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A pathetic homestand, the continuing impact of the loss of Dumba and Koivu, how the new guys are faring, and more in this edition. Wild analysts Peter Ripka and Jeff Hartfiel answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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The Wild went 1-3-1 on their recent homestand. What the hell is wrong with the team at home this year? Do you think they can bounce back on their upcoming road trip?
Peter: It is hard to place why the team has struggled at home this year and play decent on the road. Like the old cliche says, sometimes it's easier to win on the road because you play a simpler game. I don't buy this line though. If it works in one situation, why wouldn't you do that same thing in the other?
It wouldn't surprise me if they go on a run on this road trip. All season they've been going on a nice run on the road when everything looks completely diseased to suck everyone back in.
Jeff: I am out of reasons why this Wild team can't perform, especially at home. It is sad. It looks like no one wants to play and no one wants to lead.
As for the road trip, the Wild do play better on the road. But considering how they've looked all year, my optimism is for the most part gone. If they end up sneaking into the playoffs, is it really worth it? They haven't shown us anything this year that warrants them being deserving of a playoff spot.
What was the worst loss of the homestand?
Peter: The Dallas game was the worst. They didn't play well, had no energy and no sense of urgency. It's especially surprisingly since at the time they had a chance to move within a point of the first Wild Card spot. Instead, they laid an egg, an awfully rotten, smelly egg.
Jeff: Dallas game has to be the worst loss of the four. The offense, defense, and special teams all looked awful. It seems to be a common thread with this team all year, which is why they are in the position they are in. Some of it attributed to not having Koivu and Dumba in the line up, but I believe the issue goes further with this team and it shows every game.
Who are the biggest offenders on the Wild's recent skid?
Peter: It is hard to pinpoint one person. I will eliminate goaltending as a culprit. The offense has been stale, they didn't have a 5-on-5 goal in two games, generating chances but not finishing. The defense has been leaky and have hung the goalies out to dry way too often with bad turnovers or bad reads.
Jeff: It is hard to find the biggest offenders to be honest, because the whole team just looks bad.
If I have to pick just one, I would go with the whole offense. It has been the Wild's problem for years. They can't score. They haven't given up a bunch of goals, so you can't blame the defense. The Wild have given up less goals than Washington, and look at where they are in the standings. Seems kind of cut and dry to me. The Wild don't score, that is the biggest problem, and it has plagued them for years.
What do you think the future holds for Bruce Budreau?
Peter: Based solely on some of the moves the front office has made this season, I suspect he is safe. That being said, a new GM may want his own guy here. My gut tells me he is safe for another season.
Jeff: The future of Bruce Budreau unfortunately does not look good. I can definitely see him on his way out this season, due to no fault of his in.
This is by far the worse season he has had as a coach. It sucks to see because I am a really big fan of Bruce, and he seems to be a really big fan of Minnesota. If he doesn't retire, he will find a job easily.
On a side note, here's my bold prediction for off season: Tim Army becomes new head coach of the Wild and he brings in Adam Oates as an assistant who handles special teams.
A month or two in, what do you think the impact of Koivu and Dumba being out has had on this team?
Peter: They are as significant as I first suspected. The defense is still a mess without Dumba. Spurgeon just recently passed Dumba for goals for a defenseman on this team, so that tells you something. Koivu's absence can be seen in the faceoff circle still. This team can't seem to win the key draws that he was often able to.
Jeff: The impact of both Dumba and Koivu being out of the lineup is big for this team, as I have written all year. The Wild are missing Koivu's faceoffs, as well as his two-way game. He is one of the best two-way forwards in the game, so it is a significant hit to this team.
As for Dumba, you are missing his shot from the point, both 5-on-5 and on the power play (which hasn't been the same since he got injured). Dumba is a guy other teams have to watch for and game plan around, so his being out of the lineup is a slightly bigger deal than Koivu. But as I stated, I think the problems with this team go further than both those guys not being in lineup.
How are the new Wild acquisitions doing?
Peter: Aberg and Rask have been disappointments. They'll have a good game and then the next they will be a turnover machine. Fiala has shown flashes of his skill but makes some "interesting" decisions in the defensive zone.
Jeff: Donato easily has been the best acquisition Fenton made. He is all over the ice and he SHOOTS the puck. I love his game and am looking forward to see what else he can bring, especially with a full season under his belt with the Wild.
Fiala has been a hit-or-miss of late. He makes some bad passes that hurt the Wild. But he has some nice hands and a very good shot.
Hunt has fallen off some recently, but I still like his game. He has a good shot from the point. If he had a different linemate along side him, it might be a different story.
As for Aberg, Rask and Bitetto, I am not the least bit impressed with any of them. They haven't made this team any better and seem to take plays off like their head isn't in the game. Not a good combination.
What percentage chance do you think there is that the Wild make the playoffs at this point?
Peter: Right now, considering how the home stand went and how other teams around then have been trending, I'd give them about a 20% chance. They need more consistency.
Jeff: With their play of late, I give them a 20% chance of making the playoffs. That might be a bit generous though. There is no heart, no sense of urgency, no leadership, lack of scoring, no consistency, and poor execution.
Maybe this is what they needed. It's obviously what they deserve with the way they played all year.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently a Wild and Twins 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.