Will the Wild be better or worse this season, and why?
What are the major changes that you think will affect the team the most?
Well, that is an interesting question. I do think that the changes were needed and that Fletcher seems to (just my opinion on what he did at the draft and hearing him speak--can't base it off anything tangible yet) understand his position post-lockout than Risebrough ever could.
With that said, I think this year will show inconsistency. Many of the guys have only had Lemaire and co. preaching to them defense, position, etc. While I would never say that Lemaire wasn't what was wrong with the team, I will say it will be nice to see consistent lines, a full-time captaincy and defenseman jumping into the play...even if it does mean we give up a few more odd-man rushes.
The inconsistency will show as the team adapts to a different style of play. I think some of the forwards will be timid to actuall forecheck and some of the defensemen will need time to realize that they are allowed to join into the rush.
I do believe that if Sheppard gets 2nd line icetime most of the year, he will begin to show some good abilities. I feel he needs confidence and better foot-work. I think Burns is going to have a huge year and Johnsson will continue to show great positional play, smooth passing and some of that offense that he had back in Philly.
The biggest question to me, which is probably because I am pessimistic, is how Backstrom will do with a more open system. He has veins of ice, meaning he does not get bothered and is always in good position. The problem with a more wide open system is that you get a positional goaltender moving side to side more often. Backstrom is not the most athletic goalie out there so I do wonder if he will be as good as he was behind a Lemaire coached team, facing many low-quality shots.
Long story short:
I believe Wild fans will enjoy seeing more offense, consistent lines, forechecking. But, this year will show inconsistency due to growing pains as we are implementing a new system. We also do not have a lot of depth so if Koivu/Havlat/Burns go down with an injury, we will have problems.
Personally, I want to see what Bouchard/Sheppard/Burns all do this year. I want to see if Bouchard and Sheppard can live up to their potential. I also will enjoy watching Clutterbuck become one of the best 3rd liners out there! Last but not least, I can't wait to see what Koivu does!
Good question :)
We are still a team that is relying soley on 1 scoring line to conistently play top level offense (and defense) against some of the hardest lines not only in our division but in the conference (Vancouver, Calgary have stacked up scoring lines and Anaheim, Detroit, Chicago are not slouching either). Koivu will be putting down a ton of ice time, and God willing if he gets the "C" he is really going to show what this team can do. Moreover, we are putting a lot of weight on Havlat to pick up the scoring responsibilities that we lost when Gaborik left (not that we really haven't gotten that in the last year or two), but we also need to hope he can stay healty as well. Nolan and Bruno are going to need to play at the same intensity they played last year in the hopes we can at least make a run when we hit our tradiional slump in Dec/Jan timeframe.
Defense is where I'm the most optimistic this year! This is the first year I believe we actually have all the role players we need in order to have a great Penalty Kill, great PP QB's, Slapshots, and most important shutdown players when playing full strength.
Backstrom has me concerned because its a huge contract we have bought into thanks to DR and when you don't a trap system and dmen lagging behind on offense, its going to be a little more difficult for him. However, he shut all us up that are skeptical by playing the level we want him to play.
What has me the most excited is the fact that EVERYONE (to include Head Coach, GM, and new players) are literally excited as hell to be wearing a Minnesota sweater. That is something we haven't seen with the likes of Simon (ugh), Gaborik, Manny, and Demitra to name a few. With that excitement is going to come heart and the ability to want to play hard every shift they are on the ice.
I've never seen the fans this excited for Wild hockey since the 2003 playoff run, and the 2006 preseason with who we signed and our possibilities. New 3rd jersey, new players, and most importantly the promises that Richards and Fletcher have given us (Burns will only be a dman this year no matter what, wide open hockey, more intense forechecking, etc) have me pumped for this season to begin.
We will finish probably 3rd in the Division behind Vancouver and Calgary. With that however we will still be the 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs this year.
I think this year is going to be brutal. Ugly. Several headaches. We will finish strong but no where near the play offs.
DR was hand picking select talent with a plan. The farm is thin. Gillies looks likes he will not see a regular shift yet this year. Sheppard and PMB will need some adjusting. Havlat to a new team.
We cannot open the offensive up with Brunno and Nolan on the team. I like them, they are good at what they do. Thats it. Both are one little nic away from sitting out several games.
I do not want Koivu playing 22+ minutes when this not the team that is going places. Why tear away at years when its to barely make the play offs. I hope we cool off on Koivu.
I see the wild on a two year plan. Let the kids adjust to the style. Lose your big contracts after the season and the old. And then attack the market. Johnnsson, Zidlecki and Nolan are all gone. Freeing up 10.5 mil alone right there. Koivu will get a raise. But thats it.
I would love the wild to be contenders and still have that room and freedom coming up. I just do not see it.
San Jose, Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver, Calgary are all pretty much shoeins for the playoffs right off the back. That is 5 of 8 right there. Now we start looking heavily at Columbus, St. Louis, Anaheim, and even Edmonton, Nashville, and Dallas....things start to look a little bit bleaker.
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