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  • Could the Wild Have Gone On A Run If They Got Out Of the First Round?

    Image courtesy of © Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
    Tom Schreier

    Bill Guerin had an intense exchange with Michael Russo of The Athletic in his early-May exit press conference. "There's been this narrative out there that right now the Wild can't get past the first round," Guerin stated, "and I can understand the frustration, but there are a small handful of players that have been here for a lot of that. Most of them are new. In my mind, that's not the narrative of this team.

    “I refuse to hold our players that are new here responsible for what’s happened in the past.”

    Russo appropriately pressed him on that notion, asking, “How do you get this team over the hump?”

    “What hump do you want us to get over?” he asked in response.

    “To get past the first round,” Russo clarified.

    "Why?” Guerin responded. “And I'm not trying to be a smart ass, Mike. They're not going to put our name on the Stanley Cup to get to the second round. They're not going to give us a ring. But you know what? That's not our goal. Our goal is not to make it to the second round. Is it going to feel any better? It's not."

    It was a ridiculous assertion. Guerin knew he was taking over a team in a hockey-mad market with a reputation for losing in the first round. He inherited the Minnesota Wild’s star player, Kirill Kaprizov, and team captain Jared Spurgeon. Russo also noted, astutely, that teams have to play in the second round to win the Stanley Cup. Guerin said it’s tough to fix it because Minnesota has $14 million in cap penalties next year due to his decision to buy Zach Parise and Ryan Suter out. But he needs a solution. The Wild can't keep losing in the first round.

    Instead of re-litigating Guerin’s May comments or his decision to buy Parise and Suter out, let’s look at Russo’s point. The Wild have to reach the second round to win a championship, and they would have had a friendly matchup if they got there. FiveThirtyEight gave the Seattle Kraken a 15% chance of making the second round; 27 of ESPN’s 29 experts predicted that the Colorado Avalanche would beat them as the 1-seed in the first round. But Seattle upset Colorado, creating a more favorable second-round matchup.

    Give the Kraken credit for beating the defending champs, and it took Dallas seven games to eliminate them. But on May 1, FiveThirtyEight gave Seattle a 31% chance to beat the Stars – a day before Guerin’s exit interview. Twenty-three of ESPN’s 27 experts picked Dallas to win the series.  The Kraken overachieved; it’s tough to predict hockey. Regardless, the Wild and Stars were evenly-matched teams. Minnesota petered out late in the Dallas series, but they took Game 1 on the road and may have taken Game 2 had they not started their backup goalie. Maybe it goes seven if they didn't. They may have come home up 2-0 in the series.

    No matter how you feel about Dean Evason’s decision to start Marc-Andre Fleury after Filip Gustavsson’s dominant performance in Game 1, the Wild would have had a chance against Seattle. Still, it’s harder to believe they would have beaten the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Finals. Vegas wasn’t a favorite to win the Cup entering the playoffs, but they beat the Winnipeg Jets in five games and the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas in six. They’ve also made mincemeat of the Florida Panthers through two Stanley Cup Finals games. 

    The Golden Knights pulled off an Ocean’s 11 caliber heist on the rest of the league in the expansion draft and have continued to play the right cards since then. However, they were hardly favorites to win it all in April. FiveThirtyEight gave them a 68% chance to win in the first round but only a 33% chance to advance past the second. They believed that the Boston Bruins (37%) and Colorado (18%) had far and away the best odds to win the Cup. Again, hockey is hard to predict. The only certainty seems to be that the Wild will lose in the first round.

    Still, imagine if the Wild had reached the Western Conference Final. The feeling around the team would have been much better. Look at what they did with the hefty buyout penalties. What if Joel Eriksson Ek had been healthy, and they had developed Marco Rossi throughout the year? Kaprizov and Matt Boldy probably would have had more success with bona fide Top-6 centers on their lines. The Wild also would have had more success if they prioritized skill over grit. Imagine if they retained Kevin Fiala, who had 72 points in 69 regular season games and six points in five playoff games, as a secondary scorer. What if they had traded for Jack Eichel, as Vegas did, to solidify a top-line center? 

    Regardless, the Wild could have beaten Seattle. Assuming they could take a game or two from the Golden Knights, fans would have left the season feeling good about the team. Minnesota would have been on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup Final, literally and figuratively. Instead, they witnessed the Wild succumb to a familiar fate, left to wonder why management didn’t understand their frustrations.

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    Lol, no.  No chance.  

    This team has the intestinal fortitude of a soggy paper bag.   The first sign of adversity,  they fold and the series is over.

    There is no alternate universe where they went on a run.  In every one of the infinite parallel universes, the Stars absolutely kicked their ass in embarrassing fashion.

    Geurin taking such exception to that is absurd.  He’s taking out his frustrations with his own failure on the media.  The argument, “no ring for the second round” is crap.  You have to start somewhere.  A sign of life.  Hope for the future.  What does a ring have to do with it?  He acts as if that embarrassing performance in the first round is somehow setting them up for a ring in the future.  There isn’t a ring anywhere in this teams near future. 

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    IMO. Success would have been if we had played with effort like Seattle did. Regardless of which round we got knocked out . It would have shown that there has been the culture change the buyouts were  supposed to get us.  Instead I saw the same give up and quit mentality. We ran are mouths in media and embarrassed are selves on ice . Our coach got out coached and are leaders were Mia . 

    23 years and still  no  #1 center. Our centers are wingers at best except for ek . Our defense is undersized with no offense skill . Our youth was non existent in playoffs unlike Dallas, Seattle and florida. Would have been nice to draft Lundell. Our coach seems to set his lines in training camp and stick with it all year unless it’s him trying to give his favorite player more ice time . Why was sundquist in press box when freddy had abdominal issues and was getting owned on face offs. We can’t win a face off so we have no set plays like all the other teams .  Supposedly we have the best prospect pool but that will change after this draft . None of them have proven anything yet just like Rossi . 
        LaPanta on a podcast talks about how smart are rebuild is because we get to playoffs unlike true rebuilds.  I don’t get how it’s smart to draft 21st every year with all the issues we need to address. That sounds like  the status quo . It’s going to be real interesting to see how our rebuild is compared to Chicago and other teams in division. 
        IMO. The wild are about ticket sales over winning the cup !  It’s pathetic to watch them waste Kaprizov s time here . I like Billy g but don’t believe in his and Craig’s plan. Hopefully we’re terrible next few years a finally get a high end draft pick. 

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    With JEE out, and KK97 and Boldy playing how they were, I suspect Seattle would have beaten the Wild had they found a way to best Dallas.

    Seattle was playing really well in the playoffs. Had Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek not suffered injuries at all, or at least were back to 100% by the playoffs, the Wild might have been able to reach the conference finals.

    Since the Wild were not going to compete for the Stanley Cup with the health they had in the playoffs, losing the 1st round was probably better for their future. If they were drafting 29th instead of 21st, their options for selecting high end talent would be further diminished.  In some drafts, that will not make a major difference, but in some, it could be the difference between Tage Thompson being available versus Sam Steel.  They were both good C prospects in 2016, but one seems quite a bit better now.

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    I’m not a fan of Bill Guerin. I don’t get the idea that he has any master plan. I also think Dean Evason needs to go as well if he isn’t up to the task of developing our prospects at the NHL level.

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    We can talk a lot about what Guerin should or should not be doing but there is a much easier way to look at his “success “. Check the team roster he inherited and the team roster he has now. Subtract Kaprisov, his presence on the team has nothing to do with Guerin and ask yourself a question, which team is better. From my perspective they are very equal and to me the before team even better somewhat (except goalie). But even if the they are equal or “after” team a little bit better this is not the outcome he was hired for and by no means this is a work of successful GM. For 3 plus years he accomplished absolutely nothing with all these additions and subtractions. He needs to be fired before Kaprisov leaves the Wild 

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    I'll start this with a question: Does anyone think that Toronto feels better about their team since they made the 2nd round? 

    This team was undermanned from the beginning. With -$12m to work with, it was going to show up in depth, and it did with injuries. You'd need a perfect storm of health and hotness to get you a deep run in the playoffs, and we simply didn't have the luck. 

    I see where many are impatient and upset with Shooter's plan, in fact, many feel like he has no plan. Let's make this one observation: Guerin's guys, his drafted guys, haven't made it to the N yet, nor should they have. 1 guy, had everything worked out, should have graduated, Rossi. He just wasn't ready yet, and under normal circumstances, probably shouldn't have been ready until this year or next. 

    Right now, this is the plan: Compete for a playoff spot and hopefully make it. We've given some veteran guys an opportunity to place hold while we marinate the kids until they are ready. Most of these kids will take an extra year since we are not drafting in the top 10. Rossi's an exception both ways, drafted in the top 10 but having a health scare. 

    What would it take for the Wild to win a 1st round? Well, a healthy Ek, Boldy, Kaprizov, Spurgeon and Brodin for starters. A hot Gustavsson throughout the round, not just the 1st couple of games. A hot penalty kill and timely scoring which took advantage at a higher percentage than normal on chances (luck).

    Seattle's year was up and down, but what they were mainly missing throughout the year was goaltending. They still had a lot of points. Their goaltending reach average and within their structure they were able to play very well. They were a team built for playoff hockey too, specifically with their size on the backend. This would have been a hard team to play against, as Colorado found out in round 1. 

    Let's face it, on paper, Dallas should have won this series in 5 or 6 games. They did. If we had been able to fire a couple of grade A chances past Oettinger in game 4 before Dallas took the lead, it may have been a completely different series. But, we couldn't, and therein lies the skill difference of being down $12m. However, had we had luck, we could have shanked those shots and somehow they squeeze through. Perhaps we hit a couple of skates and bank it in? That's about how close we came.

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    The Wild could have been more fortunate with bounces or had fewer referee rip-offs that’s for sure. Do I think they could beat Vegas or Win the Cup. Not without Ek or offense from Boldy and #97.

    The Wild really needs to regroup and come back better. That entails each group. Management, coaches, and players. The Wild have some good qualities but not them all. Look at Vegas this year. They have the formula, including a bunch of unsung contributors. 

    MN has a ways to go.

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    Teams that advance have finishers.  They one-time those passes into the yawning, open net, 99 percent of chances.  We don't do that.  We miss the open net about 3/4 of the chances.  The Wild need to buy puck-passing machines and one-time those passes into the net, around the goalie target board.  Put away the golf clubs.  Do this instead.  Oh ... and fire Guerin and all his helpers.  None of them have clue one on how to improve the embarrassing power play and penalty kill.  Any other team would have shown these guys the gate long before now. 

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