CSN Chicago will unveil a preview each day for every Central Division team leading up to the NHL's season-opener. Next up: Minnesota Wild.
In 10 seasons as a head coach in the National Hockey League, Bruce Boudreau has led his teams to a division title in eight of them. He turned around the Washington Capitals by coaching them to a division crown in 2007-08 a year after missing the playoffs and helped the Anaheim Ducks do the same in 2012-13 — after being hired midseason in 2011-12 and failing to qualify for the postseason.
And the Wild are hoping he can do much of the same in Minnesota.
The difference between Boudreau's two former teams compared to the Wild is that he's inheriting an aging core group of Zach Parise (32 years old), Ryan Suter (31) and Eric Staal (31), not superstars like Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin or Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Also, this year's Central Division may be the deepest it's ever been — which didn't seem possible after last year — so there are no guarantees of even securing a playoff spot.
Despite all that and through their ups and downs, it's still a Wild team that has found a way to punch their ticket to the postseason for four consecutive seasons and the coaching staff Boudreau assembled in John Anderson and Scott Stevens is a perfect leadership group that can help lead the charge and break through in May.
But it won't be easy considering they snuck into a playoff spot last season with 87 points, the lowest point total a Western Conference playoff team has finished with in 17 years. The cutoff this year is likely to be at least 95.
The good news is, there's room for improvement.
Last season, the Wild ranked 18th in goals per game (2.60), finished in the bottom-eight in puck possession numbers, were in the middle of the pack in power play percentage (18.5) and had the fourth-worst penalty kill percentage (77.9).
Boudreau's Ducks ranked first in both special teams categories last year and finished among the top-five in possession numbers.
If Parise can stay healthy and a rejuvenated Staal can revert back to the 50-plus point player he's consistently been throughout his career, on top of Ryan Suter anchoring the back end and continuing to perform at a Norris Trophy-type level, the Wild have the ability to stay in the playoff picture.
It's hard to imagine them competing for the top seed, but it shouldn't matter anyways. They will be judged by how deep they play into the spring.