How We Land

Wait...wait...wait...wait...wait...wait..wait..worse things have happened to better people. That's the mantra.

With the weather in Minnesota striving to reach zero and the number of clothing layers on the rise, the above lyrics ring true as one year comes to a close another begins anew. Somewhere, someone is in worse shape, or at least that is how things feel. It has to be true. It does. It may even be a lie, but it is the mindset.

But weather aside, things are not looking up for the Minnesota Wild.

Summing up 2013 in 150 Words

Lockout, lockout, lock...over. NHL comes back and both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter make their Wild debuts. So does Finnish Baby Jesus, who gets to know Houston well. Bye bye Matt Hackett and Johan Larsson. Hello Jason Pominville's population. Playoffs. Yes we talkin' 'bout playoffs. First time in five years last just five games. Aeros move to Iowa. Suter almost wins Norris. No 2013 "First Round Bust," just a solid 2010 Isles version. Backstrom re-signs. No PMB, Cullen, Clutter, Seto, no problem. Matt Cooke signing freaks everyone out for a month. Former Gopher Keith Ballard. Waste August. A real start to the season is nice. Josh Harding continues to be the best story in hockey. Great start to the year, not so great end to it. Tough teams are tough. Heatley is in every person's dog house. Yeo's seat gets hotter. Erik Haula wore a Wild sweater. Good times.

(For a look back, here is the 2012 and 2010 versions - I guess I got lazy in 2011 and didn't do a summary.)

Prospect Viewing: Avery Peterson

(Helen Nelson)
Avery Peterson, Center/Wing
Grand Rapids HS/Sioux City (USHL)
6'2"201 Pounds 6/20/1995
Sixth Round, 167th Overall 2013 Entry Draft

The Edina Holiday Classic took place 12/19-12/21 last week, and it annually features the host Hornets, Eden Prairie, Elk River, and Grand Rapids. It is a treat for fans and scouts alike, as usually there is an abundance of talent on display, all the way from Phase I USHL candidates like ER's Matt Kiersted and Edina's Kiefer Bellows- to legit NHL Draft Prospects like EP's Luc Snuggerud and Edina's Tyler Nanne. 
A treat for us Wild fans was that one of their 6th round picks, Avery Peterson, was in town to play for his hometown Grand Rapids.

Buffalo Sh*t On A Nickel

So Minnesota caps off a decrepit road trip by beating Colorado 2-1 in a shootout, which continued the trend of the inability to do a number of things: draw power plays, kill penalties, and score goals on the road. Head Coach Mike Yeo classified last night's victory against Colorado, a team which despite its gaudy records when leading after certain points is bound to regress, a real "character win".

Which, I think, was said about the last time Minnesota played Colorado, where they lost in the shootout. That point ended a three game losing streak, just like this win ended a stretch where they lost 3 of the last 4 games, including the last three road games.

Character win.

Mathew Dumba's WHL Rights Traded To Portland

Mathew Dumba's development has been an underlying topic throughout the year. Minnesota's 2012 first round pick (7th overall) has burned through his nine NHL games yet hasn't played much recently. There is the upcoming World Juniors, which Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has stated he will be loaned out for, but for the most part Dumba finds himself in a middle of a development dilemma.

While the AHL is not an option and the only alternative besides playing with the Wild is a fourth season for Dumba in the WHL, the memories of past development mistakes is too soon.

2014 WJC: Minnesota draft pick Gustav Olofsson makes Team Sweden

Minnesota's top 2013 selection will be playing on the biggest prospect stage later this month.

2013 second round pick (46th overall) Gustav Olofsson, currently a freshman defenseman for Colorado College, was selected Thursday to play for Sweden's upcoming U-20 World Junior Championship team. It's a first for Oloffson, who has never played internationally for Sweden.

Louie Nanne commits to RPI

(Author's note: Apologies for not getting around to this when it broke over the weekend. While his brother Tyler announced it Thanksgiving night, I wanted to wait until Louie said something himself and haven't been around since.)

2012 Minnesota Wild 7th round pick Louie Nanne will continue his hockey career at RPI.

Which NHL Teams are Bullies and Which Teams are Wimps?

In yesterday's post, I proposed that the Wild's record likely won't hold up because they had such a discrepancy in play and win percentage against good vs bad teams.

Today, I thought I would put things into context a little more.  I looked at a few stats for each of the teams across the league and thought I'd do a quick hit with some teams that stood out.

Winningest Teams:
 1. ST LOUIS: 0.804
 2. COLORADO: 0.773
 3. SAN JOSE: 0.761
 4. CHICAGO: 0.760
 5. BOSTON: 0.708

These are the teams that have the highest win percentage.  No surprise.

Losingest Teams:
 1. BUFFALO: 0.220
 2. EDMONTON: 0.320
 3. FLORIDA: 0.380
 4. NY ISLANDERS: 0.396
 5. CALGARY: 0.435

Again, the teams that have the lowest win percentage.

Toughest Schedule:
 1. WINNIPEG: 81% vs Good
 2. BUFFALO: 76% vs Good
 3. CAROLINA: 75% vs Good
 4. CALGARY: 74% vs Good
 5. COLORADO: 73% vs Good

These teams played most of their games against teams with a winning record.  Outside of Colorado, these teams are pretty bad.  Interesting.

Weakest Schedule:
 1. PHILADELPHIA: 39% vs Good
 2. DETROIT: 44% vs Good
 3. PITTSBURGH: 44% vs Good
 4. LOS ANGELES: 48% vs Good
 5. WASHINGTON: 50% vs Good

Another interesting bit.  Of these teams, only Los Angeles is one of the best in the league.  Also, for as bad as Philly's start was, they have had the weakest schedule.  Yikes.

Highest Win % vs Good Teams:
 1. COLORADO: 0.813
 2. ST LOUIS: 0.733
 3. LOS ANGELES: 0.708
 4. BOSTON: 0.692
 5. SAN JOSE: 0.679

Five of the top six teams in the league are winning against good teams.  Maybe the only surprise is that Colorado is part of the mix, as they seem to have been pegged as overachievers.  Maybe they are the real deal?

Lowest Win % vs Good Teams:
 2. EDMONTON: 0.125
 3. BUFFALO: 0.184
 4. COLUMBUS: 0.321
 5. CALGARY: 0.324

These teams are all pretty terrible, so not surprising that they can't beat good teams.

Highest Win % vs Bad Teams:
 1. MINNESOTA: 0.955
 2. CHICAGO: 0.955
 3. ST LOUIS: 0.938
 4. WINNIPEG: 0.900
 5. SAN JOSE: 0.889

There's Minnesota, but also Chicago.  Maybe this is a good stat because these are the games you are supposed to win?  But look at Winnipeg, they aren't good...right?

Lowest Win % vs Bad Teams:
 1. FLORIDA: 0.250
 2. BUFFALO: 0.333
 3. NY ISLANDERS: 0.364
 4. NEW JERSEY: 0.364
 5. OTTAWA: 0.450

These teams are all pretty bad.

Highest Difference b/w Good and Bad:
 1. PHILADELPHIA: 0.603 (0.714 - 0.111)
 2. EDMONTON: 0.542 (0.667 - 0.125)
 3. WINNIPEG: 0.495 (0.900 - 0.405)
 4. MINNESOTA: 0.490 (0.955 - 0.464)
 5. VANCOUVER: 0.475 (0.850 - 0.375)

Only one of these teams is in the playoff mix (Minnesota).

Lowest Difference b/w Good and Bad:
 1. NEW JERSEY: -0.213 (0.364 - 0.577)
 2. FLORIDA: -0.191 (0.250 - 0.441)
 3. COLORADO: -0.146 (0.667 - 0.813)
 4. NASHVILLE: -0.063 (0.500 - 0.563)
 5. NY ISLANDERS: -0.059 (0.364 - 0.423)

Again, only one of these teams is in the playoff mix, and that's Colorado.

So if we look at some of the results from this point in the season, Minnesota does stick out as a team that is beating up on bad teams and losing to good teams.  I haven't broken down the rest of the numbers, but the Wild will have to pick it up against strong competition if they want to have any chance in the post-season.

The two biggest surprises for me were Colorado and Winnipeg.  Colorado is winning not just against bad teams but good ones as well.  They've also had a pretty tough schedule, so they aren't just facing easy competition.  If they can sustain it, maybe they will be a dark horse to make a deep playoff run.  Winnipeg seems to have drawn a really tough early schedule, but some of their numbers indicate that they should improve once they face some weaker opponents.  It might be too late, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Life Without Parise/Coming Of Age

There's something to be said about star players blocking shots...and there is something to be said about star players blocking shots. So after "dodging a bullet" with a layoff of 2-3 weeks, the now Parise-less Minnesota Wild continue a stretch of their schedule that could be akin to an Electric Kool-Aid Acid test.

So the uneasiness starts; thoughts of a tremendous spiral have started to creep in with the knowledge that not just Parise is out, but there is talk about Mikael Granlund AND Josh Harding possibly heading to the IR. That's two of Minnesota's top-6 forwards (and arguably the former being the best one) and their best goaltender now on the shelf. Let's talk about Parise's absence though; it certainly seems like a tall task to replace what he brings to the lineup.

Or is it?

Is the Wild's Early Season Success Smoke and Mirrors?

I spent the better part of my day building my game analysis spreadsheet, so that means a whole bunch of stats and analysis.  So if you don't like stats (even the non-fancy ones!), feel free to check out now.  I'm assuming that everyone closed their browser and I'm now just typing an article for myself.  Fair enough.

I'll cut to the chase.  The Wild have been beating up on some really bad hockey teams and losing to the good ones.  At a truly astonishing level.

The Wild have a record of 15-6-4, good for 34 points.  That puts them in a tie for 6th in the entire league.  But what happens when you split out the games vs teams with a winning record (more than 0.500) and teams with a losing record (0.500 or below)?

Wild's win percentage:
vs good teams = 0.464
vs bad teams = 0.954

That is incredible.  The Wild are nearly perfect in 11 games against bad hockey teams.  Only one shootout loss in the mix, and 8 of the 10 wins were in regulation.  Against the good teams, the Wild have only 4 regulation wins in 14 games.  Not so good.

But it doesn't stop there.  In nearly every statistical category, the Wild are drastically better against bad teams vs good teams:

Shooting percentage:
vs good teams = 7.6%
vs bad teams = 11.2%

Save percentage:
vs good teams = 87.9%
vs bad teams = 94.3%

Power Play %:
vs good teams = 14.3%
vs bad teams = 28.2%

Penalty Kill %:
vs good teams = 76.5%
vs bad teams = 84.2%

PP Shooting %:
vs good teams = 9.7%
vs bad teams = 16.4%

PK Save %:
vs good teams = 83.3%
vs bad teams = 85.7%

Against good teams, the Wild are getting much better quality chances (indicated by higher shooting percentage) and keeping the opposition to lower quality chances (indicated by higher save percentage).  And not just a small difference, by quite a bit.

Special teams are also night and day.  The Wild convert nearly twice as many power plays against bad teams than good and kill off substantially more penalties.  They also score on nearly twice as many shots on the power play, again indicating much better chances against the bad teams.

The craziest part though, is when you look at the possession numbers, indicated by shots and shot attempts.  I don't have the best numbers (to compare say attempts at even strength with the score close), but just some basic stats:

Shot differential (per game):
vs good teams = 5.43
vs bad teams = 0.27

Shot attempt differential (per game):
vs good teams = 5.50
vs bad teams = -1.36

Those numbers mean that the Wild are drastically outshooting good teams and are roughly even in shots with bad teams.  This isn't the first time the fancy stats have been backwards with the Minnesota Wild.

Here's what I said back then:

Why do the Wild “defy” statistics?  Because shots, and any derivative of shots (Corsi and Fenwick) are terrible predictors of success.  The Wild and other teams who play defense are perfectly content to let the other team take a shot through a half dozen bodies from the point or boards.  That’s a low scoring chance.  More importantly, the Wild DON’T want you taking a shot on a 3-on-1.  That’s a high scoring chance.

Good hockey teams don't care about shots.  They care about defending the middle of the ice and preventing odd man rushes.  If you can do those two things, you will win hockey games.  The Wild are able to rip it up against teams that don't defend well, but they are struggling quite a bit in solving teams that stand up at the blue line and box shooters out to the perimeter.

I've said it before, but the most important stat for a team is goal differential:

Goal differential (per game):
vs good teams = -0.71
vs bad teams = 1.46

So what needs to happen?  I honestly don't know.  Each of the last two years the Wild have collapsed once the season really got going.  Does Mike Yeo need to make adjustments?  Do the leaders need to step up?  Are the Wild just a mediocre team that has happened to have a pretty weak schedule so far?  Probably all of the above.

But for Wild fans, this is likely going to be a very bumpy ride.  We will either see some heroes step up and carry this team through the meat of the schedule (especially if Zach Parise is going to miss time with an injury), or we will see some big changes all around.  They front office has been fairly patient to this point, but another collapse cannot be tolerated.