Monday, March 11, 2013

Mid-Season Grades

After an incredible 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks to take the division lead, the Wild find themselves atop their division and sitting in the #3 spot in the Western Conference as we hit the halfway point in the 2013 season. So, we hand out a report card to the Wild as they prepare to get set in for the second half of the season.

Forwards: C
Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise have been tremendous on the top line registering 20 and 19 points respectively, and youngsters Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker have been making their presence felt in the past 10 games since being called up (Perhaps no better example of that than last nights game). But, Dany Heatley (Heatley had a great start, but he has been horrific as of late), Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Kyle Brodziak, and Mikael Granlund have had rough seasons to date, with Granlund and Bouchard now being healthy scratches. It took quite some time for the forwards to start registering points consistently, but the rough days appear to be behind them now.

Defense: C+
After a bad start, which had many fans calling him out for lack of production, Ryan Suter has been the $98 million defenseman we all expected, averaging 27:29 of ice time per game, which leads the NHL, and has risen to 2nd in the NHL among defenseman with 17 assists. Jonas Brodin has been Suter's defensive partner since being called up, and has showed the poise of a 10 year veteran in this league, despite being just 19 years old. Together, Suter and Brodin are one of the NHL's top D pairings. Behind those two, Jared Spurgeon and Tom Gilbert have had up and down seasons, while Justin Falk, Clayton Stoner, and Nate Prosser have all performed below expectations.

Goalies: A-
If not for the talents of Niklas Backstrom, who know where this team would truly be. Backstrom has performed well (Minus the Chicago game, of course) putting up a 11-6-2 record with a 2.30 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Josh Harding got off to a good start, but he was placed on IR after a few rough games, and has yet to be heard from since. Darcy Kuemper played real well in his first 4 NHL games before going on IR as well.

Special Teams: B-
After an extremely slow start to the season on the power play, the Wild have raise their PP to 20th in the league (16.3%) and have registered a PP goal in 6 of their last 7 games and appear to be finding a groove while playing with the man advantage. Meanwhile, their penalty kill has been stellar, coming in 4th in the NHL with a 86.5% success rate. The top PK line of Koivu, Brodziak, Suter and Brodin have been phenominal, along with the solid presence of Backstrom in net.

Coaching: C+
It was an extremely rough start for Head Coach Mike Yeo and his staff. Minnesota suffered from slow starts, dysfunctional line combinations, poor execution, and awful defensive play. But, Yeo finally appears to have found 4 functional lines, and the team is firing on all cylinders. He has righted the ship so far, but as we learned last year, the second half of the season can be a completely different story. Yeo has the Wild tied for the Northwest Division lead at the halfway mark, and the question is: Can he hold on to this momentum and get this team to the playoffs?

Overall: C+
This team under performed to begin the year, but you can credit that to next to no training camp with a high roster turnover. But in the last 10 games, Minnesota has righted the ship and has played very exciting hockey, which has seen them rise to the division lead alongside Vancouver. Minnesota has no long road trips (Only a 3 game max road trip) and plays an equal number of games on the road and at home. This team is starting to have a playoff like feel to it. And their first test of the second half, will be against Anaheim, who holds the 2nd best record in all the NHL.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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