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PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can Parise and Suter take the Wild to the next level?

Jan 15, 2013, 12:41 PM EDT

Zach Parise, Ryan Suter Getty Images

Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.

Their contracts got attention for all the wrong reasons during the lockout. But now with the fight over “back-diving” deals in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to find out if Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are worth the $196 million the Minnesota Wild committed to them last summer.

Parise, 28, and Suter, 27 – each with ties to the Minnesota area – will make their Wild debuts Saturday at home to Colorado. First, the fans will give them a rousing ovation. Then, the fans will expect results.

The pair was signed for good reason. The Wild has missed the playoffs the past four seasons. Since entering the NHL in 2000, the team has won just two playoff series, both in 2003 when it made an unexpected run to the conference finals.

Mostly, the Wild has been known for playing, to put in bluntly, boring hockey.

All of which led to owner Craig Leipold’s aggressive pursuit of Parise of Suter, both offensive-minded players, the former a forward, the latter a puck-moving defenseman.

“This is a game changer,” said Leipold, who bought the club in 2008, of the signings. “We’re overnight changing who we are. We’re changing our identity. We’ll never get that opportunity again.”

Changing an identity is one thing. Winning is another. Because even with Parise and Suter – two stars, but not yet superstars – there remain numerous questions when it comes to this year’s version of the Wild.

Is there enough depth on defense?

Can Dany Heatley rediscover the form that made him a two-time 50-goal-scorer?

Can rookie Mikael Granlund make an impact?

Will the goaltending hold up?

But most of the focus will be on the new guys. If they fail to produce and the team keeps losing…

“We have a lot of responsibility on us to go out and perform now,” Suter said, “to help the team get to that next level.”

  1. cameltoews - Jan 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I’m a ranger fan but I am very interested to see how the wild do. There is a lot of pressure for parise and Suter to perform more than ever. It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure. A lot of minny fans on here keep talking about the prospects coming up so now is the time to put up.

    • valoisjoeybfeld69 - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      Agreed! Will be fun to watch.

      “This is a game changer,” said Leipold, who bought the club in 2008, of the signings. “We’re overnight changing who we are. We’re changing our identity.” True enough Mr. Leipold. However, Jason has excellent questions; Is there enough depth on defense? Will the goaltending hold up? After all, offense wins games, defense wins championships.

      • therealjr - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        There are plenty of excellent defensive teams. The ones that win are the ones who can score and play from ahead.

      • getadealdonealready - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        The defense wins championships saying is old and tired! It was popular in sports when athlete’s would smoke and drink more then workout. Championship teams come in all shapes and sizes and typically need a combination of leadership, young talent, and be able to handle adversity, and most importantly get a few bounces at key times. As a wild fan regardless of what happens, this team is different than any other we have had here. It has top end talent, young players ready to take the next step that won’t have as much pressure as it will all be on the big two. IMO the question is in goal, Backstrom seemed to be better in Lemaire’s system, harding can’t stay healthy or perform for extended periods when needed, and Hackett is two years away from being a stud at this level. People talk about the Defense but the 1st & 2nd D from last years team that was the best in hockey for 2 months prior to the injuries mounting up are now D 3 & 4, and don’t worry about 5 & 6 as with Suter they PT will be dramatically cut. Brodin is ready to be a top 4 D when he gets healthy as well. I don’t know what the season will bring, but in the words of the great AD “it’s time to play hockey!”

      • jrmehle - Jan 15, 2013 at 9:44 PM

        getadealdonealready has good points. Don’t forget what these new faces are going to do to special teams units. The PP should be much improved with Suter on the point and Parise in the mix down low.

    • spiciercheez - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      I agree as well. It will be interesting, however many of the prospects won’t get a shot unless others perform poorly or get injured. Lots of talent that will start the season in the AHL, especially at the forward position.

  2. lordfletcher - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    The next level for the Wild is that playoffs, and yes they can and will get them there. A healthy Wild team last year would have kept the Kings out of the playoffs because of their incredible run in the first half of the season…. As for contenders, I would say the Wild are but only if you consider the notion that if you’re in, you can win. I don’t think the Wild should be favorites or anything close to but could end up being a #3-#6 seed in the West this year and again, anything can happen from there… I think The Wild are too young, inexperienced on D to really make a strong playoff push… The top 3 lines are pretty strong, but it all comes down to scoring for this squad.. something that has been missing for a long time, if not ever. I think the Wild’s future is brighter than the current day. They will be strong contenders in 2 years ….

    Love the direction of this club and glad we are finally getting some fan hate from around the league. It’s been way toooooooo quiet in Minnesota lately

    Go Wild!!!!!!

  3. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I think I’m qualified enough as a Wild fan to say, the minimum expectation is for the Wild to make the playoffs this year. With the number of prospects they have and cap room clearing even more the next couple of off seasons, they are still a couple of years away from a window that they will have to make a legitimate run at the Cup.

  4. xflyersx - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Yes.

  5. martysbetter - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    I don’t watch the Wild, but based on Zidlicky’s exile to New Jersey – a puck-moving defenseman who had a hard time performing in Yeo’s less aggressive system but shined for the Devils, the pickups of Parise and Suter are questionable to me.

    Parise is most effective in an aggressive forechecking system, Suter’s strength is as a puck-moving defensemen – both of which do not jive with Yeo’s system.

    This isn’t sour grapes, I’m legitimately interested in seeing how it plays out for the Wild.

    Maybe I’m wrong about Yeo’s system too, that’s just my perception from what I’ve heard.

    • lordfletcher - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      Zidlicky is nothing ‘special’ but more than anything he just quit on Minnesota… He can be a very helpful PP dman but usually was lost in his own zone for us in Minnesota. It seemed like he got his game back in NJ, had jump in his step and was playing with more grit….. Yeo’s system is fast / up tempo, lots of forechecking and causing turnovers while making crisp passes to open zones. Zid just didn’t do well in it and was benched for lack of hustle, motication, leadership, … everything. He quit on the team and was a baby. We all in MN expected him to play well in NJ once he was traded because he had his best friend there and was motivated on a playoff team.

      He is a good dude, just didn’t work out here near the end of his contract and personally I am happy he is gone, just because of the way he acted towards the end. Both teams got what they wanted. win win in the end. Hopefully for you guys, he continues his stronger play and doesn’t revert back to his dying days in MN

      cheers

      • martysbetter - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:55 PM

        Thanks for clarifying, for some reason I thought Zidli(ds)cky was unhappy in Minnesota because he loves being a mobile defenseman and has a tendency to pinch a lot, and Yeo had him just chilling on the blue line – worked out perfectly in Deboer’s system because that’s exactly what we needed.

        It’ll be interesting to see how this team does, best of luck Wild fans!

  6. therealjr - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    If the next level is the playoffs, I would say probably. A bit early to put them as serious Cup contenders though.

  7. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    It should be fun to see what these guys can do. My guess is the Wild makes the playoffs as a lower seed.

  8. phillyphanatic77 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    I think it’s very possible that the Wild sneak into the playoffs but it will be because of their Goaltending. If you look at the overall roster there are a lot of question marks outside of Parise and Suter. I mean their offense was absolutely anemic last season and there is next to no depth on their blueline. There’s no question Parise will help the scoring woes and Suter steps in as the number one Dman, but they can’t do it alone. IMO the Canucks and Oilers will finish ahead of the Wild in the Northwest.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      If anything goaltending is one if their strengths with former all-star and olympician Niklas Backstrom.

      To address their scoring woes, they signed Parise and finally got Granlund here from Finland. Also, Bouchard is finally healthy for the first time in nearly 3 years.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:15 PM

        That’s what I said. If they make the playoffs it will be because of their goalie duo. Parise is only one man, they need Heatley, Setoguchi, and PM Bouchard all to have bounce back years. That’s a lot to ask. You know what you’re getting from Parise, Koivu, and Suter but beyond that there are a bunch of questions.

      • spiciercheez - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Coming from someone who can look at a roster but probably has never even seen a Wild game.

      • lordfletcher - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        there is ZERO chance the Oilers finish infront of the Wild this regular season. I mean zero. I will bet the farm on it. Too many questions marks still for EDM, mostly in net and on D. Schultz is a huge upgrade for them but he can’t carry the load

        If the Wild start out well, they can compete with Vancouver in the divison, Calgary will finally fall apart and more than likely Colorado will be fighting for the 7-11 range. IMO.

        The Wild’s defense is better than most people know if they are healthy
        Suter – Spurgeon
        Gilbert – Scandella (if healthy)
        Brodin (will be top 2 / 4 pairing when healthy – who ever

  9. hockeywithdrawal - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    These are two great players – might not ‘get them to the next level’ but doesn’t hurt. As a Pens fan I wish I’d get to see them this year – and don’t forget Granlund, either. At some point, yes, the scale will tip their way.

    Either way – I’m just hoping we can all move on from the same three pictures of these two in their Wild jerseys…it’s really starting to get to me.

  10. joeyashwi - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Parise and Suter are great additions but what will make or break the Wild is injuries, or hopefully lack thereof. This team was fast, exciting, and winning before they were crippled by injuries last year. A healthy Bouchard is a huge playmaking addition and the others have another year in the system. They will win at least one playoff series this year. Once Granlund develops, you can pencil the Wild in as perennial contenders. Living in Wisconsin I can only hope the Wild and Bucks don’t have too many conflicting dates because nothing is worse than turning on FSN hoping to see a hockey game and the stinking Bucks are on.

  11. hawkeyplayer - Jan 15, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    they’ll never be like Mike Madono and the Northstars.

  12. atwatercrushesokoye - Jan 15, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Honest question for all Wild fans, I’m just curious why there’s so much stock being out in Bouchard? He’s had 3 decent seasons in his career (the seasons he was fully healthy) the third of which was a 63 point season but that season was 5 full years ago, is there depth there should he continue his trend?

    And I’m asking that in a non confrontational way, just curious about a player I see a lot about but who’s production has never lived up to the hype.

    As for the Wild taking the next step, I think this year it’s literally a crapshoot for every team in the NHL, a great stretch of 7-10 games will pretty much assure a playoff spot and a bad stretch of even 5 games could doom teams. So I think for Minnesota it will be a lot like Edmonton, looking to see the younger players taking a step forward in the NHL (which could lead to a playoff spot if they can avoid any bad stretches) and then aiming for the 3-6 seed in 2013-14 when a full season will be played and rough stretches that younger players tend to go through will be easier to bounce back from.

    lordfletcher

    • jrmehle - Jan 15, 2013 at 10:14 PM

      Bouchard is awesome when healthy. I’ve never seen a guy who can dangle and work in tight spaces like he can. He’s an assist machine.

      The problem is he’s pretty small, doesn’t like to go get the puck out of dirty places (when he tries, he gets concussed), and well the fact that he’s always concussed. But I like to believe that if a guy like Patrice Bergeron can come back from the concussions there is a chance Bouchard can do it too. He absolutely can help the Wild win. That said, I doubt the Wild re-signs him later this summer. Gotta make room for all those kids.

  13. joeyashwi - Jan 15, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    To answer, Bouchard is adding a ton of intangibles. He’s gritty, has great puck vision, and makes teammates better. He’ll never score like a star player but he’s like having a point guard who starts plays even if he doesn’t end up with a goal or assist. He’s much better than a stat sheet will show but he’s also extremely injury prone and has major concussion issues.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      Thanks for the analysis, it did paint a good picture in my head and I’ll be sure to pay attention for him when the Flames play the Wild this year.

  14. atwatercrushesokoye - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    Meant to post this in the last message but pressed post comment accidentally.

    lordfletcher: I don’t know that Minnesota has what it takes to compete with Vancouver at this point, even with the Canucks suffering from injuries they were just too far ahead of the rest of the division for anyone to close the gap that quickly, although as I said previously this season is a crapshoot.

    I see Edmonton and Minnesota being about the same, both have good talent at the top of their roster but the depth of each team is lacking. Edmonton is deeper when it comes to putting goals in the net and Minnesota is deeper at keeping them out.

    As far as Calgary goes I couldn’t disagree more (and I acknowledge I’m a Flames fan) the way this team is put together there will be no big drop off, unless they have a fire sale (they won’t) this team is built to finish in the 7-10 range and if they do sneak into the playoffs last 5-6 games before bowing out. The goaltending is very good (assuming Kipper continues to play as he has) the defense is average, no better, no worse. Offensively they’ve got good depth on the 3rd and 4th lines (not a lot of goals but tough to play against) and the top line (Tanguay-Cammy-Iggy) is aging but should be able to get points as they have. Basically the Flames fortunes on whether they finish in the 7/8 range or 9/10 range will likely be decided by the success or failures of the potential second line of Baertschi-Cervenka-Huddler.

    • woodstakes - Jan 16, 2013 at 12:58 AM

      I agree with you it is far to early to count out Calgary… as long as you have a healthy Kipper and Iggy you have a fighting chance to make the playoffs. Not saying 2 players equal a playoff team but in a short season like this and the way Kipper can get hot, he could take them on a run that could easily translate into a playoff spot.

      As a Wild fan I would love to see the Wild unseat the Canucks as the perennial division winner, however i’m not willing to say that just yet. I don’t think anyone is else in the division is ready to do that yet. Now, having said that the fact of a shortened season along with the injuries the Canucks have right away that could very well happen this year.

      The future for the Canucks domination of this division along with the proverbial cake walks to President Trophies is O-V-E-R!! The Avs are young and strong, the Oilers are SCARY offensively and the Wild barring injuries are looking to be a much tougher team. As for Calgary who knows what they decide to do, perhaps they’ll trade Iggy and try to reload, but they need to definitely do something to stay in this division in the future. This division is going to be a really tough one over the next 5-6 years. **Assuming Realignment Doesn’t Happen Right Away**

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Jan 16, 2013 at 7:56 AM

        I agree the landscape of the division is changing, I still think as it stands today Vancouver is the best team but as you said in a shortened season who knows? They’re also going to hit some cap issues after this season and the window is closing.

        Calgary’s trying to rebuild completely different from the Edmonton model, they’re trying to stay competitive (if you call finishing 9th every year competitive) while trying to restock with young talent, and so far it looks like they’re doing okay. They’ll have 3 younger players (Sven Baertschi, Roman Horak and TJ Brodie) who will play decent sized roles this year as well as they had several players who were tremendous at the World Junior Championships last month, the top two names being the other Granlund brother and American John Gaudreau.

      • lordfletcher - Jan 16, 2013 at 8:25 AM

        I am not trying to say Calgary doesn’t have a chance, I just think this is the year they finally blow it up and make a move. They seem to always stick around the 8-12 range in the west, I think their luck finally runs out. Who knows, I could be completely wrong and they could end up being #1, anything can happen in a shortend season .. If I was a Calgary fan, if they don’t get off to a hot start, I would want to trade Iggy for assets and picks in an amazing draft year……
        as for realignment, I was able to meet Craig Leipold for the first time and asked him straight up, he said it’s almost a 100% certainty (but noted nothing is guaranteed) that the Wild will be moved after this season. He was in a local radio station yesterday for a one hour interview, if interested in listening, to to Kfan and click podcast under dan barreiro.

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