Does the Minnesota Wild Need to Change Their Gameplan?

By Bob Spencer
Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Wild stressed the dump-and-chase game extensively in 2011-12. When they were on top of the NHL standings, they gained national attention for their impressive forechecking and pressure in the opponents’ defensive zone. However, with the recent changes to their roster, I am wondering if this strategy will be less effective than a straightforward attack.

Last December when the Wild made their unexpected climb to the top of the standings, Guillaume Latendresse was still healthy and Cal Clutterbuck was getting top-six minutes. Now Latendresse has moved on to Ottowa, and there is no room for Clutterbuck in the top two lines. The Wild’s top line will be Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley, and head coach Mike Yeo has indicated that he will start a second line of Mikael Granlund, Matt Cullen, and Devin Setoguchi. With the exception of Setoguchi, those players aren’t known for their physical play but for their speed and passing. Parise is known as a great two-way player but I don’t see him playing an effective dump-and-chase game for the Wild.

Let me rephrase that–I think that with the combinations listed above, and the addition of Ryan Suter, the Wild’s strength will be transitioning from defense to offense and scoring on the rush. Koivu, Heatley, and Parise are too talented to send in to the corners repeatedly to try to dig out pucks. I think they would be much better used attacking the blue line and making use of a quick-strike offense. Plus, with the high level two-way game of Koivu and Parise, to send them deep in the zone on a dump-in might hinder their ability to showcase their 200-foot abilities.

The Wild still have great forecheckers in Kyle Brodziak, Clutterbuck, and even Darroll Powe. I see them on the third line, possibly with Pierre-Marc Bouchard, where they could effectively wear down the opponents. Obviously, I am not arguing that the Wild should NEVER go for a dump and chase, but I think with their much improved roster, they should shift from a strategy that relies on the forecheck to one that utilizes the great playmaking abilities of Koivu, the finishing potential of Heatley, and the all-around game of Parise.

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