Hockey season is almost around the corner, and we'll get to see how our youth players developed.
In order for the Wild to take the next step, head coach Mike Yeo must be willing to put the youngsters in key positions. The Wild, 22nd in scoring last year, especially need a butt-load of scoring ability and speed, which the youngsters have in abundance.
Here are proposed lines for the Wild in the 2013-14 season. Be aware, they do differ quite a bit from other projections:
Parise- Koivu- Pominville
Now this line sounds like a lock throughout the season unless if some changes are made. But I like this line a lot. All three players are great two-way players that will be able to score and shut down other top lines.
Niederreiter- Granlund- Heatley
Another line I liked. This line is the start of the youth coming into to play. In order to take the next step, the Wild need Granlund to live up to his potential. He is a great passer with excellent hockey sense and fits nicely between two big snipers in Heatley and Niederreiter. I feel that Granny will fit in great with two big power scoring snipers. This line will likely focus on the offensive side of the ice. And will hopefully take pressure off of the 1st line. But don't be surprised if there's changes in call- ups with either Haula or Phillips that would be seeing some playing time. They're also good candidates for the 2nd line centering job.
Zucker- Coyle- Mitchell
Now, this is mostly proposed 2nd line for the wild. But you can call it more of another 2nd line. Now I know everyone thinks I'm crazy for taking Coyle off the 2nd line, but you can call it a good thing. Unlike the second line above, these players are more well-rounded, two-way players that would thrive in a shutdown role for the Wild. Zucker and Mitchell, which are described as scoring grinders, will bring speed that will intimidate opposing players, and along with Coyle's toughness and excellent work along the boards would make this line very hard to play against. And you would still have secondary scoring. And having another shut- down line. But more importantly secondary scoring.
Rupp- Brodziak- Cooke
I like this line a lot, it brings toughness and scoring. Rupp would be an enforcer, and Brodziak will play a big role along with Cooke. Both Brodziak and Cooke have played larger roles in the past, it’ll allow to give the wild four strong lines that allow the talented youngsters to grow and develop. Konopka, Dowell, and Veilleux would sometimes be healthy scratches, but would share playing time with Rupp or even Brodziak. And possibly Cooke and Brodziak would bring veteran leadership.
Defensive Line 1
Both Suter and Brodin played great last season, played big minutes, and was great defensively and offensively. Suter became a candidate for the Norris trophy, and Brodin was a candidate for the Calder. No doubt if these two will repeat like they did last season, if they do, then they could be the best defensive duo in the NHL. Suter will once again bring leadership along with Ballard to make the youth D get better, they’re both well- rounded. It nice that Suter has a mentoring partner in Ballard since he doesn’t have to do it on his own anymore. And both Suter and Brodin can be Norris trophy candidates.
Defensive Line 2
Scandella played great in the playoffs and looks primed to break out playing with Ballard, who is motivated for a bounce-back year. This will be more of the physical defensive line with Ballard’s hip checks, and Scandella’s mobile big body to protect the crease, and make great plays along the boards. Ballard would be a great mentor to Scandella while Suter is a great mentor to Brodin on the top paring. You can expect this line to be another solid shut- down line.
Defensive Line 3
Blum, who hopefully will replace Clayton Stoner in the lineup, could provide offensive help from the blue line and would pair with Spurgeon, another solid defender. Stoner will be the 7th man since he has more experience than the other D-men that are in for a D spot like Prosser, Dumba, Kampfer, etc. But Blum’s offensive play could help with the D.
Goal- Tending Order
You have to hope pressure will be taken off Backstrom, and Harding's great playoff performance can contribute for him next season. And expect Keumper to see some playing time to give Harding a break too with his health
to keep him healthy if the wild makes the playoffs. It’s important to have healthy goal- tending in the playoffs. I expect every goalie to do their part to help in big situations (if there's any big situations).
Hopefully, Yeo projects a similar lineup this upcoming season. The Wild need to realize that the path to the Stanley Cup will require the right mix of youth and veteran leadership. Letting the kids take control of the openings in the lineup will make the Wild a very deep and talented team that would seem ready to make a run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. If these lines do their duty, the Wild could compete for maybe 2nd or 1st in our new division with rivals like the Chicago Blackhawks, and St. Louis Blues since they're both obvious candidates for the top two spots.
So what do you think Wild fans?