Following the Oilers and the Panthers, I feel like I’m on a string of real down teams with these previews. I’ve skipped the Kings, because we’ll obviously be doing a more detailed preview in the next couple days. In the meantime, the Minnesota Wild. Again we’re looking at a team that doesn’t have a heck of a lot of potential. Last season was a disappointment for the Wild, when their strong defensive play collapsed under a new system and was not replaced by a significant increase in scoring. Unfortunately that spelled disaster as they ended up near the bottom of the ever competitive Western Conference, a place they may end up again this season.
The Wild struggled last season and ended up 21st in the league in goals allowed, but the additions of Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and John Madden are unlikely to significantly improve that number. While Madden has been a dominant defensive player in his heyday, this is not his heyday. He’s in the twilight of his career, and the Wild will need some of their offensive players to step up and match the goals that look like the Wild will be leaking his season.
Niklas Backstrom, Martin Havlat, Mikko Koivu, Nick Schultz, Cal Clutterbuck
The Wild actually have some pieces to make noise here, With Martin Havlat, Mikko Koivu,and Guillaume Latendresse as well as their supporting cast of players, they Wild could put up some points. Latendresse netted 25 goals in only 55 games, and if he is able to replicate that success, they will have added a very real offensive punch. In addition to the ability to score goals, the offensive side of the puck could be quite hard to play against, since Clutterbuck, Nystrom, Madden and others play a rough and tumble style that could wear out some smaller teams over the long haul.
Marek Zidlicky is probably the strongest defenseman on the roster, and led the team in ice time last season. That said, behind Zidlicky the Wild have Greg Zanon and Nick Schultz to offer some consistent ice-time. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of star power on the blue line in Minnesota, but they do have some consistent players. Cam Barker, acquired from Chicago, may have the chance to shine in a full season with Minnesota after getting out from under the big names in the Windy City. If he’s able to reach the potential some saw when he was drafted, this could be a formidable, if not spectacular defense. In goal, Backstrom is something. He struggled last season, but if he can recapture the form of the years before, look out.
Unfortunately for the Wild fans, I don’t see Minnesota in the playoffs. They won’t be as weak as either the Oilers or the Panthers, but I think they’ll struggle to get much going. With a lack of true top line talent across the board, I think they’ll struggle to pass either Colorado or (obviously) Vancouver. That said, the Wild are not in incredibly dire straits, and they could beat up on the weaker two in their division and sneak into the bottom of the playoffs if everything goes just right, and Backstrom redeems his somewhat tarnished reputation.
Tags: Cal Clutterbuck Cam Barker Colorado Avalanche Edmonton Oilers Eric Nystrom Florida Panthers Greg Zanon Guillaume Latendresse John Madden Los Angeles Kings Marek Zidlicky Martin Havlat Matt Cullen Mikko Koivu Minnesota Wild Nick Schultz Niklas Backstrom Vancouver Canucks