One more week left before the NHL regular season begins. Teams have be steadily trimming players from its roster, sending some of them back to major junior and others to the American Hockey League in Iowa. The Minnesota Wild are 3-1 in pre-season action so far and while that means as much as last night’s burrito in regards to the outcome of the 2017-18 regular season, fans have for the most part enjoyed what they’ve witnessed so far. Well, other than the 27 times they’ve seen their team go on the penalty kill with the league’s crackdown on just about anything resembling a slash. It has meant half of their pre-season games have been a literal parade to the penalty box and fans are wondering if this is what they should expect when the regular season resumes. Since I mentioned expectations (cue segue music).
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 3rd 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.
5. Does the Minnesota Wild commit itself to giving Devan Dubnyk less starts so he is more fresh for the post-season, or will he again be logging 80%+ of the starts with only a few token chances for Alex Stalock? Is it necessary to rest Dubnyk more for a long playoff run to happen?
@Timnado – Yes! It seemed pretty obvious that the team and coaches had zero faith in The Milkman, and this resulted in too many starts and too few respites for DD. He clearly looked worn down at the end of the year. It’s an absolute priority for this team to spell Dubs regularly. I am hoping that Stalock is sharp, dependable, and can be expected to handle 25-35% of the workload.
DaveyJ – Funny! Maybe I should have read ahead. The Wild will prove to be complete idiots if they run Dubnyk into the ground again this season. Going into the off-season, I have stated many times to many people that nothing the Wild do will matter a bit if they don’t find themselves a legitimate and dependable backup goalie. I guess time will tell.
@AngryFinn – I think one could make the argument that the prevailing wisdom that you need to rest your starting goalie in order to be successful isn’t really based on fact, and based more on the prevalence of head coaches wanting to “play the hot hand”. With the exception of back-to-backs, I don’t know that there is any proof that a #1 goalie with X days of rest is significantly worse than the backup goalie with X+n, days of rest (again, provided that X > 0).
I think the only real reason to rest your starter is to avoid injury, but where do you draw the line? If the goal is to keep your #1 healthy, why start him at all?
Long story short, I say play Dubes as long as he’s healthy, playing well, and not playing both sides of a back-to-back.
CaptainH – I think if there was an issue with Dubnyk being gassed late last season, he needs to get himself into better shape so he can handle it. Plenty of other goalies have handled a heavy workload and gotten it done. It also seems to me that most goalies play better the more they play. I don’t know if anyone else senses this from Dubnyk, but at times I find myself wondering how committed he is.
Rottenrefs – Again I hinted at this above. Dubnyk is 40 years old. While I’m no player hater if they’re older I am realistic. If Devan sees as many games this year as he did last year this team is destined for failure. If Alex Stalock can’t stand on his head 50% of the time or more this team is going to hurt.
Every step this team takes to grow they continually step on their sleeves stifling growth. Do they really want to be a Cup contender or do they want to keep playing the short odds at just making the playoffs, by making year-in and year-out, sacrifices for the future? Every year this team skates out a plethora of veteran or rejuvenating veteran players (Heatley, Vanek, Pominville and the list is growing) while dishing up scants of youth who never seem to be allowed the big burn because management is too hell-bent on maintaining a ‘norm’ versus taking it on the chin while positioning themselves for something better in the future.
How often do Minnesota teams dote on some ‘legend’ hoping they can get that player (or players) a championship somehow? To me this is too much of a sacrifice too often. If they retire without a championship so be it. Seriously, stop sacrificing. Whether Tom, Dick or Billy-Bob deserve a Cup or not, if it’s costing the team a year of hard bounces in order to be better; let them fall a few times. We want the Cup – not just the hope of making the playoffs for ‘x’ numbers of years straight.
KISS_ArmyMan – The Wild need to give Dubnyk more rest. The past several seasons with the inconsistent Darcy Kuemper as backup forced the Wild to play Dubnyk far more often that they wanted to or should have. As a result, Dubnyk wore down right when the Wild needed him to step his game up. Giving Dubnyk more rest isn’t a guarantee of a long run, but it can be a contributing factor to keeping him fresh in order to have a long run.
@TonyDeanHB – I am not sure what happened with Dubnyk last year it did not appear to be fatigue related rather confidence and concentration were his issue in my view. I also think our blue line has to be better as Dubnyk was certainly on an island late in the year. Stalock is not the answer as a regular and will not push Dubnyk for playing time.
Brian – This sounds like it was a major concern for management over the season. I think Boudreau mentioned that he didn’t have enough confidence in Kuemper to play him late in the season and thus Dubnyk probably played more than he should have. Will Stalock and/or Svedberg create any more confidence? I really think that if the Wild played as well offensively/defenseless in the second half as they did in the first half Dubnyk wouldn’t have gotten so wore down.
6. Where do you see the Minnesota Wild finishing within the Central Division this season, how many points will they get? Will the Iowa Wild make the playoffs this year? Also, your one crazy prediction for the Wild’s 2017-18 season (it can be about anything).
@Timnado – The crystal ball shows a second-place finish in The Central with 110 points for the Wild, falling just short of the revamped and Hitchcock’ed Dallas Stars. Iowa is stabilized by Derek Lalonde and Fletcher’s depth signings and finally makes the playoffs. As for a prediction, I will present a “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” scenario where not one, but TWO Wild players hit the 30 goal mark for the first time in some years yet Parise fails to net 15. (Gaborik and Rolston will present the 30 Goal Green Jackets in an offseason ceremony)
DaveyJ – Believe it or not, I am predicting the Wild will finish 1st in the Central division. I don’t think Chicago has the depth to win an 82 game race, St. Louis is coached by Mike Yeo, Nashville might have a little hangover from their impressive run in the playoffs, I don’t believe in Dallas, Winnipeg is very good on paper, but can’t seem to figure out how to be a good team, and then…there’s Colorado.
Barring a major rash of injuries with the big club, I expect the Iowa Wild to make the playoffs and have a solid season. They have too many experienced players mixed with solid young talent not to.
My crazy prediction is Joel Eriksson Ek will win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie.
@AngryFinn – The Wild, as per usual, are in a tough division. To finish 1st will be a tall order. Anywhere between 2nd and a Wildcard seems plausible to me. The baby Wild are depleted, and I say no playoffs for them. Crazy prediction: short of a firesale, the Wild will make no significant trade deadline moves (mostly because they won’t want to trade away young prospects).
CaptainH – I believe Iowa will struggle a bit with the loss of key guys moving up to the show, and will not make the playoffs. The Wild will finish with 95 points and barely sneak into the playoffs, but knock off Edmonton and Nashville to advance to the Conference Finals, where they will play well but lose to their playoff nemesis.
KISS_ArmyMan – I see the Wild finishing 3rd, maybe 4th in the Central. They should make the Playoffs. Maybe 90-100 points. Chicago is always tough, and Nashville made the finals last season. St. Louis looked rejuvenated under Yeo. Dallas re-loaded in a big way this off-season. Not sure standing pat with last years team is going to win the division…
Iowa’s problem is that the Wild don’t trust Iowa to develop players, even though the Wild own the Baby Wild and hire the coaches in Iowa. Many of the players that could have helped Iowa develop a winning culture in the past and maybe making the Playoffs were sitting on the Wild bench or in the press box making popcorn. Until the Wild trust Iowa to develop players and leave them in Iowa until they are truly dominant, Iowa’s Missing-the-Playoff streak may go on. I almost wish the Iowa Wild weren’t so close. It seems to make it that much easier for the Wild to snatch a player from Iowa and sit him in St. Paul. At least in the past the Wild had to think twice about bringing a player up from Houston, since it was so far away. But now they seem to enjoy yo-yo’ing players back and forth between Des Moines and St. Paul simply because they can…
Crazy prediction: A Wild player wins a major award that is not the Masterton.
Rottenrefs – The true dark horse on this team might be Bob Woods. Can he get more out of ‘less than what they had last year’ on defense and will the players respond to him really quickly? Previously with Boudreau they had pretty decent success defensively. Are the current Wild blue-liners made of the same fabric their previous players were made from? One has to hope.
Had the Wild not gone on a skid late in the season last year they literally could have racked up over 110 points. Ending at 106 points, with Chicago taking the Central with 109 points the Wild have it in them to do better. But, I have been talking about a defense that may be lacking from what they had last year. I’m banking on Woods to make a huge impact on the Wild.
In all honesty I think the Wild can take the Central. Without the late stumble last year they were in position to do just that. With one less ‘core leader’ (in Pominville) being available to plug in on the top line or in a top-6 role – that’s the good news. Other good news is they don’t have Hanzal or White either to take minutes from younger players who actually carried the vets for the third straight year (not that the coaches or media would notice.) Conservatively I can see the Wild earning 108 points and win the division, yet it wouldn’t surprise me if they got 114 points. Who said I’m not optimistic? I’ll go with 113 points. I love that ’13’ in there! Boo, hiss, scowl… The only unlucky thing about a 13 is it scares people. Cool, all the more reason.
The Iowa Wild will struggle but not to the tone of last year, which really wasn’t bad. The coaching staff is still relatively new and while they did have their first winning season they’ll still have to battle some pretty good teams to get into the playoffs. The good news it they have a much better chance at reaching the playoffs this year than last year.
My 2017-18 Minnesota Wild prediction? Nino Niedereitter, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker all score 30 or more goals.
@TonyDeanHB – Wild finish second in the division 102 Points. Iowa Wild do make the playoffs. My prediction is Ennis finishes with 60 Points.
Brian – If the fresh blood comes in and adds toughness and grit to the team I think they win in the regular season and go far in the playoffs. I would love to see Tyler (Ennis) and Luke (Kunin) come in and have tremendous years. But most importantly the mood around this team needs to be nasty!!! By the way I big part of that will depend on whether Parise is healthy enough to be his old feisty self.
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!