Poll: Are the Wild a better team than they were last year?
This post is part of Wild Day on PHT...
The Minnesota Wild looked incredible at the start of last season. Not many people expected them to get off to such a hot start, but at one point, it looked like they were going to run away with the Central Division.
Unfortunately for them, the tweaks they made to the roster right before the trade deadline didn’t prevent them from suffering a big collapse down the stretch.
Not only did the Wild not win the division, they also suffered an ugly first-round exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, who took them down in just five games.
What once looked like a promising season came to a crashing halt in a hurry. Bruce Boudreau, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu and Devan Dubnyk went from being great stories to disappointments in a short amount of time.
GM Chuck Fletcher didn’t blow the team up this summer, but there were a few key changes that were made. The Wild swapped defenseman Marco Scandella and veteran forward Jason Pominville for forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno.
Pominville’s $5.6 million salary was definitely a burden on the Wild’s salary cap, but he still managed to put up 47 points last season. Scandella has also been a solid defensive defenseman for Minnesota for a few years. As for the return, Foligno is a physical winger that can punish the opposition, while Ennis is loaded with skill, but he just can’t seem to stay healthy.
With Scandella no longer in the picture, Fletcher went out and added Kyle Quincy in free agency.
They also lost a pair of players to the Vegas Golden Knights. In order to protect Scandella and Matt Dumba in the expansion draft, it cost them Erik Haula and Alex Tuch. Haula had been a valuable contributor in Minnesota’s bottom-six. And although Tuck, 21, has just six games of NHL experience, he was close to becoming a regular in the lineup.
Are they a better team after those moves? I’d lean towards no. Are they definitely worse? I don’t think we can say that either.
The other issue with Minnesota’s roster, is that it’s getting older. Staal and Koivu had nice years in 2016-17, but will they be able to keep that up? Staal suffered a pretty serious injury during the playoffs, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds.
Zach Parise’s offensive numbers have dropped significantly in each of the last three seasons. The 33-year-old’s point totals have dipped from 62, to 53, to 42, and his goal totals have also decreased from 33, to 25, to 19. Expecting him to suddenly become the player he once was seems like a stretch.
Also, as great as Dubnyk was out of the gate, it became pretty clear that the Wild burned him out by the end of the season. There’s no doubt that they’ll have to give their backup goalie more action if they want to prevent this from happening again. In that regard, they made another change, as they allowed Darcy Kuemper to head to Los Angeles. It looks like Alex Stalock will be Dubnyk’s backup in 2017-18.
On a more positive note, there’s no denying that some of their younger players took a huge step forward. Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle are all solid and under the age of 24. Joel Eriksson Ek is another player that could make an impact in 2017-18.
And not all their older players have regressed. Ryan Suter, 32, continues to be a reliable, big-minute defenseman for his team. He had 40 points and a plus-34 rating while averaging over almost 27 minutes per night last season.
So, you know the changes the Wild made to their roster. With all things being considered, do you think they’re a better squad than they were at the end of last season?
Make sure you vote in the poll below and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.