The Minnesota Wild finished the regular season in 3rd place in the NHL Central Division with a record of 45-26-11. With 101 points, it marked the second consecutive season the Wild finished with 100-plus points. However, for the second consecutive season, the Wild exited in five games in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, this time by the Winnipeg Jets.
The Wild never made it past the second round of the playoffs under general manager Chuck Fletcher. This spring, the Wild thanked Fletcher for his service and hired Paul Fenton, former assistant general manager of the Nashville Predators.
Expect Seeler, Pateryn, and Bartkowski to shore up the Wild’s back end that was 11th in team Goals-Against-Average last year in the NHL.
What to Expect
The Wild have a good, but aging core group of players in , Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, and goalie Devan Dubnyk. Injuries to Parise (back and chest) and Suter (ankle) in part cost the Wild another early playoff exit. Other players such as Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Mikael Granlund did not step up in their absence. Staal turns 34 on Oct. 29, and if he can have the kind of season he had last year (Plus 8, 42 goals, 34 assists for 76 points), the Wild’s forward strength will again be at the center position.
Paul Fenton’s first off-season as general manager was ho-hum; no splash free-agent signings or trades. Re-signing Zucker and Dumba to long-term deals were smart moves, but the amount of no-trade clauses in current contracts on the team’s roster, and the lack of salary cap wiggle room, continue to handcuff the Wild.
Two things the Wild need to do to compete for the Central Division title: 1)Stay healthy and 2) Find a suitable back up for Dubnyk. Alex Stalock and Andrew Hammond will compete for the back-up role. Stalock had a .500 record and a 2.85 GAA as Dubnyk’s back-up last year. If these two things do not happen, the Wild could become trading-deadline sellers in February and miss the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Minnesota Wild website: https://www.nhl.com/wild
Coming Thursday: The Nashville Predators Preview
Paul Dier covers the Minnesota Wild and NHL Central Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow him on Twitter @pauldier.
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