Joe from Hockey Wilderness is a valuable font of knowledge. At least, he’s a valuable font of knowledge when it comes to tonight’s opponent, the Minnesota Wild. Joe took some time out of his day to answer a few of my questions about the Wild, where they’re going, and where they’ve been so far this season.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Copper and Blue: The first ten games are in the books for the Minnesota Wild. They’ve gotten off to a 6-3-2 start, good for 14 points. Are you happy with this start? Why or why not?
Hockey Wilderness; The record might be expected, but I did not see a 5-game winning streak (Ended Monday vs Vancouver) coming as part of it. I guess I’d say that while the results have been (mostly) positive, the process has been bad. They constantly have given up the first goal of the game. Only three times have they scored first this season. They also get outplayed like hell in the first halves of games, only to come on strong in the second and third periods. Couple that with the Wild being one of the most puzzling team to stats analysts across the country, and it’s easy to rip the team for terrible play, but somehow getting results. And it’s not by playing the trap. The team looks old, slow, and should be getting trounced, but yet here they are, within striking distance in the Central Division.
Copper and Blue: Zach Parise was an easy target for ridicule after he signed a 13 year contract with the Wild prior to the 2012-13 NHL season. He’s currently leading the club with 11 points (3-8-11) in 10 games. What does a successful season for Zach Parise look like?
Hockey Wilderness: Well, Parise was everything the Wild needed the first couple seasons. However, back injuries, an MCL sprain, and a broken sternum has hampered his effectiveness. That said, this season he looks like the Parise of old now that he’s finally healthy. Now, small sample size and everything, but he’s the highest paid player on the team playing like the best player on the team. I guess that’s all you can ask for at this point since the money is gone. For Parise to have a good season, he’s gotta be a 30 goal scorer again. He doesn’t have to lead the team in goals or points by the end of the season, but I’d like to think 30 is in him again.
Copper and Blue: Who is a player in Minnesota who could have a breakout season?
Hockey Wilderness: The Wild need a breakout season from someone...anyone! Jason Zucker needs to have a solid year, Mikael Granlund needs to be great again. But really, two guys that should be primed, and perhaps need a breakout year the most, are Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. Coyle had injuries plague his season last year, but it’s also been this nagging, “leaving much to be desired,” feeling that comes with Coyle. He’s a big body, has skill, but just has not played like a big bodied skill player to rack up the goals and assists.
As for Niederreiter, his season too was decimated by injuries and he had goals of hitting the 30-goal mark last year. Healthy, he’s got his eyes set on that mark again. That said, he hasn’t scored a goal since last season. Something like 22 or 23 games without a goal. He does the possession game well, but it’s just not translating into points.
Copper and Blue: Former Oiler Devan Dubnyk looks to be enjoying his start to the season. He’s posting a 5-2-2 win-loss record, a sparkling SV% of .945 and a sub 2.00 GAA. He’s done quite well for himself since becoming a member of the Wild. How confident are you with him as your starter?
Hockey Wilderness: I’ve got no qualms with Dubnyk right now. He’s saving the Wild’s bacon this month and has had to suffer some tough defeats because the Wild couldn’t muster any offense. Being that there is absolutely nothing in terms of legitimate goalie prospects waiting in the wings, Dubnyk is it. Has to be it. And he’s mostly done well for himself.
Copper and Blue: Finally, can the Wild go all the way this year? If not, what are they lacking to make them a top calibre team?
Hockey WIlderness; No, this team, as it’s currently constructed isn’t going anywhere. Maybe a playoff berth, but I highly doubt they get past the first round or even make it competitive. They need passing, shooting, defencing, and goaltending. Most of all, this team needs to find a a way to get younger and faster. And that likely isn’t going to change.
The Wild host the Oilers at 7 PM MST tonight. Thanks to Joe for his time.
Joe Bouley writes for HockeyWilderness.com, part of SB Nation.com. You can hear him weekly on 10K Rinks Radio, a Wild-centric podcast. Subscribe on iTunes, iHeart Radio, and Libsyn. Follow at @JoeBou15 on Twitter.