Last Season, the Minnesota Wild have made it more interesting when they made the 2012- 2013 playoffs since the 2007- 2008 season. After five years of missing the playoffs, you've got to get in there and taste it and see what it's like and experience those types of games. Even though the Wild got eliminated by the eventual cup winners Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild have moved a step forward. But the Wild made several moves in the Off-season in the subtraction of Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre- Marc Bouchard, Justin Falk, Devin Setoguchi, Tom Gilbert, and Matt Cullen. The additions are Nino Niederreiter, Matt Cooke, and Keith Ballard. We'll see how they match up to really see if the off-season moves benefited or obstructed the Wild.
Matt Cullen vs Mikael Granlund
Role: Second-line Center
Size: 6 foot 1, 200 pounds
Strengths: Experience, responsible on both ends, special teams
Weakness: Age (37)
In: Mikael Granlund
Strengths: Skill, Creative in offensive zone, Great play maker.
Weaknesses: Size, inexperience, translating to NHL play.
Advantage: Cullen is clearly the better player. Granlund, the Wild's first-round draft pick in 2010, hasn't put it all together yet. The spot was projected to be his a year ago, but he struggled in the NHL. Granlund is clearly entering his sophomore season, and he can put his disappointing rookie season behind him. The Wild needs Granlund to live up to his potential. He is a great passer with excellent hockey sense and fits nicely as a 2nd- line center that the Wild most desperately needs since the departure of Cullen. If Granlund can't take the No. 2 center role, the Wild likely will have to move proven Charlie Coyle from the wing to center as an option. Or Wild's 2009 seventh- round draft pick Erik Haula, that's fighting for a spot, is another candidate for 2nd- line center.
Devin Setoguchi vs Jason Zucker
Role: Second-line Scorer
Size: 6 feet, 205 pounds.
Strengths: Goal scoring, creating chances in offensive zone
Weaknesses: Inconsistency, two-way game
In: Jason Zucker
Size: 5 foot 11, 186 pounds
Strengths: Goal scoring, speed, creating chances in offensive zone, two- way play.
Advantage: It came very close but Setoguchi gets the nod here with the experience. These players are very similar, Zucker is young and could prove to be the scorer the Wild wants. But Setoguchi is already a proven player. If Zucker plays well this year, he can put up a season comparable to Setoguchi, maybe even more with his gritty game. Zucker is young and has the chance to put all his skills together. But for 2013-14, Setoguchi would have been the better choice.
Cal Clutterbuck vs Matt Cooke
Role: 3rd- line checking winger
Size: 5 foot 11, 213 pounds
Strengths: Physical game, agitator
Weakness: Goal-scoring inconsistency
In: Matt Cooke
Size: 5 foot 11, 205
Strengths: Physical game, experience, goal scoring
Weakness: Reputation as a dirty player
Advantage: They're similar, but Cooke is the better player, and he has shown that during his longer career. He's more of a proven scorer and agitator than Clutterbuck, though both play physical and are good on the penalty kill, and is a better two-way player.
Pierre- Marc Bouchard vs Nino Niederreiter
Role: 3rd-line Winger
Size: 5 foot 11, 171 pounds
Strengths: Power play, playmaking ability
Weaknesses: Injuries, inconsistency, physical play
Size: 6 foot 2, 208 pounds
Strengths: Size, shot, skill, scoring
Weakness: Translating to NHL Play
Advantage: Bouchard gets the nod here, with the experience, and solely on the fact that he's a proven commodity. He said he's healthy, and he'll likely put up improved numbers with the Islanders. Niederreiter has the potential to be a scoring top-six forward, but until he puts it all together, Bouchard gets the advantage.
Tom Gilbert vs Marco Scandella
Role: 2nd-line defensive pairing
Size: 6 foot 2, 204 pounds
Size: 6 foot 3, 210 pounds
Strengths: Physical play, size, two-way game
Advantage: This one is close, but Scandella slightly has the upper hand. He didn't play well last season, but he earned his contract by playing well in the first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Gilbert played well in his first season with the Wild but struggled in 2013, and the Wild used a compliance buyout to get rid of him.
Justin Falk vs Keith Ballard
Role: Third-line defensive pairing
Size: 6 foot 5, 215 pounds
Strengths: Size, physical game
Weaknesses: Offense, ability to move the puck, giving up turnovers in defensive zone
Size: 5 foot 11, 208 pounds
Strengths: Skating, two-way player, passing, physical game
Weaknesses: Inconsistency, building on early career success
Advantage: I gave Ballard the nod here. Falk was a healthy scratch at times, but provided physical play to the blue- line, but that's all he could do. Ballard is a talented two-way player, but after two disappointing seasons with the Vancouver Canucks due to him not seeing the fair playing time that he deserves, he's in need of a change of scenery. If his game returns in his years of playing in Phoenix and Florida, the Wild will have gotten a bargain. If not, they'll find themselves yearning for Falk.
So Wild fans, is the Minnesota Wild gonna have a better season, or a down season?