When Paul Fenton was introduced as Minnesota Wild general manager back in late May, the word ‘tweak’ was tossed around frequently when it came to how he was going to edit the team he was inheriting.

The team that first took the ice for Fenton in his inaugural campaign as Wild general manager largely resembled that of previous iterations of the team under his predecessor Chuck Fletcher. The core of the team was still intact and only small changes to fringe roster spots had been made.

At the very least, you thought, yeah, this team will scrap and claw their way into the playoffs like they normally do before getting ousted in the first round.

[Lee Corso voice] Not so fast!

The Wild got off to an 11-4-2 start and looked like they wanted to make a statement to their new boss about how they mean business, or at least how the players themselves want to stick around. But after that point in mid-November (or maybe slightly thereafter, considering the Wild had a huge win on Black Friday over the Jets), the wheels fell off and the Wild never truly recovered.

Between Nov. 13 and Jan. 15, the Wild won just 11 games out of the 28 they had played. Their goaltending was a big reason for that steep decline, as Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock — who had been given a questionable three-year contract extension at the end of January — had not been able to provide quality starts night after night. Neither had a save percentage in that stretch above .900. Minnesota was getting below league-average goaltending, and you all know that when Wild goaltending takes a nose dive, so does the team in front of it.

To make matters worse, Matt Dumba — who was on pace to do great things offensively from the blueline — went out of the lineup for the season in mid-December following a scrap with the Calgary Flames. The diagnosis was a torn pectoralis muscle, which became a sore spot for the Wild and their fans as the validity of the scrap was put into question.

The loss of Dumba was not totally crushing to the Wild blueline, but Dumba’s offense — 12 goals, six of which came on the power play — was going to be missed, and missed sorely.

Minnesota was now a floundering club without its most dynamic player while getting no help from their goaltending. Re-enter Fenton, who had seen enough of this team, and felt it was time to start making those ‘tweaks.’ And, oh boy, did he tweak.

Fenton sent ripples through the Wild locker room and fan base when he traded Nino Niederreiter on Jan. 17 to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Victor Rask. The trade at the time, and very much so presently, was heralded as a colossal win for Carolina. They were getting a productive winger and, in exchange, they got rid of a player that was not producing since signing a six-year, $24 million deal in the summer of 2016.

A huge win for Carolina and an even bigger loss for Minnesota considering A) what Niederreiter has done since the trade, and B) how ineffective Rask has been for the Wild after his change of scenery. A change of scenery was all Rask needed to get his offensive game back on track, according to Fenton, but the Wild are still looking — like Rask is — for that offense. *shrug emoji*

That was not the end of Fenton’s ‘tweaks,’ if you even want to call them that at this point because they are far too major to be considered just ‘tweaks.’

As the trade deadline approached his team still was floundering, goaltending was still struggling, and the Wild suddenly could no longer win at home. The Niederreiter trade did not have a positive effect on the team, as they picked up right where they left off from before the trade.

With just days before the Feb. 25 trade deadline, Fenton made his next major move by sending Charlie Coyle to his hometown Boston Bruins in exchange for forward Ryan Donato and a conditional draft pick. Another major core piece of the Wild was gone, and in return was a promising young forward who had been buried by Boston in the AHL.

This, however, was another warning by Fenton to the rest of the team that underperforming players will not be tolerated.

“We have underperformed since we’ve come out of the break,” Fenton said in a St. Paul Pioneer Press story. “It puts people on notice that it’s not acceptable.”

At that Feb. 25 trade deadline, another major core piece was moved. Mikael Granlund, who had led the Wild in points for the past two and a half seasons, was sent to Nashville in another one-for-one trade. This time, Fenton was bringing a player he was familiar with — a theme among some of this other minor moves this season (see: Pontus Aberg, Anthony Bitetto) — in the form of Kevin Fiala.

Fiala is a 22-year-old player that Fenton sees as a dynamic game-breaker the Wild need. And while he flashed *some* signs of having those skills, his overall game left much to be desired following the trade and leaves the fanbase wondering if he can ever get to the level that even Granlund was just at.

Between all these major moves, Fenton had brought in others — Bitetto, Brad Hunt and Aberg — with minimal results. Also mixed in was another major injury as captain Mikko Koivu suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in a Feb. 5 game at Buffalo.

Now you have plenty of fresh faces, players taking on elevated roles, key injuries and the still remaining poor goaltending.

This was not a recipe that was going to work for the Wild.

As mentioned before, the Wild struggled mightily at home since Jan. 1. That was where their goaltending really took a plummet, and then all of a sudden they could not score goals either.

In the end, Minnesota is going to finish the season with the worst points percentage at home in their franchise history. A black eye for a team that has prided itself on its ability to win big at home, especially in the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter era.

Query Results Table
Team Opponent
Rk Team Season G W L T OL Pts. TPA W-L%
G PP SH S PIM GA PP GA SH GA SA OppPIM DIFF
1 Minnesota Wild 2017-18 41 27 6 0 8 62 94 .660 137 26 3 1247 310 90 17 3 1220 327 47
2 Minnesota Wild 2016-17 41 27 12 0 2 56 87 .644 139 31 1 1222 344 93 15 1 1111 375 46
3 Minnesota Wild 2006-07 41 29 7 0 5 63 99 .636 123 49 4 1235 437 81 24 5 1117 525 42
4 Minnesota Wild 2013-14 41 26 10 0 5 57 92 .620 112 23 1 1083 352 92 24 1 1052 425 20
5 Minnesota Wild 2002-03 41 25 13 3 0 53 87 .609 108 27 8 994 454 79 20 4 1085 546 29
6 Minnesota Wild 2007-08 41 25 11 0 5 55 93 .591 114 32 2 1104 524 91 21 4 1141 577 23
7 Minnesota Wild 2009-10 41 25 12 0 4 54 92 .587 131 34 3 1128 452 119 22 4 1131 495 12
8 Minnesota Wild 2008-09 41 23 11 0 7 53 93 .570 124 34 6 1175 394 96 19 3 1158 449 28
9 Minnesota Wild 2003-04 41 19 13 7 2 47 85 .553 104 21 5 1001 466 89 23 2 1083 560 15
10 Minnesota Wild 2005-06 41 23 16 0 2 48 87 .552 129 46 6 1126 581 106 28 4 1137 610 23
11 Minnesota Wild 2014-15 41 22 13 0 6 50 91 .549 127 27 2 1305 357 104 15 1 1035 412 23
12 Minnesota Wild 2012-13 24 14 8 0 2 30 55 .545 54 11 0 729 304 57 11 0 613 304 -3
13 Minnesota Wild 2015-16 41 21 16 0 4 46 87 .529 112 24 3 1198 264 95 16 6 1132 375 17
14 Minnesota Wild 2010-11 41 19 17 0 5 43 90 .478 105 30 4 1027 447 118 26 4 1222 500 -13
15 Minnesota Wild 2000-01 41 14 13 10 4 42 88 .477 87 19 10 1016 570 94 25 7 1076 592 -7
16 Minnesota Wild 2011-12 41 20 17 0 4 44 93 .473 100 22 4 1078 440 108 19 1 1188 459 -8
17 Minnesota Wild 2001-02 41 14 14 8 5 41 87 .471 102 32 4 965 518 114 27 3 1045 565 -12
18 Minnesota Wild 2018-19 40 16 17 0 7 39 91 .429 105 25 4 1265 356 116 20 4 1172 364 -11
Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2019.

Eric Staal struggled. Jason Zucker struggled. Ryan Suter needed a decent part of the year before he looked right after a serious ankle injury at the end of last season. More major players on the Wild that just never found a groove when the team needed it.

Minnesota could not put together a sustained winning streak in March, and it sunk in the standings to never recover.

It was like watching them sit in a pit of quicksand and nothing could be done to pull them out.

It was just not meant to be for this team.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau had few options to try and shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic to spark the team, as he was handcuffed by roster moves and quality depth players. You could see the helplessness in the head coach from time to time, as he just hoped a different team would show up to a game.

Boudreau may ultimately pay the price for this lost season, but almost none of it should be blamed on him as he overachieved with this team in his first two years on the job before the wheels fell off this season.

There are many ways you can remember the 2018-19 Minnesota Wild. How you choose to remember them is certainly not wrong. There are a multitude of options available to you. Poor goaltending, poor offense, poor roster moves, poor injuries and poor depth.

Poor everything, really.

Fenton is now on the clock. It will be up to him on where he takes this team moving forward. Does he continue to try and de-construct the roster Fletcher built or does he try and load up in the offseason to give this team and the remaining core another run at it in the postseason?

Answers will come forth in a few months, but for now, there are more questions left than answers. Certainly an uneasy time for any Wild fan, as the team descends into a major state of flux.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Good read, not sure what to think!! Hopefully Fenton will make a couple more moves, Younger and Quicker plus they will have a at home with all the Kids.

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