came to the Wild and immediately paired great on the top blue line, pairing alongside team captain Jared Spurgeon. While Guerin made deals to compete, the hard work is just beginning.
2022 NHL Entry Draft
The Wild come into the 2022 NHL Draft with six picks to work with. They acquired a second-round pick from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the rights to Jack McBain, sent off their own second-rounder to the Blackhawks in the Fleury deal, and traded away their seventh-round pick to the Sharks in the Devan Dubnyk trade. With them making the playoffs, they won’t have a lottery pick. But that is plenty of ammunition if Guerin decides to make a move as the draft moves closer, or even on draft night.
This offseason will be one with many questions and hard decisions for Guerin. The Parise and Suter buyouts increase to above six million dollars next season, taking $12 million of the Wild’s cap. With Fiala and Middleton being restricted free agents and Fiala likely wanting a pay raise, Fiala may be on the move if the Wild can’t pay him. Not to mention other players who are unrestricted free agents, the biggest of which being Fleury. Guerin and Evason, along with Wild fans, knew that the buyouts loomed, and now after a season that Guerin labeled a disappointment, massive changes could be on the way to the State of Hockey.
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