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Wild sign Mikael Granlund, the drama is finally over but should Wild fans expect?

Mikael Granlund

Not living in the Twin Cities anymore as I used to; I still have most of my friends and family living there and all they can talk about lately is all the rain.  In Minnesota, the weather is predictable in only one way; that its completely unpredictable.  You can have scorching heat one part of the week and then bitterly cold and frost by the end of it.  I’ve seen it happen where you have low 90’s at the start and then finish the weak in the low 40’s with a bone chilling wind.  It doesn’t make any sense, but its what you come to expect living in the Midwest.  However, as the storms and rain made some Minnesota residents wonder if they were about to have a monsoon season they also breathed a collective sigh of relief at the news that Mikael Granlund had signed his 3-year entry level deal with the Wild.  It is a 3-year deal that will pay him $900,000 / season with a $90,000 signing bonus along with performance based incentives that could pay him another $1.1 million.  Not too shabby, and its a two-way deal meaning team could choose to give him seasoning by sending him down to play with the Houston Aeros.  Maybe it was a small sigh, but for fans across the State of Hockey they couldn’t help but peak over at their calendars and realize that the deadline for his signing was about a week away.  If he had not signed he would’ve re-entered the draft.  We can all rest well now that this drama has subsided right?    

Mikael Granlund Dos Equis 

“The most interesting player on the Wild” encourages fans to ‘stay thirsty my friends.’

Maybe.  Until we see Mikael Granlund play in NHL games and put up NHL points we really don’t know what we have just yet.  One thing is for certain, not everyone in the State of Hockey is sold on him being the savior of the franchise.  Even the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Sid Hartman, who rarely ever talks about hockey (especially in late May) chimed in that Wild fans should not expect him to be Ricky Rubio and have an immediate impact with the team.  Hartman really doesn’t know anything about hockey (by his own admission) so you can take his opinion with a grain of salt but he’s not the only one that thinks Wild fans should be perhaps a little more guarded in their expectations before they exalt him with the title of ‘baby Jesus’ just yet.  So what should Wild fans expect from Mikael Granlund for 2012-13? 

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Mikael Granlund  Should Wild fans rejoice at this news?

I have little doubt there is a contingent of Wild fans out there who did not appreciate this article I wrote on May 3rd about Granlund’s possible failure to sign with the team.  Some fans called me an alarmist and said I was overreacting.  I was wrong, and I’ll be honest none of those comments bothered me at all.  Granlund certainly took his sweet time before finally putting pen to paper and then waiting a few days for it to be processed.  It doesn’t ignore the fact that he could’ve signed far sooner but simply didn’t wish to bother with it.  Its a moot point now.  However, what will this really do for the team next season?  In my humble opinion what do I think we (Wild fans) should expect from the 20-year old Finnish phenom? 

Not that much. 

I guess you can put me in the group like NHL Network and TSN analyst and former NHL’er Mike Johnson.  Johnson commented on Mikael Granlund’s apparent lack of footspeed and he gave a bit of a warning before anyone expects huge things out of the skilled Finnish star when he said, “He looked a step slow, and it’s going to be hard for him to get the separation he needs to make plays, He’s going to have to get a little faster if he’s going to want to be a dominant offensive player.”  I agree wholeheartedly, skating is huge; especially for smaller players like Granlund and on a smaller North American ice surface it can really limit a player’s ability to contribute.  Some Wild fans were a bit defensive at Johnson’s comments; as evidenced by poster minneg56 who chimed in with this gem “I don’t know if NHL Network analyst Johnson is Canadian… but he sure sounds like it! With respect to all my Canukian buddies, they just can’t accept that decent players come from anywhere but the Great White North!” on Michael Russo‘s online Star Tribune column on the signing.  To answer his question, Mike Johnson is Canadian, he’s from Scarborough, Ontario where he played 11 seasons in the NHL.  Yet Johnson’s comments about footspeed are valid; and he’s speaking from experience as one of his best skills as a player was his skating.  He understands how crucial it can be to being an average player or a good player. 

Yet its not all negativity out there.  ESPN scout Grant Sonier thinks the comments about Granlund’s footspeed do have some merit but he doesn’t see it as being as big of a deal as some experts like Mike Johnson do.  Sonier shared, “not as concerned about his feet as other people have been. He doesn’t have blinding speed, but he has enough quickness and evasiveness, he’s going to be able to buy himself some time and space to make plays. … I would bet he’s going to be a real good player.”  This is coming from a scout who has never played a game in the NHL.  So you can take that for whatever its worth. To Sonier and some of those that think Granlund will be the next thing I would remind them that many predicted that diminutive forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard would have a similar impact despite not possessing blazing speed.  Bouchard, not even accounting for injuries has been an inconsistent player throughout most of his NHL career.  Like Granlund, was said to possess outstanding on-ice vision, excellent playmaking skills and terrific hands.  At the time various experts poo-poo’d the idea that Bouchard may not be the elite talent he was in major junior by touting his elusiveness and the physical comparisons and skill attributes appear to be remarkably similar. 

Granlund did manage a goal and 5 points in 10 games in the World Championships that concluded last week which made him tied for fourth on the team in tournament scoring, so could he thrive at the NHL level?  Maybe, but I too would advise Wild fans to be careful of wishing big things from the rookie.  I think its foolish to expect much more than 30-40 points in his rookie season.  Goal-wise I think he’ll have about 10-13 in his rookie season, but it should be noted he’s a playmaker not a sniper.  While his agent seems to think he’ll be playing on the Wild’s top line I doubt the team has made any promises to him.  Especially not prior to the opening of free agency which could see some significant new faces on the roster besides the Finnish wunderkind.  He’s bound to need some time to adapt to the speed of the game as well as the smaller ice sheet.  Time will tell us whether the Wild hit a home run with this kid or if he joins a list of underwhelming talent that leaves you wanting for so much more.  The Wild could use a player who lives up to the hype.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette