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  • Five things John Torchetti should try to spark the Minnesota Wild


    When a coach gets fired, a lot of the analysis turns to what effect their replacement will have in the locker room. Over the course of a coach's tenure, their mannerisms, their habits, their tropes lose effectiveness and cause players to roll their eyes.

    Make the Suter-Dumba pairing permanent

    So when I say that the Suter-Dumba pair has been better, don't take that lightly. Suter's controlled play better with Dumba than he has with any other player, getting a whopping 58.4% of shot attempts at 5v5. And it's not just that they're controlling play, they're getting results. Suter-Dumba have out-scored opponents 5-1 at even strength.

    They've been great together because their skills complement each other so perfectly that they're able to play their respective game. Dumba can effortlessly create offense, taking the pressure off Suter, who prefers to keep it simple. And on the flipside, Suter's strength and positioning enable him to erase the mistakes that Dumba is prone to making.

    Put Nino Niederreiter on the penalty kill

    Now, are those numbers at least partially because of small sample size? Of course. But Niederreiter is big, a good defender, and has the speed and shot to score off the rush. Those are the ingredients for an elite penalty killer in today's NHL. With his skills and results, he deserves way more than the 36 short-handed minutes he's gotten these last two seasons.

    Emphasize speed, counter-attacking on 3-on-3 OT

    A big reason Yeo seemed so married to these personnel decisions in overtime was that he highly valued winning the face-off to establish possession. This isn't a bad thing to go for, but when your best face-off men are far from your best 3v3 options, it's not optimal. Besides, 3v3 overtime means that one mistake by the team with possession almost guarantees an odd-man rush. Losing that faceoff isn't the end of the world.

    Whatever Torchetti decides to change, one thing's absolutely certain: The Wild can't get worse at overtime.

    Reunite the Zucker - Koivu - Niederreiter line

    A long time ago, back when the Wild were keeping pace with the best the Central Division had to offer, this line was the most dominant in hockey. Getting tough minutes, this line constantly kept opponents hemmed in their zone and generated scoring chance after scoring chance.

    But after a scoring drought from Niederreiter, this line, which had been so good, was broken up, never to be united again. And then Stoll came in to do the defensive heavy-lifting, giving Koivu more offensive zone starts. This looks good on paper, but it diminished two key strengths for this line: Koivu's amazing defense and Zucker's ability to get behind a defense and create scoring chances. It's amazing that Yeo never went back to this line, so perhaps Torchetti will try seeing if they can repeat their success.

    Put skill over grit on the 4th line

    Putting the Koivu line back together gives the Wild a line they can use to absorb the tough defensive minutes. With that, there's not really a reason to focus so much on defense with the 4th line.

    Zucker - Koivu - Niederreiter

    Vanek - Haula - Pominville

    Schroeder - Graovac - Fontaine

    These are just a few suggestions. The possibilities to shake up this team are endless. What matters more than Torchetti implementing any one change is him showing the willingness to experiment, tinker, and find creative solutions to get this team out of their rut. Because the Wild simply can't get back into the playoff bubble by rigidly sticking to the status quo.

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