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Wild fail to reach playoffs after injuries, struggles on home ice

Counting on young core, emergence of Spurgeon for better results next season

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Minnesota Wild failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.

The Wild (37-34-9) were eliminated from playoff contention after the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-2 on Tuesday.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2018-19 season for the Wild and why things could be better next season:

 

The Skinny

Potential UFAs: Eric Fehr, C; Matt Read, RW/LW; Brad Hunt, D; Anthony Bitetto, D

Potential RFAs: Ryan Donato, C; Joel Eriksson Ek, C; Kevin Fiala, LW; Pontus Aberg, LW 

Potential 2019 NHL Draft picks: 8

 

What went wrong

Injury bug: The Wild were dealt a huge blow when 35-year-old center and captain Mikko Koivu was ruled out for the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in a collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson on Feb. 5. At the time of his injury, Koivu was sixth on the Wild with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) and third among forwards in average ice time (18:18) in 48 games. Defenseman Matt Dumba, who scored six of his 12 goals on the power play and averaged 23:23 of ice time in 32 games, ruptured his right pectoralis muscle Dec. 15 and hasn't played since. Left wing Zach Parise, Minnesota's leading scorer, missed four games (March 23-31) with a lower-body injury during a critical point the season when the Wild were struggling for offensive production.

Home ice disadvantage: The Wild are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the fewest wins (16) and second-fewest goals (104) on home ice. That's quite a turnaround after finishing 27-6-8 and tied with the San Jose Sharks for 11th in goals scored (135) at home last season.

Offensive letdown: The Wild are 26th in goals per game (2.63) and goals scored (210). They have scored 14 goals (eight at even strength) in their past eight games (3-4-1). Four players have at least 14 goals (Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Jared Spurgeon). Seven scored at least 14 last season.

 

Reasons for optimism

Parise production: Parise returned to form with 61 points (28 goals, 33 assists) and 10 power-play goals after overcoming back surgery in October 2017 that limited him the past two seasons, when he averaged 17 goals and 33 points. It was the first time he had at least 59 points and eight power-play goals since 2014-15, when he had 62 points (33 goals, 29 assists) and 11 power-play goals.

Video: WPG@MIN: Parise pots loose puck for second goal

Bright future: The Wild acquired two 22-year-old forwards prior the NHL Trade Deadline: Ryan Donato from the Boston Bruins on Feb. 21 and Kevin Fiala from the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25. Donato has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 20 games with the Wild and leads all NHL rookies in scoring since Feb. 21. Rookie forwards Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin played significant roles down the stretch and the Wild signed college free agent forward Nico Sturm (Clarkson, ECAC) to a one-year, entry-level contract April 1, and goalie Mat Robson (Minnesota, Big Ten) to a two-year, entry-level contract March 18. Sturm is a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in NCAA Division I men's hockey.

Surging Spurgeon: He set NHL career highs in goals (14), assists (29), points (43), shots on goal (148) and games played (80) during his ninth season with the Wild. Spurgeon is the Wild's all-time leader in goals scored (70) by a defenseman and tied for first in game-winning goals (13) and power-play goals (26) with Brent Burns (2003-11).

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