The weekend is over, and so is the Minnesota Wild’s season. It came to a crashing end on Friday night as the Vancouver Canucks only needed 11 seconds in overtime to secure the Game 4 win and a series victory over the Wild.
While Minnesota now descends into the offseason, there are many questions that will need to be answered by general manager Bill Guerin. Perhaps he gained some clarity on how to improve the team by what he learned from the series at large.
Here are a few things we learned in the Wild’s series loss to Vancouver:
Center play was abysmal and the position has to be addressed
Eric Staal led the Wild in points with five, and outside of his play in the faceoff circle, he was the only center who was remotely adequate in the series. Joel Eriksson Ek will be a part of the future as a No. 2 or 3 center, but Minnesota needs to address the position in the offseason.
We almost certainly saw the last of team captain Mikko Koivu, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Staal has just one year left on his contract, and Alex Galchenyuk is also on an expiring contract. Major changes need to be made to the position very quickly if the Wild want to contend again in the Central Division. Once again, the quest for a top-line center continues.
Kevin Fiala proved he is a game-breaker
After a five-month layoff, Fiala picked up right where he left off before the NHL regular season paused. Fiala had three goals in the first two games of the series before Vancouver zeroed in on the Swiss winger defensively, forcing the Wild to have others chip in.
The 24-year-old proved that he wants to be that guy that can score, and just think of what he can do when Kirill Kaprizov joins the fold next season. A lovely thought for Wild fans, who have long waited for dynamic players like this.
Mats Zuccarello was a major concern
If anyone has seen Zuccarello lately, please contact the authorities. They put out an all-points bulletin looking for him inside the bubble in Edmonton.
For four games, Zuccarello was rarely visible and was by far one of the worst forwards on the ice for the Wild. Zuccarello tallied just one assist in the series. At age 32 and with four years left on his contract, Zuccarello’s play in this series, and the season as a whole, is a major concern. Hopefully with some moves the Wild can find a good line to put him on next year where he can produce and put fans at ease about his contract.
Alex Galchenyuk is Probably done in a Wild uniform
If any Wild player had a worse series than Zuccarello, it was Galchenyuk. Because he was on an expiring contract, Galchenyuk seemingly had some incentive to put forth a great effort and possibly get an extension for next season. But it was the complete opposite for the 26-year-old, who was one of many Wild forwards without a point in this series despite the fact he was getting top-six minutes and power-play time throughout the series. Unless Galchenyuk was willing to come back on a VERY team-friendly deal, it’s likely the Wild will move on from him in the offseason.
It’s Time to address goaltending
Alex Stalock was not the problem for the Wild in this series, but he was not great either. The fact of the matter is, the Wild has a big problem that needs to be addressed in the offseason, and it’s in goal.
Devan Dubnyk, who was really not even looked at to start at any point in the series, was quite bad this past season and there are signs he might not be able to turn it around. With just one year left on his contract, Dubnyk is a major candidate for a buyout because Stalock has two years left at a very team-friendly price.
Minnesota now has to decide if Kaapo Kahkonen is the future in goal or if they need to look elsewhere. But one way or another, the team needs a new starting goalie for the 2020-21 season. Poor goaltending has sunk this team time and time again over the past two seasons.