5 reasons the Wild didn't make the playoffs

It wasn't a great year for the State of Hockey.
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The Wild won't be making the playoffs this season for the first time since 2012. The final nail in the coffin was pounded in by the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night, making the final two games of the season utterly meaningless outside of positioning for Tuesday's draft lottery. 

Here are five reasons why the Wild let down the State of Hockey this season. 

Home woes

The Xcel Energy Center used to be known as one of the best home-ice advantages in the league. However, that was not the case this season as Minnesota has posted a sub-.500 season in St. Paul

  • 2018-19: 16-17-7
  • 2017-18: 27-6-8
  • 2016-17: 27-12-2

Minnesota actually played pretty decent on the road this season going 21-17-2. 

Let's say the Wild won seven games that they lost on home ice. That would've given them 14 more points and they'd have 97 points right now, which would be the most in the central division.

So basically if the Wild had a typical season at home they'd win the division and would be hosting a first-round playoff series. 

Dubnyk's regression

Yes, Devan Dubnyk made the All-Star Game this season but he had his worst statistical season since coming to Minnesota.

The following statistics were all career-lows for Dubnyk in a Wild sweater.

  • 28 losses
  • .913 save percentage
  • 2.54 goals-against average 
  • 2 shutouts

At one point, Dubnyk was the worst goaltender in the league when it came to goals saved above average. The numbers showed Dubnyk was performing worse than a league-average goalie would perform in the same situations.

I do give him a bit of a pass because he's played more minutes than any other goaltender in the league this season, and it also didn't help that Alex Stalock isn't the most reliable backup goalie; but Dubnyk didn't perform to the level he's capable of. 

To put it bluntly, Dubnyk regressed and there really no way to argue it. 

Dumba's injury

Defenseman Matt Dumba was in the middle of a breakout season before he went down with a season-ending pectoral injury on Dec. 15. 

In 32 games before his injury, Dumba was pacing all defenseman with 12 goals; six of them coming via the power play.

He was on pace for more than 30 goals. Even though he would've likely slowed his goal-scoring pace, Dumba was entering the same territory as Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson from an offensive perspective. That's elite level for D-men. 

After Dumba's injury, Minnesota's power play was never the same. From Dec. 15, Minnesota converted just 17 percent of its power-play opportunities.

The good news is Dumba's inked to a five-year deal, so he's under contract for four more seasons. Hopefully he picks up where he left off when he's back on the ice next season. 

Niederreiter trade

General manager Paul Fenton made a flurry of trades in 2019, shipping off Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, and reportedly came close to trading Jason Zucker. 

But the Niederreiter trade was by far the most detrimental, in my opinion. 

Not only has the Swiss forward flourished in Carolina, but the return piece of Victor Rask has been a gigantic disappointment.  

In 21 games, Rask has 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist). In other words, he has one more point than backup goalie Alex Stalock, who has two assists this season.

Also, Rasks' $4 million cap hit is on the books for three more seasons.

It's unlikely the Wild would buy him out with three years remaining on his contract, but Minnesota has to get something out of Rask in 2019-20.

Still no superstar 

Zach Parise, Jason Zucker and even the newly acquired Ryan Donato are nice players.

Parise is a hard-nosed veteran who put up 60+ points for first time since 2015 but he's entering his age 35 season next year.

Zucker has speed that this team desperately needs and he scored 20+ goals for the fourth time in five seasons, but he's a streaky player who can disappear for long stretches.

Donato has been an awesome addition to the Wild since coming over in the Coyle trade with the Bruins. He shoots the puck and can put up points – 16 in 20 games – but he has just four goals to show for it.

It sounds like a broken record, but the Wild lack a superstar. Minnesota needs a Jack Eichel, Patrick Laine, Elias Pettersson, Auston Matthews, etc. Those players don't grow on trees but you can find them by acquiring draft picks or picking high in the lottery. 

Because the Wild will miss the playoffs, they will be in the draft lottery for the first time since 2012 – when they selected Matt Dumba. According to Tankathon, the Wild has an 8.2% chance to land a top-three pick in Tuesday's lottery. 

Eleven other teams have better odds than the Wild but crazy things can happen. The Carolina Hurricanes were awarded the No. 2 overall pick in a similar situation last year.

Probably the most realistic future star the Wild will have is when Kirill Kaprizov arrives from the KHL in Russia, which should happen the year after next. 

With Fenton not afraid to make trades, this summer will be very interesting for the Wild. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see more core players traded and even seeing Fenton get active in free agency to help vault the Wild back into the postseason discussion. 

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