Minnesota Wild: Time Running Out to Win a Stanley Cup


No matter how hard a person tries to evade its effects, we all get older.  Age catches up with a person and it can give you subtle or not so subtle hints you’re not as young as you used to be.  This is especially true in sports, where a person can just jump in and throw a football around or play in a pick up game of hockey with little to no stretching to needing a full-weekend to recover as you suddenly discover muscles you never knew you had.  I doubt its any different in professional sports where the passing of one season to the next can be a humbling reminder of how age catches up to all of us eventually.

Is age catching up to the Minnesota Wild?  In professional sports, turning 30 years old is often that point where an athlete starts to see their performance level start a steady decline.  If this baseline is true, then the Minnesota Wild have a lot to be concerned about.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are 30, Mikko Koivu is 31, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville are 32.

With the lone exception of Vanek, all of them are signed to long-term contracts that will keep them in a Minnesota Wild uniform until at least through the 2017-18 season.  All of those contracts have no trade clauses so unless the team could convince any of them to waive it (which is unlikely) they will most likely play out their contracts in Minnesota.  Only Parise had a season where he scored more points this season than he did a year ago, the rest all had significant declines in production.

When the Wild made the huge blockbuster free agent signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million deals it was a transition towards making Minnesota more of a destination market for high profile free agents.  The Wild signed Parise and Suter in their prime at 27, and whether anyone wanted to say it out loud or not it was known the team was going to have to make some very significant strides in the first 3 seasons while these two foundation blocks were at their best.  Three seasons later the Wild have managed to get to the 2nd round of the Western Conference playoffs twice, but have been unceremoniously booted from the post-season each time by division rival Chicago.

"“Chicago’s got guys that are a little bit different from our guys. We’ve got guys that do tremendous things for us, too, we might not have a guy that’s going to get 100 points a year for us right now, but we have guys who are going to contribute offensively, but they play the game a certain way and that allows us to be successful as a team.” ~ Mike Yeo after Game 4’s season ending loss to Chicago"

Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has noted many times, that Chicago is a stumbling block the Minnesota Wild are not going to see fade anytime soon.  Its core of players are younger overall, Patrick Kane is 26, Jonathan Toews is 27, Brent Seabrook is 30 and Duncan Keith is 31.  This group has won 2 Stanley Cups already to its credit.  Its supporting cast may feature a few older players like Patrick SharpMarian Hossa and Brad Richards but for the most part Chicago is a team in its prime.  Yet when you look at the Central Division as a whole the Wild look older than most.

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  • The Winnipeg Jets core of Blake Wheeler is 28, Bryan Little is 27, Andrew Ladd is 29, Dustin Byfuglien is 30 and Ondrej Pavelec is 27.  The St. Louis Blues core is a little older at first with David Backes and Alex Steen at 31, but they have an impressive younger group with Alex Pietrangelo (25), Kevin Shattenkirk (26) while Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko are just 23.  Dallas has older center Jason Spezza is 33 but Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are just 25 and 23 respectively and when you toss in 22-year old defenseman John Klingberg the Stars have a great group to build around.

    It doesn’t get any better when you look at Nashville’s young core centered around 20-year old Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson (25) James Neal (27), Shea Weber (29) and Roman Josi is just 25.  However if the Wild wanted to ‘feel old’ all they’d have to do is look at Colorado’s ridiculously young core of Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly are just 24, Tyson Barrie (23), Semyon Varlamov (27), team captain Gabriel Landeskog (22) and Nathan MacKinnon who is just 19 years old.  See why I’m concerned?

    "“We’re trying to figure it out,” ~ Wild Defenseman Ryan Suter when asked how to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in a playoffs series."

    The Wild’s ‘next wave’ of young players are promising but many of them do not project to be as dynamic or productive as many of the names I’ve just mentioned in the previous two paragraphs.  The team took steps to lock down its next wave by making deals to secure Jonas Brodin (21), Marco Scandella (25) and Charlie Coyle (23) who has been surprisingly productive for Team USA at the World Championships (3 goals, 2 assists) in 5 games as helped the Americans win a bronze.  Yet out of that ‘next wave’, secondary goal scorers Jason Zucker (23) and Nino Niederreiter (22) have been signed to short ‘prove it’ type deals and Mikael Granlund has not been signed as a long-term contract yet.  With the Wild’s current cap crunch it will be extremely difficult to re-sign Zucker or Niederreiter if they can prove their 20+ goal production was not a fluke.

    With a depleted prospect pool and a farm team in Iowa that has finished last in the American Hockey League the last two seasons there doesn’t seem to be a lot of help on the way.  Many believe the team will be looking to trade players like Matt Cooke and Jared Spurgeon to both free up cap space and perhaps acquire draft picks in the process to re-stock the prospect pool.  The team has dealt away a lot of 2nd and 3rd round picks with deadline deals the last 3 seasons.  Even if the Wild can make some deals, the development of those prospects will take time, and that is definitely not on Minnesota’s side right now.

    Next: Minnesota Wild: 5 Lessons Learned From Playoffs

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