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Wild Fans Speak: 2017-18 Season Thoughts, Part II

With football in full swing and the drive for the Major League Baseball playoffs in full swing it means the NHL season will soon be upon us.  With a new team, the Vegas Golden Knights, the 2017-18 season should be a unique one.  What isn’t unique is the high expectations fans across the State of Hockey have for their club.  With team right up against the salary cap ceiling, ownership is certainly expecting a big season to justify that sizable investment.

So as what has become an annual tradition, I’ve asked a group of Minnesota Wild fans for their thoughts going into the 2017-18 NHL season.  These are people that I’ve met on the wild.com message boards as well as from Twitter but make no mistake these are hard-core fans that watch the team regularly and have been watching the club for many years.  The goal is to offer a variety of different perspectives that you may connect with or maybe you won’t.  This is the blogging equivalent of ‘open mic night’ so sit back enjoy the 2nd part of this 3-part series.  So who are the people on this year’s Wild Fans Speak panel?

@Timnado (Tim) – Tim originally hails from Alexandria, MN but now calls West St. Paul his home.  He works for a well-known independent brewery and posts some of the best beer pictures you’ll ever see and his wit and hockey observations are always top notch.

DaveyJ (Dave) – A long time member of the wild.com message boards from Grant, MN.  Dave can be pretty feisty with his opinions.

@AngryFinn (Aaron) – Aaron is the host of 3 in the Box, the best and longest running underground Minnesota Wild podcast out there.  He is also a moderator for the Minnesota Wild Reddit page as well as bringing levity and savvy observations.

Captain H (Ken) – A newer member to the wild.com message boards, he’s a long-time Minnesota hockey fan hailing from Eden Prairie, MN and this his first foray into Wild Fans Speak.

Rottenrefs (Mike) – A long-time wild.com message board member from Annandale, MN, at times he can be irreverent which can drive some people nuts.

KISS_ArmyMan (Bruce) ~ Another long-time wild.com message board regular from Forest Lake, MN.  He’s a former Wild Season Ticket Holder who grew tired of the team’s ‘evaluation year’ toward the latter half of the Doug Risebrough-era.  He is not a homer and watches the team with objectivity.

@TonyDeanHB (Tony) ~ The St. Paul-native used to write for Hockey Buzz as well as was a regular on the Wild Wednesday’s podcast.  He is full of enthusiasm and is not shy in sharing his opinions about the Minnesota Vikings or the Minnesota Wild.

Brian – This is my dad who is originally from Hutchinson, MN.  He’s been a sports fan his whole life and was a very successful multi-sport athlete in high school and has coached a number of sports (hockey, football, basketball).  He is brutally honest and is a huge sports fan who is objective and somewhat cynical when it come to Minnesota teams.

Author’s Note:  So before we get to the questions I’m going to give you a little context.  I collected these responses over the last week or so and finished up these articles on Saturday, the day before the Minnesota Wild gave Mikko Koivu a 2-year extension (with a no movement clause) at $11 million.  So when everyone answered that deal hadn’t happened yet.  So please consider that event hadn’t occurred yet and these were there thoughts on that question.  

3.  Team captain Mikko Koivu is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.  Should the team re-sign him, if so how much should the Wild pay and for how many years should the deal be?  Or should the team trade him?  (FYI: he currently makes $6.75 million per season)

@Timnado – Yes, I think re-signing with the Wild is the best option for Team and Player, as long as a deal can be struck that makes sense for both sides.  I would like to see something similar to the Staal deal, maybe 3 years at 3.5 million.  It might be difficult for Mikko to see a 50% salary decrease on his next deal, but this would provide security for 3 more years and allow him and his family to stay ‘home’ which is priceless.  Also, I think this is a fair deal for a player entering the down-slope of his career.  He could choose to move on for another million or so in AAV, but he will think better of this after a #DeepThoughts sauna session.

DaveyJ – Koivu is probably the most polarizing player on the Wild.  He has fans who love him and fans who hate him. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that, when used properly, he is still a very useful player.  I would sign him, but only for 2 years and for no more than $4 million per season.  My preference would be to sign him to a series of one year deals until his game falls apart, or he retires…or both.

@AngryFinn – I think Mikko is both overrated (locally) and underrated (nationally), that being said, the way he plays the game (biggish 2-way center), I think he can remain productive.  Do I want to pay over 6 a year for him?  Hell no, but if we’re talking like 9 million over say 3 years, then I think we’re in the ballpark.

CaptainH – Mikko has still got some value as a player in this league.  His point production really hasn’t fallen off much at all, so I believe he should be traded while they can still possibly get a good prospect or 2 for him.  Considering Leipold’s comments last season about his current team not having a chance to win the cup (I don’t remember the exact quote),leads me to believe they will trade Mikko.  This team does need a couple more talented young guys to follow up the Granlund, Coyle, Zucker, Nino and Dumba group.

Rottenrefs – See above.  Either Mikko stands on his head and parts the water or they get rid of him.  I’m tired of aging veterans who don’t pull their own weight.  I’m also sick and tired of hearing how good he is on faceoffs when the rest of his game is turning into a liability due to his lack of speed and courage.

KISS_ArmyMan – I wouldn’t be opposed to re-signing Koivu.  He is a solid veteran center who wins more faceoffs than he loses. However, he is also not a $7M player, and he is 34 years old.  At some point the wheels are going to fall off.  The Wild do not need to be saddled with another boat anchor contract like Jason Pominville’s.  Maybe a two year deal, three year max.  Any more than that and they risk repeating the Jason Pominville debacle.  If they got him to sign an Eric Staal type deal (3 yrs/$9M) I wouldn’t be opposed to it.  However, that’s a significant paycut for him, and he may be offended and choose to move on.

I don’t think the team can trade him.  He has a No Movement Clause, so the team would need to get him to waive it in order to trade him.  I have a feeling Koivu will end up like Mats Sundin, not waiving his clause and then leaving via free agency or retiring, leaving the team with nothing.

@TonyDeanHB – I have gained a great appreciation for Koivu as a COMPLIMENTARY player so I am very interested to see his allegiance to this club come the opportunity to hit the open market.  I think $3.5M AAV is more than fair on a 3-5 yr deal which would be a significant cut of his pay but I believe he wants to play his entire career in a Wild jersey.  Much more than that he can get paid elsewhere in my opinion.

Brian – I think this decision needs to wait to the end of the season.  If this team and Koivu performs well in the season and playoffs you sign him for two years but a lower salary.  If this team and/or him continue to play “average hockey” then you trade or let him go.  He still is good in the face off circle and under the current system seems to be looking to score more.

4.  Despite having the most points in franchise history, the Minnesota Wild were bounced in 5 games by the St. Louis Blues in the 1st round of the playoffs.  Is this team a real contender for the Stanley Cup or are they just a highly paid pretender that has only made it past the 1st round once since 2003?

@Timnado – I think they are contenders.  Last year wasn’t the first year I’ve seen a great team go down in flames due to a hot playoff goaltender.  There’s a certain alchemy of injury luck, roster synergy, and serendipity that playoff teams need to advance through the grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Hockey is very streaky, and if the Wild are rolling on all cylinders at the right time, I think they can play with anybody.

DaveyJ – I would love to say they are a serious Cup contender, but when something happens over and over and over again, even an optimist like myself starts to wonder just how good this team is.  I am going to use the same IF here as I did in question #1 – IF Stalock and/or Svedberg can be solid backups for 30+ games, I think the Wild will be able to avoid a major slump this season and Dubnyk (even though he was quite good last year in the playoffs) will be better rested and prepared for a long playoff run.

@AngryFinn – Regardless if whether they are contenders or pretenders, the window on the Parise/Suter era is winding down, and they’re going to have to do something, and do it soon.

CaptainH – I don’t like saying it, but they are pretenders at this point.  In my opinion they just don’t have enough top tier talent.  Or at least a couple of players who maybe aren’t consistently top tier talent but have a season where they put up top tier numbers.  Staal did in 2005-06 for Carolina–100 points, a number which he really never got close to again.

Rottenrefs – No they are not a Stanley Cup contender; unless a few of the veterans change their attitude.  Not too long ago someone on the Wild message board mentioned Matt Cullen bringing the Stanley Cup to the Minnesota State Fair. There, where fans could get to see it and get a picture of themselves standing by it.  Here’s my take: If I were a Minnesota Wild player I’d make sure to make it known ‘I do not want to see it or have my picture taken with it unless we win it for ourselves.’  So, are the Minnesota Wild a Cup contender or a pretender?  My reply to that is in question. How many (and which) Minnesota Wild players took that stance?

KISS_ArmyMan – This team is not a contender.  They are definitely a Playoff team, but a not Cup Contender.  One of the main reasons is that this team does not have that killer instinct most Cup Contending teams have.  Far too often when the Wild need to step on the throat of an opposing team and put the game out of reach, they will relax and let them back into the game.  They also don’t have that scoring stud, that go-to guy that will take over a game when the team needs him to.  Yes, you can win a Cup without a Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos, but who on this team is the fiery leader that will pick them up and put them on his back and carry them?  Their defense was pretty good last year, maybe even among the league’s best with a 2.51 GAA, but now they’ve lost Scandella.  And even though he was injury prone, Scandella was a veteran defenseman that is going to be missed.  Olofsson or Reilly are not going to immediately step in and not miss a beat.  I think the Wild defense will take a step back this year, which may require the goaltending to steal a few games this year.  As far as goaltending, Dubnyk is a pretty good goaltender, bordering on elite.  His biggest flaw is he has a tendency to give up soft goals and wear down as the season goes on.  This may be a result of the fact that the Wild has not had a reliable back-up for several years, so Dubnyk is forced to play more games resulting in him wearing down right before the Playoffs, when the team needs him at his best.  And once again, this team had their annual meltdown at the trade deadline.  Three different coaches, same result.  For whatever reason, this team has yet to go into the Playoffs firing on all cylinders.  They always seem to start circling the drain around the trade deadline for whatever reason, and then manage to back into the Playoffs or stumble into them and then act like they planned it that way.  Individually, this team has some really good players, maybe even great players.  But they are a case where the whole is less than a sum of the parts.  On paper this team looks good, maybe even great.  But it always seem to wilt when there is the least bit of pressure, and the Playoffs are a pressure cooker of epic proportions.

@TonyDeanHB – I think this team can certainly compete with any in the Western Conference.  My questions about this roster will be mostly having to do with the pairings on the blue line.

Brian – I think they have the overall team skill to be a contender.  However, I question their team toughness.  The coaching staff as well as the top players need to lead in this area.  They need to play more physical and be more vocal.

On behalf of Crease And Assist: A Legally Compliant Minnesota hockey blog we’d like to thank all our panel for participating and the time, effort and care you had in your responses.  We couldn’t do it without you!

So what do you think?  How do you think the Minnesota Wild will do in 2017-18?  Does it match our panel?  Share with us what you think in the comment section below or tell me @CreaseAndAssist on Twitter!