Last season – 8th in the Western Conference
GM – Chuck Fletcher
Fletcher has been hit & miss the last few years, and for this year he has overhauled the coaching-staff. Minnesota is a state who lives and breathe hockey, and the pressure on Fletcher and the team to perform is huge. With the hire of Boudreau, he has hired a proven winner in the regular-season, but the question is if he’s given him a group that can perform and get to the play-offs. While they did last year, they were eliminated in the first round.
Head Coach – Bruce Boudreau
Boudreau will be out to prove himself after being fired by Anaheim. He has proven to be a great regular-season coach, who gets teams into the play-offs, but he faces a big challenge in Minnesota. They have gone trough many coaches in the last few years, and the lockerroom has at times been divided. When it hasn’t been divided, it has united against the coach. His most important job at the beginning will be to get control of the lockerroom.
Eric Staal (C), Chris Stewart (RW), Teemu Pulkkinen (RW)
Thomas Vanek (LW – contract buyout)
The Wild have done very little this offseason. Acquiring a first line center on a decline and added depth on the wing is their only offseason moves outside re-signing Dumba, Kuemper and Zucker. Until they picked up Pulkkinen on waivers, and it’s going to be interesting to see where they will fit him in.
They also bought out Vanek who never seemed to fit in with the team. However, their possibly biggest and most interesting move, was to add a high energy coach behind the bench in Boudreau. Energy is something the Wild seemed to have lacked the last few years, and it’s their most interesting offseason signing.
Goaltending – 8/10
Dubnyk is a pretty good goaltender, and this area is definitely not a weakness for the Wild. Kuemper will be able to substitute and do an allright job, but of course they will be hoping that Dubnyk stays healthy. While he is not an elite goaltender, he is able to do his job and give Wild a good chance to win.
Defense – 8/10
Ryan Suter is a franchise-player. He is surrounded by good talent, and they will play a huge part in making Minnesota’s play-off hopes happen. The question is wether or not the potential will show up. This is especially the case for Jonas Brodin. Bruce Boudreau will most likely keep Brodin away from playing with Ryan Suter, considering what happened last year.
Suter – Spurgeon
Scandella – Brodin
Prosser – Dumba
Forwards – 8/10
Eric Staal will center the first line with Zach Parise and Owen Coyle. This is a solid, albeit unspectacular first line. Parise doesn’t quite seem to be the same player anymore, and might be heading into a steady decline in production. However, this could also be explained by injury-issues, but it’s a question-mark nevertheless. Eric Staal isn’t the same player anymore either. So it’s a quite allright line, but not a great line. Parise can be elite, he has to be elite for the offensive side to work.
On the scond line Koivu will provide steady play and great leadership. They will be reliable, and they will produce. The last two lines are ok, but there’s a point to be made to get more skill on the third line. Chris Stewart might be more suitable for a fourth-line role than the third line.
Parise – E. Staal – Coyle
Granlund – Koivu – Pominville
Niederreiter – Haula – Stewart
Zucker– Eriksson Ek – Pulkkinen
Team Composition – 7/10
They just lack that extra bit that turns an ok team into a good one. Even with the existence of elite players on the roster, there are glaring weaknesses which needs to be sorted for this team to be a contender. Maybe Bruce Boudreau can keep this team a play-off team in his first year, but it will take some skill.
Leadership presence – 6/10
Considering how this team fell apart last year and how discontent was rife, it’s difficult to give this a good grade. On paper Ryan Suter should be a good leader, but his statements in the press regarding having to play with Brodin suggests otherwise. You can definitely trust Mika Koivu in that regard, but as it stands, the core-group of players really has something to prove when it comes to their leadership.
Skill Value – 8/10
On paper, there is skill on the team. Suter is a great player, Koivu and Parise are highly skilled, and you never know if the old Eric Staal will show up. His stint in New York, as well as his last year in Carolina, might suggest otherwise.