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Exit Interviews: Chris Stewart

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The offseason means the end of Wild games, but for the players, the work is never done. With Exit Interviews, Hockey Wilderness takes each player and reviews their season, highlighting what we liked seeing from them over the year, and pointing out what can be improved to take the next step next year. Today we sit down with Chris Stewart.

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Chris. Chriiiiis. How's it going.

Please, take a seat.

It's been quite a season hasn't it. You had a lot of doubters when you came here. I'm going to be real with you. I was one of them.

I think that doubt stemmed jointly from a reputation as being a grinding player -- a dubious adjective that substitutes in when there's not a synonym for talent to be used -- and the pretty awful numbers you were putting up against Buffalo. Also, maybe fear of being abandoned, but that's on me... and maybe Willie Mitchell, Marian Gaborik, Matt Cullen...

Your 11 points in 20 games was solid, even if the 39 shots seems a little thin. We can roll with that. The good news was really that you were able to step up the way we thought you could, despite the pretty awful numbers you were posting in Buffalo. 35% CF% and -2.9 CF%Rel in 61 games? As Cathy would say, AACK!

You did us and, let's be honest, your agent some big favors by hitting 51.4% CF% and +4.2% CF%Rel in your 24 regular season games with the Wild.

What was it about playing in Buffalo that just seemed to suck the soul out of veteran players this year? (Oh, the intentional tank with reckless disregard for the on-ice product. That's right.) No one played well, then the ones that were traded, this side of Jhonas Enroth, thrived after getting out of Dodge.

Expectations for Next Year

This is where it gets awkward, Chris. I'm going to tell you what I think with the asterisk that these aren't going to be my expectations for next season, because, well, I don't think we're going to be able to bring you back.

Whoever signs you over the summer is going to expect more of what you did in Minnesota and your legacy as a player is going to depend on showing that you're that player and not the player who was in Buffalo or the player who disappeared during the postseason (pre-injury) for us.

The guys in the room seem to like you, and that's great, so maybe you should get in a situation where you want to be. Maybe you don't get to maximize what you could make financially, but it seems like your best chance to thrive and be happy is to sign with a team who is poised to contend and to get yourself a NTC.

You'll be in a position to succeed next year and you'll only be 28. You're going to need to hit 20 goals again, be a positive possession guy, and the team your with is probably going to be wanting some grit. Coaches love grit.

Offseason Homework

1. Rest Up

Get the shoulder back to 100%. Spend some time with your kid. Enjoy the summer.

2. Read Up

You don't need to get too into analytics, it's probably not really that useful to a player on the ice for the most part. But dig into some of the studies, like the paper presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a couple years back that Zach Parise was talking a lot about last summer on zone entries. It's not the be-all and end-all of information, but your style of hockey could lend itself to strong possession play and having an understanding of how controlled zone entries statistically lead to better possession (equals goals, equals wins) may be useful. I don't know where you stand on it, but lots of guys with your skill set love the dump in and grind in the corners route. You'll thrive if you can avoid that when possible.