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

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

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

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Many people will tune in for the 10 o’clock news to hear nothing more than to hear the weather forecast for tomorrow and the rest of the week.  The meteorologist gives their predictions and you hope they’re right as you attempt to plan your wardrobe choices based on their input.  Or maybe you just feel confident that the promised cold weather won’t happen and you wear shorts and T-shirt anyways.  They’re not always right, are they?

Another place where you see predictions is the odds makers at sportsbooks in casinos.  Draft Kings and other sites like it are an entire industry about predictions.  It might surprise to hear the Minnesota Wild have the 10th best odds to win a Stanley Cup in 2022 according to VegasInsider.com.  We asked our panel their predictions about the Minnesota Wild’s upcoming season and we hope you enjoy what they had to say.

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.

Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Edition: Part 1

Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Edition: Part 2

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.

5.  With the team’s looming cap crunch in mind, when do you think fans should expect the Minnesota Wild to be an NHL Stanley Cup contender?  How close or how far away are they from being there right now?  What areas do you think the team must improve / upgrade to become a contender?

Ricky ~ The Minnesota Wild rebuild is going well and the future is the brightest as it’s been in a while.  Players like Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Carson Soucy have taken big steps in their development along with Kirill Kaprizov.  Factor in the emergence of one Kevin Fiala and all of a sudden you can see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  Outside the roster, the Wild has some very exciting prospects such as Marco Rossi, and added depth coming up could bring them into contention sooner rather than later, I would say in 2 to 3 years time.  I know there are fans who are excited about goaltending prospect Marat Khusnutdinov, but the question will be how fast he will develop into a starter, and if all goes well he may be the guy in 2 or 3 years time to help the Wild to becoming a contender.  If not, Bill Guerin may want to dip into the goalie pool, as its the most important position in hockey.

Aaron ~ The last year Kaprizov is here? 😂  Look, staying competitive is going to be tough, and this market does not stomach fire sales, like at all. It seems that many fans are content with just making the playoffs, but you rarely get farther than the first round without a hot goalie and a couple dynamic lines.  The goalie part can be a crap shoot, so not concentrating on that, we have at best one dynamic line.  We need a couple more pieces to have two solid top lines.  Could Rossi be the piece we need?  Sure. Could Joel Eriksson Ek keep developing? Sure.  I just don’t know that I’m convinced that this will happen, and we will probably need that cap space to bring in guys that are better than Benn or Gaudreau.

Justin ~ In my opinion I think we are a true Stanley Cup contender in 3-5 years.  I think staying the course will get us there.  By then guys like Boldy and Rossi will be touching their primes.  Hopefully kids like Khusnutdinov, Beckman, and Wallstedt among others are developed into NHL roles.  Also, the hope is guys like Kaprizov and/or Fiala are here as part of that core, too. You keep adding prospects to this already great pool.  You can use some of those assets to make trades once you’re a top team with a pool deep enough to dip into with the trade market.  Doing so now is the wrong timing. Right now I feel we are a ways away from contending.  Our defense is not as strong as it was, but is still very serviceable.  Our goaltending was improved upon last season.  I like our forwards, but we are ailing at the center position on paper. Ek is great and the hope is Rossi steps in too.  If so, we may not be as rough there as we thought.  I think overall we do need to address the defensive depth and the center position to take steps forward though.  The past couple drafts were good starts to add defensemen and centers.  We have a couple of prospects that look to be great center options in the future possibly, but we just have to make sure they continue to develop into such.  I think Guerin is putting the right staff in place to continue to draft well and develop once they’re here.  I trust him and hope that his big picture is painted how he envisions it.  It would give this fandom what it deserves, and that is a consistent contender and a Stanley Cup.

Jodi ~ Here’s the deal, I am one of the few (maybe) who enjoy a competitive team.  Would I love to see the Wild win a Stanley cup, absolutely.  Do I mind first or second round playoff exits, no I don’t.  I trust Bill Guerin, and the turnover in this lineup that he has orchestrated over a short period of time is encouraging.  If our leaders can lead, our stars become superstars, and our rookies develop, I feel we could be very relevant in a season or two.  Obviously a glaring need for this team is the lack of a number 1 center.  But I don’t want the Wild to acquire a number 1 center if it means you have to sell off everything to get it.  I would also like to see the Wild acquire or develop a big defenseman who can clear out the front of the net, and provide some protection for our young stars.

Johan ~ The big glaring need is at #1 center and it really has been since the beginning of this franchise.  If the younger players take big steps in their development this team can challenge in the playoffs but to be a true contender it will take at least 5 years and having the dead Suter/Parise money.

Joey ~ The cap crunch will certainly hurt, thankfully the Wild have numerous prospects that will be much cheaper than potential free agents. Two players that might be the most crucial in terms of how imperative it is that at least one of them succeeds (outside of Marco Rossi) would be follow Russians Marat Khusnutdinov or Alexander Khovanov, the reason being would of course be their position of center.  I personally feel this team could be a cup contender in the next year or two, if things really pan out with the likes of Kaprizov, Rossi, Boldy and Addison, as crazy as that may sound. Otherwise, we could be looking at more than five years down the road, should things not pan out with the majority of the “young guys” as we’ve mentioned for a few hockey generations now.  Just yesterday, it felt like the Wild were overstocked at defensemen, but for the moment it feels there is a gaping hole in the bottom pairing. Time will tell if some of the many blue liners taken in July will pan out, but if Lambos is as good as they believe, we may have something there, without overspending in free agency.

Brian ~ All things considered I think the Wild should be a consistent playoff team going forward and In the National Hockey League that makes you a legitimate contender.  Their goaltending is a strength along with their offensive players.  If Ek, Fiala, Kaprizov, Foligno, Hartman, Zuccarello and others all continue to improve our offense should be able to keep up with anyone.  Their style of coaching and systems lends itself to a team style of play so we shouldn’t be talking about any locker room issues.  The X factor to me is whether the defense will be good enough.  If they are and Rossi and Boldy live up to my expectations we may just see a run to the Cup.

6.  Where do you think the Minnesota Wild will finish at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season?  Will they make the playoffs?  If so, where will they end up in the division standings, if not what do you think is the main reason they failed to qualify (besides just wins & losses)?  What player do you think will the biggest surprise and which player do you think will be the biggest disappointment?

Ricky ~ The NHL’s central division, in my opinion is the toughest in the NHL.  I think the Minnesota Wild have seen this story before, with a jam packed division full of contenders, and this year is no different.  With the Pacific Division being the most lackluster it’s been, outside of the Vegas Golden Knights, there’s a good chance 5 teams from the Central get into the playoffs with 3 getting in from the Pacific.  This should show up as the word “opportunity” in caps locks and bright colors for the Wild. Will they get in?  I believe they do, with the likes of Chicago, Nashville and the pitiful Arizona Coyotes missing out.  My standings predictions are as follows, 1.Colorado. 2.Winnipeg 3.Dallas 4.Minnesota 5.St.Louis, and the other 3 will be teams from the Pacific.  If there’s a player set to have a disappointing season in Minnesota, I would lean towards goalie Cam Talbot, who had a decent campaign last year after 2 disastrous seasons.  He has not been the most consistent in his career, and the Central Division could eat him for dinner.

Aaron ~ They significantly out-performed my prediction last season (66 points for a 56 game season), and considering they didn’t add much and didn’t lose much, I sort of assume that they’ll be around the same, maybe a little better as some of these younger guys continue to gel together.  I think they’ll be relevant, but I still don’t know that they’ll have what it takes to get beyond the first round.  I’m going to go with 46-24-12 (104 points).  Biggest surprise will be…. Kaprizov.  He’s either going to cement himself as the GOAT, or as a goat.  Biggest disappointment will be Goligoski.  The Homecoming narrative is boring at this point.

Justin ~ At the conclusion of the 2021-22 season I can see the Minnesota Wild being a fringe playoff team. I feel the bottom of the division will be a combination of Arizona, Chicago, and Nashville. The top team on paper would be Colorado.  As for spots 2-5, I feel it can be any combination of St Louis, Winnipeg, Dallas, and Minnesota.  Everything is fluid in season, but I think we can beat out one of those teams to make the playoffs.  As far as once we are in the playoffs I think it would be a 1st or 2nd round exit, but anything can happen once you are there.  I think the player that will be the biggest surprise is actually a young gun.  I think it will be Matthew Boldy. There may be an adjustment period in the pros, but if he gets paired with a player like Kevin Fiala he could very well take off and become another Wild Calder candidate.  The pace of play will be a lot quicker than college and the AHL.  However, I feel his incredible vision and IQ matches well with Fiala’s skills and ability to score.  I think the biggest disappointment will be Jordan Greenway.  Last year he had a pretty good year, but we keep saying that this needs to be his year every year seemingly.  If Ek is elevated in the lineup he won’t be on a line with Greenway and I think that hurts his stock. I hope I am wrong, but he reminds me of Coyle in the fact that we see flashes of who we want him to be, but he can’t consistently be that player.

Jodi ~ I do think this team has a shot at making the playoffs, although they are going to have to overachieve all season to do it.  I trust our scouts, and the vision that management has for this organization.  If we are going to struggle, I would much rather struggle while watching young prospects develop as opposed to aging veterans who are on their way out.  I am excited for the opportunity to see how this team looks this year, and how we continue to build our prospect pool.  I feel like Marco Rossi is going to be an outstanding player for this organization, along with Matt Boldy.  But I feel like the biggest surprise might end up being Adam Beckman.  I think if he gets a chance he will produce.  The player that is already the biggest disappointment for me is Rask.  If I was a professional hockey player, and I was as bad of a skater as he is, I would hire the best skating coach I knew and work on my skating.  I don’t know if he does that or not, but if he does, he needs to find a better skating coach.  It is painful to watch him out there, especially on the power play.  I worry that Kaprizov will be a disappointment after holding out for more money or less term, or whatever the heck he ended up wanting.  Often times it seems that if a player holds out and seems greedy, it comes back to bite them in some way or another.  I do think he has a enough swagger and confidence that he will hopefully be able to avoid this.

Johan ~ My guess is that the Wild will finish 3rd in the Central and get bounced in the 2nd round of the playoffs.  The biggest surprise will be Fiala’s consistency the whole season and I really hope I’m wrong on my biggest disappointment but as much as I like to see Greenway succeed I’m afraid we will see him with a rather bland effort this year again.

Joey ~ Depending on the point of view of the reader, I may come off as a bit optimistic, as I see the Minnesota Wild making the playoffs while finishing third in the central division.  Yes, they had significant losses, but like last year, certain players followed Guerin’s lead and took the next step forward, namely Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno.  I can see similar things happening here, as Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin will shoulder more of the load with Suter gone.  Who’s to say Eriksson Ek won’t take another step forward, along with Kevin Fiala in a bigtime contract year?  Kaprizov should take another step forward as well, and one of the young guys just might take a big step forward.  I believe the biggest surprise this upcoming season will be Matt Boldy.  I feel he’s ready to take a bigger step forward than most of us expect and become a very significant part in the Wild’s success this coming season, even if it’s not right away in October or November.  As for the biggest disappointment, it could end up being another “Matt” if Matt Dumba doesn’t regain some of that “Dumb-Bomb” magic he had, prior to the infamous pectoral injury now over two years ago.  Hoping I’m wrong, but the last two years were almost identical, despite Dumba taking more of a leadership role, the overall results just weren’t there.

Brian ~ As I said above I think the Wild should make the playoffs this year and going forward.  If everything comes together they could finish at the top of their division.  If our defense struggles we will still make the playoffs but as a much lower seed.  Personally I think Fiala will have terrific year and lead the team in scoring.  Dumba will be back to his inconsistent self and our overall defense will suffer.  Wild will be the last playoff team from their division.

So there you have it, the panel has spoken and shared a lot of things to consider.  Let’s hope we can get together someday for some adult beverages and enjoy a game together.  Thanks again for your contributions and we hope our readers enjoyed the perspectives.

What would your response have been to the questions we asked our panel?  Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist!

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