After reading 25 or 30 season previews for the Wild, it is clear no one is giving this team much of a chance.Some say they are unimproved, others say they are worse. No one thinks Mikko Koivu is center enough for Dany Heatley, and everyone seems to think the Wild defensive corps is the worst in the league. All of this adds up to 25 to30 people who have watched a grand total of 25 to 30 Wild games in ten years, and not a one seems to have much of a clue.
Are the Wild a perfect team, ready to compete for the Stanley Cup? That's unlikely, but they are improved from last season, and should make a push for the playoffs. Don't think they can do it? That's fine, you weren't going to watch them anyway.
After the jump, our look at the team as a whole.Everyone sees the question that defines this team as the blue line. The real question is: How much change can one organization take?New coach, new players, new system. Again. Not that the old system, players, or coach were working out, but there has been a great deal of flux in this organization over the past three years. Is this the year it finally clicks and everyone settles into the roles they were hired to play?
The top line has top line talent for the first time in years. The second line can take some of the heat off in times of need. The third line looks to have the talent to check the top names in the league, and the fourth line is... well, the fourth line.
Prospects are developing and stepping into roles. Goalies are in place with elite talent. There is a coach will the will and drive to succeed, no matter what level of talent he is given.There is a defense returning five starters, and looking to add a stable pro in Mike Lundin and possibly a break out year for Jared Spurgeon or Marco Scandella.
Still, no one wants to give them a chance. The over under for points by the bookmakers is 82.5. That is fewer than they had last year. Puck Daddy says "at or near the bottom of the league." NHL.com still hasn't figured out Pierre-Marc Bouchard isn't a center. The other previews fall somewhere in between with varying degrees of ability to actually get the facts about the team correct.
No matter what happens, one thing is clear. The Wild are still not at the level they want to be at, and the only thing that will change that is to have a break out year. This could be that year.
Question to Answer
Have the Wild done enough to be a playoff team? Why or why not?
Elise: With the additions and coaching of Mike Yeo, I think the Wild might be able to sneak into the playoffs or at least be close. Obviously some of it will come down to injuries and "buying into the system" blah blah blah, but the team is definitely improved over last season and has the weapons to cause some damage if it all comes together.
JS: Out of all the multiple questions about the Wild this offseason, this is, by far, the toughest question to answer for one reason, which is the same it's been for the last 3 years: Too many ''ifs''. The Wild will make the playoffs IF Heatley and Setoguchi score as many goals as we know they are able to. They'll make the playoffs IF Latendresse bounces back and is the real deal. They'll make the playoffs IF the low amount of experience on the blueline doesn't affect the actual on-ice product badly. They'll miss the playoffs IF injuries ravage the Wild once again. They'll miss the playoffs IF the young d-men can't handle a full season of NHL action. They'll miss the playoffs IF Backstrom doesn't stand on his head often enough.
I do believe, based on what I've seen from this team last year, especially the defense, that the Wild have the potential to reach the playoffs. Many people believe Heatley will falter, but they forget that he was playing injured last season and had to share the offense with many other capable scorers. This time around, assuming his injury woes have left him, he and Setoguchi will be sharing silver platter opportunities dished out by Mikko Koivu, who is a much better playmaker than people think. Like I said, Koivu had as many as 49 assists playing with less than overwhelming linemates. IF all goes relatively well, watch out NHL.
Bryan: Damn right they have. For three years, the Wild have been missing one thing: shooters. They have them now, but did take a hit on defense to get them. They need the defensive prospects to be as good as they have said to have been, and to step up now. The offense will be there, the checking forwards are there, the goaltending is there. The defense needs to prove the naysayers wrong and come up big. But yes, this is a playoff team. A Cup contender? No.
Prediction of the Day
Where do the Wild end up in the standings?
Elise: I'm going to err on the side of doubt and go with 10th in the West. .
JS: Based on what the other teams have done this summer and supposing injuries don't play too big role, I'm pegging the Wild as the 7th seed in the West.
Bryan: I have been saying between 6 and 9 in the West, and I am sticking with it. A win or loss one way or the other in March could make the difference.