Rambling On is a seriously fun blog and podcast covering sports, music, culture, and more. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.
The Minnesota Wild ended 2014 with an abysmal December. Too often they found themselves on the wrong side of games. Although they dealt with injuries and illness sidelining key members of the team they still played well below their ability.
All of this came to a head as the calendar changed over to 2015.
After winning their first game of 2015 (and looking quite good while doing so) over the Toronto Maple Leafs they travelled to Dallas to take on the Stars. What happened in Texas can only be described as rock bottom. The team never got their legs going in the first period and were lucky to escape only down by a goal. When they came out for the second they looked even worse. They did little more than act like fans and watching the puck in the defensive zone. The Wild hit rock bottom as the Stars scored 5 goals in the second to take a 6-1 lead into the third.
Over the course of the past couple months the defense has been questionable and the goal tending even more concerning. A team that built themselves up at the end of last year as a contender has taken several steps backwards in the past month or so.
Instead of just focusing on the bad, though, let’s look at what the Wild need.
The first glaring problem is its back end. Up-and-coming goaltender of the future Darcy Kuemper is a head case and backup Niklas Backstrom is obviously aging. Keumper has shown moments of brilliance but doesn’t seem to be able to recover from a bad outing. Backstrom stops most goals that he should but is not a solid, stable option that will win you a lot of games. The Wild need to do something about this shaky goaltending situation.
The second thing the team is lacking is a big shutdown, bruiser defenseman. The team lost this important part of its persona when Keith Ballard went down with an injury. Although he doesn’t fit this style completely he wasn’t afraid of laying a hit. Although not as important as goaltending and defense this is an underrated aspect of a strong NHL team.
The final thing is the Wild need is to get stronger at the center position. Aside from Mikko Koivu the team is awful at winning draws. They also need a center that can win key defensive zone faceoffs to relieve pressure.
As much as I have been a Koivu protector I think it is time to change things up with a new captain. Koivu doesn’t seem to be as passionate as others on the team. He’s a good player but he simply isn’t a captain. I would give the C to a guy who plays his heart out every game and is vocal in the locker room. The player this obviously fits is Zach Parise.
Things don’t look good for the Wild going into 2015. With the amount of talent on the team there is no reason for such terrible performance. If they don’t right the ship soon it’ll sink really fast.
Peter Ripka is the co-host of the Rambling On podcast. He's a blogger and analyst who specializes in sports, particularly hockey and baseball. Reach him via email or find him on Facebook and Twitter.