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Nate Prosser played bottom-pairing style, earned bottom-pairing minutes

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One month ago today, the Wild's season ended. For some players, that end was the sad end to a streak of improved play and fulfilled potential. For many others, it was the merciful end to a difficult year. At Hockey Wilderness, we sit down with each player as fictional, armchair GMs to review their ups, downs, and expectations for the next season. Today, some guy from Elk River wearing a hat showed up.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

[Scene]

[INTERIOR OFFICE]

The ceiling fan spins lazily above as GM Chuck Fletcher clicks open several craigslist ads for "Gently used scoring forwards" on his computer.

[From the opposite side of the room, there's a KNOCK at the door.]

Who's there? Oh, hey...you. Hey, uh...Nate, is it? Am I pronouncing that right? Nate? Nake, maybe?

No, it's Nate? Oh, okay cool, I knew that. Well, come in Nake Nate; let's talk. You're a...player... No, definitely, for sure, you're one of the guys that plays on the Minnesota Wild...?

Right, that's you. I can see because you've got that shirt and you're wearing gym shorts despite the fact that you're nowhere near a gym. Great. Well, Nape, let's evaluate your performance this year, which is why you're here, I assume.

I've got your file right here, so let's just get right to it.

Chuck types rapidly on his keyboard and clicks open a number of links.

I see you've been with us for ...several... years now, and this was a career year for you, I'm going to assume. You scored, what 5, maybe 10 goals? ...Less than that? Okay, so you scored zero goals this season. Well, that's alright, because you spent all your time assisting others' goals, right? Classic Nate!... No? Only 2 of those this year...okay...shoot.

Take it easy on yourself, Nate, because the fans never will.


Okay, well, don't worry about it, man, because those analytics nerd bloggers out there will back you up. They can attest to the fact that, even if you weren't scoring at a great pace, your struggles to stay in the line up this year were unjustified because you were such a possession hog, amirite?! Right?

I mean, according to them, you would be EASILY in the top...20...of all Wild players this year with your 40.77 Corsi-for %. That's sorta good, man. It's serviceable.

Really, Nate, if I'm being honest, I didn't expect to see you in here. Not because I don't like you, or because you're a bad player. In truth, you're not a great player, and your play isn't remarkable, but that's exactly why a guy like you has a sport on a team like ours. I didn't expect to see you in here because we both know the type of player you are and the role you play on this team.

Yes, there are better defensemen throughout the league, better depth defensemen, grittier defensemen, and defensemen at league minimum salaries, but there aren't many who roll often-reliable, if unexciting defense,  post-whistle aggression, and a positive attitude into an affordable package. Sure you make errors, but no team is filled with perfect players. Every team comprises a few greats, some mid-range structure guys, and a handful of role-player and roster fillers to build things out. And you and I know exactly where you fit on that list.

But again, if I'm being totally honest, you show up and do a capable, serviceable job on a team brimming with guys who can cover up for your inequities on defense. On another team, your play could lead to some serious problems given a larger role, but you're not on another team. I mean, can you imagine what it'd be like if you were on the Oilers?! You'd probably be on their second pairing!!! But, on this team, there's no need for you to play a larger role, or command a larger salary. So let's not fret too much over your lack of scoring or your liability on defense every so often.

Look, I know you're routinely roasted by the experts on twitter and various reputable hockey blogs which provide excellent coverage throughout the year, but just put that aside. You and I know the role we expect you to play on this team and the expectations should, and will, always be that you fill that role. Nothing more, nothing less. As far as next season goes, I'll get back to you

...And take it easy on yourself, Nate, because I can tell you this, the fans never will. They're always going to see you as a dumpster fire of wasted potential.

Speaking of "dumpster fires of wasted potential"...

Chuck pulls out his cell phone and texts a contact listed as "Petey C EDM": Pross 4 Yak?

[END Scene.]

To: NateMan39@wildemail.gov
From: cfletchHockeySniper@freedraftpicks.net
RE: Expectations

Nafe,

Here's my list of expectations for next year.

1) Build out your physical game. It's tough to imagine you becoming a scorer or a more stout defenseman, but you can certainly add some sandpaper to our blueline and make yourself a bit more valuable.

2) Work on your positioning on the breakout. Down the line, we're going to have to be built around adapting to Boudreau's system, and it'll be almost impossible to adjust unless we've got good fundamentals in place.

P.S. do you remember that time you signed with the Blues and then we grabbed you on waivers? L.O.L., wouldn't that be weird to be playing in late May?!

Best,

C.