Despite a 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Minnesota Wild clinched its fifth consecutive playoff appearance on Sunday thanks to a loss by the Los Angeles Kings. The Wild have been falling like a hockey player in figure skates, losing nine of their last 11 games and allowing the Blackhawks to run away with the top seed in the Western Conference.
Minnesota has been a wildly different team since the acquisitions of giant center Martin Hanzal and right-handed forward Ryan White from Arizona. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher added Hanzal and White to get physical with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the playoffs, but a scoring slump has the Wild reeling. Since the trade the Wild have managed to win just five of 17 games.
While Hanzal has scored twice in his last 14 games, and White has put up a goose egg in the last 12, they aren’t the only ones struggling. In fact, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t. Chris Stewart has just two goals in his last 27 games. Charlie Coyle has four goals in his last 38 games. Erik Haula has just one goal in 19 games, Jared Spurgeon has scored twice in 23 games, and Jason Pominville also has just two goals in 21 games.
It gets worse. Jonas Brodin hasn’t scored in 32 games. Miko Koivu has just two goals in 24 games. Nino Niederreiter has scored once in 21 games. Ryan Suter has one goal in his last 29 games. Zach Parise has two goals in his last 13 games.
The only player that seems to be contributing consistently wasn’t even on the roster last year. Fletcher’s big, free agent acquisition, Eric Staal, has carried the team with 10 goals in March and has improved his +/- from -3 last year to +11 this season. But with everyone missing the net, that weight has gotten too heavy for Staal to carry. When you need an unassisted goal from a guy who hasn’t scored since 2015, things aren’t going well.
With six regular season games remaining and a seven-point lead over the Predators in the Central Division, the Wild are likely to host Nashville in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which might be better than if they’d won the Central Division. The St. Louis Blues have been on a familiar hot streak, winning 10 of their last 12 games under former Wild head coach Mike Yeo.
Given the deadline deal for Hanzal and White, another first-round exit in the playoffs will surely seal Fletcher’s fate. And while Bruce Boudreau has been historically mediocre in the playoffs (41-39, 1-7 in game sevens), his job should be secure. After all, it’s not his fault he’s had to rebuild a team that was never broken. He wasn’t even in the room when the trade was made.