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 the left wing position. Something you might notice is that there aren't many names here. In fact, there aren't even enough NHL names to fill out a roster. That would be due to the fact that the Wild now have at least seven players who are listed as centers. Which of them wind up on the wing will be determined by line chemistry and work ethic.
Right now, even Pierre-Marc Bouchard could end up on the left side. The depth chart is likely already set by the Wild coaching staff, but until we get into the season, who will be where on the forward lines is up in the air. We're even throwing Jake Dowell in here, because we just don't know where else to put him.
Sorry, who now? Never heard of him.
Parise is going to have more pressure on him than even Mikael Granlund. The signings of him and Ryan Suter put the Wild on the map, and now it is up to them to keep their new team there. The skeptics are many, and the criticism high already. The same people who criticize the Wild for everything they do say that Parise's career may as well be over, and the Wild are morons for signing Parise. Fans likely think Parise is going to come in and score 60 goals and year and hoist the Cup in the first year.
The truth, as always, is somewhere in between.
Parise has put his face on this team, and his name on the line. His legacy is about to be determined, and you can bet that with the level of work ethic and determination Parise has shown his entire life, the option to fail has not crossed his mind.
Will he gel with Mikko Koivu? Can he take over if Koivu is hurt? Is there finally a 30 goal scorer in St. Paul?
We have more questions than answers, folks.
See? Yet another "center." Powe is a third / fourth line left wing on this team. He is part of a hard core bottom six that will not say die, and will do everything they can to be sure the opposition doesn't score. He has also shown himself to be a relentless forechecker, something the Wild have been pushing since Mike Yeo took over.
With a year in a Wild sweater under his belt, Powe is a known quantity. He will, once again, quietly do his job to little or no accolades. Just what Wild fans want him to do.
The Wild's enforcer, Kassian will find himself fighting for playing time. Kassian is a great guy off the ice, and a consumate teammate who will do whatever it takes to win. The best part of Kassian's game is that he can actually play hockey. This is something that is not always present in an enforcer type.
Kassain will get his minutes, it just won't be every night anymore. With Zenon Konopka on the roster, Kassian's skill set is supposedly replaced. The problem is? I've never seen Konopka beat Darcy Hordichuk to a pulp in a game. Twice.
The unknown quantity. Dowell is a fringe forward who will see time only in the event of injury. He's a journeyman NHLer, and isn't a waste of a spot, but where he fits if the team is healthy is only in the press box. The only thing to really say here is... can everyone except that he was listed in a post full of left wings? Because, hey... if they ask him to play there, he isn't going to say no.
The Wild haven't had a left wing of top line quality since... well... there was that one guy... with the hockey stick and the skates... remember him? With Parise in the room, the Wild are much improved from last season, but questions still remain. Are Matt Cullen and Bouchard really going to excel on the left side? If not, are there other options? The prospects are also strong at the pivot, but not over booked at left wing. We all know that centers can play wing where needed, but who would it be?
Right now, on paper, the Wild look solid enough on the left side. Given an injury or two, they can even back fill better than ever before. Still, when two centers and a right winger are your bottom three left wings, things could get dicey. Only time will tell.