Saturday, October 1, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Minnesota Wild

When you haven't made it to the postseason since 2008, and out of the first round since 2003, sometimes sweeping changes are needed. This is exactly what happened in St. Paul this offseason. There is a new head coach in Mike Yeo, and a bunch of new faces on the roster. Will all of this change add up to a much needed postseason birth in the Hockey Capital of the U.S?

Strengths: The offensive got a huge makeover this offseason, and now becomes a strength instead of a weakness. Gone are 3 of their Top 4 scorers from a season ago (Andrew Brunette, Marty Havlat, and Brent Burns), but in are Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. They will form a top line with Wild mainstay Mikko Koivu  to form a very good top line. Behind that, there are some good scoring possibilities in Guillaume Latendresse and P-M Bouchard, who will need to have immediate impacts in order to help a team that had a major lack of scoring a season ago. In net, Niklas Backstrom is an under-the-radar goaltender because he plays in Minnesota, but he is very solid and very reliable in net for a team that needs stability at that position due to their offensive and defensive holes.

Weaknesses: The loss of Brent Burns to San Jose will be very tough to overcome, and no single player can replace his offensive and defensive output. Marek Zidlicky may be the best option, along with newcomer Mike Lundin, but behind them there isn't much. This could end up posing a huge task for Mike Yeo with the lack of playmaking talent on the blue line. Behind the potent top line, there aren't many big scoring threats for the Wild, and once again this combination will force the Wild to be very reliant on Nik Backstrom once again to keep the team afloat.

Any Help Coming? C Mikael Granlund is the Wild's best prospect, and has very good offensive talent all around, and he could be coming to the Wild line-up pretty soon. RW Charlie Coyle came over in one of the trades with San Jose this offseason, and he can become a legit power forward for this team soon, with his big frame and big strength. D Jonas Brodin is another good prospect, and he can possibly help the ailing Wild blue line sooner rather than later.

Outlook: Even though the team underwent significant change, there still isn't enough on this roster to contend for the postseason in a very crowded West. There is little offensive depth behind the top line, and the defense corps has a troubling lack of depth and talent with some of the offseason losses. It may be a struggle for Mike Yeo in his first season in the NHL.

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