Minnesota Wild fans have seen it before: the team hits a mid-season slump, only to bounce back and make the playoffs.
As of this writing, they’re only one point out of one of the West’s wild card spots, so it’s not like it’s that tough to imagine them bouncing back again.
That said, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo lays out an argument for why this season may be different, and it’s a pretty compelling one.
The past two years, injuries and goaltending woes caused the Wild’s stumble. General Manager Chuck Fletcher reacted with back-to-back goaltender acquisitions of Ilya Bryzgalov and (Devan) Dubnyk.
This season, the Wild’s healthy and goaltending has not been an issue. The problem is with the exception of recently heated-up Charlie Coyle, the Wild’s in a team-wide goal-scoring slump.
Russo also notes that Fletcher’s pattern of “rentals” might end heading into the Feb. 29 trade deadline, at least on the scale of splashy moves. They’ve spent many high draft picks looking for quick fixes in the past, and at some point, they’ll need to improve from within.
Looking beyond volume scoring, it’s not as if the Wild are lacking for bounces. They’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to their 7.33 shooting percentage, and their PDO even implies that they’ve been relatively lucky.
The Wild come out of the break with a challenging three-game road trip, and considering their mediocre 9-9-6 away record (versus a sparkling 14-8-3 home mark), this is a serious test for Minnesota.
And it may just be an indictment of head coach Mike Yeo.
They’ve passed previous tests when their necks – and maybe jobs – were on the line. Can they do it again?
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