Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2021-22 Pre-Season Edition, Part 1 of 3

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Minnesota Wild

As the NHL training camps begin, and arenas begin to brace themselves for something most of them haven’t had in the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, fans filling the stands.  In Minnesota, where state-mandated protocols limited the team to just 3,000 fans were allowed to attend games last spring most people had no choice but to watch games from home.  Even as the pandemic seems to be providing a bit of gloom going into the start of a new season I think fans all across North America are crossing their fingers, toes, etc that things will return to normal or at least as much as it can be.

Whether that is providing proof of vaccination and / or wearing masks has yet to be determined, but I think we’re all more hopeful of the opportunity to simply attend a game.   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 Edition: Part 2

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.

1.  The Minnesota Wild shocked the league by buying out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.  Now the team will be facing significant dead money under the salary cap for the next 4 seasons after this one because of that choice.  Do you think Wild General Manager Bill Guerin made the right move or should he have handled it differently?

Ricky ~ The writing was on the wall with the Parise and Suter buyouts, back when they signed those massive 13 year deals with Minnesota in July 2012, the Wild had visions of being cup contenders, it never really panned out despite both players having positive impacts on the team.  As a Canucks fan, I know how it feels having long cap heavy contracts on the team with the players not really contributing and at the end of their careers (looking at you Loui Eriksson).  Minnesota is now looking to the future and the youth, with Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov in talks with the Wild on a new contract, which I think will eventually get done.  Out with the old, in with the new, job well done Bill Guerin.

Aaron ~ The Parise move was a no-brainer.   If you’re scratching the guy, you don’t need to take up roster space with him.  The Suter one is a little more of a curiosity.  He was still productive and a capable defender. He was in no way at risk of being scratched.  Was he overpaid at this point? Of course, but you’re going to have to pay him, so why not keep him… Unless he’s a cancer or a prima donna or just a common-place malingerer.  It’s obvious he wasn’t playing 30 minutes a game anymore, and maybe that was enough to poison the well?  At the end of the day, it makes sense to move on.  They came in together, and they left together. A fitting eulogy.

Justin ~ I think now was the time to buy out the likes of Suter and Parise.  I feel they changed the face of the franchise, and I thank them for that, but Guerin is trying to seemingly get younger and faster.  They no longer fit that bill. They’re both good players still, but don’t fit the mold of what we are doing.  Doing it now bought us cap space this season.  Years 2-4 will be tough regarding the cap, but that’s where entry level contracts and short term deals will come into play until we get through the tough years of the buy outs.  We have players like Boldy, Rossi, Addison, Beckman, and others that could effectively fill holes. Another positive is we now avoid cap recapture if we were ever put in that predicament.  I think the writing was on the wall with Parise, Suter was a big surprise, but I am ok with Guerin doing it when he did.

Jodi ~ I was not shocked at all with the buyout of Zach Parise.  It looks as though he has lost a step, and the place where he is best suited at this point in his career, the power play, doesn’t have room for him.  I was however, very shocked at first with the buyout of Ryan Suter.  But after listening to podcasts and reading articles, I actually completely understand why they did what they did.  The risk of either of them getting injured or retiring early was greater than the cap penalty, and I agree with the decision.  I was one of the many who were ecstatic when they signed these two in 2011, and no one can dismiss the fact that they made this organization relevant again, but I think it was time to move on from both of them.  No one can speculate what happens inside of a locker room when you are just a fan, but it seems like a change was necessary.  If the organization drafts and scouts well, they should be able to bridge the salary cap gap for the next 4 seasons.

Johan ~ I do think Bill Guerin made the right move, but I was probably as shocked as any by the inclusion of Suter in this buy out.  I feel Suter’s game as slipped a bit the last few seasons but he was very productive in the playoffs against Vegas.  The main reason for this move must have been the uncertainty of the recapture penalty.  Yes, the buy-out will hurt but not as much as a $20 million fine.

Joey ~ I agree with what Bill Guerin did, mostly because the Wild needed a change in culture, because as the GM said on Straight From The Source: “There’s something rooted here that’s not working, it’s something
in the culture and we need to change it.”  When I heard that, my eyes lit up, because it’s nice to hear the truth straight out, rather than just status quo for what has felt like forever.  The cap situation is something unavoidable, regardless if they are here or not.  Suter is a loss as a player, but what some of us has been hearing, he’s a big part of the culture that needed to change, along with Parise who clearly was not going to be much of a part of things for much longer.  Their style of leadership was questionable at best, and some may believe it was hurting the team more than helping.  Of course, the formerly called “young guys” lack of true development contributed as well.

Brian ~ I was shocked by the buyout but only because it was the full amount of their contracts and because they bought out both players.  I can understand Parise being bought out.  He has slowed down considerably in the last two years and he doesn’t have the net presence he once had.  He was also part of the duo that once caused internal problems by having the ear of management.  However, I think Guerin was a little quick on the trigger with Ryan Suter. He is still an above average defensemen who can play significant minutes for a price that’s not out of this world.  Also, with Parise gone, I don’t think he would be in any position to influence management. With the loss of Soucy and Cole I think we have left ourselves vulnerable on defense even with the off season additions we made. We should have waited at least one more year on Suter.

2.  The Minnesota Wild were said to be one of the more serious bidders for the services of Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres?  Ultimately the team felt the proposed price of prospects Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy, plus both of their 1st round picks in 2021 was simply too high of a price to pay?  Do you think the team should’ve pulled the trigger on a deal for Eichel or did they make the right move by backing out?

Ricky ~ The Minnesota Wild are in no position to mortgage the future for Jack Eichel. Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy will be core parts of that team going forward, and giving up two first round picks from this years draft, (Carson Lambos and Jesper Wallstedt), in my opinion is too steep a price for Jack Eichel, a bonified star who has displayed a sour and unprofessional attitude with his current team, the Buffalo Sabres. I think you can make this deal if you’re 1 big piece away from contending for a cup, I don’t think the Wild are there yet. Do you really want Eichel’s attitude in that locker room? No thanks.

Aaron ~ Considering we still don’t know how long Kaprizov will be in a Wild sweater, it’s probably not prudent to mortgage the future for gains now.  That being said, people tend to completely overvalue prospects, and even worse draft picks, over what they would get in return. Draft picks outside of the top 10 are crap shoots.  Prospects are crap shoots, otherwise they’d be in the league.  Based on the Wild’s history with the draft and prospects, we probably will end up using those draft picks on capable support players that won’t wow anyone and won’t be game changers.

Justin ~ I, for the most part was out on Eichel all along.  I know #1 Centers like that don’t become available like this very often, but I am bullish on blowing a hole in the side of the prospect pool and depth for one player. This is especially after the buy outs of 11 and 20. Topple his $10 million with Kaprizov’s $9 million and you have a ton of money bogged up to 2 guys and buy outs.  I don’t want to tarnish what we have built on paper, and that is a top prospect pool.  I am not so worried about the neck injury, especially if he gets the surgery that he wants as opposed to the surgery Buffalo wanted. The rumored character issues worry me more than the neck injury.  Also, while we are going through the tough buy out years, we will need the young guys, like I mentioned before, on their entry level contracts to help combat a tight cap.  I don’t see how one guy moves the needle if you can’t do much around him due to cap constraints.  You give up, say, Fiala, Boldy/Rossi, picks, and more, you are giving up lots of skill and high end assets.  I am more worried about the big picture than trying to force a window. We want a sustained, perennial contender, not just a couple year flash in the pan.

Jodi ~ I am so happy that Bill Guerin did NOT pull the trigger on this deal.  This would have been way too high of a price to pay.  I haven’t been excited about many Wild prospects in the past, but I am legitimately excited about Boldy, Rossi, Addison, Lambos, O’Rourke and Wallstedt.  I realize that Eichel is the number one center we have been searching for, but is a number 1 center any good without anyone around him?

Johan ~ I’m a big fan of Jack Eichel, but with his injury situation and no resolution in sight Bill Guerin absolutely made the right decision at draft time.  Now, if Buffalo would have been willing to  take salary back in the form of players and contracts, say Fiala and Greenway and really any prospects not named Rossi and Boldy, I would have to consider it again.  The recent developments in Buffalo with Eichel adds more fuel to the rumors of his trade.  That just cannot be a sustainable situation for any locker room.

Joey ~ I promise I’m not just being a fanboy by agreeing so much, but I think they made the right decision again.  It just reeked of yet another moment in Minnesota sports history, where we “Go all in” and things
just don’t work out as planned.  Eichel may end up having a hall of fame career, but that is definitely yet to be seen, plus his stubborness with the whole neck situation is more than alarming.  Rossi and Boldy look to be something pretty special in the coming years.  I know we’ve felt that way
before, and those guys were Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, who at times were good, but never took that next step.  There is definitely a risk, one way or the other, but if I was the GM, I most likely would lean
this way unless I had a much better vibe regarding Eichel, or the Buffalo Sabres came down off their price.

Brian ~ First and foremost I don’t think they could afford his $10 million salary especially when they knew the cost of signing Kaprizov was going to be in the  $ 8-9 million range.  Plus he has an extended term contract.  With the salary cap mess left by the buyouts of Parise and Suter we need to keep  our younger players and hope they are productive.  Plus I like the upside of both Rossi and Boldy.

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

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