As the Minnesota Wild prepares to kick off their new season, concerns about their defensive capabilities have come to the forefront. Despite boasting a talented roster led by stars like Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala, the team’s defense remains a glaring weakness.
Last season, the Wild allowed an average of 3.17 goals per game, ranking them 26th in the league. Their struggles were particularly evident during their playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights, where they conceded 19 goals in just five games.
The team’s general manager, Bill Guerin, acknowledged the issue and made several moves during the offseason to address it. He acquired veteran defenseman Ian Cole from the Columbus Blue Jackets and signed free agent Greg Pateryn to bolster the blue line. However, questions remain regarding whether these additions will be enough to solidify the team’s defense.
One factor contributing to the Wild’s defensive woes is their lack of depth on the back end. With the exception of Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, the team lacks top-four caliber defensemen. This has resulted in opposing teams frequently targeting the team’s weaker defenders, exploiting their mistakes and creating scoring opportunities.
Another area of concern is the team’s penalty kill unit, which ranked 28th in the league last season. The Wild allowed 15 power-play goals in just 25 opportunities, a stark contrast to their potent power play, which ranked third overall. If the team cannot improve their penalty kill, they risk surrendering crucial goals and losing close games.
Head coach Dean Evason recognizes the challenges facing his team and has emphasized the importance of improving their defensive play. In recent preseason games, he has experimented with different defensive pairings and strategies, seeking the right combination that can help shut down opponents.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding their defense, the Wild still holds promise as a contender in the competitive Central Division. Their high-powered offense, led by Kaprizov and Fiala, can score goals in bunches, making them a formidable opponent on any given night. Moreover, goaltender Alex Stalock has shown flashes of brilliance when healthy, capable of stealing games for his team.
However, if the Wild wishes to make a deep playoff run, they must address their defensive shortcomings. It may require further personnel changes or a significant shift in strategy, but the team’s success hinges on their ability to keep pucks out of their net.
As the season approaches, fans and analysts alike will be watching closely to see how the Wild addresses these issues. Will they find a way to shore up their defense, or will their offensive firepower be enough to carry them through? Only time will tell, but for now, the pressure is on the Wild’s defense to prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with.