After the Minnesota Wild had an uneventful postseason, they had to do something big to get ready for this season. When the Wild tanked in the playoffs after having such a fantastic season, it was time to shake things up.
With head coach Bruce Boudreau going into his second year with the Wild; he’ll be looking to prove himself. He’ll have that chance with a few new players as well as most of the familiar faces from last season.
Tyler Ennis (F)
Ennis is a small but stocky forward who hasn’t quite met expectations so far in his career after being a first round pick back in 2008, going 26th overall. At most he’s been a 20-goal scorer when he’s healthy. The Wild took somewhat of a risk going for Ennis, but a change of scenery can do wonders for a player.
Given a second chance with a new team could be just what he needs to really get his scoring powers going. He has the potential, he just needs to focus on it and stay healthy or the Wild will be back to square one.
Marcus Foligno (F)
In the same trade that brought Ennis to Minnesota, it also brought Marcus Foligno. Foligno is almost a copy of Ennis in the stats department, with fewer goals. He’s never played a full season and is a 15-goal scorer at most.
He, like Ennis, is quite injury prone, sustaining nine injuries over his six year NHL career. Most of those happened in 2014 one right after the other. His most recent injury was to his knee and happened back in April, having the whole summer to heal meaning he’ll hopefully be ready once training camp starts up.
Foligno’s major difference from Ennis is his size. At 6’3″ and 228lbs, he is someone players will not want to get in the way of. That is one area the Wild needed to cover, not necessarily a fighter but someone who will hit when needed, and hit hard.
Hitting seems to be Foligno’s specialty, he just needs to get his contract figured out and everything will be set.
Matt Cullen (F)
Matt Cullen is a name that needs little introduction in the state of Minnesota. Having already had a 3-year stint with the Wild from 2010-13, this second time around may just be the icing on the cake Minnesota is looking for.
Cullen is a natural born leader as well as a workhorse who’s scrappy in the corners, but can also kill it on a breakaway. He can skate, score, kill penalties; he’s an all around player which is something the Wild can rely on.
Cullen is a skilled player who is quick on his feet and can defend himself on his own, but his biggest asset is his experience. He’s been in all sorts of situations, including 3 Stanley Cup titles, that rookies can look to him for guidance on. Cullen can help form a relatively young team into an experienced one using his vast 19 years of experience in the league.
Erik Haula (F)
Haula’s loss won’t be fully noticed until the season starts. A player who wasn’t easy to predict makes it somewhat hard to know if his departure will be hard or easy on the Wild. He was a young seemingly up and coming player with a lot of talent but hadn’t reached his full potential.
The loss may not be known for a while for the Wild, but the gain for the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be known almost immediately. He’s young but experienced enough to help bring the team chemistry together and score a few goals along the way.
Jason Pominville (F)
His loss may or may not be felt right away by the Wild. Pominville was a quiet leader with experience but seemed to be past his prime. He was able to score goals but not always when Minnesota needed them most.
He fit in well with his linemates, but as the team started to change, he didn’t seem to have that same fit. Going back to Buffalo may be what he needs to feel comfortable again and fit in with a team more attuned to his style.
Marco Scandella (D)
His loss will be the hardest felt, especially to the team’s defensive core. Minnesota has had a strong defensive line that consisted of the same players the last few years. Of course, a few players came and went but mostly it stayed the same, now it has changed and dramatically.
Scandella started with the Wild when he began his NHL career at age 20, and he’s been there ever since. That was six years ago and in that time he has grown to become a core defenseman but now he’ll be taking his talents to Buffalo.
The Sabres are getting a quick and witty defenseman who can work his way through situations without panic. With the right partner, he could become an even bigger force to be reckoned with, and Minnesota will miss him.
Moving on up
Gustav Olofsson (D)
With Scandella gone, that gives someone like Olofsson the chance to show the Wild what he is really made of. He has been with the Wild the last two seasons but played minimal minutes. Last season he played in only 13 games but had three points, which are more than would be expected of a defenseman at his stage.
With the chance to crack the actual line-up for more than just a small stint, Olofsson may get the final push to get his game to the best it can be. He’s young and has size on his side. At 6’4″ and 195lbs he won’t be easy to push around.
Joel Eriksson Ek (F)
Eriksson Ek has been talked about quite a bit lately as the next big thing for the Wild. With Haula gone he may have the opportunity to stay up with the big boys longer than a few games. He had a promising seven points in 15 games last season.
At just 20-years old he has a lot of time to reach his full potential but just seeing the beginning, he may have a fulfilling career ahead of him. He just has to stay healthy and keep scoring points.
What can the Wild achieve this season?
Minnesota has a lot to prove this season after their dismal end to last year. If they can feed off of the regular season successes they had in 2016-2017 they’ll do well. They just need to figure out how to make it past the first round of the playoffs.
Without seeing the team in action yet, it’s hard to say how well they’ll do. It’s easy to lay it all out on paper but that’s not seeing how the team actually reacts together. Chemistry is a lot of what makes a hockey team work and that is something that needs to be seen firsthand.
With the group they have and the experience they’ve gained, it may be predicted they’ll do well, as well as last season possibly but that’s not to say it won’t go the exact opposite. However, with coach Boudreau getting the team as far as he did last season in his first year with the Minnesota Wild, it appears they’ll do as well if not better than last season.
If you’re a fan of hockey especially the NHL, you know any team can finish anywhere. A team that was in last place last year could dramatically take the Stanley Cup the following season. It’s highly unlikely but it can happen.
The Central Division is always a tight race towards the end and the Minnesota Wild could finish anywhere amongst them. More than likely they’ll be close to the top if not the top team. Their biggest competition in their division would be St. Louis, who always seems to creep up on Minnesota, and Nashville who has continually improved year after year.
Not wanting to jinx their chances but the Minnesota Wild will finish first overall in the division and face St. Louis once again, hopefully getting their revenge and winning out that round, and go on to the second round.
But, how much further?
We’ll begin to see shortly.
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