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Zulgad’s Roundup: Was Dean Evason sending a not-so-subtle message after Wild beat Islanders?

NHL: Preseason-Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild
Oct 4, 2021; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason looks on during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild put together a nice tribute video to Zach Parise that they showed in the first period Sunday night as the veteran winger made his return to the Xcel Energy Center with the New York Islanders. Parise, who along with defenseman Ryan Suter was bought out in July following nine seasons in Minnesota, received a nice ovation from the crowd of 15,547.

But it was after the Wild’s come-from-behind 5-2 victory over the Islanders — which put Minnesota at 8-3-0 and in first place in the Central Division — that coach Dean Evason sent a clear message about how different this team is from the Wild teams that rarely seemed to have any chemistry with Parise and Suter in the locker room.

“Everybody feels part of it,” Evason said. “We talked a lot about trusting our teammates. The nice thing is one guy steps up, or a line steps up one night, your so-called top line doesn’t get upset like, ‘Why didn’t I get the points?’

“Who cares about points? We get two points, and that’s what our group cares about. They’re not worried about their individual stats. They’re just as happy as the other group, the other line, the other D pair, whatever it may be on that given might. It’s nice to get a good team feel.”

Evason is correct in his early-season assessment that everyone is expected to contribute to the team and there appear to be no locker room lawyers. But it was interesting that as he made this point, Parise was dressing a few rooms down in the visitor’s locker room.

It will be interesting to see what Evason has to say — without naming names — if the Wild can beat Suter and the Dallas Stars on Nov. 18 at the X.

  • The win over the Islanders marked the first time this season Minnesota had beaten a team by more than one goal and that only came because the Wild’s final two tallies were into empty nets. The impressive things is the Wild have played four overtime games this season, winning three in the extra session and one in a shootout. The three-on-three wins are a result of the fact that this team now has speed and isn’t forced to play slower veterans who demand ice time.
  • You have to wonder if Mason Cole will take over permanently as the Vikings’ starting center for the struggling Garrett Bradbury after Bradbury missed Sunday’s loss at Baltimore because of COVID-19? Cole, acquired from Arizona during the offseason, had a 74.6 grade from Pro Football Focus. That’s a higher grade than Bradbury has posted in any of his past 14 games. In fact, he has had a score of 74.6 or higher only four times in 41 career games with the Vikings. Bradbury is a former first-round pick but at some point the Vikings simply have to play the better option.
  • Since catching eight passes for 80 yards on 14 targets in a victory over Carolina, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been targeted nine times and has five receptions for 90 yards in back-to-back losses to Dallas and Baltimore. Adam Thielen caught 11 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets against the Panthers, but has only eight catches on 16 targets for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games. That includes a 6-yard receiving day against the Ravens. Tight end Tyler Conklin, meanwhile, has 10 catches on 14 targets for 102 yards in the past two games. The amazing thing is the Vikings had their bye after the Panthers win.
  • The Vikings are scheduled to be on the hook for a $45 million salary cap hit on Kirk Cousins’ contract for 2022. If they were cut to Cousins with or without a pre-June 1 designation, they would absorb $45 million in dead money, so that’s not going to happen. However, trading Cousins would mean only a $10 million dead cap hit and a savings of $35 million.
  • Reckless Speculation: The disappointing San Francisco 49ers fire coach Kyle Shanahan after the season and the Vikings hire him to replace Mike Zimmer and then give Cousins an extension to lower his salary-cap hit and reunite him with the coach who always wanted Kirk as his quarterback. Not saying I endorse this, but it’s just a thought that was discussed during Alex Boone’s appearance Tuesday on Purple Daily.
  • The good news for the Vikings’ offensive line is that first-round left tackle Christian Darrisaw’s rookie season is off to an excellent start. He has given up only four pressures on 135 pass blocking snaps, according to PFF. That’s the lowest pressure rate allowed among all rookie tackles. Darrisaw has started three of the five games in which he has played since returning from injury.
  • Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez and Laura Okmin will call the Vikings-Chargers game for FOX on Sunday.
  • The Twins’ decision to hire Jayce Tingler as their bench coach is an interesting one, considering that Tingler was manager of the San Diego Padres for two seasons before being fired on Oct. 6. Tingler should provide manager Rocco Baldelli with some necessary in-game expertise, but if the Twins get off to another bad start there almost certainly will be rumblings about the fact Baldelli’s potential successor is sitting beside him. Of course, that is assuming the 2022 season starts and there isn’t a work stoppage. Tingler led the Padres into the expanded postseason in 2020, but San Diego fell apart in 2021. The Padres were 67-49 on Aug. 10 but finished 79-83.
  • The Iowa Hawkeyes, who will play host to the Gophers on Saturday afternoon in Iowa City, are last in the Big Ten in total offense. Iowa is averaging 299.2 yards per game and is 10th in scoring offense (24.4 points). The Gophers are third in total defense (298.9), one spot ahead of Iowa (304.6 yards). Redshirt sophomore Alex Padilla is expected to start at quarterback for Iowa after coming off the bench to lead a 17-12 victory last Saturday at Northwestern. Spencer Petras, who has been the Hawkeyes quarterback, was lifted from the Northwestern game because of an injury to his throwing (right) shoulder that he suffered Oct. 30 against Wisconsin.
  • Iowa (7-2) was once ranked as high as second in the Associated Press poll but has fallen to 19th.
  • Former Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio had a career-high 37 points in the Cavaliers’ 126-109 victory over the Knicks on Sunday night, helping Cleveland improve to 7-4. The 31-year-old is averaging 13.7 points and 6.8 assists in 11 games this season.