The Minnesota Wild placed a disappointing 12th in the tough Western Conference last season with a record of 39-35-8. 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 – not getting the job done behind the bench resulted in a pink slip
Dany Heatley – Sniper’s numbers have trailed off lately
Devin Setoguchi – Solid 20 goals, could get 30
Darroll Powe – Defensive minded forward from Philly
Mike Lundin – Solid d-man, but can’t replace Burns
Mike Yeo – New man behind the bench
The big question mark and the key to this season for the Wild is Dany Heatley. He hasn’t topped 40 goals since the 2007-08 season with the Ottawa Senators. And if Heatley isn’t scoring 40-50 goals, he won’t be the factor that his $7.5 M cap hit would suggest he should be. He is a player who once was a sure sniper, but his attitude has come into question and he has worn out his welcome in his last two stops. He is coming off his lowest point totals for a full season since his rookie year in Atlanta (2001-02).
After the addition of Heatley and Setoguchi, the Wild will be counting on young prospects to fill in the rest of the gaps left by the long list of departing players as they try to build on the fly. Players like Casey Wellman, Cal Clutterbuck and Eric Nystrom will be counted on to play larger roles this season, and the success of the team depends on players like that to step up and seize the opportunity they are given.
On the blue line, the departure of Brent Burns leaves a huge hole that hasn’t been adequately filled as of yet. After Marek Zidlicky, there are a lot of question marks for the crew that will be expected to hold steadfast in front of Niklas Backstrom.
The Wild lost 5 of their top 10 scorers from last season, and are relying a lot on Heatley and Setoguchi to replace the lost offense, and then some.
In conclusion, Mikko Koivu has a lot of pressure on him this season. Not only does he have to lead the team and take care of his own business, but the task will fall on him to make sure Heatley is happy on and off the ice. His failure to do so will result in a disaster that could see the Wild end up with the best chance to draft 1st overall next summer. Even with a happy Heatley, I don’t think the playoffs are in the picture this season and it may be a struggle for the Wild to win more than 30 games.
Again Thanks to Jared Crozier from SenShot for taking the time to write this preview.