Minnesota Wild (19-17-5) 43pts 5th in the Central
3.05 Goals For Per Game (17th in the NHL)
3.32 Goals Against Per Game (25th in the NHL)
17.8% Power Play (21st in the NHL)
77.7% Penalty Kill (24th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 15G 17A = 32pts
2. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 6G 21A = 27pts
3. #11 Zach Parise ~ 14G 10A = 24pts
4. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 8G 16A = 24pts
5. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 10G 13A = 23pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 50 PIM’s
2. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #19 Luke Kunin ~ 28 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (7-10-2) 3.23GAA .898%SP 1SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (9-6-2) 3.02GAA .901%SP 1SO
Winnipeg Jets (22-16-3) 47pts 4th in the Central
3.07 Goals For Per Game (16th in the NHL)
3.05 Goals Against Per Game (15th in the NHL)
19.7% Power Play (16th in the NHL)
71.5% Penalty Kill (31st in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #55 Mark Scheifele ~ 19G 27A = 46pts
2. #81 Kyle Connor ~ 21G 19A = 40pts
3. #29 Patrik Laine ~ 15G 25A = 40pts
4. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 13G 21A = 34pts
5. #27 Nikolaj Ehlers ~ 16G 16A = 32pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Mark Scheifele ~ 32 PIM’s
2. #81 Kyle Connor ~ 30 PIM’s
3. #2 Anthony Bitetto ~ 21 PIM’s
1. #37 Connor Hellebuyck (18-12-3) 2.70GAA .919%SP 3SO
2. #30 Laurent Brossoit (4-4-0) 3.50GAA .889%SP
At some point in our lives, we’ve built an event up in our lives, only to have it not live up to our expectations. This probably happened to most of us when we were kids. It could have been a toy, a book, or a vacation. For the Griswald family in National Lampoon’s Vacation, it was their summer, cross-country trip to the fictional WalleyWorld, aka Disneyland. First off, any trip where you spend a bulk of it in a car, driving and driving and driving, is a trial for even the most gung-ho in the endeavor. Chevy Chase’s character of Clark Griswald was that gung-ho member of the family. He bought a new (albeit a lemon) car for the trip. He “planned” the map on his computer, although I’m not really sure what that computer map really showed to Clark, but oh well. They stopped and visited family members along the way. They camped and visited Wild West sites. Yet, when they got to their ultimate location of WalleyWorld, they discovered that their dream was closed. Which of course begs the question why Clark never made the phone call to that ultimate location to find out things like ticket prices, etc. They were able to experience WalleyWorld via some questionable choices by Clark, but I doubt this was really the vacation that they envisioned when they left the Chicago suburbs.
I’m sure by now, you’ve all seen the announcement by the National Hockey League, that we, the Minnesota Wild will be hosting next year’s Winter Classic. This is something that we as Minnesotans have wondered why it has taken so long. Of the current NHL locations in the United States, we’re one of the few with an outdoor hockey history. Kids can pretty much play all winter long, and they don’t need an indoor arena to play a pickup game. They can go to a local park, and probably find several sheets of ice. They also have the ability to find a lake or pond to play on. Yet, the Winter Classic had escaped us, and taunted us. Heck, flippin’ Dallas got the Winter Classic before us. Yes, that same Dallas that stole our beloved North Stars. A Dallas that doesn’t have one bit of natural, winter ice for people to play on. That was the true insult to injury I think in all of this. However, I wonder if the NHL was like “crap, we awarded the Winter Classic to Dallas before Minnesota. We can’t skip them next year.” And thus, we now have it. I personally had worries that Las Vegas would have gotten the Winter Classic before Minnesota.
But here’s the thing about this honor. This now puts the focus on our less than spectacular team. Now, I know we can host a fantastic outdoor event. We did it with the Stadium Series game in 2016. I myself thoroughly enjoyed both the alumni game and the actual game. The national broadcasters thought we did a great job. But here’s the main problem. We don’t have star players now and I doubt much will change by next season. If you want further proof of this, the blog Down Goes Brown on The Athletic, has crowned the Wild as the most mediocre team of the decade. We have the albatross contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter that don’t allow for much wiggle room. Sure, there’s the possibility that we may see Kiril Kaprizov in a Wild jersey next year, but will he put up the numbers we have created for him in our heads? And then of course, who will we face as an opponent? I think that’s the thing that most of us question. Since it’s all about numbers and ratings, the NHL and NBC aren’t going to want just any random opponent. I think most of us agree that we have a bad feeling that the powers that be will pick Chicago. Hey NHL and NBC, we don’t want Chicago. I’ve seen arguments for both Colorado and Winnipeg. Personally, I would prefer today’s opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, over Colorado. I’ve also seen arguments for fellow 2000-01 expansion brethren, the Columbus Blue Jackets, which definitely makes sense. I would also think it could be interesting to see Vegas as the opponent. Because let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a bunch of Vegas fans sit outside at Target Field, in January?
But if somehow it is a Minnesota-Winnipeg tilt next year, neither team this season is putting up the numbers that either really wants. Right now, the Wild and Jets are fairly even teams. About the only place where Winnipeg has the edge, is in their goals against per game and power play. Otherwise, the teams are fairly even. However, hockey can be a bit of a mental game. In that case, the Jets definitely have the advantage over Minnesota. They are a team that the Wild continually struggle playing. And it doesn’t matter if the game in played in Saint Paul or Winnipeg. You would think playing at home, like we are this afternoon, would be an advantage for the Wild. It isn’t though. Winnipeg fans can and will travel. When it’s a weekend like today, they will descend upon Minnesota for the game and work in some shopping as well. That alone should be a plus in the favor of the Jets being the Wild’s Winter Classic opponent. Although with the uneven exchange rate between the Canadian and American dollars, I don’t know how many can afford Winter Classic tickets, because I remember how expensive the Stadium Series tickets were. But the Jets’ fans make a lot of noise, and that can get into the heads of players. When you’re playing at home, you expect to hear your fans cheering you on. But visiting Winnipeg fans have the ability to make you think you’re playing a road game.
While many of us are thinking ahead to next season, we still need to focus on this one. There’s still a long way to go. I still highly doubt there’s a playoff appearance ahead of us. Yet, this team still needs to find a way to improve now. I know I’ve discussed tanking this season, but here’s now why I think some improvement is needed. If more of the skill players improve, then they can become valuable trade material for General Manager Bill Guerin to use to make moves to improve next season’s roster. Improvements to next year’s roster is what can make for a much better Winter Classic. Because trust me, we don’t want to be the team that hosted the Winter Classic that is comparable to a closed WalleyWorld.