Wild

Changes Dean Evason Should Experiment With Before the Playoffs Begin

Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian (USA TODAY Sports)

Before the season started, oddsmakers had the Minnesota Wild’s total points over/under at 61.5 for the 56-game shortened season. We’re now 47 games in and the Wild cleared their over/under then during the next game became just the third team in the NHL to clinch a playoff spot, behind the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.

There were many uncertainties heading into the regular season. One of them was Dean Evason, who was entering his first full season as the head coach. Would he be able to guide the Wild through a division where half the teams were easily beatable? Would he be able to mix lines well enough despite a serious lack of depth at center? Would he be able to put incoming rookie Kirill Kaprizov in the best position to succeed?

The answer has been a resounding yes.

He has his flaws, but the fact remains Evason has done enough to hold the best points percentage mark in team history with .691. Only four other Wild teams have had a points percentage mark above .600. Not a bad feat in your first season.

20 Seasons Table
Season Lg Team GP W L T OL PTS PTS%
SRS SOS Finish Playoffs Coaches Division Conference
2020-21 NHL Minnesota Wild 47 31 13 3 65 .691 0.54 -0.06 3rd of 8 D. Evason (31-13-3) West
2016-17 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 49 25 8 106 .646 0.63 -0.08 2nd of 7 Lost NHL First Round B. Boudreau (49-25-8) Central Western
2006-07 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 48 26 8 104 .634 0.65 0.11 2nd of 5 Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals J. Lemaire (48-26-8) Northwest Western
2017-18 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 45 26 11 101 .616 0.29 0.04 3rd of 7 Lost NHL First Round B. Boudreau (45-26-11) Central Western
2014-15 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 46 28 8 100 .610 0.39 0.03 4th of 7 Lost NHL Second Round M. Yeo (46-28-8) Central Western
2013-14 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 43 27 12 98 .598 0.07 0.05 4th of 7 Lost NHL Second Round M. Yeo (43-27-12) Central Western
2007-08 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 44 28 10 98 .598 0.16 0.10 1st of 5 Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals J. Lemaire (44-28-10) Northwest Western
2002-03 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 42 29 10 1 95 .579 0.32 0.08 3rd of 5 Lost NHL Conference Finals J. Lemaire (42-29-10-1) Northwest Western
2012-13 NHL Minnesota Wild* 48 26 19 3 55 .573 -0.16 -0.05 2nd of 5 Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals M. Yeo (26-19-3) Northwest Western
2019-20 NHL Minnesota Wild* 69 35 27 7 77 .558 0.01 0.01 6th of 7 Lost NHL Qualifying Round B. Boudreau (27-23-7), D. Evason (8-4-0) Central Western
2008-09 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 40 33 9 89 .543 0.22 -0.02 3rd of 5 J. Lemaire (40-33-9) Northwest Western
2015-16 NHL Minnesota Wild* 82 38 33 11 87 .530 0.13 0.01 5th of 7 Lost NHL First Round M. Yeo (23-22-10), J. Torchetti (15-11-1) Central Western
2010-11 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 39 35 8 86 .524 -0.30 0.03 3rd of 5 T. Richards (39-35-8) Northwest Western
2009-10 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 38 36 8 84 .512 -0.26 0.07 4th of 5 T. Richards (38-36-8) Northwest Western
2005-06 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 38 36 8 84 .512 0.28 0.08 5th of 5 J. Lemaire (38-36-8) Northwest Western
2018-19 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 37 36 9 83 .506 -0.30 0.02 7th of 7 B. Boudreau (37-36-9) Central Western
2003-04 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 30 29 20 3 83 .506 0.08 0.02 5th of 5 J. Lemaire (30-29-20-3) Northwest Western
2011-12 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 35 36 11 81 .494 -0.58 0.02 4th of 5 M. Yeo (35-36-11) Northwest Western
2001-02 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 26 35 12 9 73 .445 -0.41 0.11 5th of 5 J. Lemaire (26-35-12-9) Northwest Western
2000-01 NHL Minnesota Wild 82 25 39 13 5 68 .415 -0.42 0.09 5th of 5 J. Lemaire (25-39-13-5) Northwest Western
Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2021.

The season Evason has had with the Wild should put him in the discussion with the likes of Joel Quenneville (Florida Panthers) and Rod Brind’Amour (Carolina Hurricanes) for head coach of the year.

Now comes the question: Can Evason help navigate the Wild through the playoffs?

Minnesota’s opponent in the playoffs has still yet to be determined, but we know that they will open up against Vegas or Colorado — most likely the Avs. That would be a high-intensity series, as the two teams already have a strong dislike for one another. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

While the Wild have been able to ride the coattails of Kaprizov’s Calder-worthy season and some incredibly strong goaltending, they still have flaws. The most notable one, the center position, is a complete liability on any given night.

A red-hot power play and that strong goaltending have kept the Wild in the win column recently even though Evason kept Victor Rask in the top six and given premium ice time to Nick Bonino.

How does this matter to the playoffs? It’s pretty simple: The Wild cannot afford subpar play down the middle. If the team is losing games and they can’t get decent play from Rask or Bonino, Evason must quickly put someone else — Joel Eriksson Ek, Nick Bjugstad, or even a call-up from Iowa or the taxi squad – in their place. They can get through the end of the regular season with this, but they will get beat in a seven-game series against the best teams in the league. He will have to make that call immediately. Hesitation will only hurt the Wild.

While the team and coaching staff is adamant that they will not rest players, they need to be able to try some new things and have contingencies for the playoffs should they need to make changes. It’s not just the center position. If there are goaltending struggles, don’t be afraid to make a quick switch. Alex Stalock did not impress in last summer’s play-in series against the Vancouver Canucks, but Evason had to stick with him for lack of a viable backup option.

Having two good goaltenders has helped the Wild in playoff series before, and who knows, it easily could again.

Praises should be cast upon Evason for what he’s done in the regular season. But now the time has come to shift the focus and begin judging him on the most important metric: Can he guide the Wild to their first playoff series win since 2015?

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