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  • Is Jost the Answer to Minnesota’s Penalty Kill Problems?

    Marcus Warrington

    On Tuesday, general manager Bill Guerin made his first splash of the season, trading Nico Sturm to the Colorado Avalanche for Tyson Jost, a rare straight-up exchange between division rivals. The Minnesota Wild also fell to a wild card spot for the first time this season.


    The trade feels a bit preemptive at first glance. While Sturm’s current $725,000 cap hit is less than half of Jost’s $2 million, that number will increase next year. Sturm heads into this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, and the uptick in his market value was certain to collide with Minnesota's cap situation. On top of that, Jost is a former first-round pick. The Wild have a history of rehabbing the careers of struggling young players. Perhaps the trade was a gamble that they would do it again.


    But could the trade primarily have been to address a current need? Considering where Colorado took him in the draft, Jost's numbers are underwhelming. He had a career-high 26 points in 2018-19, and his productivity has fallen since his sophomore campaign. He and Sturm have largely mirrored each other in line placement, minutes, and scoring. But there’s one area Jost stands out in: His time on the penalty kill.


    And nobody needs to be reminded that the Wild’s penalty kill has been terrible lately.


    Sturm played solid minutes on Minnesota’s PK, registering the eighth-most time of any Wild player with 85. But through 59 games with Colorado, Jost logged over a half-hour more (112). Seeing that the Avalanche have spent 300 minutes on the kill, that puts Jost on the ice 37% of the time. For Sturm, that number was 26%. So the Wild appear to have upgraded their PK -- in the experience department at least.


    Can Jost breathe life into what has become one of the NHL’s worst penalty-killing units?


    Well, the unit he’s coming from wasn’t anything to write home about. The Avalanche are arguably the NHL’s best team, but their penalty kill is anything but. Colorado’s kill (78%) is a touch better than Minnesota’s (76%).


    Now let’s dive into the numbers. This year, Jost has won 35 of 91 faceoffs on the penalty kill (38%). Meanwhile, Sturm has won 28 out of 57 (49%). Compare that to Jost and Sturm’s 5v5 percentages, 39% and 53% respectively, and Sturm has been better by a safe margin.


    What about when the puck is in motion? Both players have accumulated six blocked shots on the penalty kill. Jost has five takeaways to Sturm’s two. Jost also has drawn two penalties that negated the opposition’s advantage. However, they are somewhat offset by two penalties he took that sent his team into 3x5. Sturm has neither drawn a penalty nor taken one during the penalty kill this year.


    Ultimately, the penalty kill numbers don’t separate the two players all that much. If anything, it appears that the Wild have downgraded when it comes to faceoffs and have stayed the same elsewhere.


    Metrics tell a good story, but they can’t paint a complete picture. The eye test is important too, and the word out of Denver is that Jost is a solid penalty-killing asset. Denver and Minnesota play different systems, so Jost may thrive with his new teammates. Throw in other intangibles, specifically a change of scenery, and the numbers could underrate what he can bring to the table.


    For the Wild to get themselves back into a Central Division playoff spot and reduce their risk of a first-round matchup with the Calgary Flames or Colorado Avalanche, their penalty kill will need to get much better. Perhaps Jost will end up being the key to making that happen.

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