Hockey blogs around SB Nation are doing team previews. Here are 3 big questions surround the Wild this season
1. What does Jonas Brodin do for his sophomore season encore?
The same thing he did in his rookie season. The great thing about Brodin is the fact that if you weren't aware that he was only 20 years old, you would never guess it while watching him play. He plays with the same composure as his Norris nominated defensive partner Ryan Suter.
The fact of the matter is that Brodin plays like he has been playing in this league since he could walk. Bob McKenzie already compares him to fellow Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Wild fans have taken to calling Brodin "Skates like the Wind" because of his ridiculously smooth skating style .
Brodin may increase his point total this season however. He has a killer shot, but still tends to defer most shot attempts to the veterans he plays with, like Suter, Jason Pominville, Zach Parise, and Mikko Koivu. Wild coach Mike Yeo has said that Brodin will be getting a sustainable amount of special teams (both PK and PP) this season. If he adds more points to his already existing skills, he'll be a force to be reckoned with all season long.
2. An up-and-down 2013 put the Wild on the playoff bubble. Are they more consistent this year?
On top of the shortened season that all teams had to deal with, the Wild also had to deal with some pretty big pieces trying to adjust to a new team and system. There was a fair amount of roster turnover and changes, and some pretty young kids like Brodin and Charlie Coyle becoming staples in the line-up.
Yeo seems to have a lot of plans for the season. He has spent most of the entire season talking about how he is focusing on turning the Wild into a better puck possession team. He is working on getting players comfortable on multiple lines. He's said the Wild have discussed having a nontraditional 4th line filled with skilled players.
There is a little bit of uncertainty in how this season will turn out however. The Wild are depending on a lot of young players to fill some key roles, and most of these guys haven't played a full NHL season yet. The consistency of the team really depends on how the younger kids deal with being full time NHLers. Coyle and Brodin look to be solid and have excellent sophomore seasons, but they can't be the only ones.
3. Niklas Backstrom isn't getting any younger. Is he up to a full season with a huge workload?
Niklas Backstrom is a good goalie. He's not an elite, top 5 goaltender, but he did tie for the highest amount of wins last season in the NHL. Considering how much he played last year due to Josh Harding's illness and the condensed season, this season should be a piece of cake. Harding hasn't had any complications since last season, and Darcy Kuemper has looked solid so far in training camp/preseason should he be needed.
Backstrom is a solid, dependable goaltender. And frankly, as long as the team in front of a goaltender is capable of playing defense and scoring at a decent rate, a solid dependable goaltender is all a team needs to be competitive.