As we move through this series, it’s pretty obvious that the Central Division is a tough division. We’ve already looked at three solid Stanley Cup contenders this week in the Predators, Blues, and Stars. Today we look at the Wild, a team that isn’t the cream of the Central crop, but could easily be top-three in the Atlantic Division. Here’s Joe Bouley to answer three questions for us.
1. It's seemed clear in recent years that the Wild need something more than they have on the roster, but salary cap troubles have hurt them. If they do decide they need more, who are they most likely to trade? Who would you like to see offloaded?
The organizational strength of the the Minnesota Wild lies within their defense corps. If any move is going to be made, it likely involves a defenseman. Meaning, the likes of Jonas Brodin, a stud stay-at-home defenseman, or Marco Scandella, a minute muncher and solid two-way defenseman, will likely be traded. Matt Dumba has been rumored, but the Wild would be incredibly daft if they traded him at this point in time.
2. What are you expecting from Eric Staal in this coming season?
It's funny how many people were criticizing the acquisition during the insanity that is NHL free agency, as most fans I interact with were pleased with the move. Fans mostly were pleased because of the term and dollar amount being incredibly reasonable, in a time of year when contracts are usually unreasonable. However, even with Staal's numbers taking a dip in the last two seasons, he's still been a monster possession-wise. Some may attribute the lack of talent and the different role he had in Raleigh and Manhattan for the lack of production, and the hope is that if he centers the top line with Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle, he can be on the right side of goals and assists, while driving possession at the top. If he can do that, I think all Wild fans will take it. If not, he was relatively cheap, and can be exposed in the expansion draft.
3. The Wild seem to be all-in for this coming season, near the salary cap, and with only four picks in the 2017 draft (two of them in the 7th round). What would be considered a successful season for this team?
You could argue the Wild have been all-in every year since they signed Parise and Ryan Suter. A team that was looking to build through the draft had its development suddenly accelerated on July 4th, 2012. The team has made the playoffs with mostly middling success - advancing to the second round twice in the last 4 playoff appearances.
The last 4 seasons of Minnesota Wild hockey has included an annual slide in the standings that included some absolutely god awful play on the ice. Sure, some correlated with untimely issues, or lackluster goaltending, but nonetheless, it happened every season. Boudreau will have a good season if the Wild can find consistency and get out of the wild card spot in the Central. A deep playoff run is necessary too, but a new season with a new coach, that deep playoff run could be forgiven. I emphasize "could" because it depends on the season in the end.