The one thing thing the Wild miss more than probably anything right now, is a second line center. Well, I mean, along with such things as a a 3rd defensive pairing containing solid NHL talent, but let's not get picky.
Last season, the Wild had a Matt Cullen to fall back on if the Mikael Granlund experiment wouldn't work. Now, such luxury doesn't exist. The Plan B, as far as I can tell, is to try Charlie Coyle in Granlund's place if the Finnish Baby Jesus continues to look as much out of place as he did last year.
And Coyle's played less than a period as a center in the NHL. So yeah, it all looks awesome.
The other obvious move that's left on the table, is to promote Kyle Brodziak to that 2nd line role. That leaves the bottom six a bit weaker, and in all honesty wouldn't probably work unless Mike Yeo could get him to play the whole 82 games like he played in parts of the 2011-2012 season.
In reality, every scenario that starts with Granlund still not being good enough, is a scenario that I'm not too comfortable with. So, is the kid ready? Could he even be ready, considering what we all saw last season?
As a winger, Granlund could probably be somewhat effective by just playing like he did after the rough start he had last season. Less defensive responsibilities, he would get the puck higher up the ice than if he was playing as a center and he would be getting the puck while close to full speed. Given that one of the biggest problems with Granlund is a lack of real acceleration on his first two, three strides, that actually doesn't sound half bad.
But what Granlund needs and what the Wild need are not the same thing. Sure, the team needs Granlund to produce points on the board, but they'd like that to come from a 2nd line center spot. Granlund simply needs to elevate his game to a level where he is "the guy" on a line, and not a complimentary piece. I know I shouldn't say "simply" because that step is far from simple to take, but for the Wild to be in playoff contention come March, that's pretty much what needs to happen.
Granlund's been practicing with Koivu during the summer, which is by default a good thing. If there's anyone that can show Granlund what he needs to do in order to be an effective center in the NHL, Koivu's the man for the job. And trust me, there are few harder workers in the world of hockey than Koivu. That effort level is contagious, or at least that's what I would like to think. Now, all Granlund needs to do is to listen, learn and continue to develop as a player.
For the Wild's sake, I hope that development is fast. Like, Jason Zucker type of fast. What do you think? Fire away on the comments section below.