1a) Can the Wild's goalie corps remain healthy?
I don't see why not. Last season was the first time Devan Dubnyk started more than 50 NHL games in a season, but he's not someone who has a checkered injury history, by any means. The bigger question to me is how good Dubnyk will be. He's a safe bet to be an above-average goalie, but getting even close to his form last season should put the Wild in the playoffs by a comfortable margin.
1b) Can the Wild unload Niklas Backstrom and free up a roster spot?
No. Backstrom's No-Move Clause, injuries, and general ineffectiveness means he's not going anywhere. No matter how many pre-season shutouts he gets. Just stop dreaming, everyone.
2) Will the power play find some legs this season?
It really depends on if they're able to infuse any creativity to it. The Wild struggled with their power play last season because they refused to change basically anything with their unit. Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville manned the points all season, despite struggling to get their shots to the net. Mikko Koivu was a mainstay on the unit, despite offering little creativity with the open space. Meanwhile, dynamic young players like Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, and Matt Dumba sat on the bench while the veterans continued to struggle.
The Wild can't solve the power play by doing nothing- they proved it last season. They need to give opponents a different look, whether it's adding more playmaking in Mikael Granlund, a second Parise in Zucker, or a cannon from the point courtesy of Dumba or Marco Scandella. If not, expect more of the same.
3) Will the veterans who disappointed last season enjoy more success this season?
Let's go through the Big 4, one by one.
- Ryan Suter- Yes. For the first time since he donned a Wild sweater, Suter's not going to be relied upon to deliver 30 minutes a game. With a decreased workload, Suter should be able to pace himself less and not get run down with all those miles on his legs. He's also starting the season skating next to Jared Spurgeon, who should compliment him better than the ultra-defensive Jonas Brodin.
- Mikko Koivu- Yes, to an extent. Koivu won't be the player he was in his prime again, but skating between Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter is a pretty good gig, and he can provide the defensive play that will allow those two to flourish offensively.
- Jason Pominville- Yes. I think Pominville's issues stemmed from bad center play from Mikael Granlund, and poor luck with his shooting percentage. There's a chance that he may have lost some hand-eye coordination, but I'll need to see it another season before calling it anything but a fluke.
- Thomas Vanek- No. I think in the right spot, Vanek would work out pretty well, but playing third-line minutes and decreased power play time will put a cap on Vanek's point totals