Minnesota Wild: Crucial Year for Thomas Vanek in 2015


“It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

Those were the words spoken by the Minnesota Wild’s, Thomas Vanek after signing his three year, 19 million dollar contract in the summer of 2014.

Coming off a 27 goal season with 41 assists in 2013-14, in which he played with three different teams, the Wild felt it promising to offer Vanek a contract worth 6.5 million against their salary cap for three straight seasons.

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How did Vanek deliver?

The 2014-15 season saw Vanek score 21 goals with 31 assists for a grand total of 52 points. Yes, only 21 goals from somebody taking 6.5 million away from the salary cap. Not to mention Vanek went scoreless in 10 post-season games this past year with only four assists.

Fans were outraged, Vanek was a player everybody had high hopes for and was not able to produce.

Now comes the 2015-16 season, a season in which Vanek has a chance to redeem himself. The recent anti-sloth-shamming activist has the ability to rid the score of the hate he is receiving in Minnesota. So what do we need to see in 2015-16 from Vanek to lay off of him?

Goals and lots of them.

Vanek has already said that he is not a player that is going to back check and give a 110% every single shift such as a guy like Zach Parise, and has also indicated that he is a guy that finds open ice and can exploit it when necessary.

I already had my doubts when the Wild decided to sign Vanek in the summer of 2014. Vanek has never been that great of a skater, so signing him in the defensive minded system the Wild play did not seem ideal to myself, but the ability he does bring as a shooter was intriguing.

Mar 27, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek (26) celebrates his goal in the third period against the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center. The Minnesota Wild beat the Calgary Flames 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015-16 season needs to see Vanek find some open ice and a lot of it. Maybe you can give him the benefit of the doubt being that he came into a new system last season with the Wild, but the excuses will be all used up this season. Vanek offers quite a change of pace from the Wild’s scheme so channeling that will be the challenge for the Wild and head coach Mike Yeo.

I like the upside Vanek possess and the potential is there, but the configuration of how to channel that potential has not been discovered. Although I am not a fan of Vanek’s overall demeanor, if he can make his game work in Minnesota’s system I will have no complaints, if he doesn’t want to back check then he needs to score and score a lot.

This is a guy that has scored 40 goals in a season, and coming in as a pure sniper in Minnesota’s offense, 30-35 goals should be an expectation. Vanek did not receive much ice time last year, so he will have to earn that again along with the trust of the franchise and it’s fans.

It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done.

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