On many a game night, KFAN’s Brandon Mileski and Pat Micheletti host Wild Fanline, a chance for fans to go and air their praise or frustration about the club. In most cases this season the Wild fanlines seemed to happen after losses at home. You can imagine the vitriol expended towards the players and organization as people vented over the radio. But I’ll give KFAN credit, despite the negativity deservedly being bantered about they at least give the fans a chance to air those grievances publicly. So I decided, why not do my part?
I put together a panel of 7 Wild fans most of whom that I know that are not shy about sharing their opinions on Twitter and in other places. So here is a quick introduction of the panel.
Dave @daveyj6568 – I am a long time hockey player, hockey coach, and am also a hockey dad. I am not an Xs and Os coach, nor do I analyze them when I watch. I watch and coach hockey like a scout – and focus on performances of individuals much more than I do the whole. This is why I enjoy the General Managing aspect of the hockey teams almost as much as I enjoy the game itself.
Jay @JBushy19 – I’ve been a Wild fan from the start and have become a diehard college hockey fan since the breakup of the old WCHA. I come from a hockey family here in East Grand Forks. I’ve played hockey for most of my life and still play Old-timers now. I really enjoy playing and watching the game.
Kenney @Nostrakennius – Hey everybody, I’m Kenney, or NostraKennius on Twitter. I was one of the pundits, talking heads, co-hosts on 3 In The Box. Up until this year, and maybe still holds true, the longest running, independent, MN Wild podcast. I grew up and still live in MN and have been a hockey fan for as long as I can remember.
Tom @THoen88 – 48 years old – 18-year Season Ticket Holder who is passionate about the organization to a fault. I never kept my season tickets because of the “perks” or giveaways or any of the other fluff. I simply wanted to watch pro hockey and maybe have a front row seat for a parade through downtown St. Paul in late June. I’m not a rose-colored glasses fan and don’t appreciate the condescending attitude of some of the media in town who seem incapable of calling out certain players and focusing mainly on the younger ones as being the issue.
Chris @MNFrostyBoy – I’m a Wild fan who sometimes struggles to be a Wild fan, though I haven’t yet fallen off the bandwagon. Also a rabid Flames and Bruins fan. Don’t @ me bro. New Zealand expat who didn’t grow up anywhere you could walk on water, hence the practice of skating is absolutely lost on me. But I’ve been watching hockey as long as I can remember, and I can Google stuff that I don’t know. Also I’m rocking a sweet goatee & ‘stache combo these days.
Jodi @Jodi_Halvy – I am an 11-year season ticket holder and a passionate Wild fan! Also in the minority when it comes to a rebuild, I do not want a rebuild.
Brian – I am a long time Minnesota hockey fan whether it be professional, college, or high school. I played way back when we flooded our own rinks and coached some youth hockey. I love the physically and speed of the game. Just like many Minnesota fans I would love to see a championship season and I like many Minnesota fans I am tired of the excuses. (full disclosure, he’s also my dad)
3. Is it your perception there a culture problem on this team? Has it grown too comfortable to being mediocre? Do you think with Fenton and the current roster as is will that culture can or will change or will it remain the same?
Dave – I do think there is a culture problem with this team, but I do not think it is entirely the fault of the 2 or 3 (Suter, Parise, Koivu) players who usually take the brunt of the blame. I think it all starts with owner, Craig Leipold. If the players listed above do, in fact, have the power it appears they do, it can only happen that way if ownership allows it. You know what rolls down hill. Having this power is only part of the problem, allowing them to abuse this power is at the core of all of this.
Jay – I do think there is culture problem or I should say I feel some of the veterans have too much pull with the owner that seems to undermine the coach and GM. The change Fenton made was needed because the team too comfortable just making the playoffs. With the young players now brought in I do think things will change after next season.
Kenney – I think there WAS a culture problem on the team. As in, players thought they were safe from moving. I think Fenton has stirred things up enough that anyone without a NMC realizes they aren’t safe anymore. The one, or 3, problems with that are 9/11/20. I do believe 9 is a solid leader, but as we have witnessed, not the goal scorer we need. Same goes for 11, his on ice grit is great, but again, the production isn’t as high as his salary. 20, I go back and forth on. There are times where I like having him on the ice, Power Plays being one of them. He has an uncanny ability to keep the puck in the zone and essentially allow a 4th forward. However, 3 on 3, he should not be there. Whether, he’s trying to put himself in, or the coaching staff because he’s “number 1 defenseman” , as a captain, he should take the selfishness out of it and put the better player in.
Tom – I think one of the main issues continues to be the way the younger players are used. When Donato came over, after a few games it was clear that he was the team’s top forwards. Then a couple of games later, he shows up and is getting 4 th line time on ice wit Rask and Aberg. Culminated with the OT loss to the NYI when he and Spurgeon were clearly the team’s top players through regulation, but who starts the OT? 20, 12 & 11. Game over. Was the same issue with Dumba. The kid made mistakes coming up, but it was also clear a couple of seasons ago that he was clearly the team’s top weapon for the PP1 unit. But, who is always the first Dman over the wall? #20. In terms of culture, the leadership group on this team is 40-20-11-9. As long as they are in the room, it is deliciously difficult to imagine a scenario in which the culture changes.
Chris – I think the team gives the appearance of being too comfortable in their mediocrity. Instead of the canned responses to the losses, let’s see some real emotions. Let’s see players crying after a close, tough loss. Let’s see players getting emotional. Call themselves out for bad, lazy, indifferent play. Let’s see them act like they want their names on the Cup. Then we as fans can feel their need, and we can feed into that. Then the team feeds off that passion and builds on it from there. Look at the fanbase in Calgary – rabid. Every game at the Saddledome is indeed a #CofRed – they want the Cup and they have rebuilt to get there. Fenton could learn a lesson, and Leipold (and the fans) need to be willing to let him gut this team to get the team we need. But he won’t. Because he’s mediocre too.
Jodi – Absolutely there is a culture problem, and I believe the problem is that the veterans are way too comfortable, and have way too much say in ice time and line up decisions. How many coaches and GM’s do you have to go through and still get the same results, before you start looking inside that locker room? If you interact with me on Twitter you know I am not a fan of Ryan Suter. What bothers me is that you hear people close to the organization say things like, “he controls his ice time” and “he controls his PP minutes”, and I don’t care what level you play at, if one of your leaders is alienating and aloof, it takes a toll on the rest of the team. That’s why I think Dumba is so important to the youth on this team. He now has enough on ice cred, and off ice he has the personality and leadership style that this hockey team desperately needs. He’s emotional, he’s fun, he’s got a personality and he’s hungry!
Brian – In the past some have said that at least part of the Wild’s problem has been that a couple of players have had too much influence over management and / or ownership. Well that will longer be a problem. In a recent Star Tribune article Ryan Suter agreed that significant change is necessary. He genuinely sounded like just making the playoffs was no longer acceptable. If this really is the case then maybe significant changes will be made both in the roster and use of those on the roster.
4. What RFA’s would you re-sign, and which ones would you let enter free agency? After that, the Wild are expected to have around $15 million in cap space. Would you have the team spend all that money, would you look to trading players to get a better fit? Or would you avoid spending money just to spend it on older players (i.e. likely free agents) that may make the team’s problems worse?
Dave – Fiala, Donato, and Eriksson Ek are the obvious ones the Wild will resign, but for what and for how long will be the interesting part to watch. I don’t yet have enough trust to sign Fiala or Donato to long deals. I think both should get 2 year “prove it” deals before I would be willing to invest in them long time. I’ve seen enough of Eriksson Ek to be willing though. I don’t see a future bonafide #1 center in him, but I am very confident he will develop into a very good middle 6 center. If I could sign him to a 5 or 6 year, cap friendly deal, I would.
Jay – I would resign Donato, Fiala, Ek and Sturm. I would not sign Aberg. For Free Agency, I don’t want the Wild to feel compelled to just spend money on free agents. There needs to be a fit for the team skill wise and money wise. One free agent I don’t want them to go after is Duchene.
Kenney – I’d keep Donato, JEE, and Sturm. Fiala, Aberg and Fehr, not so much. I’d look into a 20-30 goal scorer, or 2, and drop some money for a 2-3-year contract(s) and see how the rest of the players fit in around them. I think Fenton made it quite clear, no one is safe. If you’re not fitting in and producing, make some trades mid season to get the accompanying band around your rock stars.
Tom – I’d sign Sturm, Donato, Fiala, JEE and Hunt. Let the rest go. I would not spend money just for the sake of getting to the Cap ceiling. I would move Zucker and Brodin either at the draft or this summer. Get more “kids” to add to the new youthful core of JEE, Kunin, Donato, Fiala, Dumba, Greenway, Sturm, etc, etc. As far as free agents, I’d like to see the team go after Panarin. I know there have been questions about him between the ears, but this roster needs goal scorers and the Bread Man can fill the net. He’s a point/game player and has 116 goals in 4 years.
Chris – Re-sign Donato and JeEk – they are the youth we need. Lock in Nico Sturm – combo pack of him and Greenway equals size and strength. And neither of them seem to be scared to mix it up in the crease. In addition, Sturm is like a younger Koivu with regards to his skillset, and Mikko won’t be around forever. On defense, Soucy and Belpedio should be signed as well. But they need to figure out the ideal length of a contract to sign them to – enough flexibility to either extend or trade away as necessary. Hopefully not necessary though. There’s some other trading away then that can be done to free up even more cap space, but I don’t think it should be spent on one “superstar” – get a couple of key pieces instead. Oh, and maybe talk to Suter and Parise about taking one for the team and RESTRUCTURING THOSE GOD-AWFUL CONTRACTS!!
Jodi – I would go really hard after Artemi Panarin, we might not have a shot at getting him, but I would try really hard. We need a right shot scorer desperately. We also need a top line center, maybe you can swing a trade for a first or second line center but we need someone. I don’t think Matt Duchene is the answer, or free agency is necessarily the answer, but some kind of an upgrade will help. I also think we need another D man, preferably with size. If Bitetto is on this team next year I may have to drop my season tickets. Maybe you can get Anders Lee on a hometown discount, or someone like Brett Connelly cheap. We definitely need some more help to mix in with our NMC guys and our young core.
Brian – Quite honesty I like the majority of our roster and would resign the majority of our RFA’s. However, I would look to trade Zucker and his salary to get more consistent and efficient scoring. I would spend on free agents but only if it included youth , speed, and consistent scoring.
We’d like to give an extra special thank you to all of our panelists that participated and we hope you appreciated to hear what they had to say.
That’s it for Part 2 of 3, how would you respond to these questions? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment selection below!