I don’t feel as though as if I’m going off on a limb, by saying this season has been a crazy year for weather around the world. Dry spells, torrential rainfall is nothing new in the course of human events but a drastic change in the weather can certainly alter a person’s plans. It may be as significant as the postponement or cancellation of an event or just a minor nuisance. Change can also come in the form of personnel shifts.
In professional sports world, a change of personnel is commonplace and is often what fans discuss the most in regards to their favorite teams. Nothing generates more discussion than trades and free agency. A close second would be the internal personnel moves of your respective teams. In hockey terms, how lines are constructed and which combinations work bless is a near endless debate.
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.
3. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau hinted this summer that team captain Mikko Koivu may be relegated to the 3rd line this season. What are your thoughts on such a personnel move and do you think it will be a permanent move or not. Is Joel Eriksson Ek ready to be a Top 6 center in the NHL?
Ricky ~ Mikko Koivu played a full 82 games last season, and scored 45 points, down from his previous 2 season totals of 58 and 56 points. Mikko has been “the guy” for the Minnesota Wild for years and years now, right after Marion Gaborik left. He’s at 35 years of age, and I think Boudreau isn’t wrong to try him on the 3rd line to begin the season while a guy like Joel Eriksson Ek who is a much younger, versatile 2 way forward with upside can spark the top 6. I absolutely think he is ready for that role, the only knock on him is that he just needs to fill out his frame a bit more to become more productive.
Bruce ~ I’ll believe it when I see it. But Koivu needs to move to the third line and let Eriksson-Ek take over the 2C slot. And not for one shift or one game. Koivu was never a fast skater and has only gotten slower. And now that the NHL has cracked down on his cheating in the face-off circle, he’s not an elite center anymore. He needs to put his ego aside and let this kid develop. And Eriksson-Ek better develop into something special, especially since the Wild passed on Brock Boeser. As far as Eriksson-Ek being ready to be a Top 6 center, you only become ready playing the position. The Wild must be willing to let him play a Top 6 role, complete with all the mistakes that are going to come from learning the position. If they’re going to replace him with Koivu after every mistake, he’s never going to learn the position. I would love to see him replace Eric Staal as the 1C, but he just doesn’t score. He’s never reached double digits in goals in his career, so that makes me wonder if he’s going to be relegated to the 3C role already. Time will tell I guess.
Jodi ~ I think you play the guy that gives you the best chance to win, period, end of story. If you are making 8 million, and a guy that is making $800,000 is consistently playing better, give him a shot. And if the guy making $8 million can’t deal, than that is his problem. I do think there are some fragile egos on this team, but I am not in the locker room, so obviously I don’t know that for sure. I also, don’t hate on Mikko Koivu like many in this fan base do, but I think Mikko is a 3rd line center at this point is his career for sure. I would love to see what Eriksson-Ek could do in the middle of say Nino and Parise, or Nino and Coyle.
Aaron ~ Captains don’t have to be 1st or even 2nd line. Captain Koivu is a borderline 2nd center, but a solid 3rd liner, so that assessment seems fair. That being said, I’m not sold on JEE being much more than a top pick of GMCF. The fact that he was a first round pick has no actual bearing on his real value.
Tim ~ This season would probably represent the perfect opportunity to fiddle with the roster. Mikko is not “Fenton’s Guy,” and MK has probably signed his last contract with the team so there is no overriding leverage held by the longtime captain. JEE was a first-round draft pick; he deserves the opportunity to skate with more capable linemates in order to properly ascertain his ceiling. 82 games is a long season. If the Wild are not properly gauging their roster with an eye to the future, it is simply a case of poor roster management. Koivu has now entered the grey-beard era of his career. I hope he can embrace a 3rd line “demotion” with his trademark passion. Sans any drama, he could absolutely excel in this role.
Brian ~ I still believe Mikko is a top 6 player because of his size and versatility. However, you may be able to use his skills better as a third line center and special teams player. In any event this shouldn’t be the players choice but the coach’s. The players are paid to play! The coaches are paid to make decisions on minutes and lines, etc.! As far as Joel is concerned I haven’t seen anything that would indicate he is ready for a top 6 spot. However, sometimes you have to try it to find out.
4. Which one of the “new” guys the Wild signed in free agency this summer will have the biggest impact? Which one do you think will have the least impact? Will the addition of these players make the Wild tougher to play against or will they miss Matt Cullen and Daniel Winnik all over again?
Ricky ~ Of all the free agent signings the Minnesota Wild made this summer, I’m gonna say Greg Pateryn would have the biggest impact on the team. He’s a big 6’3 stay at home defenseman who always finishes his checks. You can never have too many defensemen with that size. Andrew Hammond is another notable, but I believe his best before date has come and gone. I think Eric Fehr will have the least impact of the free agent signings the Wild have made, as Fehr has bounced around the league from team to team for the past few seasons. There was a time he was a great depth player, but I think that time has gone. I do like the term, a 1-year deal for 1 million, its a tradeable contract and if not, but he won’t be back next season. Fehr will add toughness to the roster, but I believe the departures of Matt Cullen and Daniel Winnik leaves a bit of a hole in that department.
Bruce ~ None of the players they signed in free agency is going to have that much of an impact on the team. They are all 4th liners and a stay-at-home third pairing defenseman. The Wild are just rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, like they do every year with the 4th line. The Wild keep trying to get tough every year, but every tough guy they bring in suddenly forgets how to hit or ends up in Boudreau’s doghouse. I just don’t see the fourth line as the problem on the team that needs all this “tweaking.”
Jodi ~ I am most excited about Pateryn, I think we desperately need some size and intimidation on our defensive unit, and I hope he can bring some physicality. Watching what the Winnipeg Jets did to us was embarrassing, we looked like we didn’t even belong on the same ice as them. It was like we were a bantam team playing a varsity team, with that being said, if we have a healthy Nino, a healthy Coyle, a healthy Suter and a healthy Parise, I do think it’s a closer series, but until we have someone who can intimidate these bigger teams, it’s hard for us to be successful against them. My biggest hope for a “new” guy this season is that Dmitri Sokolov, gets a real look, like a REAL look. I really think if given the opportunity, he could be the “new” guy that take us to the next level.
Aaron ~ All the new signings have been depth picks, so I’m not really stoked by any of them. The big signings were the extensions of Zucker and Dumba. I want both of them to kill it, but I’m much more bullish on #24.
Tim ~ Let’s go with Matt Hendricks, which I know sounds initially bizarre. Recently, the Athletic ran a piece where they ranked the upcoming 2018-2019 Season expectations of each NHL squad as per the input from a player, coach, and executive. The Wild were a baffling team to address, as the ranking committee had no real feel for the team and its cohesiveness. For years, our favorite squad has been lacking “something.” They often feel like a collection of players rather than a team. And, of course, it wasn’t long ago that there were reports of a locker room clash between the younger and more-seasoned sects of the roster. Clearly, something is not quite right behind the scenes. At this stage of his career, Hendricks offers little more than certain intangibles. I sincerely hope that his veteran savvy can serve as a salve for a squad that needs to gel in order to take the next step. As for least impactful? I feel ‘The Hamburglar’ will not truly challenge Stalock for the #2 job, and can look for a full-year lease in the Des Moines area.
Brian ~ I think J.T. Brown will have the most impact. His tenacious checking style should keep the other teams off balance. If we could get him to score as many goals as the number of touchdowns his had each year when he played for the Minnesota Vikings, he could be come a great pickup. The big defenseman from Dallas (Pateryn) should improve our defensive physicality. I don’t understand letting Cullen go especially at his cost. He is still skilled, elusive and versatile on special teams. I think we will miss him. The other players signed appear to be role players at best. Fehr on penalty kills and Hendricks for draws if he’s healthy.
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 2 of 3, we will be publishing our final portion 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!