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10 Questions Facing the Wild - #7

Who's in biggest need of a bounceback year?

The easy answer is Eric Belanger. He had a great start to the season, people were fired up about having a center who could distribute and score.

Here's Russo's take:

Answer: Belanger, plain and simple. He dried up last season like he was a grape dropped on a Florida beach. He started so hot, Lemaire predicted an 80-point year. Instead, Belanger managed one goal and four assists in the final 30 games to not even eclipse his career high of 37 points, and it wasn't only because he was put into a checking role.

Since Belanger is the easy answer, I'm actually going to go out on a limb here and give the exceptionally unpopular one. Martin (f@$king) Skoula.



Skoula has been a pretty respectable +/- guy in his career (+41 prior to last season), but in a year where the only fan he had in Minnesota was coach Jacques Lemaire, he ended up a -16 and seemingly every time he made a mistake, it led directly to an opposition goal. While he isn't going to get the point totals he had with the Avalanche in the early 2000's, his job is to be defensively solid, and move the puck forward. Last year he did neither on a regular basis, and resembled a traffic cone more than a brick wall.

If this team is going to succeed, each defensive pairing is going to have to step up and play solid defense and distribute the puck to the forwards with speed in transition. This team is made for the transition game, and if he falters, he's going to see more than his fair share of red lights and (hopefully) the view from the Al Shaver Press Box. Unfortunately, the reason it's so, so important for Skoula to have a bounceback year is that there is little depth on the blue line and they are an injury or two away from serious problems in the back. Right now, we're looking at nine defensemen, which is actually only eight because Foster still isn't ready to go. So, if Skoula is going to make an impact (and if Jacques still refuses to pull him off the ice), then he needs to shore up his responsibilities, or we're looking at Mojzis and Reitz taking his place, and for some reason Reitz scares me more than Skoula does.

Oh, and let's not see more of this please: