If there is anything I’ve learned from blogging is that fans represent their own sort of community. Whether they band together on Twitter, or on message boards like HockeyForums.net, their passion for the game and team they love brings them together where friendships are forged. Like any community or family, there are moments where things will get heated which is inevitable from time to time. But it can also be a source of strength as they are a group of people that can be supportive during tough times or simply a place to vent from the daily struggles of life.
In what has become an annual tradition, before the season starts I survey a group of fans to see what their perceptions are of the team going into the 2018-19 season. Check out what the fans I surveyed said about this club last year.
Perhaps a tiny bit inspired by Wild owner Craig Leipold to get a ‘fresh set of eyes’ on this team, I’ve contacted a friend who is not a Minnesota Wild fan to see how his views of our team are similar or different to die hard fans I know as well as 5 Wild fans. I asked each of them 6 questions pertaining to the Minnesota Wild’s 2018-19 season. I’ve asked that each fan introduce themselves so you know a little bit about their background before you start reading their responses to the questions. Here is our panel for the 2018-19 version of Wild Fans Speak!
Ricky (@Van_city_Nucks) ~ Hey guys, I’m Ricky Sangha. I’m a born and raised Vancouverite, who is a diehard Canucks fan and hockey fan in general. I first started watching hockey as a 9 year old and fell in love with the game right away. I currently own Vancouver Canucks quarter season tickets, and I always look forward to every trip to the rink!
Bruce (@LangeB1) ~ I am a former ‘Team of 18,000’ member who gave up my tickets after the Wild became the only team that didn’t lower ticket prices after the 2004-05 Lockout. I live in Forest Lake, MN and tend to be more critical of the team than I probably should be.
Jodi (@Jodi_Halvy) ~ I am an avid hockey fan, and enjoy watching just about any level of hockey. I am most passionate about the Minnesota Wild and have been a season ticket holder, along with my dad, for about 10 years now. I have three specific Minnesota Wild hockey wishes, not that anyone asked. My first wish is to see the Minnesota Wild win the Stanley Cup. My second wish is to see Kirill Kaprizov wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey. And my third wish is that Charlie Coyle become the player he should become.
Aaron (@AngryFinn) ~ He is a lifelong hockey fan going back to the days of the Minnesota North Stars. Aaron is also a founding member of 3 in the Box, the longest running underground Wild podcast.
Tim (@Timnado) ~ When he’s not tweeting about the trials and tribulations of his beloved Wild, he’s probably playing a video game or working on his Perfect Strangers fan fiction. A tasty, local malted beverage is always within reach, and he has firmly embraced the
#DadJoke phase of his life.
Brian ~ I’m Brian Felska and have been a long time hockey fan at all levels. Growing up in outstate Minnesota in the 50’s and 60’s where it was tough to participate in hockey as a school sport. The only school teams were in the metropolitan area or in northern Minnesota. We did spend a lot of time at the rink skating, shooting, and playing pickup games. We had very little formal coaching but did have rec. teams from junior high on. Seasonal high school sports took the spotlight but I did manage to play some hockey in my senior high years. When I was in college the St. Cloud State program was in its infancy just switching from club to a varsity sport. Even then the players shoveled their own rinks. I was lucky enough to coach some peewee teams before starting a family. I have always enjoyed the speed and physically of sports so hockey was I game I loved.
Let us begin!
1. What are your first impressions of new Wild GM Paul Fenton? Is it a smart move of him to watch this roster perform for a while before he makes significant ‘tweaks’ to the roster or are they wasting time?
Ricky ~ I think Paul Fenton is a fantastic hire by the Minnesota Wild. They definitely did their homework on this guy and I think it’s a great fit. Paul was an assistant GM in Nashville for 12 years, and has helped turn that franchise into a Stanley Cup contender. He’s been groomed for a while, and I think he’ll assess the situation there in Minnesota and make the moves needed to get the Wild over their playoff hump. Do these moves need to happen before the season starts? I don’t think so. I see Minnesota as a playoff team for a 7th straight season, it’s about adding a key piece or two at the deadline, and there are usually some valuable rentals out there.
Bruce ~ My first impression is that he was put behind the eight ball by the owner’s comments about the team only needing “tweaks” to get to the Cup. However, his lack of significant moves could also be a function of the salary cap mess Fletcher left the team in. After signing Zucker and Dumba to their extensions, and retooling the fourth line for the umpteenth time, he had about $1.7M left as a cushion for call-ups, etc. So even if he wanted to make some moves, financially he couldn’t. And besides, who can he trade? Fletcher gave almost every player some sort of NMC/NTC. Granlund is about the only player he could trade to get a decent return on, but what would that return be? Prospects, draft picks? And every GM know the Wild’s precarious cap position, so they won’t be offering full value. Fenton is stuck, so he might as well just watch the mess he inherited and see if there is anything he can do with it.
Jodi ~ I think Paul Fenton actually made a good choice by leaving the roster intact. First off, realistically, there wasn’t much he could’ve done as far as trades or free agency were concerned. It’s no secret we are in salary cap hell. And trade wise, I feel like many guys on this team lost trade value after sub par seasons, Nino and Coyle especially. They were also both injured, so you’ve got to hope that they settle back in to form this season and remain healthy. I wouldn’t have minded trading Brodin, but I understand how with Suter’s injury, that isn’t the greatest idea. I would like to see Fenton put more faith in developing young guys, and less long term deals to older Vets like the Koivu deal. Fenton will be my hero if he can get Kaprizov over here, sooner rather than later!
Aaron ~ I would think that a prospective GM would already have some opinions about how the roster is currently constructed. That being said we all saw Fletcher’s first moves (cough Cam Barker cough).
Tim ~ Hard to draw any big conclusions up to this point. Mr. Fenton has wisely avoided making changes just for the sake of change. I know the Wild fanbase has been yearning for some sort of action, but I feel it would be reckless for GMPF to make significant roster changes before he has become fully acquainted with the team he has inherited. No drastic changes up to this point was the smart play here; I would imagine that the other GMs around the league would have low-balled any preliminary trade-talk anyway.
Brian ~ I was hoping that his hiring would bring a shake up of the roster but that hasn’t happened. He has a history of making some major trades but with Leipold’s comments on making tweaks to the line up it was obvious we were not going to get an overhaul. Trading to trade isn’t good either and with our salary cap issues and lack of trade value players maybe his hands were tied. He has added some size and depth but also has given up some speed and talent in letting Cullen go and buying out Ennis. It seems to me that a couple of years ago our problem was lack of speed.
2. The Athletic recently did a fan-based poll about the confidence fans have in their respective NHL team’s front offices. Teams were rated on the following categories; roster building, cap management, draft & development, trading, free agency and vision. The Wild’s front office was rated 26th in the league. Would you say that ranking is fair? Or is this result simply a reflection former GM Chuck Fletcher?
Ricky ~ I would say the Athletic ranking on the Minnesota Wild front office was pretty accurate, I would say in the 23 to 26 range for sure. As far as salary cap situation goes that would be the one glaring problem for me out of the bunch, with 20% of their cap taken up by Zach Parise and Ryan Suter alone, both of whom are 33 years old. These rankings obviously have no reflection on new GM Paul Fenton but mainly the Chuck Fletcher regime.
Bruce ~ I take these polls with a grain of salt, because they are in no way scientific and only open to Athletic subscribers and you could get fans from other teams stacking the vote (kind of like how John Scott made the All-Star team that one year). That being said, I would have expected the Wild to be ranked higher. Record-wise they’ve steadily made progress since Fletcher took over. When Fletcher took over from Doug Risebrough, the team steadily increased their point totals and standings in the league from the 20’s to the teens to top ten the last two seasons. So they must have the right roster to keep improving the way they are. As far as roster building, the team has made moves to improve it since Fletcher took over. One area that sorely needed to be addressed was scoring, which he tried to address with various UFA signings (Martin Havlat) and trades (Benoit Pouliot for Guillaume Latendresse, Cal Clutterbuck for Niederreitter). Fletcher did seem more active in bringing in talent to the club rather than Risebrough. They’ve been bad at cap management though. On the one hand, they’ve spent to the cap. Which to you have to be willing to do. On the other hand, they haven’t spent wisely. Signing Thomas Vanek because he was Jason Pominville’s best friend and then having to convince Mike Yeo he would be good for the team? Then extending Pominville five years? Zach Parise’s an exciting player (when he’s on the ice) but $10M/season until he’s 38? Yuk. And I’m all about giving players fair compensation, but Fletcher has given out WAY too many NTC/NMC’s which have now severely limited the number of moves the team can make. Not to mention the number of buyouts the team has made. On average, NHL teams have bought out 3.4 players since the buyout came into effect. The Wild has bought out 6 players (along with Calgary, Toronto and Nashville). Only New Jersey has bought out more players (7). It may not seem like much, be every buy out means there is that much less cap space you have to sign a player.
Jodi ~ I would say 26th in the league is absolutely fair. I don’t blame him for the Parise and the Suter contracts because at the time, they were the two biggest free agents on the market, they wanted to be here, and they helped transform this team in to a perennial playoff team. I know many people want more than just making it to the first round of the playoffs each year, but for my money, I would much rather cheer for a team that gives me a taste of playoff hockey every season, than a team that bottoms out for 3-5 years just to try and win the cup. Take the Twins for example, I have absolutely zero interest in this baseball team because they are horrible, I would hate to see that happen to the Wild because really, struggling for a couple of seasons and drafting better, doesn’t necessarily guarantee you make it back to playing in the playoffs 6 years in a row. And this is probably selfish, but as a season ticket holder, there’s no way I pay $8000.00 a year for a mediocre team. My dad and I go every year because we truly believe this team has a chance to win, and almost every night we see a good hockey game. I do think Fletcher made mistakes trading away prospects and picks for 3rd or 4th line fill in players. I’m tired of guys like Matt Moulson, Chris Porter, Chris Stewart, Ryan White, etc. The Hanzal trade was an absolute disaster, but if that trade works, we may have just won the cup that year. I’d rather see younger guys filling roles that these fill in guys take. I get it, you don’t want a young prospect to play 4th line minutes, but how about we let Koivu get 4th line minutes, and then move Joel Eriksson Ek up, and maybe you get some serious production from him. I would like to see our new GM take a few more chances on young guys in different roles, and see what we get. I think Fletcher led with his heart too often, which clouded his judgement, and I hope Fenton can make more savvy business decisions going forward.
Aaron ~ Fenton is getting lumped in with Fletch. While that is a crappy place to be, there’s not much there to instill confidence.
Tim ~ The 26th ranking was merely a reflection of the frustration that led to GMCF’s ouster, nothing more/nothing less. Stagnation had certainly set in, but I’m not sure how you can evaluate an incoming GM during the beginning days of his tenure. This is why the asterisk was invented. If I had authored this particular Athletic piece, I would have probably set up a separate category for recent regime changes.
Brian ~ I have never been a fan of the Wild’s drafting, player development, or contractual dealings going back to day one. There has never been a real connect between coaching and management. Initially they had a terrific coach who could have won big with some spending. Lately, when their line up has been upgraded, the coaches they have brought in have been “weak” and unable to control the locker room. I believe that if Lemaire had this group we would be a lot closer to a cup. Players would play his way!!!
On behalf of Crease And Assist: A legally compliant Minnesota hockey blog, I’d like to sincerely thank our panel: Ricky, Bruce, Jodi, Aaron, Tim and Brian for participating in the survey!
This is part 1 of 3, we will be publishing them over the course of the next few days. We hope you appreciate hearing the fan’s perspective of the team. However, let’s make this interactive. Want to answer the questions yourself? Tell on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!