Good Morning Wilderness! If you look at the Calender you will see that summer is finally over, and the 2014-15 NHL season is almost here. Soon, the Minnesota Wild will begin their quest for the Stanley Cup.
I know I am going to take some heat for this, but I think this is going to be a breakout year for the Minnesota Wild. No, I'm serious. Why couldn't the Wild make a run at the Stanley Cup?
With the addition of Thomas Vanek, the Wild have solidified their top six forward positions. The Wild also have a couple of young forwards that are going to make a serious push for ice time this season.
This season, the biggest question facing the Wild is the goaltending position. Funny I should mention goaltending: according to Michael Russo Josh Harding is suffering from an ankle injury and will miss the start of training camp. I would imagine that the General Manager Chuck Fletcher will be making a call to Darcy Kuemper and his agent, soon.
Besides Ilya Bryzgalov being #mnwildoption w/ Harding hurt, Tomas Vokoun & Martin Brodeur also out there. Vokoun said to be healthy again— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) September 16, 2014
Goaltending aside, and barring serious injuries, I think the Wild are ready to turn some heads and make a run at the Stanley Cup. Mark it down, you heard it here first.
Apparently, some of the hockey pundits don't have my optimism. Walter McLaughlin of the Hockey Writers has the Wild ranked third out of five teams. That's not a top three ranking either. McLaughlin has the Wild ranked third most overrated team via Las Vegas odds. Just for the record, Vegas has the Wild at 22/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup.
#3: Minnesota Wild
After four consecutive poor seasons, it's nice to see the Wild back in the playoff mix over the past two years. That being said, although they added the electric Thomas Vanek, they lost the reliable Matt Moulsonand the fading-but-still-capable Dany Heatley. The swap has the potential to be a net negative, which doesn't bode well for an already offensively-challenged club.
The Wild are listed as the 12th best bet to win the Cup at a Vegas line of 22-1. Are they really twiceas likely to win it all as the Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals? I think not.
Devin Slawson of the Hockey Writers thinks the Wild are going to finish third in the Central Division. That's about the same finish as last year. In 2012, the L.A. Kings proved that all you have to do is make the playoffs and anything is possible. The Kings won the Stanley Cup as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
3: Minnesota Wild-101 Points
The Wild finished 4th in the Central Division last year with 98 points. They were defeated in the second round by the Blackhawks, for the second consecutive year, in 6 games. Minnesota has a spectacular Top-6 and very solid defence. Goaltending is a question, but with everyone healthy, look for Josh Hardingto start and Niklas Backstromto backup. Kuemper could take over later as well. In the offseason, Minnesota lost rental player Matt Moulson. They added Michael Keranen, a 24-year old who lead the Finnish Liiga in scoring last season. Then, of course, they signed Thomas Vanekfor 3 years, who will likely slot in 2nd line LW and be expected to produce at least a 30-goal season. Minnesota's only problem last year was a lack of finish, and Vanek definitely helps that area. Look for them to improve a little bit on their results from 2013-14, led by Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Suter.
If I am reading some of the pundits, I believe that the Wild are of flying under the radar. My question to the Wilderness readers, do the Wild have what it takes to make a run at the Stanley Cup?