Every summer the Wild are in the same spot of not good enough or bad enough. Can something finally give this offseason...?
The Minnesota Wild are a team that is still seeking to replace the scoring talents of Marian Gaborik. Without this issue being addressed the Wild will be hard pressed to compete an extremely tight Western Conference.
Guillame Latendresse- His return to the Wild will be give an immediate boost in team scoring and a solid 30 goal season will come with his physical game. Latendresse will arrive in the best shape of his life and at 23 he has plenty of time for better habits to form. Chuck Fletcher confirmed that the Wild will be sending out team representatives to check on players this off-season to guarantee players are in optimal shape and this will pay dividends when Latendresse arrives in camp.
Martin Havlat- Havlat started in Minnesota on a depressing note and seemed doomed for the horrible contract pile but he responded well in his second season for the Wild and with his line-mate Latendresse returning he will have a return to form and notch +70pt season for the Wild.
Cal Clutterbuck- As I watched the Finals I noticed one player more than any other and that was Brad Marchand. He terrorized the Canucks with his skillset and his mouth and I could not help but imagine Clutterbuck annihilating Burrows and following it with a lethal snipe top shelf. Clutterbuck is physical, fast, solid defensively, and a grade A pest. Exactly what wins in the playoffs and the kind of player you need on the road. Clutterbuck will become a perennial 20 goal scorer starting this coming season and if he is given Colton Gillies as a line mate the forecheck they create will be damn fun to watch.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard- The fact PMB played last season after his concussion was remarkable enough but now that he is healthy his 4 million dollar cap hit becomes much more imposing. A Risenbrough contract, Bouchard was on his way to being an excellent playmaker as he racked up 50 assists in 07-08 playing on a line with Brian Rolston. However since then injury took its toll and Bouchard has not provided the scoring needed to justify his salary. If he is placed on a line with Koivu as I would expect and given someone other than Miettinen to shoot the puck he should return to a top-six scoring pace. If he does not the Wild will be hurting both on the scoreboard and in the wallet.
Mikko Koivu- Determined, Strong, Reliable, Power Center, Excellent Passer, 2 Way Player. How is Koivu a concern? 6.75 million and 62 pts. Koivu is the heart and soul of the Wild but he is paid the same as a 90pt forward. But this is not necessarily a problem because I believe Koivu is a 90pt forward given a line-mate that can hit any portion of the net other than the pipe. If Koivu maintains his scoring he remain a Wild favorite but the rest of the NHL will keep overlooking him as nothing more than overpaid but talented 2nd line center. If he is given a goal scorer he will make Chuck Fletcher look like a very wise man.
Brent Burns- This could very well end up being irrelevant as he may be traded shortly but Brent Burns can look like a Norris Trophy candidate one shift and then look like a 3rd line forward the next. His first half of the past season was magic. Highlight reel goal, dominating, physical, and as awesome as his offensive game was he was also bringing a shut-down game that gave the impression of a reborn Brent Burns that culminated in a All-Star Appearance. His second half? Trainwreck. But most of the Wild players could be given the same grade. Burns at his best is elite but at his worst he is a liability. At some point he will have to reach a consistent level of play before his time runs out and fans can longer say next year he will get it...
Mikael Granlund- Superstar in the making. Granlund will be the dynamo the Wild have lacked since Gaborik left. Mikeal shares similarities with Koivu but not Mikko. He has been compared with Saku Koivu in regards to his size, and ability to score but where the similarities with either Koivu end is the scoreboard. Mikko Koivu in his 4 years in the Finnish Elite League topped out at 30 pts at age 21. Mikeal Granlund at 18 notched 40 pts including 13 goals (compared wtih Koivu's 6) his sick lacrosse goal at the World Championship only helped solidify his stud in the making status. The only downside is time as he will not be joining the Wild until at least the 2012 season but he should be player who can step directly into the Wild lineup at that time.
Mike Yeo- A players coach Yeo has earned success at every level he coached at including winning a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh. He is known as a strong communicator, a players coach, and a coach that believes heavily in playing the game the right way. He took a low scoring Aeros team and managed to create a suffocating forecheck, 40 shot team that rarely let the opposing team crack 20 shots against. He will not be coaching against AHL talent this year but he did not have Nicklas Backstrom in net last year either. Coach Yeo has the respect of Jack Adams winner Dan Byslma who was quoted as saying "He is an NHL coach who happened to stop in the AHL for awhile." Get excited Wild fans he has the ability to be the coach we have needed. What excites me the most is that he preaches a puck-possession game versus a dump and chase game. This system in my opinion requires a higher level of skill or if skill is lacking... discipline must be given in it's place ten-fold. He took nothing and made it something and I hope that happens with Wild in 2011.
Last Thoughts and wishes...
I predict the Wild draft Mika Zibenjad with the 10th pick.
I pray that the Wild trade Brent Burns for either Semin or Parise but I know it's a longshot...