3 Questions with Hockey Wilderness

We crossed enemy lines to get the skinny on the Minnesota Wild from Tony Wisea of Hockey Wilderness.

Ahead of tonight's Conference III showdown with the Minnesota Wild, Tony Wiseau was gracious enough to answer some of our questions. Be sure to head over to Hockey Wilderness to check out all their awesome content, as well as their questions for us!

What's been more disappointing for Wild fans this season: Thomas Vanek or the combined efforts of the goaltenders?

To the fans? Thomas Vanek. As you probably know and/or have laughed at, the Wild's big Free Agent acquisition has only mustered 4 goals on the season. More worrisome is his shots - he only has 51 in 30 games, an absurdly low total for him, lower than 3 Wild defensemen, even. Add in the perpetual questions about work ethic, and a couple of highlight-reel defensive lapses, and he's been the #1 whipping boy for Wild fans this season.

But for me, personally? Maybe I'm just a contrarian (I do currently call myself "The Narrative Slayer" on Twitter), but I was never really all that worried about Vanek. I'm even less so now, as he's showing signs of life playing with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund (12 shots, 4 points in the last 5 games), and he is fourth on the Wild with 18 points. No, the biggest disappointment is absolutely the goaltending. I'm not usually a "confidence" guy, but to me, I can't figure another reason Darcy Kuemper could play so well last season, have nights where he looks completely amazing this year, and have a .906 save percentage. He's gotta get it together, because Niklas Backstrom isn't suited to being a starting goaltender. It's a shame, since even average goaltending would have put the Wild in the Top-5 in Goals Allowed.

That being said, Minnesota was a consensus pick to make the playoffs this year. What does the team need to do the rest of the way to ensure it gets there?

Honestly? Not a whole lot different from what they're doing. This is a good team that's clearly been hamstrung by awful goaltending. I think they'd be helped by bringing in a defender who can step into the Top-4 if needed, as the Wild's third-pairing is weak, a problem exacerbated by Mike Yeo being hesitant to play his best options (Mathew Dumba and Christian Folin) for... reasons? Shoring up that depth wouldn't be a bad idea. Also not a bad idea- Nino Niederreiter is the Wild's leading goal-scorer, but he plays only 14:19 a night for... reasons? In general, not underutilizing your best options is usually the best course of action.

But this team defends very well, is at least in the upper-half offensively, and has players in Vanek, Granlund, and Jason Pominville that you have to believe their best days are ahead of them. Especially Pominville, who is playing maybe the best offensive hockey in his career, and getting absolutely unrewarded for it. If this team can fix their goaltending just a little bit, it's gonna come around.

Every team usually has a GIF/video/article/inside joke that sometimes gets missed by the larger media. Which has been the Wild's best (or your favorite) candid moment(s)?

Remember how I was saying that Mike Yeo does some odd things for... reasons? We have a word for that at Hockey Wilderness: #YEOLO. I wish I could give credit to who came up with that, but it's escaping me right now. Regardless, it would make me laugh every time, if I wasn't so frustrated every time I've had to bust that hashtag out.

BONUS QUESTION - Who do you have in the "team next affected with the mumps" pool? My money's on Toronto.

To be honest, I don't think I like your pick, despite playing in Anaheim- the Mumps Capital of the World- recently. No, right now, I wouldn't want to be the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals right now. Both teams are slated to play the two most recent teams suffering Mumps outbreaks (Pittsburgh and New Jersey) in the next week. Particularly juicy would be Washington - can you imagine the Winter Classic being ruined because Alexander Ovechkin is out with mumps? I don't want to see anyone get sick, but you can't deny the sheer schadenfreude potential there.

(Editor's Note: Tony is now blocked on every front, and should never be permitted to think out loud again for saying such things ahead of me going back to DC for New Years.)

Not really. Thanks a ton to Tony and Hockey Wilderness!