We at hockeyfreeforall.com (@hockeyfree4all) are wild about the prospects for the Wild in 2016. Even though Minnesota has not been particularly active in the free agency market, they did not need to be. They have already been constructed with exceptional balance relative the rest of the NHL. Like management, we also do not see many places this off season where they could have brought in many, if any, free agents that could meaningfully upgrade the present roster. How did we determine this?
According to the Advanced Bracton Score (AB), MIN scores among the best in the NHL at a projected +19.81 and could even be as high as first in the Western Conference next season depending on how final depth charts develop. Therefore, the best days for the Wild are likely ahead of them. Additionally, we also believe that MIN would likely have advanced further in the playoffs last year, possibly to the conference finals, had it not been for an undesirable draw in the second round with CHI. Here’s why.
As stated above, MIN has unusual overall balance for NHL teams. It has two players who score in the upper quintile of net penalty margin (Pominville and Zucker) offset by only three players who produced slightly negative results last year (Scandella, Koivu and Vanek). Everyone else posted relatively neutral figures (which we assure you is NOT the case in the rest of the league). As such Mr. Fletcher appears to have done an admirable job at constructing the wild with bona fide hockey talent and character. This has, and will, translate into future success, in our opinion.
Additionally, MIN has eight (!) players who score within the upper quarter of the Advanced Bracton score, including Parise and Granlund (great signing) as standouts. While our model does not quantify the effect of coaching systems in determining the AB scores, we are confident that teams with chemistry at this level are unique assets. Hockeyfreeforall.com projects MIN to have a +19.81 AB for the upcoming season. That’s good.
As we have opined here, the largely negative AB moves made by CHI, ANA and CGY in the offseason, catapult MIN to the top spot in AB for 2016 in the western conference. As a result, the Wild in our view have statistically the best chance of winning the conference (but likely not the Stanley Cup) in the upcoming season.
We wish to qualify our remarks with a couple caveats. First, while the signing of Devan Dubnyk appears generous, if his run last season was not fluky, he is obviously a key. Even if he approximates his half season results, the Wild are backstopped in net. For as good as Dubnyk was however, he did not do it alone. Another facet of MIN’s road to greatness is their defense. The Wild have 5 positive AB defenseman in 2014-15. This is five more than many teams in the NHL and the reason why MIN could be the team to beat in the West. Brodin, Dumba, Spurgeon, Folin and Suter are the basis of the highest rated defensive AB in the NHL. A continuation of this back end dominance makes the Wild quite formidable. Dubnyk punctuates this.
Speaking of windfalls, MIN could actually improve its outlook if Thomas Vanek can get his off-ice act together and translate that into at least stability in the statistics we track. According to AB, Vanek actually cost the Wild 4 points last year (and is the only troublesome minus AB player remaining on the team, which is amazing balance). If Vanek regains his former game, his contribution to AB would make MIN even more dangerous. Lastly we should also note that MIN did well to shed themselves of Chris Stewart and Kyle Brodziak. These departures result in the “addition by subtraction” of another 6 AB points.
Bottom line – the Wild have not been particularly active in the offseason, we believe they are so well constructed already as to be difficult to improve. The team is quite unusual statistically according to our metric of assessing both player and team success. The upcoming season could be banner for MIN, especially if the caveats we outlined are mitigated and possibly improved.
Footnote – articles touting numerical approaches to sports can be great conversation pieces, but can admittedly be very dry. I wanted to leave you with another reason why we are Wild about the Wild; the plethora of great fantasy hockey names one can derive from guys on this team. As we pointed out, the Wild not only are among the forerunners of our AB score, but are off the charts in hockeyfreeforall.com ‘s list of great fantasy names; consider (and feel free to add).
Parise in the springtime
Marco and the Scandellas
Ain’t no Haula Back Girl
Backstrom to the future
Fontaine of Youth
Coyle and Strike
Leopolds never change spots
And of course……Vanek Depression.