Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can the Wild turn things around in the second half?

Here we are beginning of the second half of the season—which generally means the push for the playoffs. The Wild are currently seven points out for the final Wild card spot for the play offs, with a 21-20-6 record (after having beat Edmonton 2-1 on Tuesday night).

Given the current play of goalies Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher traded the Wild’s 2015 third round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for goaltender Devan Dubnyk. 

Dubnyk, 28, has been Mike Smith’s back up for the Coyotes and is an unrestricted free-agent at the end of this season. In the 19 games Dubnyk has played for his previous team, he had a 9-5-2 record with a 2.72 GAA and .917 save percentage. (Kuemper has a .902 save % and 2.68 GAA, while Backstrom has a .887 save % and 3.04 GAA, but the Wild’s record has been 18-19-5). 

Devan Dubnyk deflecting the puck over Jonas Brodin's head
Kuemper was sent down to Iowa on Monday for a conditioning assignment (he can be there for up to two weeks). Prior to Kuemper making a relief appearance in the Wild’s game against Detroit, he missed the previous seven games with what the Wild had announced was a “lower body” injury.

We all know how Dubnyk’s debut for the Wild went. He is the first goaltender for the Wild to have a shutout in their debut with the team. Yes, I know, the Wild were playing the Buffalo Sabres. However, Dubnyk did start in the Wild’s last game before the All-Star Break and was pulled for Darcy Kuemper after letting in 4 goals on 10 shots.

Entering the All-Star Break, the Wild were 2-7-2. There are 35 games left in this wild roller-coaster of a season.

Wild Forward Mikael Granlund stated this to Minneapolis Star Tribune Columnist Michael Russo (which appeared in Russo’s column on January 27):

There’s still 30-something games left…A lot of things can happen and I think every guy in this locker room believes we can make it to the playoffs. We need to go game by game. That’s the only thing we can do now.”

Granlund returned to the Wild line up on Tuesday after having missed the previous four weeks with a broken wrist. So far, Granlund only has 15 points in 32 games this season—so the Wild need him to start producing. (Last season, Granlund had 41 points in the 63 games he played).

As far as where the Wild are currently in the standings, Zach Parise stated this to the Twin Cities media:

“We've got to win…There's no other way to put it. There's not a lot of room for error, and it's going to be hard. We know that. It's going to be very hard. But we're not going to quit. We've got to keep improving and get our game going in the right direction...We can't get caught up (in the standings)…We can't put ourselves in an every-game's-a-win-or-season's-over type scenario. You stress yourself out, and all of a sudden, mentally, you're making the game a lot harder. You try to put it in small things where (Tuesday) night we've got to win the first period and then go from there. We can't win the game right away, but we've got to win the first period. That's got to be our approach as we go on through this road trip and the rest of the season. We know what the standings look like. That's no secret. But we can't make up all those points this week. We've got to start small." (Chad Graff,, 1/26/2015)

Going into Tuesday night’s game against Edmonton, the Wild are going to need about 46 points in the remaining 36 games of this season (with a record of 22-10-4). Can the Wild pull it off? It will be interesting. They were able to do it last year (after having been decimated by injuries in the months of December and January heading into the Olympic break). How this season is going to turn out remains to unfold at this point in the season. 

The other lingering question is whether or not the Wild are going to be either sellers or buyers come the March 2nd trade deadline. Could the Wild actually try to get Niklas Backstrom to waive his no trade clause and try to move him? That is something else that remains to be seen. 

I would like to believe the Wild could possibly turn things around and make a push towards getting into the playoffs. However, I think the Wild have dug themselves into quite a hole and I can see them possibly playing spoiler towards the end of the season. 

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