The Fansided NHL Network, that SenShot is proud to be a member of, is embarking on its NHL preview. Each day in September, one of its members will be posting a preview for their club. SenShot will look at their preview, and let you have a look. After that, we will provide our own perspective. Jared will handle the Western Conference teams while Tony will look at the East.
Today, its the Minnesota Wild. The Wild is still looking for someone to take over the Gone Puck Wild site, so both Tony and I (unknowingly to each other) volunteered to write it. Well I must have got mine in first, so it got put on the Wild site. So since we both put our two cents in, I will post parts of both of our previews here.
Starting with mine:
The Minnesota Wild placed a disappointing 12th in the tough Western Conference last season with a record of 35-39-8. Turnover was an issue for the club, as thirty-seven different players suited up for the Wild last season. The Wild were 26th in the NHL in goal scoring, and they were 16th in goals against.
The futility of the season resulted in the firing of head coach Todd Richards as the Wild look for an answer to get back into the playoff picture. Will they do it? Let’s examine the evidence and then make the decision.
Martin Havlat – Led the Wild with 22 goals and tied for team scoring lead with 62 points, dealt to San Jose
Andrew Brunette – Veteran was third on club scoring, signed with Chicago
Brent Burns – 4th leading scorer and top scoring defenseman, off to San Jose
Antti Miettinen – Departed for KHL
John Madden – Solid role player still unsigned
Chuck Kobasew – Signed in Colorado
Jose Theodore – Signed in Florida
Cam Barker – Bought out, subsequently signed with Edmonton
Todd Richards – couldn’t get the job done behind the bench
Here is what Tony thinks about the Wild:
The key ingredient this off-season for the Wild was change. A change behind the bench. A change in the players. A change in philosophy. And hopefully, a change in fortunes.
Missing the playoffs for the third year in a row, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher decided he had seen enough. Changes to his core that was no longer progressing and the young coach that he chose over more experienced coaches, was let go. Can these moves put the Wild in a position to compete in the Western Conference? Only time will tell.
Let’s take a closer look at the Wild’s off-season:
Saying goodbye ~
Never afraid to make a move, third year GM Chuck Fletcher decided his core players weren’t getting it done. In a wild off-season (pardon the pun), Fletcher traded three of his four top scores from last season. Gone is flashy forward Martin Havlat, veteran forward Andrew Brunette and star defenseman Brent Burns and their combined 154 points. With the Wild ranking 26th in the league in goals per game last season, and last in shots per game with 26.2, the departure of these three will severely affect the Wild’s offense heading into the 2011-2012 season.
Havlat never gelled in his two season in Minnesota. Signing in the Twin cities after his career year in Chicago, Havlat could never match his 77 points from that year. Brunette was let go as a UFA as the long-time Wild vet was not in the future plans of the organization. Probably the biggest move was the trading of franchise defenseman Burns. Making the move as an anticipation of Burns bolting next summer as a free agent, GM Fletcher tired to maximize his asset and and get the most in return.
Other notable departures this off-season were goalie Jose Theodore, forwards Antti Miettinen and Chuck Kobasew, and defenseman Cam Barker who was bought out of the final year of his contract.
Also leaving the Wild was second year head coach Todd Richards. The fairy tale story of a native of Minnesota being named head coach of the franchise, Richards was relieved of his duties after two seasons out of the playoffs and a record of 77-71-16. Failure to make the team competitive in the Western Conference was Richards down fall.
Into the Wild ~
With the bold moves GM Fletcher made by shipping out some of his core players, he made even bolder moves with the players he brought in to replace them. The biggest addition, in terms of star quality and contract, is sniper Dany Heatley. Coming over in a one-for-one swap for Havlat, the Wild hope Heatley can be the best goal scorer since Marion Gaborik donned a Wild jersey. Wanting to add more fire power to the line-up, GM Fletcher acquired (also from the Sharks) scoring winger Devin Setoguchi in the Burns trade. With the additions of Heatley and Setoguchi, the Wild are hoping they have found the trigger men to their playmaking/pass-happy forwards.
Other additions to the Wild were gritty forward Darroll Powe and underrated defenseman Mike Lundin.
The new man behind the bench is Mike Yeo. As head coach of the Wild’s AHL affiliate team, Yeo was rewarded as he coached the Houston Aeros to the AHL Finals. As the second hire of GM Fletcher, Yeo must produce as he is the second inexperienced (NHL wise) head coach Fletcher has hired. Yeo also holds the honor as the youngest coach in the NHL at 38 years old.
The Offense ~
With the addition of Heatley and Setoguchi, the Wild hope they can score more goals as they have the playmaking centers in Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen and P-M Bouchard who can feed them the puck. With a decent top six forward group, the Wild are counting on both Heatley and Setoguchi regaining their form from year’s past. Heatley hasn’t been the same player since he left Ottawa two years ago. Scoring 180 goals in his four seasons in Ottawa, Heatley only managed 65 goals in two years with San Jose. With only 26 goals last year, the Wild better hope he can find his game as Heatley doesn’t do much else when he is not scoring goals. And with a $7.5 million cap hit, the Wild a taking a huge risk on Heatley and the three years left on his contract.
The same goes for Setoguchi as he has yet to get back to his career numbers in the 2008-2009 season where he notched 31 goals and 65 points. Hopefully with more minutes, Setoguchi can break the 30 goal mark. The Wild also have a number of young prospects that will push for jobs this year or the next. Compared to last year’s offensive unit, I think the Wild have improved if Heatley and Setoguchi work out.
The Defense ~
With the lost of Burns and Barker, the Wild will have to rely heavily on aging veterans Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon. Nick Schultz will lead the young defensemen coming in as Lundin, Marco Scandella and Clayton Stoner will round out the top six. There are a few young D-men that may push for spots, but these are the projected top six. The question for this defensive unit will be -where will the points come from?
Between the Posts ~
The Wild will be looking for a bounce back year from Niklas Backstrom as he has yet to live up to his expensive contract. Josh Harding will return to back-up Backstrom as he returns after missing a whole year with an injury. If the Wild want to be contenders in the West, they will need their goal tending to be excellent.
I think the Wild will be in tough just to be in competition for the last playoff spot in the West. From offense to goal tending, everything will need to go right for the Wild to end their three-year playoff drought. The fear Wild fans should have is if GM Chuck Fletcher gets desperate to make the playoffs this year and sells the future to make a season/job saving move. In the end, the Wild will probably be golfing in April once again.
**Don’t forget to get your Tickets for SenShot’s Alfie Night in Ottawa on November 11th, 2011. Early Bird tickets are still available for a limited time. Click here for more details**
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
Can’t get enough of SenShot? Here are more ways to get the most info about your Ottawa Senators.
Visit our SenShot Facebook Page. Like us and post comments, photos and videos.
Please visit our NHL Main Page: Too Many Men On The Site.