Matthew Dumba

Previewing the 2019-20 Minnesota Wild


(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: If we are comparing the Wild right now to where they were at the beginning of the 2018-19 season it would be difficult to argue that they are better following the in-season trades of Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle. But if we are comparing them to where they were at the end of the 2018-19 season they might be a little better. Mats Zuccarello is another big-money player on the wrong side of 30, but he is still good. Mikko Koivu and Matthew Dumba are returning after missing significant portions of the 2018-19 season. There is also some potential with younger players to maybe take a step forward. The important question is whether or not those improvements are enough to get them back in the playoffs and help them return to contention in the Western Conference.

Strengths: The top half of their defense is really good with Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Dumba leading the way. Suter is the biggest name and the one that gets most of the attention because he never seems to leave the ice, but don’t overlook the other two. Spurgeon just signed a seven-year contract extension to remain with the team and has been a criminally underrated player for most of his career. Dumba, meanwhile, brings a ton of offensive potential from the blue line and was in the middle of a breakout season until an injury sustained in a fight sidelined him for most of the season. Behind them they have an above average goalie in Devan Dubnyk serving as the last line of defense. When he is on his game, he can carry the team and has been one of the league’s most productive goalies since joining the team in them middle of the 2014-15 season.

Weaknesses: The Wild have a lot of really good veteran players and some young players that could become really good players. What they are lacking is great players. They don’t really have anyone that can be a difference-making, impact player that puts the team on their back for a game (or a stretch of games) and carries it. That kind of limits what your team’s ceiling is among the league’s hierarchy of contenders. The other concern is the age of the core. With Spurgeon now re-signed, they now have six players over the age of 30 signed for at least two more seasons. Several of those players are signed beyond the age of 35. How will all of those players hold up during those contracts?

[MORE: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Bruce Boudreau is entering his fourth season as the Wild’s head coach and is already going to be working with his third different general manager. That is kind of shocking, not only because the Wild have gone through that much change in their front office, but that the head coach has outlasted all of it. We will put his hot seat rating as a 6 out of 10. He does not have one foot out the door, but he is probably not totally secure, either.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Jason Zucker, Zach Parise, and Kevin Fiala are the three players worth keeping a close eye on this season.

One of the more bizarre aspects of Paul Fenton’s one year of error in Minnesota was his apparent burning desire to trade Zucker. He has not only been one of the team’s best two-way players and a popular member of the community, but Fenton was also trying to sell him at what was probably his lowest possible value. A similar move with Niederreiter went about as poorly as could have been expected, and repeating the same mistake with Zucker would have been crushing. As it stands now, Zucker is back in Minnesota and should be poised to have a bounce back year offensively.

Speaking of bounce back years, Parise went through one of his own during the 2018-19 season and saw pretty significant improvements in his production across the board. He is almost certainly never going to be a 40-goal, 90-point player again, but was his bounce back a one-year outlier in what has been a steady decline in recent years? Or can the Wild expect similar production this season?

Of all the players Fenton acquired during the 2018-19 season the one that seems most intriguing is Fiala. He is still only 23 years old, has already shown 20-goal ability in the NHL, and has some fairly promising underlying numbers to his game. He is a better player than what he showed immediately after the trade.

Playoffs or lottery: There is a short-term path back to the playoffs for this team, but a lot of things need to go right in order for that to happen. Realistic outcome is this looks like a team that finishes somewhere between 7th and 11th in the Western Conference. Not good enough to truly contend, but not bad enough to play its way into the highest draft lottery odds.

Do Wild have short-term path back to playoffs?
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL suspends Flames’ Giordano, Lomberg


Thursday’s game in Calgary between the Flames and Wild had quite a bit of chaos that resulted in the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issuing a pair of suspensions on Friday.

First, Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was given a two-game suspension for kneeing Wild forward Mikko Koivu.

The Minnesota captain was injured on the play and has since been sent home from the team’s ongoing road trip. The play happened mid-way through the third period of the Flames’ 2-0 win. Giordano was assessed a two-minute minor for tripping on the play.

Here is a look at it as well as the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.

Giordano will miss the Flames’ upcoming games against the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers this weekend before being eligible to return next week against the Philadelphia Flyers. Giordano is the Flames’ top defender and having one of the best seasons of his career with 29 total points (three goals, 26 assists) in 29 games this season while playing close to 25 minutes per game.

Later in the period, Giordano’s teammate, Ryan Lomberg, was ejected from the game after leaving the bench during a legal line change to initiate a fight with Minnesota’s Matthew Dumba.

[Related: Flames’ Lomberg ejected for jumping Dumba after questionable hit]

That altercation came just after Dumba injured Flames forward Mikael Backlund with a big open ice hit.

Lomberg’s penalty for starting a fight in the last five minutes comes with an automatic one-game suspension. The NHL decided on Friday to add an additional game to that suspension, meaning he too will miss the team’s next two games.

Dumba’s hit on Backlund was deemed to be a legal body check by the league.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

GM Fletcher ‘not on any hot seat’ with Wild owner

Getty Images

Under-fire Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher will be back for another season.

That’s what Wild owner Craig Leipold said on Thursday, telling the Star-Tribune there’s “absolutely no way Chuck is not going to be here next year.”

“He is our guy,” Leipold added. “I continue to have a high level of confidence in Chuck and his staff and we’re already talking about next year.”

Leipold might have confidence in Fletcher, but there are those in Minnesota that don’t.

The Wild found themselves in a precarious position this year, fighting for a playoff spot after advancing to the second round in each of the last two seasons. The team isn’t young — Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are all on the wrong side of 30 — and Fletcher’s twice fired coaches in the last five years: Todd Richards was dismissed in favor of Mike Yeo, and Yeo was sacked midway through this season in favor of current (and interim) bench boss John Torchetti.

The NHL’s seventh longest-tenured GM, Fletcher — to his credit — has made some nice moves over his seven years in charge. Acquiring Devan Dubnyk from Arizona all but saved the Wild last season, and his ability to land Parise and Suter during the summer of 2012 was a franchise-altering moment.

Looking ahead, though, it’ll be interesting to see how Fletcher alters what many see as an aging, expensive roster.

Pominville, who scored a career-low 11 goals this season, is pulling down $5.6M annually until 2019. The Suter and Parise contracts, which carry $7.5 million hits, run through 2025 (not a typo).

If Fletcher can integrate some of the club’s young draft prospects and win a trade or two — Matthew Dumba‘s name has come up as a potential chip on numerous occasions — he could turn this thing around.

It won’t be easy. But Fletcher, if nothing else, has the backing of his owner to get it sorted.

“Chuck knows he is not on any hot seat with me,” Leipold said. “So if there are rumors – and I haven’t seen them – then they aren’t something Chuck or anyone else should be worried about.”