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Our Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Wild), every other Thursday (Twins), and Friday (Timberwolves). Content of off-season teams released as news breaks.
A special story about Charlie Coyle, the Wild continue losing badly, and trade talk in this edition. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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Three more games, three more losses. Are there any redeeming qualities about this team right now?
Peter: Power play? Nope. Penalty kill? Nope. Offense? Nope. Defense? Nope. Goaltending? Nope. Sensing a theme here? The team is failing in every aspect. Some games one thing was just simply okay, others nothing was working. The final score and the reaction of the home crowd told the tale.
Jeff: I am kind of at a loss for words right now about how the Wild are playing. I haven't seen a stretch like this in some time, probably since we got Dubby. The year we got him we were in a similar funk. The Wild traded for Dubby and the ship was righted.
I'm not sure if it is that easy right now or not. I see very little fight in this team, no sense of urgency. Their confidence is at an all-time low and they can't seem to get it back. It is frustrating to watch.
You get the same answers from every player after every game. They keep preaching it but aren't practicing it. As of right now, I see know redeeming qualities. A guy here or there is playing a decent game, but we haven't scored a goal, so not one guy is sticking out in a positive way.
How much of an impact is Koivu being gone having? Dumba?
Peter: The Koivu haters are eating their words. They are seeing just what kind of player he really is. He solidified the penalty kill and was a good shut-down center. Both of those things would be extremely valuable to this failing team.
Dumba's injury is more far-reaching than I anticipated. His absence has made a mess out of the defense pairing. The Wild have had to move someone who should be a third pair defensemen into a top four role, the GM reached for a defenseman with offensive upside, and they forced a left handed player to play their off-side. Dumba was also extremely helpful on the power play.
These two injuries have proven for be more devastating than anticipated.
Jeff: The loss of Koivu and Dumba has been huge. Koivu is the Captain of this team (the quiet, lead by example type of captain) and is one of the best two way forwards in the game. You are also losing a face-off guy, something the Wild can't afford to lose. Yeah, you have guys that can play the middle, but can they win 50% of the face offs and be responsible on the defensive side of the ice like Koivu? That's the issue.
As for Dumba, you lost one of the top scoring defense men in the league and a pivotal part of you power play. That is big for a team that already has issues scoring in the first place. What Dumba lacks at times on the defensive end Koivu made up for, and what Koivu lack at times on the offensive end Dumba made up for. Of course, they are always on the ice at the same time, but they compliment each other and their teammates, which makes it hard to win when both are out of the line-up.
Who should the Wild be looking to trade? What would you say to people who want to move as many players as possible?
Peter: The Wild should be looking for NHL-ready prospects that may be buried in a depth chart, prospects with offensive upside, and early-round draft picks.
No more bad contract for bad contract trades, which will continue to set the team back.
Moving as many players as possible sounds good in principle, but it is a lot more difficult than you might expect. When new guys come in, it takes awhile to get to know the system or the area. It can make a bad situation worse.
Jeff: I'm sure most people have seen the names thrown around who could be traded. The question is: who can fetch the Wild the best return? The three names I've seen constantly are Brodin, Staal, and Coyle (why was traded as this went to print -ed). When I first saw Brodin's name I was slightly surprised. But I get why his name would be thrown out there. He is still young and could probably get a pretty good return.
As for trading everyone, that is just silly and doesn't make any sense. I've seen people say trade Dubby. He is the only goalie the Wild have. Despite his struggles as of late, he still has the stats to back up being a top five goalie since he arrived in Minnesota. The last thing you want to do is rush Kaapo Kahkonen. As Dan Barreiro is fond of saying, "don't cut your nose to spite your face".
The idea of trading half the team just to make a change is the same thing. Does the team need to be shaken up? Yes. Has this "core group" run it's course? Yes. Do the Wild need to find a new path for this team? Yes. But you can't rush things for the sake of rushing them, that's what leads to bad trades with bad returns.
Are the fans going to be patient for a rebuild - and will Craig Leipold officially give the green light to Paul Fenton to do so - are the main questions.
To me there are a few untouchables on this team: Greenway, Kunin, Dumba, and Dubnyk. Others are basically untouchable as well. You just gave Zucker a contract, so it wouldn't make a lot of sense to deal him. Spurgeon is the Wild's best two way defenseman, so I can't see them dealing him. Granlund has is faults, mainly the lack of shooting, but he has the best hands on the team. Fresh linemates (like a pure scorer?) might bring out more in him.
A special note from Peter about his interactions with Charlie Coyle
The news broke about Charlie Coyle being traded literally as I was writing my responses to Erik's questions. He is going back home to Boston. We'll have our reaction to that next week, but I wanted to share a story of my own that involves him to help wish him best of luck.
There was yet another NHL lockout in the fall of 2012. Coyle, in his first year as a pro, was assigned to the Wild AHL affiliate. While on the team he said via social media that he was looking for someone to play Words With Friends with. I sent him my user name and he started a game with me.
After playing against him for a little while I sent him a message through the game. Much to my surprise, he responded. We would go on to play and chat for several months. He was very open about the superstitions he had or still has. He was a very polite and wouldn't turn down any questions. I enjoyed getting to know him and what kind of person he is.
I'm sad to see him go, but I'm happy that he is going back to his hometown area. I truly do wish him the best. He is, and will always be, one of the good guys.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.