It never ceases to amaze me what Chuck Fletcher can do. It angered many Wild fans letting go of Cullen, Clutterbuck, Bouchard, etc. but in a salary cap world, you gotta do what you gotta do. In my opinion I still think we improved this off-season. We upgraded and bolstered our defense by getting Ballard, Blum, and Landry. We also got Niederreiter in a no brainer trade with the New York Islanders. With the infusion of young talent, I think our future is bright.
Parise - Koivu – Pominville
Thoughts: I personally liked Coyle on this line, but I think this line didn't get enough time to gel together. Without a doubt, they will get another chance, because the fire power on this line is unreal. Three of the best leaders on this team all on the same line will set the example for the rest of the team.
Heatley - Haula - Coyle
Thoughts: I like to think that Haula will make the team. He put on some strength and has great vision and good skating ability. Heatley will be in the top 6 role no matter what. He is a 25 goal scorer in a top six role, but a minus 12 player on the third line. Coyle is pure power forward and I expect him to have a breakout year after his phenomenal rookie season. He was playing juniors in the same year, and he still made the jump to the NHL.
Cooke - Brodziak – Niederreiter
Thoughts: This third line will create havoc. Brodziak should have a bounce-back year after starting the season with pneumonia and Cooke will help him with that. Two of the best penalty killers on the Wild will be on this line. The only reason I start Niederreiter on the third line is because he hasn't produced as well in the NHL. I'm positive he will get looks at the second line, and power play time as soon as he is comfortable with the team.
Mitchell - Dowell – Rupp
Thoughts: I think that Dowell will get thrown in at center this year because of the one way deal he has. Konopka took too many unnecessary penalties last season. I would assume that the Wild waive him because he has been on the trading block. If not, he will be in the press box, unless Dowell doesn't perform.
First Defensive Pairing
Suter – Brodin
Thoughts: No surprises here. They were amazing together last season, and they will duplicate their play this upcoming season. More points for Brodin, and another potential Norris candidate out of Suter.
Second Defensive Paring
Scandella – Ballard
Thoughts: Having Ballard on Scandella's line will benefit him immensely. I am not saying Spurgeon is a bad partner for him, but having the veteran presence will not only help him defensively, it will allow him to jump into the play more often.
Third Defensive Pairing
Stoner – Spurgeon
Thoughts: I think Stoner will start the season in the third pairing, but as soon has his play dips, there is Prosser waiting as the extra, and we have Jonathon Blum (former first round pick) waiting for him to slip up.
Thoughts: I put Backstrom as starter only because of Harding’s health issues. I am fully confident that if Harding’s MS gets under control, and he stays healthy, he can challenge Backstrom for the starting job.