Wild Fans Speak: 2019-20 Season Preview Edition, Part 1 of 3

Wild Fans Speak: 2019-20 Season Preview Edition, Part 1 of 3

NHL

Wild Fans Speak: 2019-20 Season Preview Edition, Part 1 of 3

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One of my commitments since I started blogging over 15 years ago, was to give fans a voice.  Obviously any fan can start a blog of their own, but many don’t.  The conversations between fans is something that I think make sports a great social experience.  Let’s face it, we love to share our passion in life.  If someone is talking to you about something you truly love, the words come easy and conversation is usually lively and spirited.

A person who does a great job of offering the ‘fan’s perspective’ is YouTuber Jillian Fisher.  Her videos are always a good discussion starter among fans and I think her sense of humor is one any hockey fan can appreciate even if she may be making a joke at your favorite team’s expense.  I think all fans make jokes about their own team from time to time.  Check out her latest video about fans leaving Yelp reviews for NHL teams.

So what has become an annual tradition for the last 5 years, I gather a collection of fans and ask them what they think about the Minnesota Wild.  These are fans that I know watch nearly every game and stay current on team news.

Ideally I wish I could bring all of these fans together over a few cold adult beverages but distance and the complication of life schedules make that almost impossible.  So in an effort to keep this from becoming just an ‘echo chamber’ I’ve asked a person who is not a fan of the Minnesota Wild to get his outside perspective as well as the perspective of 6 die hard Wild fans their thoughts on the team and its current direction.  I’d like to thank all 7 of these fans for their time and effort sharing these ideas as well as their passion for the game.  So with each portion of this three-part series we will tackle different issues around the organization going into the 2019-20 season.

I asked each of them 6 questions pertaining to the Minnesota Wild’s 2019-20 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 2019-20 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.  The last thing I would wish is for Kunin, Greenway, Donato and Fiala to all take a significant step forward.

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  phase of his life.

DaveyJ (@daveyj6568) ~ I’m old enough to remember when Gump Worsley played for the North Stars and have played and been a fan of hockey just as long.  I also coached my first team when I was 19 and have coached mites, squirts, and peewees ever since.  I have also been an evaluator for my youth hockey association the past several years.  One thing that separates me from some hockey people is that I watch hockey (at all levels) as a scout.  I am always assessing players’ ability, progress, and potential.  It’s just how I watch and enjoy the game.

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.

1. What changes do you think will take place under newly hired GM Bill Guerin? Will he be able to instill a selfless, team first, not a ‘me first’ attitude with this team? Do you think he will be able to convince Craig Leipold of a rebuild if he feels its necessary?

Ricky ~ I think Bill Guerin understands that the Minnesota Wild are in need of a rebuild, and that aging stars that were once the core of that team can no longer be counted on to carry the Minnesota Wild back to the playoffs. Minnesota loves their hockey team, they know their hockey team well and the direction that is needed, and after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter they were treated to a team that wasn’t built to make a deep playoff run, that alone is something I believe Craig Leipold is well aware of.  This will not happen overnight but is a 3-4 year project.

Bruce ~ I really don’t see any changes right away with Guerin.  If he’s as savvy as they say he is, he’ll take some time to get to know the players and see what’s what with this team.  He’s laid out his expectations in the press (everyone needs to pull the rope one in one direction) but I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the locker room when he gives that speech to see how it goes over.  It’s been hinted at for several seasons that the Wild have a dysfunctional locker room.  Can he overcome that dysfunction?  Depends on who is causing the suspected dysfunction: younger players, veteran players, the owner, a combo platter of all three?  As far as a rebuild, the only way he will convince Leipold that the team needs to be rebuilt will be when the sale of season tickets plummet and the reason people give for not renewing is that the team is bad.

Jodi ~ I would hope that Guerin would take some time to see what kind of team he has, especially considering that Fenton was a complete disaster of one irrational decision after another.  As far as a me first attitude, that will not change until you change personnel.  And we have way too many veterans with no move clauses who are awfully comfortable just getting to the first round of the playoffs.  I’ve said all along this team feels like how the Twins felt with Joe Mauer, boring and content.  How are the 2019 Mauer-less Twins looking?  Exactly. I am not in favor of a rebuild, but I do think it will take a year or two to recover from Fenton’s damage.

Aaron ~ As long as Parise and Suter are on this team, I think whoever is the GM is going to be handcuffed into whatever those two want.  I’d love to be proven wrong, but given the nature of their no movement contracts and the length still owed (a staggering SIX more years) in the twilight of their careers, I think we’re going to be subjected to some mediocre hockey over the next half decade.

Tim ~ As we’ve already seen with his first few days on the clock, I think GMBG will repair some of the damage that Hurricane Fenton inflicted on the franchise.  Paranoid and aloof, Fenton was a pox on the morale of the entire staff. Guerin comes off as much more affable and personable – a certified schmoozer.  I think this will go a long way in restoring many of the interpersonal relationships that were damaged within the team.  Also, I think his status as a player not-too-far-removed from his playing days will hold sway over the players and their attitudes and actions.  This GM hire could actually be the salve that is needed for this fractured locker room.  As for a rebuild, I will take Guerin at his word.  He is on record saying that he believes that the team has a solid foundation, and that a full rebuild isn’t required.  I’m sure this was music to Craig’s ears.

DaveyJ ~ Even a gorilla would improve the moral of the franchise after the head-scratching antics of Paul Fenton and Guerin’s reputation as a person who brings people together is probably the biggest reason he was the one selected.  As far as convincing Leipold of a rebuild, that has more to do with my lack faith in Leipold that how I feel about Guerin.  I will say this though, I am hopeful Leipold has learned from past mistakes and will allow Guerin to do what he feels is best for this franchise.  I would be happy to have a couple down years to help build a team that can truly contend for the Cup.  No more bandages, this team needs major reconstructive surgery.

Brian ~ I don’t think he can or will make any personnel changes in the near term, which I think is the proper approach.  Any new manager, in any business, needs to know his personnel and that should take some time.  Then there should be a plan to make each player better.  If that does not bring the desired result, then and only then, should  personnel changes be made.  I am hoping that Guerin’s experience as a player will buy him some credibility in the locker room.  However, as we have seen in the Wild’s not too distant past, even a past NHL all star defenseman wasn’t able to “coach” our defensive personnel.  I don’t think anyone will ever be able to convince our ownership that the Wild isn’t right on the edge of winning a cup.

2. We learned that Paul Fenton asked for permission to fire Bruce Boudreau. With just 1-year left on his coaching contract what are the chances the coach finishes out the 2019-20 as the team’s bench boss?

Ricky ~ I can tell you right now that Bruce Boudreau will not be the head coach of the Wild next season in 2020-2021.  Why?  The Minnesota Wild are the unfortunate victims of being in a division that is probably the toughest in the NHL, with the likes of Nashville, St.Louis, Colorado, Winnipeg and Dallas who are in positions to make the playoffs next season, and that’s 5 spots out of 8 that they should occupy in the West playoff picture, which leaves Minnesota out of the playoffs yet again and Boudreau without a job.  How long will he last this season?  I give him until January and if the Wild are well below the playoff bar management will have no problem pulling the trigger and getting a head start on looking at candidates for the coaching vacancy.

Bruce ~ This is going to sound really wishy-washy, but in my opinion it is going to depend on how the team does out of the gate.  If they stay healthy and appear to be in the hunt for even a wild card spot, I can see Guerin letting Boudreau finish out the season. Whether he retains him is a different question.  If the team struggles and it appears they won’t make the Playoffs, I can see Boudreau being relieved of his duties.  Simply because Leipold insists on making the Playoffs.

Jodi ~ He better be the head coach at the end of this season, Boudreau is the least of our problems and I believe he is the right coach for this franchise.

Aaron ~ It’s all about the W’s, and as long as he’s competitive (or isn’t destroyed by injuries as the team was last year), he should be fine.  I don’t think this team has what it needs to win it all, but they’ll be competitive, probably.

Tim ~ I would say that it’s 90% likely that Boudreau closes out the upcoming season.  He is already a lame-duck, so I’m not sure what advantage could be gained from pulling the plug mid-season.

DaveyJ ~ The answer to this question completely depends on whether or not Guerin can convince Leipold a rebuild is necessary (if, in fact, he does feel this way).  Boudreau himself might not want to go through a rebuild, but I think he has certainly earned the right to decide for himself.  My opinion is, I don’t see how a mid-season coaching change would turn this team from NHL-average to a legitimate Cup contender.

Brian ~Boudreau hasn’t earned the right to be untouchable.  Before Fenton tore apart the roster Boudreau had the personnel to advance in the playoffs but didn’t.  That being said this organization doesn’t need anymore change for change sake.  Let Bruce finish the season and then let the chips fall where they may.

We’d again like to thank our panel for their participation for this series, and we would also love to hear from those of you who are reading this.  What are your thoughts about these questions?  Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!

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