Yesterday, I speculated on Saku Koivu. Today, I will make my predictions about the direction this team heads, at least in bits and pieces. This post is intended to be picked apart, attacked, ridiculed, and agreed with. It is meant to spur a little discussion, should Wild fans be interested.
Here's what I see happening:
1. Fletcher will hire Todd Richards as the coach. When Russo says something, we in Wild nation tend to listen. That said, the guy is as qualified as anyone, and is someone new. Fletcher will likely want someone he trusts to run the team the way he wants it run, wants someone he knows, and wants someone hungry to prove themself. That is NOT McTavish.
It has always blown me away how a coach in pro sports can be fired and have a new job two days later. Was the guy not fired for a reason?
2. Butch is history. Bouchard had a verbal no trade agreement with Risebrough. Fletcher is not Risebrough, and the agreement will likely not hold up. Butch is a valuable commodity to teams with a proven scorer. Fletcher wants draft picks. Butch could easily fetch a first round and a player. Or, the famous bundle could come back into play. What bundle you ask?
3. Shep is history. Sheppard struggled in a defensive system. He was made into a checking line center, ala Mikko Koivu. However, his strength coming through juniors was ability to play tough in the offensive zone. Maybe this saves him in Fletcher's system, but I think if the right player is available, Butch and Shep may be moving together.
4. Boogaard is history. The Boogey man is one of the meanest, toughest SOB's in the league. No one doubts his ablity to pound the snot out of some idiot who needs it. However, Fletcher mentioned several times that toughness does not equate to fighting.
Keep in mind that the two teams in the Finals do not have a true enforcer on the roster.
5. Harding is history. Despite the fact that Shipley doesn't think the minor league guys are ready to back up Backstrom (and I agree), Harding is too prime a target with a new system coming in. He should easily garner a first round pick, and Fletcher would love to have as many of those as he can get. Possibly even a first and a player.
Who plays back up? Who cares. Back-ups are available, and cheap. Pick someone up, put him on the bench, and call it good.
6. Saku Koivu will wear a red sweater next season. Fletcher is smart enough to know that this team needs centers, and needs GOOD centers. Saku is one of the best, even if he is at the end of his career.
7. Gaborik is gone. Bye bye. Fletcher made too many comments about the best players on the team needing to "pay the price." I don't believe in his heart of hearts that Fletcher has any respect for Marian Gaborik. Remember, Fletcher has delat with true, proven super stars that had smaller heads than our golden boy.
8. Johnsson gets a contract extension during the season. Fletcher loves the "puck moving d-man" and Johnsson can do that. No real explination here, just know that KJ will be around awhile.
9. Mikko gets a permanent C on his sweater. Some people like the rotation, most do not. Fact is, this team is better with Mikko in charge. Look for the C to be crazy glued to his chest.
10. As contracts come due, brace yourselves. Fan favorites will be gone. Bruno, Nolan, Belanger, Skoula (is he anyone's favorite?), Veillieux, all likely to be gone when their deals are up. My bet is that Fletcher does not want more than a hand ful of the players on this team. The core will stay around. Those that have been put in place by Riser to fill holes will find themselves looking to fill a hole in the KHL.
Due repsect to Nolan and Bruno. They are two of my favorites, but they have got to know they are on their way out. Maybe Fletcher has a deeprespect for their efforts this past season, and they do have this comng season to show they can play in the new system. That said, Bruno is pretty slow, and Nolan is pretty old.
I think we will stop there. Let me know what you think. I expect some disagreement here. This is all wildly speculative, and is just gut feeling. Let me know what direction you think they are headed. Be specific, who stays, who goes, and how fast?