All was hunky-dory Friday. Wild coach Mike Yeo liked what he saw on the ice the first day of training camp.
Of course, the elephant in the room will be waiting for Monday when the Wild begins working the power play.
Personnelwise and systematically, what changes are in store for the NHL’s 27th-ranked power play (15.8 percent) a season ago? At home, the Wild ranked 15th (19.6 percent). On the road, where the Wild was actually tremendous in the second half, it ranked 28th (11.1 percent).
Things actually started well. The Wild had the NHL’s best power play during the preseason and looked dynamite the first four games with two eight-shot power plays.
But the Wild went 0-for-October, scoring no power-play goals in the first nine games before ending an 0-for-28 streak Nov. 1. On the road, it also went the first nine games without a power-play goal, scoring for the first time Nov. 20 after an an 0-for-32 run.
“After we went 0-for-the-century, we all of a sudden started to force different plays and then we got it into our mind to shoot everything. So we were taking bad shots,” said Zach Parise, who led the Wild with 11 power-play goals. “It got in our head. So we have to start better, first of all.
“But when you’re [27th] in the league, things have to change. I do think there are things we can do to make the power play easier on ourselves. There are just better ways to do it.”
Yeo, assistant coach Andrew Brunette and the veterans, who had all been on successful power plays elsewhere, tried all season to get in sync. Frustration boiled over at times, with Parise, Ryan Suter and Thomas Vanek taking some public potshots late in the year.
Yeo has been mum on changes he might make. Parise and Suter, who led the Wild with 294 power-play minutes last season, would love the setup to come from the left side.
Suter says he plans to talk to the coaches about it. It would allow Suter to get one-timers off easier or set up teammates in the right circle. Monday, they worked privately on this with former NHL coach Adam Oates, something that initially wasn’t well-received by the Wild brass.
“I had been talking to Zach about that earlier in the summer, and when [Oates] came in last week, we worked on it,” Suter said. “I used to do that with [Phil] Kessel. He’d work that side so I could shoot one-timers. It just puts me in a better position.”
With Mikko Koivu, the Wild’s all-time leader with 178 power-play points, usually setting up from the right wall, Suter says he has to skate the puck to the middle to shoot or “it’s more of a passing situation.”
Suter registered one goal, 10 assists and 40 shots on the power play last season.
“I know I have to shoot more,” he said. “If I shoot the puck 20 percent more, that gives us 20 percent more opportunities to score goals. I think a lot of things we can do with the personnel that we have. I think we just have to get everyone in the right positions.”
General Manager Chuck Fletcher called the Wild’s power play last season “beyond bad,” but he agreed with the coaches not to change personnel on the power-play units during the second half.
“Do you start World War III with your top players on the power play when you’re winning every game anyway?” Fletcher said. “I don’t think you need to maybe disrupt the apple cart in the middle of a point in time where you’re winning every game to try to get in the playoffs.
“It was not the time to take your four or five highest-paid players off the first power play when they’re helping you win every game. At that point, I think it was the right decision. This year, there will be changes.”
Yeo has many options. Up front, there’s Parise, Koivu, Vanek, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter, but he’d love to get Jason Zucker, Justin Fontaine and Charlie Coyle some more time.
At the point, there’s Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin, but Yeo wants to see Mike Reilly and give Marco Scandella a sniff.
“With every player out there, there’s somebody that can’t be,” Yeo said. “Also, everybody has roles. We have to win the draw. Mikko does that. We have to get in the zone. Suts does that. I’m not going to all of a sudden strip them of that stuff. There are many parts that make a power play work.”
As Parise said: “The one thing I’ll say we did great was we broke in well. One of our strengths was capturing the zone. There’s not a better guy in the league that can carry the puck up the ice and put it flat on a guy’s tape every time than Ryan.
“That’s the stuff people don’t see. You’ve got to get into the zone.”
But with a big laugh, Parise said, “Then, you’ve got to score once in a while.”