Regular Season: After committing nearly $200M to two players in the off-season, the Wild struggled to find traction and took the playoff chase down to the last weekend before finally securing the 8th seed via a tiebreaker with the Blue Jackets.
Playoffs: They met up with the juggernaut that was the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, and with their top goalie, Niklas Backstrom, getting hurt in the warmup prior to game 1, little used Josh Harding was forced into unexpected duty and the Wild fell to the Hawks in 5 games.
Ready To Make The Jump: F Jason Zucker
BIG 3 FACTORS
1. Value For Money: The Wild have the 6th highest payroll in the league, but after Zach Parise and Ryan Suter‘s big money deals, the Wild’s payroll isn’t exactly providing value. Dany Heatley ($5M salary, $7.5M cap hit) is a shell of his former self, while Suter accounts for nearly half of the money being spent on the Wild’s blue line.
2. Young Guns: It is a great opportunity for the likes of Zucker, Neiderreiter and Mikael Granlund to make an impact. With veterans like Setoguchi, Bouchard and Cullen gone, its the new wave for the Wild and there will be expectations on the young players immediately.
3. Net Presence: Backstrom has had a string of very average years, and the relatively anonymous defense in front of him isn’t overly deep. The Finnish goalie is going to have to return to the form of his younger days to start stealing games, but at 35 those days might be behind him.
PROGNOSIS: The Wild will have a younger look this season, with some long-time veterans (including 3 of their top 7 scorers) no longer around. They are spending a lot at the top end of their roster, with very little on the supporting cast. This is almost never a recipe for success.
PREDICTION: 4th in Central Division, but will have to beware of the 5th place Pacific Division finisher and the crossover.
We have been and will be previewing every NHL team ahead of Training Camp which for most teams will begin on Sept 11th. As a twist, we will be unveiling our teams in reverse order to how I predict they will finish in the standings. Here is the schedule (you can click on a team name to see the preview for that team):
|1||Sept 9||Sept 8||Sept 7||Sept 6|
|2||Sept 5||Sept 4||Sept 3||Sept 2|
|3||Sept 1||Aug 31||Aug 30||Aug 29|
|4||Aug 28||Aug 27||Aug 26||Ducks|