Q: Is the Wild deep enough at center?
A: Ask around the X, up and down 7th Street and from Ada to Zumbrota and the majority will tell you that the biggest problem offensively for the Wild last season wasn't lack of a finisher or power winger down low, but rather the inability of anyone to control the flow of the shift. Combine that with the absolutely abysmal faceoff percentage last season (especially in the playoffs), and you're looking at the number one are to improve immediately.
Judging by the number of centers in camp right now, I would say that this is the number one area of concern for Risebrough and Lemaire. In fact, when asked about the centers by Russo, Risebrough was actually quite open.
"Asked if he thinks the Wild is thin up the middle, Risebrough said: "Yeah, I do, but when I compare us to everybody else, I don't think we're thin. Yeah, we could be weak if we lose Koivu, but so would Colorado if they lost [Joe] Sakic, and how would Calgary look if they lost [Daymond] Langkow?
"But I do know, too, at the start of two seasons ago nobody knew what Koivu would become. We were hopeful. Two years later, he's at the top of the pile and everybody's touting him as one of the top young centers in the league.
"Now, I don't know if that isn't Sheppard and I don't know if that isn't Pouliot and I don't even know if that isn't Olvecky. And if somehow these guys catch fire, what are people going to say about our center position? You know what they're going to say? Those guys are set for years."
The biggest caveat is the fourth spot. Pouliot and Olvecky are the leading contenders. "Will it work? I don't know, but I know I'll never know unless I give them a chance," Risebrough said."
Now, where he and I differ is on the youth movement at center. Obviously Koivu is the number one guy, and is young. Then you have second year James Sheppard followed by draft picks. If that's the case, there are serious issues to be had centering lines 3 and 4 at the very least, and in the case of injury, absolutely no depth at all. If Pouliot and Olvecky are the other two options behind Eric Belanger (who really needs to play all season like the first half of last), then they are looking right down the barrel of a loaded gun.
With Morrison and Jokinen passing them by in the off-season, I can't exactly blame DR for going young, as the rest of the FA class was awfully thin and overpriced, but it's definitely a risky proposition. This will definitely be an ongoing story line this season.