With a little lull in the schedule before the Wild resumes action this weekend, I thought it’d be a great time to answer your questions.
The response was great; thank you to everyone who tweeted me their thoughts. You can find me on Twitter @sarah__mclellan. (Yes, that’s two underscores!)
From @adamsteinhouse: Do you think the #mnwild will try and dramatically reshape the club next year if this year ends early again?
I’m not sure a drastic overhaul is possible. With the core, headlined by the long-term commitments to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, established, there isn’t a ton of flexibility. Sure, there’s room to make changes – and turnover seems to happen every offseason. But I’m not sure how the team would engineer a sweeping makeover with the contracts on the books beyond this season.
From @TomHMinor: What options or fixes can be done defensively to help prevent or at least lessen the pressure on Dubnyk & or Stalock? So they are not left hung out to dry so many times during a game #mnwild #mailbag
Slowing a team down and limiting its odd-man rushes should help cut down on quality chances-against. To do this, puck possession is key. Managing the puck well certainly prevents the opposition from even thinking of going on the offensive, since it’s playing defense trying to win it back. Positioning is also important to avoid getting vulnerable and therefore giving up Grade-A looks. This ensures the Wild has the appropriate layers of support, and no one’s in the wrong spot to create an opening the other team can exploit.
From @Sheep_dogged: How much faith do you think Boudreau has in Matt Dumba?
Dumba is poised to take on more minutes with Jared Spurgeon sidelined with a partial tear of his right hamstring, and I think the opportunity is completely warranted. This has been a solid season for Dumba; he’s already surpassed his previous career highs for assists (28) and points (38) and at 10 goals, he's only one shy of tying that record. But more than helping create offense, I think his growth in his own zone has been clear. Defending isn’t easy, and it can take time to figure out how to strike the balance of being smart in the defensive zone while also finding pockets to jump up into the play. I think Dumba is gaining more experience with that, and it’s benefiting the Wild.
From @VenitVirginia: Should the Wild maybe have considered getting some goaltending help at the trade deadline? Seems that Bruce is not very happy at times with either goaltender.
I don’t think so. Devan Dubnyk is the No.1, and Alex Stalock has done a steady job as his understudy. Stalock’s last appearance in Arizona March 1 wasn’t his best, but his overall body of work has hit the standards of a reliable backup to me.
From @captainlander: Nino's game doesn't seem to be as fierce as i can remember. What's your take on Nino's game? What can we expect of him down the stretch & (hopefully) in the playoffs?
Niederreiter has acknowledged that he won't be completely healthy until next season after dealing with a ankle sprain and fractured fibula. Talking to him, it sounds like the biggest hurdle to clear when an issue like that lingers is just trusting his body will hold up. But I think he’s looking more like his old self in recent weeks; he’s had jump in his skating, and I think that’s an encouraging sign that Niederreiter is involved and has a chance to create offense. His game is predicated on using his legs, going to high-traffic areas and bulldozing his way to opportunities. I’d expect him to try to play that way as the season progresses.
From @bielsubob: With the 4 forward lines starting to gel, is there any indication from Boudreau that he's done with juggling?
I think tweaks are still possible. After losses or when it looks like the offense is going stale, I’d expect Boudreau to continue to tinker to try to find a combination that works.
From @Jnkristin1: Do you agree that this team stats are “surprising” to a lot of fans because of the really bad losses to bad teams? Every time I hear how #mnwild are top 5 in scoring, Home record pt streak whatever it is it feels shocking
What’s been most surprising to me is that the Wild hasn’t had more to show for its successes this season. For a team that has the second-most points in the Western Conference in 2018 and is fifth in the NHL in wins (34) and tied for fifth in points (73) since Nov. 9, it doesn't have any breathing room to show for that efficiency; it’s still battling to secure an invite to the postseason. That’s indicative of the parity in the West, but it sure can be startling to see just how slim the margin of error is.
From @theboust: What has been the biggest adjustment moving to Mn from Arizona
Getting used to the snow! The cold hasn’t bothered me, but driving through the snow has been a challenge. I think I’m slowly getting better, though!