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Which Wild Player Is The Most Irreplaceable?

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The injury virus bit the Minnesota Wild hard in December. Wild fans have seen Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon miss games due to illness or injury. Joel Eriksson Ek left last Monday’s loss to the Dallas Stars in a sling. Brodin tested positive for COVID this week. Freddy Gaudreau was also on the COVID-19 protocol list in December. Jordan Greenway was assaulted last week. Even the hopefuls did not avoid running out of time, including Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi.

The bad news isn’t just that the Wild have suffered a string of injuries. It is that these injuries have almost targeted the vulnerable points of nature. Dumba, Brodin, Spurgeon, and Eriksson Ek are some of Minnesota’s biggest contributors. The Wild prospects were deprived of valuable playing time to prove they can play in the NHL right now. And it’s no surprise that Minnesota’s momentum stopped once those injuries started to worsen.

But the Wild seem to have averted a real disaster. Brodin may not miss a game of his COVID fight (which is good if Brodin is really at low risk of spreading the virus after five games, which is his own discussion). General manager Bill Guerin told media Thursday morning that Spurgeon and Eriksson Ek would come back in about two weeks.

These six weeks of injury hell raise an interesting question, perhaps one that will be answered soon. Which Wild can the team absolutely not do without? Let’s take a quick look at four candidates.

Jonas Brodin

Wild fans have long known how good Brodin is, but this year that admiration has risen to 11. Now people really know how good it is. After getting Ryan Suter’s second bill on Minnesota left defense for years, Brodin now fills a Suter-ian role.

Brodin leads the Wild with 23:35 minutes per night, especially playing the most difficult games and the most important defensive situations. You can maybe tell he slipped a bit because of that increase, but Brodin still ranks in the top 25 with two expected 5v5 goals and evolving hockey goals above substitution for one. equal defense.

He doesn’t just bring defense to the table anymore, however. We see a Brodin leaping into the game more than ever. The Wild are rewarded for this with half a point per game from him, a career high. And he’s rewarded with more power play time, with Minnesota scoring about eight goals per hour with Brodin on the men’s advantage.

For the record, it looks like things tend to fall apart for the Wild without him. Their four-game losing streak coincides quite well with Brodin’s health in question. Losing him in the opening minutes of Game 7 to the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t help much either.

Joel Eriksson Ek

Without a Siberian sniper who eclipsed him, 2021 would be remembered as the year of Eriksson Ek. Earlier this year, he scored 24 goals in his 210-game career. In the past 12 months, he has accumulated 32 goals and 53 points in 91 games (including the playoffs).

This breakthrough was built on a solid foundation: the defense of Eriksson Ek. Like Brodin, Eriksson Ek is expected to play the most difficult minutes and completely neutralize the opposing best forwards. He does, and Minnesota beat their opponents 55-38 with him on the ice evenly in 2021.

Few players control the front of the net on both sides of the ice like Eriksson Ek does. He parks ahead in attack, looking for rebounds, tips, deflections and penalty opportunities. On defense, he stops this as completely as Mikko Koivu at the time.

And, of course, Minnesota may have less depth in the middle (at least, for high-end skilled players like Eriksson Ek) than anywhere else. Unless they call on Marco Rossi, their choices are to put the Freddy Gaudreau and Nico Sturms out of the world. Good defensive players, but there’s a reason Evason relies a lot more on Eriksson Ek.

Kirill Kaprizov

Minnesota has spent years having strong pieces but no superstar to tie things together. That is, until the arrival of Kaprizov.

Last year, Kaprizov rewrote the Wild’s rookie record book, setting franchise highs for goals (27) and points (51) in just 55 games. He won the Calder Trophy almost unanimously and finished 15th in the Hart Trophy vote for league MVP.

And he has arguably been better this year. With a pace of 98.4 points, Kaprizov looks destined to be the first Wild player to cross the 90 point mark and has a chance to eclipse the mark of the century. He is perhaps the most talented player in the history of the Wild. If he’s not, he’s definitely second.

Minnesota are yet to (touching wood as hard as they can) face the prospect of playing without Kaprizov, so we have no idea what it is. Well, except for all those years when Minnesota had a strong team, but nobody like Kaprizov. How did these unfold?

Jared spurgeon

Spurgeon could fall into the race here for reasons of timing and recency bias. The Wild have already played a stretch without Spurgeon, and Minnesota have had seven straight wins during that time. So it looks like it’s replaceable, right?

Barely. The Wild have been unusually poor defensively since that November 20 injury. They rank in the bottom 10 in virtually every defensive category: shots allowed, shot attempts allowed, expected goals allowed. Strong goalies (0.927 to 5 to 5) masked many of the flaws revealed by Spurgeon’s absence.

Brodin and Matt Dumba may be the Wild’s first couple now. But Minnesota is built on having two pairs of star tusks that eat more than 20 minutes a night. When Spurgeon is in the lineup, they have that.

Everyone stretches when they don’t have it (or Brodin or Dumba). Brodin and Dumba play 25 to 27 minutes per night. Alex Goligoski must carry the load alongside Jon Merrill, who is suitable for a third pair role. Dmitry Kulikov plays with Jordie Benn, which makes him a less effective pair than with Merrill.

There just isn’t an easy way to replace the Wild captain and leader on the blue line. Minnesota need to make sure he is in good health before he returns as they will badly need him down the stretch.

Now that we’ve covered the cases, it’s time for you to vote:

[Twitter Poll]

All data from Evolving Hockey, unless otherwise stated.

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