With the return of the NHL, it is likely helpful to take a few steps backwards and take a look at just what exactly the Wild tool chest holds. With the season previews starting to roll out, and the advanced stats crowd already predicting the Wild to finish somewhere in the bottom 10 of the league, it's time to jump in and get out feet wet.
We'll take a look at each position, gauge relative strength or weakness, and make a handful of predictions about what we think might happen. All standard fare.
Today, we look at right wing.
The big move the Wild made last season will likely get a pretty good chance with one of the big moves the Wild made this season. Heatley is the prime candidate to start on the top line alone side Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. If Heately can find the speed to keep up, he will get some good looks. If he can't, it may be necessary to drop him to the second line and try some other pairings, such as Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Devin Setoguchi. There is a very real possibly this is Heatley's last chance to find lightning in a bottle.
Can he do it?
Setoguchi has been wholly disappointing since coming over from San Jose. His season was summed up in a single shootout attempt, falling on his face in front of Carey Price to cost the Wild a chance to keep playing. There have been plenty of excuses bandied about, but the time for excuses is over. Put up or shut up is all that will matter in a shortened season.
The fact that Setoguchi is relatively cheap is keeping him in the lineup, but don't count on the prospects "behind" Setoguchi to stay there for long. He'll have to work his tail off to stick around.
Yet another player on the Wild listed as a center who will rarely play the position. Mitchell was brought in for third line / fourth line duties, in a shut down / minor offensive role. How he gels with Kyle Brodziak / Zenon Konopka will be a big part in determining if the Wild can have success this year or not. We have been told he is faster than a grandma with a cheetah strapped to her back, so that's a good sign.
It will be interesting to see if the Wild can finally put together a bottom six that can take defensive pressure off the top six. We'll be over here, not holding our breath.
Note: Mitchell could slot on LW, center, or RW, depending on the situation. We include him here, because... well... why not?
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Wild this season will be Bouchard's health. Everyone knows his concussion history, and it is not going to go away until he plays the bulk of a season again. Now in his last year of his contract, Bouchard has every reason to hope the injury ninja picks a different victim this year, and he can put together a season to save his career.
Right now, his NHL deal puts him ahead of the prospects. Anything after this season is on his shoulders.
The wrecking ball returns. Now facing competition for the third line minutes, Clutterbuck will be joined in his pestering duties by Konopka, Mitchell, Jake Dowell, and others. The biggest question for Clutterbuck will be if he can take yet another step forward and become a top flight NHL third liner, or will he let his emotions get the best of him and fall down the depth chart.
Clutterbuck's stock is still high, so it also would not surprise us to see him packaged in a trade if another team requested. Though, we don't think that will happen.
The Wild are in decent shape on the right side. Right wing is not a strength of power for very many teams in the NHL, something anyone who plays fantasy hockey is well aware of. The Wild have prospects like Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips that can play wing as well as center, so the right wings need to find their game, and find it fast.
The right side is where the eye is drawn to when asked for weaknesses on the Wild roster. No one jumps out as elite, and the depth chart looks to be filled with borderline second & third line guys. If one of them can step out from the crowd, he could become a hero to many in Minnesota.