I know we've had this discussion a lot over the past month on the Heatley/Setoguchi threads, but I wanted to focus all the opinions into one thread to get a solid idea of where the Wild should/will finish. Only Rule: NO HOMERS. Please provide some well thought out opinions, not "MINNESOTA STATE OF HOCKEY TAKING THE CUP PARISE IS THE MISSING PIECE" type sentiments. :)
Editor's note: ADN asks a great question. Where do you think the Wild finish next season. We have added a poll to the original post, but please leave your thoughts about why you voted the way you did in the comment section. With the addition of the Minnesota born players through the draft and signings, this is clearly the best team the Wild have ever had... right? ADN's thoughts after the jump.
I'll break the team down by basic positions, and examine some of the key players that need to be successful as well as some of the possible weak-links.
It's no secret that the Wild improved greatly in this area. Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, and Darroll Powe are the trio of newcomers the Wild are very excited about. Each player will shore up an area of weakness that the Wild of last year possessed. Heatley brings first line goal scoring talent, Setoguchi brings speed and a shoot first mentality, and Powe brings speed and a high intensity game.
Here is what I think the lines will look like:
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Mikko Koivu- Dany Heatley
Guillaume Latendresse - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Cal Clutterbuck
Eric Nystrom - Cody Almond - Colton Gillies (I'll admit that this line could be absolutely wrong come October)
Other possible inclusions: Brad Staubitz, Casey Wellman, Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters
When I typed those out, some questions come to mind. The second line looks great on paper, but can we expect true second line production? There have been question marks surrounding Lats all offseason, and he could really be the weak link of this line. His injury and conditioning issues have been a problem this past year, and all Wild fans should hope he returns to his 2009-2010 form. Cullen is all a bit of a question mark, although not to the extent of Lats. Cullen had a fantastic start to the season but really fizzled as the season wore on. Was that the product of his mediocre linemates? Did he get worn down? What really happened? Both players will be key to the Wild's success, and so they'll both need to perform on a high level.
The 3rd line looks pretty good to me. A great energy line with Brodziak anchoring the middle. This could be a huge line for the Wild's success.
The 4th line is also a bit of a question mark, but that's because this line will be really affected by training camp. Almond, Wellman, Gillies, and a slew of other Houston hopefuls will be looking to crack the lineup. Who does HW think will surprise the fanbase and make it onto the opening day roster?
The biggest area of concern for the Wild. With Burns' departure, there were worries that the Wild would be really weak on the back end. Lundin's signing was good news, and he's a great add to the defense, but there are still some issues that Lundin doesn't solve. Let's take a look at possible pairings:
The lack of puck-movers could be a theme again this upcoming season. Zids, Spurgeon, and Scandella are the Wild dmen with the most puck moving potential, and I think Lundin also has some skills in that area. That being said, this corps of defensemen are going to rely on their positioning to find success. Zanon, Schultz, Lundin, and Spurgeon all possess great positioning. This could be really positive, as good positioning will give a little bit more offensive freedom to the forwards. However, the Wild will need to find a bit of a mean-streak with one of their defensemen. Stoner, Falk, and Bagnall all have the size to be the players to throw their weight around, but all of them have inconsistencies in their physical and overall game. Defensive toughness, as well as puckmoving, will be areas the Wild will need to shore up for a successful season.
I think some key players here are Spurgeon, Scandella, and Stoner. Spurgeon just needs to have a repeat of last year. Everybody is pulling for him, and he'll be a big part of the Wild if he can continue his outstanding play. Scandella can be that true puck-mover that can cushion the blow of Burn's departure. And Stoner will have to bring the physicality this year, and he'll be counted on for that reason.
Ahhh, this is a relaxing subject. The Wild have great depth here, and this is a topic I don't really need to discuss much. Backstrom. Harding. Hackett. Kuemper. Endras. 'Nuff said.
So what can we take from this?
The Wild aren't looking too bad.
Defense is obviously the limiting factor, but how much will they hold the Wild back? In my opinion, if they can focus on smart positioning and overall responsible play, they won't set the Wild back much at all. Physicality could be a huge problem, but with strong coaching that problem can be fixed (to an extent).
Depth is also a bit of a concern, but there's a lot of promising Aeros that could fill the gaps very nicely if injuries arise (which they certainly will).
Dr. ADN's Diagnosis
The Wild will finish anywhere from 6th-10th in the West. There are too many variables with this team to be sure about the playoffs, but the talent and team structure is there to make a solid playoff team.
So after that long post, what do you all think? Where will the Wild finish, and why will they finish there?
Where will the Wild finish in 2011-12?
First in NW, third in conference (51 votes)
Forget the NW, 4-6 in conference (144 votes)
7-8 in conference (277 votes)
9-11 in conference (150 votes)
12-15 in conference (73 votes)
695 total votes