Minnesota Wild

It’s Minnesota Wild day at PHT

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The Minnesota Wild’s 2014-15 campaign was a tale of two seasons. There was the time before Devan Dubnyk and then the time after his arrival.

Before Dubnyk was traded on Jan. 14, the Wild were a team in disarray. They had lost 12 of their last 14 games, shifting the question from if they could take a step forward from their 2014 second round exit to if they could even make the playoffs. Now in the third season of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter era, their stagnation was tremendously disappointing.

On Jan. 7, Wild coach Mike Yeo seemed to lose his cool during a team practice in dramatic fashion. To make matters worse, goaltender Darcy Kuemper left the same practice with a lower-body injury.

The Minnesota Wild went on to lose another four games, including a 7-2 defeat to Pittsburgh on Jan. 13.

“We’re so easy to play against,” Zach Parise said after the game, per the Associated Press. “We lose battles. The details of our game are terrible. We don’t make it hard on the other team.”

Then Minnesota acquired Dubnyk from Arizona for a third round pick and he was given the nod on Jan. 15. He ended up starting in 39 of the Wild’s final 40 games and posted a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage over that span to salvage their campaign.

Once in the postseason, Minnesota bested the St. Louis Blues in six games, setting up a series against the Blackhawks for the third consecutive year. Chicago had beaten them twice before and despite all the Wild had accomplished on their road to Chicago this time around, the outcome would not be any different. The Blackhawks powered past Minnesota in four games.

Offseason recap

After his strong performance, the big question for the Wild this summer was how much re-signing Dubnyk would cost them. Determining fair value was no simple matter given Dubnyk’s rocky history, but the two sides ultimately settled on a six-year, $26 million deal.

Up against the cap, this has been a quiet summer for Minnesota as far roster changes go. Chris Stewart and Kyle Brodziak walked as unrestricted free agents while former Wild players Sean Bergenheim, Matt Cooke, Jordan Leopold, and Keith Ballard remain unsigned. On top of that the Wild haven’t made any significant additions thus far.

That’s to be expected though as the team has to factor in the potential raises that Jason Zucker, Jared Spurgeon , Matt Dumba, and Kuemper might get as restricted free agents next summer.

McDavid, Eichel headline NHLPA Rookie Showcase

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This year’s NHLPA Rookie Showcase won’t be lacking star power.

The top two picks at this year’s entry draft — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel — will be in attendance, along with 38 other prospects that’ll descend upon Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 1 for photo ops and media availability.

The list of invitees, per the players’ union:

Connor McDavid (Oilers), Jack Eichel (Sabres), Dylan Strome (Coyotes), Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs), Noah Hanifin (Hurricanes), Ivan Barbashev (Blues), Chris Bigras (Avalanche), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Blue Jackets), Madison Bowey (Capitals), Connor Brown (Maple Leafs), Michael Dal Colle (Islanders), Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets), Robby Fabbri (Blues), Zach Fucale (Canadiens), Nikolay Goldobin (Sharks), Ryan Hartman (Blackhawks), Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), Julius Honka (Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs), Ronalds Kenins (Canucks), Slater Koekkoek (Lightning), Dylan Larkin (Red Wings), Sonny Milano (Blue Jackets), Samuel Morin (Flyers), Mike Matheson (Panthers), Michael McCarron (Canadiens), Josh Morrissey (Jets), Brendan Perlini (Coyotes), Nic Petan (Jets), Emile Poirier (Flames), Shane Prince (Senators), Ryan Pulock (Islanders), John Quenneville (Devils), Mike Reilly (Wild), Nick Ritchie (Ducks), Travis Sanheim (Flyers), Mackenzie Skapski (Rangers), Brady Skjei (Rangers), Shea Theodore (Ducks) and Jake Virtanen (Canucks).

This will mark the seventh year the PA has gathered rookies for its annual event. Last year’s Rookie Showcase featured 33 players, including Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and fellow finalist Johnny Gaudreau.

Poll: Will the Devils’ offense improve this season?

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In the three seasons since reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the Devils have finished 28th, 27th and 28th overall in average goals-for per game.

During the 2011-12 season, the Devils were 15th overall in average goals-for per game. It was also the last season the club had a 30-goal scorer with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson all reaching the 30-goal mark.

Last season New Jersey scored an average of 2.15 goals-for per-game ahead of only Arizona (2.01) and Buffalo (1.87).

Mike Cammalleri led the Devils with 27 goals in 2014-15 – his highest total since the 2008-09 season. No other member of the Devils reached the 20-goal mark.

“Looking at the team from the outside, since I just got here, up front is an area we’ll look at,” said Shero after being named the club’s new general manager in May. “We would want to score more goals and create more offense without abandoning a defensive structure and accountability that has been in place for years.”

In an attempt to address the club’s goal-scoring woes, Shero acquired Kyle Palmieri from the Anaheim Ducks for a pair of draft picks in June. The 24-year-old is coming off a season where he matched his career-best for goals (14) in 57 games with the Ducks.

Barring further additions to help the offense, it’s hard to see this Devils team taking a step forward offensively in 2015-16.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Under Pressure: Ray Shero

Under Pressure: Ray Shero

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Despite being in just his first season as general manager of the New Jersey Devils, Ray Shero is under pressure to address the concerns currently facing the organization.

New Jersey has missed the playoffs in three straight seasons and in four of the last five years.

One of the reasons for the lack of success in New Jersey has been the team’s inability to score goals. The Devils finished the 2014-15 season 28th overall in goals-for per-game with 2.15. The club has not had a 30-goal scorer since the 2011-12 season when Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson each reached the 30-goal plateau.

“Obviously the last three years haven’t been what was expected,” Shero told NJ Advance Media last month. “We’ve got work to do.”

Not helping matters is ESPN’s latest prospects rankings, which has New Jersey’s prospects ranked 26th in the league ahead of just the L.A. Kings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite the ranking, Shero told The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti in July that he felt there were “a handful” of players at the team’s development camp who could compete for jobs at training camp in September.

“I think there will be some surprises both on the good end and maybe not-so-good end,” Shero said. “But that’s training camp and that’s the competition.”

On the blue line, New Jersey’s youth will once again be tested. The Devils could have as many as five defensemen 24 or younger this season.

“We’re out to build a winner, an elite hockey team that wins on a consistent basis so that’s got to start with the organization,” said Devils’ owner Josh Harris. “The Devils organization is and was a quality organization.

“Anytime you bring in new leadership there’s always change and I think we try to embrace that and make it really positive.”

Related: Looking to make the leap: Pavel Zacha

New Jersey Devils ’15-16 Outlook

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The New Jersey Devils have finished in the bottom-five in scoring for three straight campaigns and once again their offense is a big area of concern.

No New Jersey player reached the 50-point mark last season and only two (Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri) recorded at least 40 points. Acquiring forward Kyle Palmieri in a trade with Anaheim over the summer does help matters, but offensively the Devils look like a long-term project that has only barely begun. Years from now, perhaps Pavel Zacha, who was taken with the sixth overall pick, will be a serious scoring threat, but for now New Jersey doesn’t have much in the way of young, NHL-ready forwards.

Stefan Matteau might establish himself as an NHL regular at the age of 21, but the 2012 first-round pick has never been a major contributor offensively. There’s always the chance that Henrique, 25, will take a step forward, but his career-high remains 51 points from his rookie season when he was working with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. There’s clearly no one at that level for him to play off of at this time.

The good news is that the Devils’ situation looks less bleak when you move past their offense as in contrast, the blueline’s rebuild seems to be moving along nicely. Adam Larsson took a significant step forward last season and the hope is that he’ll lead the charge along with Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Damon Severson. The oldest of them, Gelinas, only celebrated his 24th birthday in May.

Then of course there’s their goaltending, which is in the capable hands of Cory Schneider. He demonstrated last season under trying circumstances that the Devils’ goalie situation remains their strength, even in the post-Martin Brodeur era.

Taking it all in, New Jersey isn’t without its strengths and upside, but until the Devils get to the point where they’re at least passable offensively, it will be difficult for them to make a serious run at a playoff spot.