Here’s a question to all of you out there who regularly read these articles. When did your body decide to let you know that you are getting old? It can be subtle, but your body will just give you a hint that you’re not as young or as spry as you used to be when you were a young adult. For myself, it was at football practice, when I was still in my 20’s and I saw a kid punting a football. I didn’t think he was doing it right so I decided to demonstrate how to punt. Without stretching, I grabbed the football and punted it. Shortly after my foot made contact with the ball I felt the unmistakable twinge of tension in my leg that told me I just pulled my hamstring. It was debilitating and I limped around for the next few days, but for the most part my shame and embarrassment was something I dealt with in private.
For professional athletes, that humbling sign of ‘getting old’ comes under the watchful eye of coaches, fellow players and often times thousands of fans. They notice that the player doesn’t seem to have the same ‘jump’ in their skates they had the previous year or that the hands seem to be going as they can’t find the back of the net like they used to. The Minnesota Wild are one of the older teams in the NHL, and many of its highest paid players are 35 years old or older. For most players not named Gordie Howe or Chris Chelios, it means they are in the twilight of their careers and for the Wild it means they have some tough decisions to make going forward. Team captain Mikko Koivu is entering the final year of his contract and alternate captain Zach Parise has expressed his frustration after the Wild failed to make the playoffs. How do fans see these situations unfolding?
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. You can read what the fans had to say about the team in the previous portion of this 3 part series in the link below.
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
#DadJoke 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.
3. This summer, the Athletic’s Michael Russo interviewed Zach Parise talk candidly about his frustration over the state of the team and not wanting to be a part of a rebuild at this stage of his career. These are statements Parise later walked back from, if the Wild’s struggles continue should the team continue to shop him even if it means getting far less value in return?
Ricky ~ I think it would be smart to try and trade Zach by the deadline and create a market for him, with contending teams looking to bulk up for a deep run. I believe Minnesota can add to their prospect pool and stack up more draft picks for the future, and that’s what GM Bill Guerin needs to key in on, tradings vets for prospects and picks, of course Craig Leipold needs to be on board with this, otherwise treading water could be disastrous for the future of the team. I think trading Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle was a sign of things to come.
Bruce ~ As much as I’ve been unhappy with Parise’s health, I don’t think shopping him would be a good idea. I just don’t see how trading Parise will benefit the team. Last season, Parise took up 12.6% of the Wilds cap hit and produced 10% of all points generated (goals + assists). The Wild are more or less getting what they paid for with Parise. If the Wild trade him they will not be getting back a boatload of prospects and picks like a lot of homer’s think they will. More like an over-the-hill player with decreased production (see Brad Boyes or Jack Johnson) and a bad contract that might expire before Parises does. And I don’t suddenly see Parise waiving his NMC like Kessel did. Kessel went to Arizona because he wanted to retire there. He’s got his name on the Cup, so he’s set. Parise? No name on the Cup, and moving to Florida or Arizona won’t get him any closer to a Cup than the Wild will. He’d want to go to a contender, and that team most likely won’t have the cap space for him and so the Wild would be forced to take back another big contract and/or retain salary. For better or worse, the Wild and Parise are stuck with each other.
Jodi ~ Honestly I don’t think we can afford to shop him. He was our leading scorer last year, and one thing with Parise is as long as he’s healthy he gives you 150% night in and night out. I would not blame him though, for wanting to be traded to a contender, especially if this team fails to be competitive.
Aaron ~ If I’m Guerin, I’m shopping the hell out of him and getting anything in return. Issue here is that Zach holds the cards, so it could be a lot of effort put in, with no real chance of moving him. What contending team wants to take on the length and cost of his contract at this point in his career?
Tim ~ I think you have to respect Zach’s wishes on this; he has earned that. I think the Guerin hire should re-energize our favorite squad, including Parise for the time being. But, if the team isn’t vying for a deep playoff run in the next few years and Parise expresses a desire to be traded, I think you have to accommodate him, despite the return. At that point, you would probably be inheriting another team’s bad contract, but so be it. Hopefully this scenario doesn’t come to pass.
DaveyJ ~ From one side of the coin, I understand Parise’s sentiments; from the other side, I really don’t care what he wants. He is one player from a group of many who all want to right this ship. If it wasn’t for the recapture penalty (a rule I will never understand how it can be enforced and one I could write pages on), I would trade Parise for nothing and consider another team taking his contract as more than enough compensation. Doing so would honor his wishes and help the future of the Wild, a true win/win.
Brian ~ Parise had the right to be frustrated by the way last season played out. In fact, I would be more concerned if he wasn’t upset. How can you be positive about the Wild’s future when ownership proved to be inept in bringing in a guy like Fenton and letting him “give” players away. Where was the “plan”? If Guerin is really the one to get this franchise back on track he will not continue to “give away” players and especially not Parise.
4. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about having Luke Kunin center the 2nd line, which would mean Mikko Koivu anchors the 3rd line. Will we finally see a demotion of the team captain or will the Wild double down with another contract to the franchise’s all time leading scorer? Or is this his swan song in Minnesota?
Ricky ~ Mikko Koivu hasn’t had a 20 plus goal season in 10 years, and if you’re a vet and you’re gonna be in the top 6 of a team desperately trying to get back into the playoff picture your production will be have to better than what its been the previous 2 seasons. Mikko is 36 years old and I would not be surprised if Boudreau tries the youngster Kunin on the 2nd line centering the likes of Parise and Kevin Fiala on opening night. I could also see Joel Eriksson Ek possibly move up to the 2nd line in that position. As far as Koivu’s future, I could see him taking a hometown discount and coming back on a small 1 or 2 year deal. I have said before I think the Wild eventually will need to move vets out either for picks/prospects or for the sole purpose of having roster spots open so the youngsters in their system can compete for them down the road.
Bruce ~ Boudreau said that last year too, and how did that go? He may have Kunin start out as the 2C, but I’m betting that once Koivu is fully back from his injury he goes right back in as the 2C and Kunin gets shunted to wing because of his right shot. It also would not surprise me to see Koivu get another contract from this team. But that may depend on if Victor Rask can turn it around. If he can play like he played a couple of seasons ago, putting up 40+ points, then maybe they let Koivu walk. But if Rask plays like he did last season, I can see the team giving Koivu another contract and then trying to unload Rask for a bag of pucks and some Gatorade. Preferably the green kind.
Jodi ~ I am not a Mikko Koivu hater like many in the state of hockey. I do think at this point in his career his is more of a 3rd line center. He is very hard to play against, and his value in taking out the other team’s top liners can’t be denied. After this season however, I do think it is time to move on from Mikko. I also really liked what I saw from Kunin last year. I really think he is going to take a huge step forward this year and be a steady contributor all season.
Aaron ~ The number “assigned” doesn’t really matter anymore, does it? I mean 2nd or 3rd, they usually end up being similar as far as ice time goes. Since we don’t even really have a proper first line, the gap in minutes between 1st and 3rd will be very small. The bigger question will be “how much PP time will the Captain get?” because I think that’s a bigger indication of his ongoing place with this team. That being said, I think Koivu is in a Kyle Brodziak sort of position, where his play is fine, it’s just not in-line with what he’s being paid. If the Wild can extend him at a market rate (million-ish per year for a year or two, tops), I wouldn’t hate it.
Tim ~ I think this is the beginning of the end for the Kaptain and the State of Hockey. If Guerin stays true to his word and avoids a rebuild, committing to another aging veteran would compound our current roster problems. Koivu’s expiring contract will be an asset that can be used to reshape the team without tearing it down.
DaveyJ ~ Man, these are tough questions! I think the writing is on the wall for Koivu, but I do see the Wild signing him to one year contracts for as long as he wants to continue playing for the Wild. I wouldn’t have a problem with this as long as he agrees to play a lesser role each year, but I have to believe that will be very difficult for him. You (Derek Felska) and I have been debating Koivu’s leadership abilities for years, and in a year or two, it should be pretty obvious what kind a leader Koivu really is, or isn’t.
Brian ~ Koivu is still a very good defensive player and should continue to get major penalty kill minutes. He could also be used on a line to shutdown top players from other teams. But he should no longer be a lock on either of the top two lines. Any new deal would require a salary commensurate with these duties.
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!