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  • Do the Wild Need To Add Size At the Deadline?

    Kayla Hynnek

    The Minnesota Wild scored the first goal Saturday night against the Calgary Flames, but that was only the beginning of one of the most embarrassing games this season. Calgary outworked them in every area of the game and showed why they're one of the league's toughest teams, easily dispatching Minnesota in a 7-3 beatdown. The Wild have lost five of their last six games and are in the midst of a compact schedule due to COVID make-up games. So should we be worried about Minnesota’s latest stretch of extremely underwhelming games?


    Any of the little confidence the Wild had left at the end of the Canadian road trip was depleted when the Flames beat up Minnesota on Saturday. They were terrible in probably the worst game we’ve seen out of the Wild this season. The Flames were all over the Wild in every aspect of the game. After suffering their own embarrassing loss against the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary had something to prove, and they showed it against the Wild.


    Is the league exposing a lack of size in Minnesota? It could be contributing to their lack of physicality and toughness. For the past few seasons, the Wild have ranked towards the bottom of the league in average height. Jordan Greenway and Nick Bjugstad are outliers at 6’6’’, but Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Connor Dewar are all 5’10. Mats Zuccarello is 5’8,” and Jared Spurgeon is 5’9”.


    Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic made a "Short King All-Star Team" lineup in a recent article. He put four Wild players on the team, with no one over 5’10’’. No other team had more than one player represented on the all shorty team. Kaprizov, Zuccarello, Fiala, and Spurgeon all made the roster.


    That can be looked at both positively and negatively. First, an increasing number of NHL superstars are under six feet tall. While there is nothing wrong with that, it could signal that the current game favors skill more than size.


    That trend favored the Wild for most of the year. They’ve been a winning team for most of the season, and it’s not like their players suddenly shrunk. Yet, it could be a contributing factor when looking at their recent losses. The Flames are a big, physical team. The Wild are smaller but arguably more skilled.


    In their most recent matchup, the big and tough won out. Calgary and Minnesota meet again in St. Paul on Tuesday, so we’ll get a better look at the matchup when both teams are a little better rested. If the Wild lose yet again, it might be a sign to get bigger.


    There are plenty of bigger bodies out there, and the Wild have the assets to obtain them. If Minnesota would rather play Jordie Benn over Calen Addison, they should look at upgrading the defense. Jakob Chychrun’s name is out there. Why not trade some defensive prospects and add a talented, physical defenseman who can log minutes without being a liability?


    The trade deadline is not until March 21st, so there’s plenty of time to decide what to do between now and then. Before Saturday’s game against Calgary, GM Bill Guerin said he likes his team. How did the Wild perform after that vote of confidence? Well, they pretty much said that he’s got to do something before the trade deadline this year.


    Almost every team at the top of the standings features a lot of height, aside from the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild and their shorter-than-average roster have a great record, but maintaining it will be a challenge.


    The last two Stanley Cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues, had a lot of size. Tampa Bay has one of the tallest defensive cores. None of them are under 6’1’’. In last year’s Stanley Cup finals, we had the Montreal Canadiens, who aren’t particularly tall in their forward core. But their defense is really tall. Put them up against the big and tough Lightning, and Tampa Bay won easily.


    Then take a look at a team like the Avalanche. They are average in their overall height, but the Avs have an unrivaled amount of skill. They have been a favorite to win the Stanley Cup in the past few seasons. While they have run into some tough opponents in the playoffs, the skill they have should be able to take them on a Finals run. They’ve repeatedly gone home early, though. Could it be due to their lack of overwhelming size?


    The New York Rangers forwards are all six feet or more this year and only have two D-men under six feet. Does this mean the Rangers are likely to make a big run in the playoffs? We’ll have to wait and find out.


    If the Wild hope to win any time soon, they might need to look at sizing up. In the past, bigger teams tend to win bigger games. Minnesota could change that narrative if they start rolling like they did in the first half of the season. However, if they fall short of expectations this year, size could be the culprit.

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