Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2022-23 Pre-Season Edition, Part 3 of 3

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Meteorologists do their best to predict the weather and most of the time they probably get it right but since its a job based on predictions they sometimes get it wrong.  Probability and variables are a double-edged sword.  At times they can make you look like a genius and at others they can betray you.

However, predictions are something fans love to engage in.  Whether its sports betting, or just hoping to have that ‘I told you so’ moment fans love to speculate and its why they read blogs and listen to podcasts.  Hockey fans certainly are not alone in this, but how do they see the 2022-23 Minnesota Wild season play out?  Predictions will be where our 3-part fan discussion ends.

In what has become an annual tradition for my blog is when I ‘pass the mic’ so to speak to a panel of 7 Wild fans to hear what their thoughts and expectations are for the upcoming season.  All of their responses have not been edited and they will not have seen the responses of the other participants until I publish this article.

One of these days I promise to invite them down for a beer at Tom Reid’s Hockey City pub or some other place like that and do this in person.  I would like to thank all of them for their time, effort and passion for the game to participate in an article like this.

To start it off, let’s meet the respondents who have provided a short bio of themselves so you get to know who they are and then we’ll start with our first two questions.

Johan (@MNJohan) ~ My name is Johan Gumaelius, a native of Sweden but a starter Minnesotan when I attended St. Cloud Cathedral as an exchange student in 1985-86.   I then became a full time Minnesotan after I went to college at St. Cloud State and graduated in the mid 90’s and have lived here ever since.  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 in the fall of 1989.  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 at its highest level both on the player and coaching side.  When it comes to the Wild I’m mostly an optimist but try to stay as level headed as possible.

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!

Aaron (@AngryFinn) ~ Former host of the podcast 3 In The Box.  Currently spend his time making music under the name ZMODEM and dabbling in AI-generated Art.

Joey (@paladinolive) ~ My name is Joey Awaijane, I’m a 43 year old, born and raised in Golden Valley Minnesota. I’ve loved hockey my whole life, but didn’t become a full-time fan until approximately the 1990-1991 season, when the Minnesota North Stars coincidentally went on their Cup finals run.  The North Stars leaving in 1993 scarred me for life, as I’m still one of those old timers wanting the Wild to adopt the old name, or at least resurrect the original green and gold color scheme.  Despite the North Stars leaving, my love for the game just grew, and when the “ Minnesota NHL Team” was approved in 1997, I went berserk!  Many years later in August 2008, I started the Brave The Wild podcast, things didn’t start out all so well, as I learned the hard way that there’s more to talking hockey on a podcast than just being a “knowledgeble fan”, and the numbers stayed low for years.  In time, I got better, as did the Wild with the signings of you know who, so the numbers went up gradually ever since.  Two more recent major arrivals have since made things much better than ever, yes Kirill Kaprizov is one.  I also have dabbled a bit in writing with “Gone Puck Wild” but have been M.I.A. for awhile in that department.  One of these days I’ll dip my pen back in the ink dispenser, if it hasn’t totally dried up by then.

Tim (@Timnado) ~ I’m a thick-skinned 40-something Wild fan perpetually waiting for ‘Next Year’ since 2003.  I maintain a foxhole at Summit Brewing along West 7th in the event that a Parade ever materializes. Drop me a line at @Timnado if you like your hockey takes with a healthy dose of satire.  Cheers!

Justin (@deast2004) ~ My name is Justin Bakke.  I am a lifelong Minnesota sports fan and huge hockey nut.  As a kid I grew up with the North Stars.  My time with them was brief though, since I was 7 when they left.  From that point on I was mainly a UMD Bulldog fan.  Growing up in Duluth that was the closest thing and I went to many games.  The pro team I became a fan of between Minnesota franchises was the Colorado Avalanche, Joe Sakic was my idol as a hockey player.  I not only was a huge hockey fan, but I also grew up playing through the Duluth East system through Bantams.  Currently, I am a huge Minnesota Wild fan and run or help run multiple pages.   Most commonly are the Sound the Foghorn Podcast, Kaprizov Kountdown, and MNW Young Guns.  My wife and I get to as many games as we can. I am a hockey dad of 2 hockey players and have a third that seems primed to play when he is older, too.  Needless to say, hockey is deeply entrenched in my family and life.

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.

Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2022-23 Pre-Season Edition, Part 1 of 3

Minnesota Wild Fans Speak: 2022-23 Pre-Season Edition, Part 2 of 3

5.  Despite the record-setting season last year, the Minnesota Wild were still one and done in the NHL playoffs.  What must happen for them to get beyond the 1st round?  Where do you expect the Wild to finish in the Central Division standings?   How many points will they have, and will they make the playoffs this season?  What’s one thing you think could be this team’s saving grace what one thing will be its Achilles’ heel?

Johan ~ With the current design of the playoffs there will always be a very good team that will loose the 2 seed vs 3 seed in the Central division first round series.  It is what it is but to get past this Wild will need to play its very best and take advantage of the opportunity when it is there to take.  This past season the Wild had the Blues on the ropes going into game 4 but let them off the hook and the Blues never looked back.  You cannot have these let down games in the playoffs and hopefully they learned this hard lesson.  This year I expect the Wild to challenge for the Central Division win since I expect the Avalanche to have a serious Stanley Cup hang over to start the season but the Wild will eventually finish 2nd or 3rd with another great season and about 110 points.  I’m still worried about the poor penalty kill the Wild had last year and if they cannot straight this out this will be their Achilles heel this year too.  I’m cautiously optimistic but I think their goaltending will stabilize them and will be a saving factor this season.

Jodi ~ The coaching staff and front office, or whomever makes the line up decisions cost the Wild in the first round of last year’s playoffs.  If they would’ve remained consistent and kept rotating the goalies, as they did to finish the season, they would’ve beat St. Louis.  The coaches strayed from what worked all season, and it cost them.  Evason always preaches if you play hard, do your job and produce, it doesn’t matter what name is on the back of your jersey, you will play.  Then all of a sudden the playoffs come along and we are just going to completely ignore Cam Talbot, with the exception of throwing him to the fire when the season was already over.  The line up was mis-managed and I hope the Wild staff learned from that mistake and will be better as a result.  I think if the Wild get similar production from their top 6 forwards, improvement in Matt Boldy, Calen Addison and Marco Rossi meet expectations, they have a shot to get into the playoffs and out of the first round. Why not us?  I would expect the Wild to be in the hunt for a playoff spot all season. I think a solid locker room and a bonded group can often exceed expectations because they are playing for each other, as well as for themselves.  I believe having a true superstar on your roster raises the level of everyone’s play, especially a superstar who absolutely seems to enjoy every minute he gets on the ice.  I think if we get in to the play offs it is probably most likely a Wild Card spot.  I think the Wild can surpass the 100 point mark, consistent leadership helps teams avoid big pitfalls and slumps, and having a roster of younger guys keeps the team hungry.  I believe Sam Steel will be our saving grace this season, I really think he is going to surprise a lot of Wild fans.  He was a player I was really hoping the Wild would try to acquire.  I think goaltending could be the Achilles heel this season.  I was not impressed by Fleury and I am not positive that he has a lot left in the tank, especially considering he will have to play more than even maybe he was expecting.  I do think we’ve got a good one in Jesper Wallstedt however.  I was able to watch him live at the Wild rookie camp scrimmage and he looks really smooth and really poised.

Aaron ~ IMO you can’t be a one-trick pony and make any sort of serious playoff run.  You need speed, you need physicality, you need to be adaptable and you need great goaltending.  Every year, the Wild fail in one of those areas.  I thought last year that they had a chance to do something, and go deeper, but they got a match up that for whatever reason, they struggled with.  C’est la vie.  As for predictions, I know I said this last year, but there is no way they can be better than they were last year, considering the losses and the already high benchmark.  My guess is upper 90’s for points, 3rd or 4th in the division.  Playoffs…. it’s a crap shoot, but we’re probably not positioned for a deep run.

Joey ~ The next five years will be quite interesting to see where this team goes with Bill Guerin at the helm.  Nobody’s perfect, but generally speaking, what’s not to like about Guerin thus far?  He’s no nonsense, takes no crap from anybody inside and outside of the organization.  I love a leader who is willing to identify a problem, and dispose of it quickly, before it becomes toxic.  I think we all wouldn’t mind this approach from some of our bosses, am I right?  With that said, Bill Guerin will still be the Wild’s GM, barring something crazy happening.  Dean Evason still being here five years from now is less likely, not because I don’t think he deserves to be, but it’s just the life of an NHL coach.  Look at Bruce Cassidy, Pete DeBoer, Gerald Gallant, and many others.  I believe at some point in the next five years, the Wild will trade for a very big name player, that no one would expect, to be the final piece for this franchise towards a potential cup run. I’m talking someone very high end, to the Sebastian Aho level, if not higher.  I predict that Danila Yurov will become the second best player on the Wild, and eclipse 100 points at least once, probably near the end of the five years, being he is so young.  As off the wall as it gets, the Minnesota Wild will reach the ultimate pinnacle, and win a Stanley Cup, more than likely later down the five years.   Hey, what’s more off the wall than a Minnesota
team winning it all, outside of the Lynx and Gopher Hockey (Men’s and Women’s) within the last
31 years?

Tim ~ For the Wild to succeed in the playoffs, they must drastically improve the Special Teams play and take a page out of the Wild Christmas Past by playing stingier.  Last year’s team grew a bit complacent with their late-game/empty-net theatrics.  They need to learn how to close out games effectively.  Based on the multitude of Career Years last season, it will be hard to improve on that point total.  I think they will finish 3rd in the Central with 105 points, ultimately qualifying for the playoffs.  If Boldy takes the next step and Rossi holds his own, the sky is the limit.  If the Flower wilts and Goalie Goose doesn’t have an answer, the squad is in trouble. If Kirill Kaprizov sustains a major injury, all bets are off.

Justin ~ I think in order for this team to go beyond the first round we need players to elevate their games.  There were quite a few passengers in the past couple years’ playoffs.  Last year Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek were the majority of the team’s goals in the series versus the Blues.  I want to see the young guys learn from this for future playoffs.  I want to see all players learn from this, but if some can’t, then we need to find players who will.  I think we are building something special.  I want it to turn out better than the Granlund/Zucker/Coyle/Nino days ever turned out.  As far as this coming season, I feel like we can still finish 2nd in the Central.  I am optimistic.  This team is coming back mostly the same.  We lost some big pieces, but we have pieces that can come in and make an impact.  We have pieces that I can see elevating with a chance.  I think we can still touch 100 points and make the playoffs.  We still have the GREEF line, the Kaprizov line, and the Boldy line which will have changes.  We have our top 4 defensemen, as well as a slew of guys that can be effective on the third pairing.  We have a good starting goalie.  I think we will see players like the Dewy’s elevate their games in the bottom six.  I think one thing that could be this team’s saving grace is the young guys coming in.  We can’t expect the world of them, but Addison and Rossi could come in and fill big roles.  Rossi looks like he will be paired with Boldy again.  Those two could pick up where they left off in Iowa.  One thing that could save us, too, is the cap space.  Even with the cap hell, we have wiggle room.  This could allow Bill Guerin to take advantage of some teams that need to unload players to meet the cap.  We know he loves hockey trades, but this could allow us a hockey trade that helps the lineup.  As far as the Achilles heel I can think of two things.  One is goaltending.  If Marc-Andre Fleury regresses due to age and Gustavsson looks like the player he was in Ottawa, we could be in trouble.  An injury to one of them could spell trouble, too.  The second thing that could be an Achilles heel is if we see a roster regression.  We saw a lot of career years last season.  If players regress, we could be much worse than last season.  I think we have enough players who are in their primes and still improving that it won’t, but it is still a thought of “what if” that I have.

Brian ~ Their defense is suspect and I have no confidence in their goaltending.  I have always been a Jared Spurgeon guy but he got pushed around in the playoffs and not only does Matt Dumba not score but he has become a defensive liability.  Goaltending and defense win in the playoffs so we won’t be winning anytime soon.  I think our first two lines are very good and if the 3rd line can come close to last year then we could be in the 90-point range and make the playoffs.

6.  Give me 3 off the wall predictions for this Minnesota Wild club that will take place in the next 5 years?  Will Bill Guerin still be this team’s General Manager, and will Dean Evason still be its head coach 5 years from now?

Johan ~ Great questions!  Since my glass is always half full and my 3 off the wall predictions will come true there is no way both Billy G and Dean is not here 5 years from now unless they themselves decided to call it quits.  Alright drum roll…….First prediction; Wild will win at least one Stanley Cup in the next 5 years!  Second Drum roll……Wild will within the next 5 years make Krill the highest paid player in the NHL at least for a time. Third drum roll…….Jesper Wallstedt will win the Calder, Vezina and Conn Smythe the same year!

Jodi ~ First off, I think Sammy Walker will contribute significantly to this Wild roster in 2 years.  Second, Kaprizov wins the Rocket Richard trophy at some point over the next 3 seasons.  And third, I think that we have another Calder trophy winner somewhere in our farm system.  I absolutely think Bill Guerin will be the GM of this club 5 years down the road.  He is building a solid foundation of success with some savvy free agent signings.  He has revamped the scouting department which seems to be better at evaluating talent (time will tell of course), and he has a clear blueprint for success and he doesn’t seem to waiver from it.  I do not think Dean Evason will be coach 5 years from now, because does that even happen anymore in any sport?

Aaron ~ Addison or Rossi will blow up, and we’ll forget about Fiala.  Fleury shows his age and we struggle to find a stable goaltender.  Kirill Kaprizov wins the Hart.  Bill Guerin will still be with the team.  Evason will not survive the next five, due to the talent he’s been given.

Joey ~ For the Minnesota Wild to get beyond the first round next year, the penalty kill (25th) and overall defense will need to be significantly better, not to mention a power play that was up and down all season, and finished 18th overall.  Suffice to say, special teams are crucial to the immediate success for this team going into 2022-2023.  Obviously, someone needs to step up, and be above and beyond expectations this year, when it comes to the young guys.  It’s unlikely that everyone will have career highs again this season, so somebody with lower expectations needs to take that mantle.  The Wild’s chances of making the playoffs this upcoming year are not all that far fetched, but the odds of them reaching 113 points are less than likely. If I was to make a gun to the head prediction, 103 points is what I see in my crystal ball, along with a third place finish, which means a lower seed going into the 2023 playoffs.  The saving grace for this team going into this season would be Wild’s new (and inexpensive) blood coming in, as long as a few of them are actually ready for a more full-time NHL role going forward.  Unfortunately, that very youth could be the Achilles’ heal for this team as well, if the Rossi’s, Addison’s and Beckman’s are still just too green to handle the grind of NHL hockey, because like it or not, the Wild are counting on at least one or two of them, with the often mentioned cap crunch.

Tim ~ The Wild will make 2 Conference Finals within the next 5 years (1).  Billy G is still GM, although Deano is Doneso.  Matt Dumba is still with the team (2).  Despite Prospect Prognostications, Calen Addison is the Captain of a non-Iowa AHL squad (3).

Justin ~ My 3 off the wall predictions that will take place in the next 5 years are:
1. Out of cap hell the Minnesota Wild will become a perennial Stanley Cup
contender thanks to the prospect pool meeting expectations.
2. Kirill Kaprizov will win a Hart and Rocket Richard Trophy and sign a long term
deal.
3. Eriksson Ek wins a Selke Trophy.

As far as Bill Guerin, I think he will be a long term General Manager for this team.  He has done a mostly amazing job and has changed the culture and feel around this franchise.  I truly feel he has a long term plan, and I think it will come to fruition.  Dean Evason can go either way.  He has done a pretty good job overall, but I think there are things that need to be shored up before I can say he is in the same position as Billy.  Special teams need to be a lot better as well as some other decision making in my eyes.  Usually the coach goes before the general manager in most cases, but I think we have a good thing going overall.  I am very very excited for what is to come with this franchise over the next few years.  Thank you for including me and for those reading, thank you for taking the time to read my optimistic thoughts.

Brian ~ If the Wild’s millionaire players continue to produce and the young guys come along as expected the Wild will continue to win enough to make the playoffs the next three years.  If the above happens and they can somehow trade Dumba for goaltending and develop a player close to Kaprizov then they win in the regular season and playoffs.  Most likely what will happen in the next three years is that Guerin will stick with his buddy Fleury, the millionaire players will begin to fade, the younger players will stop improving and Kaprizov will demand a trade.  Guerin and Evason will be gone and the next General Manager / Coach team will begin another team rebuild.

What are your thoughts on the Minnesota Wild this season?  Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!

We would also like to thank our panel of Joey, Aaron, Jodi, Johan, Tim, Justin and Brian for making this another great edition of Wild Fans Speak.  This is one of our favorite articles to put together and we’d like to thank you for your time, your passion and effort in answering these questions as I think it makes for some entertaining perspective and discussion!

One last thing, this will be our last article at The Sports Daily as we will be moving to a new platform to cover the Minnesota Wild at InsideHockey.net.  On the behalf of myself and Theresa Ferries (@MNSOTA24)  want to thank you all for your loyalty and your readership the last few years at the Sports Daily and hope you will continue to do so!

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