Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Pre-Season Edition, Part 2 of 3

Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Pre-Season Edition, Part 2 of 3

Wild

Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Pre-Season Edition, Part 2 of 3

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One of my favorite television shows as a kid was the A-Team starring George Peppard.  The show was about a rag tag group of former special forces who now worked as mercenaries who used their skills to help people that couldn’t seem to get any support otherwise.  The cast of characters of this group was more likely to make you laugh than to be intimidating.  Even Mr. T is probably best remembered for being annoyed by comrade Murdock than applying brute force.  For a show that featured explosions and automatic weapons, the violence of the show was pretty tame.

But one of the signature lines of the series was from Peppard’s character John ‘Hannibal’ Smith who would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  I feel like I can say the same thing when a Wild Fans Speak article comes together as fans share their views on the Minnesota Wild.  In a way, fans of any team are like the A-Team, where they can drive each other a bit crazy at times but overall they all want what’s best for their team.

As an annual tradition, as fans start looking towards West 7th street in St. Paul I decided it would be good to see what those fans are thinking going into what should be an ‘interesting’ / ‘different’ (using Minnesotan parlance) year.  So I decided to give them the mic / keyboard to give their 2 cents on how they perceive this Wild organization to be.

I sent 6 Wild fans and one non-Wild fan six questions about the team.  The responses they share are unedited (except for grammar).  And the seven-person panel will not have seen the responses of others until they see this finished article for themselves.  Yet this year I decided to do something a little different.  I realize that not everyone has the want or feels comfortable pouring out their thoughts and opinions so for the first time since I started doing this series about 10 years ago.  I also conducted Twitter polls that relate to these questions and so we can see the thoughts of even more fans.  I should note, I ran these polls before I submitted the questions to the panel. Did their views match that of the panel or were they different?  I will embed these polls after the panel members’ collective responses.

Because these articles tend to be rather lengthy, we will break it up into 3 parts, with each article addressing two questions. (once I publish the other parts of this series I will link them to this article)

Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Pre-Season Edition: Part 1

Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Edition: Part 3

So who is on this panel?  I asked each of them to provide a short description of who they are, and if they have other work or interests they wish to promote they can share that as well.

Most of all I wish to thank all of them for their time and participation in this article series.  Honestly, its an article I look forward to writing each year as I like the different perspectives each of them share.  If they are on Twitter I will include that as well in case you wish to give them a follow.

Ricky (@Van_city_Nucks) ~ Hi I’m Ricky Sangha, a born and bred Vancouverite who is a passionate Canucks fan and lover of the game of hockey.  I have owned Canucks season tickets for the last 5 years and I look forward to every trip I can make to the rink.

Aaron (@AngryFinn) ~ I am the former host of @3InTheBox and the man behind ZMODEM and Gabber Nullification Project.

Justin (@deast2004) ~ My name is Justin Bakke and I am an avid hockey fan at all levels of the game.  I grew up in Duluth watching Duluth East and the UMD Bulldogs play.  I spent quite a few nights at the DECC watching UMD in the pre-championship years and love what the program has become.  Also, don’t mention the 1996 State Tournament to me, it still stings.  I grew up playing hockey which included playing in the Lester Park
and Duluth East system through Bantams.  I was a North Stars fan before their departure when I was seven years old.  I still have pictures of me wearing my Dad’s North Stars jersey as a kid.  I became an
Avalanche fan because of Joe Sakic, but quickly switched my allegiance back to Minnesota when the Wild arrived in 2000. With this, I help run a few social media accounts.  This includes the Kaprizov Kountdown, UMD Bulldogs Pipeline, co-admin of Wild Prospects & Young Players, and co-host the Sound the Foghorn podcast. The Kountdown page ended up being followed by Kirill Kaprizov himself, and was featured in a Michael Russo article.  Now I have a family that includes a wife and three kids. The
beginning stages of teaching my kids to skate have begun, as I look to pass on the passion and Minnesota tradition on to them, and hopefully instill the love of hockey.

Jodi (@jodi_halvy) ~ My name is Jodi, I have been a Minnesota Wild season ticket holder for the last 16 years with my dad.  We share a passion for hockey, and even through the ups and downs of cheering for a franchise that tends to disappoint, we are still huge Wild fans!  We both fall in to the trap of consistently being overly optimistic about this team and then watching them unravel at different points throughout the season, we will continue to show up for the State of Hockey though!

Johan (@mnjohan) ~ a native of Sweden but a full time Minnesotan since I went to college at St. Cloud State and graduated in the mid 90’s.  I’m a Wild season ticket holder since the beginning.  I’ve been involved with hockey basically since I could walk/skate both as a player, youth coach and even dabbled in the equipment area for a bit.  My active playing career ended when I was cut as a walk on at St. Cloud my freshman year.  I continued to play in bar leagues both in St. Cloud and later in the Twin Cities area.  I’ve been blessed with many friends that have made hockey their career which have given me an opportunity to peak under the hood so to say of this great game.  When it comes to the Wild I’m mostly an optimist but try to stay as level headed as possible.

Joey (@BravetheWild) ~ I’m 42 years old, and have been a full time hockey fan since the 1990-1991 season, particularly the North Stars magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Like most of us, I was devastated to see my favorite team in the world move away, and was equally frustrated by being teased with the possibilities that didn’t work out with the Oilers, Jets, and Whalers. June 1997 will always have a special place in my heart, as the original birth of the Minnesota Wild.  I’ve always seen myself as a radio host and a writer, and I eventually got the Brave The Wild Podcast started in August 2008, and have been doing it ever since.  I became a late bloomer when it comes to hockey writing when I joined Gone Puck Wild just this past fall, not sure what I was waiting for, but better late than never.  I also proudly write for mnwprospects, covering the QMJHL and BCHL, keeping up with Wild prospects in those respective leagues.

Brian ~ I’m Brian Felska and have been a long time hockey fan at all levels.  Growing up in out state 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.  The contract discussions between the Minnesota Wild, as well as the buyout of Parise & Suter limited the amount of moves Wild GM Bill Guerin could make in free agency this summer.  Which free agent signing do you think will have the biggest impact this season?  Which rookie(s) do you think will spend significant time with the team this season?

Ricky ~ Bill Guerin really shored up the defence in Minnesota this offseason signing the likes of Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, Jordie Benn and John Merrill.  I think Jordie Benn is probably the 7th defenceman on most nights, and the other 3 pair up with Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba.  There was some forward depth added as well with Marcus Johansson, but I think the experience of an Alex Goligoski who has averaged over 22 minutes of ice time in his 13 year career, will definitely add a different element to the back end, the guy is a workhorse and plays in all important situations.  He was a guy that would put up 30 to 40 points on the back end earlier in his career but only recently fell off a bit in Arizona. He is 36 now, but Minnesota Wild fans will like what he brings.  The rookies I see possibly getting some ice time with the Minnesota Wild are forward Marco Rossi and defenseman Calen Addison.  Out of those two, I just can’t see Addison getting as much time out there with the free agent signings Bill Guerin made on the back end. I definitely see Marco Rossi seeing more time upfront.  He has some razzle dazzle to his game, he put up 120 points in 56 games with his junior club the Ottawa 67’s in 2020.

Aaron ~ We signed someone this offseason?  😂  I mean, I get that his hands are tied, but none of the pickups will move the dial on The Cup hopes of this franchise.  If you force me to make a choice, probably the best signing is Jordie Benn, which means we now have the lesser Foligno and the lesser Benn.  As for rookies go, my guess is Rossi.  I know he was primed to get time last season before his health scare, and it sounds like he’s healthy and ready.  I’ll be interested in seeing what he can provide.

Justin ~ I think that the biggest impact we will have regarding a free agent signing will be Alex Goligoski.  He comes in and will have a top 4 role with the departure of Suter.  He can still be an effective contributor and consistently puts up around 35 points.  He can run a power play as well if they decide he is fit to do so here, too.  He can really play in any situation. The rookies that I think will spend significant time with the big club are Matthew Boldy, Calen Addison, and Marco Rossi.  I think Boldy has a very good chance to make it out of the gate.  There are open holes and I think he fills one.  I can see Marco Rossi making it out of camp with our center depth, too.  Couple that with his determination and work ethic and he could take a spot.  I think more than likely he could spend three-quarters of a season here.  I think they could put him in Iowa on a stint to take it slow after he missed the last year or so. Calen Addison is another, but I can also see him spending time in Iowa.  He will have to work for his spot and he has plenty of competition with the signings of Kulikov, Merrill, and Benn. He will be working for a bottom line role.  I want him on the big club, but bigger, top pairing, and power play minutes in Iowa would be better for his development until there’s a top 4 spot for him.  A couple other names we could possibly see in my opinion are Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime.

Jodi ~ I think we have to hope that both Freddy Gaudreau and Alex Goligoski turn out to be serviceable additions.  I think missing out on bringing back Ian Cole is a big deal for me, he was great last season, and a much needed big body in front of the net.  It appears the most significant “free agent” is still unsigned in Kirill Kaprizov.  I am hopeful that Rossi, Boldy, Addison and O’Rourke, all take major strides and spend a significant amount of time in St. Paul.  It would also be fun to see someone like Connor Dewar or Alexander Khovanov take a surprising leap and contribute with the big club.  I am excited to watch these rookies play, it will be fun to have some fresh faces out on the ice at the X.

Johan ~ As far as the free agent signings I have to go with the former Yote, Goligoski.  He started to play much better at the end of last season and I don’t see any reason why this would not continue.  He will have big shoes to fill in replacing Suter but will be up to the task.  I hope both Boldy and Rossi will get plenty of opportunity with the big club.  If I have to pick just one I feel Boldy will have a better chance to play more and BG and the coaching staff will bring Rossi along more slowly.  Now, when Rossi gets his opportunity will he just simply kick in the door to NHL without looking back and forcing the coaching staff to keep him on the team?  My prediction is that he will do this for an extended time maybe even 15-20 games but eventually the big step up to the NHL will take it’s toll and he will return to Iowa until later in the spring when he will come up stay.

Joey ~ Starting with free agents signed, for me it’s got to be Alex Goligoski. I know that’s the low hanging fruit, but as you say, the Wild were limited in free agency due to ongoing cap struggles.  Goligoski is the most legit player of the bunch, and is well known to be an outstanding skater, which hasn’t always been a strong point here in Minnesota.  Not to mention the fact that everywhere he’s gone, Alex has been productive and very durable. (knock on wood)  One other thing to note, is with Goligoski’s contract being only one year for five million, talk is that Alex would be more than willing to sign for cheaper after getting a nice lump sum in his first year in Minnesota.  As for the rookies, right now I’m leaning towards Matt Boldy being the most ready to go, being he already spent time in Iowa, and was over a point a game in the AHL right out of the gate, which is extremely impressive.  Both Boldy and Marco Rossi have been standouts thus far in prospect camp, and training camp, which also gives them an upper hand at least in my opinion.  As for guys that could fill a role right away, and not have to be in the top six, Brandon Duhaime appears at the top of that list right now, along with Conner Dewar, being one or both could be a factor right away in October and remain the entire season.

Brian ~ We better hope that the signing oft Goligoski, Kulikov, Merrill and Benn turn out to be impactful or it could  be a long season.  We will have left ourselves extremely short defensively if the newcomers don’t play at a high level.  I think both Rossi and Boldy have a chance to play significant minutes this year. In fact, the productivity of one or both of these guys could determine how good the Wild end up being.

4.  The Minnesota Wild spent most of its summer trying to settle deals with restricted free agents Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov.  Fiala eventually signed a 1-year, $5.1 million deal (and will again be a RFA next summer with arbitration rights), and the team signed Kaprizov to a 5-year, $45 million deal.  What odds would you give that one or both of these players are still a part of the Wild organization in the next 4 years?

Ricky ~ I think it’s more likely Bill Guerin finds a way to keep both Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala long term in Minnesota.  Fiala has piled up 94 points in his last 114 games over the past two seasons, he has arguably been the Wilds most important player, and I think a longer term deal gets done next summer. Kaprizov, the 2021 Calder Trophy winner, is rumored to be nearing a 5 year contract with the Wild, so I just don’t see Minnesota walking away from any of these guys despite a bit of a cap crunch on the horizon next year.

Aaron ~ My guess is Fiala will get moved in the cap squeeze in upcoming years, but Kirill Kaprizov will be here to stay (for the next five years).  I’m not convinced that the “hold ups” on the Kaprizov contract is anything more than him trying to prolong his time in Russia and get out of some early camp stuff.

Justin ~ I think that Kaprizov is the obvious one, and will be here in 4 years still especially after signing the 5 year contract.  I would love Fiala here in 4 years as well.  He seems less likely of the two though.  We keep seeing rumors that he could be traded and I can see the Wild doing that for the right pieces, mainly a center.  I feel it is a good sign Fiala went with 1 year instead of 2 with the arbitration process.  He could have said forget it, taken 2 years, and walked straight to free agency.  I think it all depends on how negotiations go after this season.  It will be interesting to see what happens, especially if he has a big year.  His first full 82 game season with the Wild. There are ways to make it work if he nabs a big pay day, and the hope is that it happens.  It does seem as though our window will not be here for a few years (maybe 3-5), but things can change depending on what Guerin does and how soon our prospects make an impact. Fiala and Kaprizov are players you want to build around as long as they want to stay here.

Jodi ~ I hope that both of them are a successful part of this franchise moving forward, but I have been completely unimpressed and completely turned off by Kaprizov and his agent holding the Wild hostage all summer.  As a die hard Wild fan it is so disappointing to have a player who looks to have the makings of a superstar, only to realize that he doesn’t want to be a part of the organization that took a chance on him.  Let’s keep in mind, we are not talking about a first round pick here, we are talking about a 5th round guy.  I was so excited for his future here, and at this point I have no feelings for him one way or another.  If he stays great, if he leaves great.  I don’t trust players who think they are better than what the organization is offering them, and in his case he has 55 regular season games, 24 of them against completely inferior rosters, and he thinks he is the next Connor McDavid?  No thanks, I say move on, trade him for assets and people who want to be here.

Johan ~ Great question! Kirill is here to stay, well at least 5 years.  The odds on Fiala doing the same is probably 50-50 in my book only because of the salary crunch Wild will find themselves in will make it hard to sign him long term until the bulk of the Suter/Parise money are off the books.  If this is true I really would like to see Fiala traded for a center but not sure if Wild can find this type of asset on the trade market.

Joey ~ Luckily Kirill Kaprizov is signed for 5 years, but of course with that dreaded no move clause kicking in, during years four and five, Guerin and company will have the next biggest decision of their career, weather or not to trade Kaprizov before they are at risk of losing him all together, ala Marian Gaborik thanks to “Dumpster Doug’s” ongoing mishandling of that situation.  The fear is that Kevin Fiala might be so frustrated with how different he’s been treated thus far in contract talks, that he may want out before the end of next season, so that’s a big worry for me going forward.  In a perfect world, and of course it’s not that impossible to imagine both players being signed long-term, they would both still be here.  On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most likely both star wingers will still be here, I will give a 6.  I’m moderately optimistic that Kaprizov will end up being so happy here with all the lavish star treatment that Minnesota fans give their star players, that he will never don another NHL jersey.  That being said, I will give Kirill “The Thrill” a seven individually. When you do the math, that leaves young Mr. Fiala at a five that he will still be here, mostly because of the different treatment the two players have had thus far in contract talks.

Brian ~ We now know that Kaprizov will be part of the Wild for five years with his new deal.  The only way he wouldn’t be is if he was traded in the first three years of the contract and that’s not going to happen.  If Fiala continues too improve, as he has while being with the Wild, they will have to find a way to keep him long term.

What would be your response to the questions asked to the panel?  Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist!

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