The Minnesota Wild were rolling under John Hynes with an 11-3 start that brought them to within two points of a playoff spot. Just as they were about to climb out of their early-season hole, things crashed down around them on Saturday.
The Wild were already without Jonas Brodin and Mats Zuccarello, and they just saw captain Jared Spurgeon's return. Then they lost their starting goaltender Filip Gustavsson and superstar Kirill Kaprizov. According to a January 2 report in The Athletic, Gustavsson is week-to-week, and Kaprizov is expected to miss one to two weeks.
The plague of injuries befalling Minnesota is staggering. Let's list the team's top eight players in Standings Points Above Replacement (SPAR) from the 2020-21 to 2022-23 seasons. We'll bold everyone who has missed (or is expected to miss) five or more games this year:
Folks, is it bad to lose 75% of your most important players?
Unfortunately, yes, and it's about to get worse. Anytime without Kaprizov will be a blow. Zuccarello is still out, and The Athletic's January 2 update included the tidbit that Brodin hasn't skated in almost a month. After dropping both sides of a back-to-back with the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota is now four points behind the Arizona Coyotes (40 points) for the final Wild Card spot. They'll need to leap-frog the Seattle Kraken (39), St. Louis Blues (37), and Edmonton Oilers (37) to get into the playoff picture.
The Wild are back in the hole, but how much is their current situation due to injuries? Whatever the number is now, it's gonna go up with at least three impact players still out of the lineup. Still, we can take stock of how many points the Wild missed out on with so many players missing time this year. Is it the difference between a playoff spot and sitting where they are now?
To do that, we're gonna have to estimate each player's impact over the games they missed. We'll return to their SPAR for the last three years, then get a per-game figure for each.
Kaprizov: .071 SPAR/game
Boldy: 0.064 SPAR/game
Spurgeon: 0.061 SPAR/game
Zuccarello: 0.035 SPAR/game
Hartman: 0.033 SPAR/game
Brodin: 0.033 SPAR/game
Now that we have that information, we will multiply these numbers by the games they've missed for a total estimated impact.
Spurgeon (20 games): 1.22 SPAR lost
Boldy (7 games): 0.45 SPAR lost
Brodin (10 games): 0.33 SPAR lost
Zuccarello (7 games): 0.25 SPAR lost
Hartman (5 games): 0.17 SPAR lost3
Kaprizov (1 game): 0.07 SPAR lost
Total: 2.49 SPAR lost
All in, we're looking at about 2.5 points in the standings being directly attributable to injury in the team's first 35 games. While a Wild team being healthy at the top of the roster is probably still not in the playoffs, a 1-2 point deficit is much better than what they face now.
Again, this figures to get worse before it gets better. Each game Kaprizov, Zuccarello, and Brodin sit out adds another 0.131 lost points in the standings to the pile. If everyone hits a January 19 return date, we're talking about another full point in the standings lost.
Especially since the Wild have no depth for reinforcements. Vinni Lettieri was Minnesota's go-to answer as a forward call-up, but he's been the definition of a replacement-level player at best. And now, even he's hurt. Enter Nic Petan and Jacob Lucchini. Brodin's injury means the Wild are much more likely to play either Dakota Mermis or Daemon Hunt, who've statistically been the two worst players on the team this season. There isn't another Boldy or Marco Rossi walking through the door.
All this means that Minnesota is a top-heavy team suffering heavy losses to their top players. That's bad, bad news. The good news is the Wild stayed afloat until this weekend, even with losing Spurgeon, Zuccarello, Brodin, and even some games from Hartman in recent weeks. They'll need to put themselves back together and move on, but it will require resolve from the top-level players still standing.
Can Spurgeon carry the team from the blue line? Will Boldy respond by going on a heater like he did while Kaprizov was injured last season? How much further can super-rookies Rossi and Brock Faber drag the Wild? We're about to find out.
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