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It’s Minnesota Wild Day at PHT

Aug 13, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Ryan Suter, Zach Parise Getty Images

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Minnesota Wild.

Ever since the Minnesota Wild locked up Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million deals things have slowly improved only to see their fate end the same way in the playoffs.

Two seasons ago, they stole their way in as the seventh seed in the West and got the bum’s rush out in the first round in five games by the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, things got a bit better as they vanquished the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the first round to earn a rematch with the Blackhawks. Things improved slightly as they bowed out in six games.

It’s that steady improvement in the face of difficult situations that gives fans in Minnesota hope for even more improvement.

The Wild saw injuries befall just about everyone they put in goal. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding started the year as the tandem and while Backstrom dealt with nagging injuries, Harding was brilliant. That stellar play was submarined by his struggles with his medication while playing with Multiple Sclerosis.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper holding down the fort with Bryzgalov standing tall while helping beat the Avs. If you predicted that would happen before the season, let’s hope you’re sitting on the beach relaxing as a new millionaire.

If there’s truly a reason for Wild fans to be excited about the years to come, it’s thanks to the emergence of a few key young forwards. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter all had solid regular season play followed by flashes of brilliance in the postseason. Adding them to the mix with Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville helps give the Wild a very gifted set of forwards.

Things weren’t so bad on the blue line either. Suter logged an incredible number of minutes and former Calder Trophy finalist Jonas Brodin had a solid season, although seemingly not as strong as his rookie campaign. Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella stepped up their play to help give their blue line a boost. They’ll need to be that much better next season as the Central Division and Western Conference figures to be brutally difficult once again.

Offseason recap

Minnesota’s summer was virtually too easy to predict. After lots of rumors and speculation, Thomas Vanek inked a three-year, $19.5 million deal to go back to his American home. After playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota and always having a home in the state, it seemed inevitable he’d go back as a free agent. Even after a less-than impressive turn in the playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens didn’t scare the Wild away and they may be able to get a steal of sorts because of it.

With Vanek in the fold, they parted ways with Dany Heatley whose contract expired. He and defenseman Clayton Stoner both landed in Anaheim while they brought back Justin Falk who had been with the New York Rangers.

They also added former Vancouver Canucks forward, and Golden Gophers standout, Jordan Schroeder. There’s never not a homecoming of some sorts in the State of Hockey, but it’s Vanek who comes away as the prize.

  1. hockey412 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    “Suter logged an incredible number of minutes”…

    …to many, in fact – they need to work on that.

    • hockey412 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      *too, not to

    • chief361 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      agree 100%. though suter has been called an “effortless” player (in a good way) by our gm, they have to recognize that they need to get someone who can handle some of his minutes.

  2. fortheboys72 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    One other important move this off season was signing Mike Yeo, I really believe he will be a Jack Adams finalist or winner before this contract is up

    • guitarhunterdude - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:04 AM

      Agree to disagree, I guess. Yeo is way, way too conservative for me. I’d have preferred Laviolette much more.

      • rsmaggiemae - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        I agree … I wanted LaViolette here, or Patrick Roy as I like a more offensive type team
        and in all honesty some of the coaching decisions that Yeo made last year, were just terrible, and we walked out of the game as we were just dumbfounded
        If he is such a great coach, why ws he not nominated for the Jack Adams award like
        Patrick Roy was and it was his first year coaching???
        I never understood why a coach woud put his 4th line against the opposing teams 1 st line, when you have last change????
        He was just lucky in some games that were won, and it really was not his coaching ability

      • guitarhunterdude - Aug 13, 2014 at 6:15 PM

        It’s not even his decisions (though giving Coyle and Heatley prime minutes over Niederreiter and playing Suter 30+ minutes a night when he should have been giving another 4-6 minutes to Spurgeon and Scandella was rather infuriating), it’s his overall defense-first coaching MO. Coaching for defense can be a good thing (Hitchcock and Trotz are very good at it), but Yeo’s system gets his team pinned in their own zone and keeps his players gun-shy on offense. If he’d try playing his wingers higher in the d-zone (we can do that now that we don’t have terrible defensemen) and get his centers to be a bit more active in joining the rush (Koivu and Brodziak sit back too much, leaving their wingers to rush the blueline all on their own), I think they’d be able to break out and sustain offense better. Basically, Yeo’s system is made to cover for a lack of talent, and I think it’s holding this team back.

        Laviolette’s had a history of success with multiple teams, and the numbers back it up. Roy, I’m not convinced by yet. We’ll have to see if the Avs fall back to earth this year or not.

  3. govtminion - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    I was just asking this of a couple of friends a few nights ago- who IS in net for the Wild this year? I’m assuming Bryz isn’t returning (though with what he did against the Avs, someone should be looking at picking him up- is he signed anywhere and I missed it?). But I don’t know what the contract situation is like for the other three, or what Harding’s long-term situation health-wise looks like.

    • fightingwild - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      Supposedly Harding is ready to go. Backs is completely healed & Hards medication is dialed in precisely. I guess we shall see what happens. I hope & pray that Harding can last the whole year & be lights out like he was last season before he crashed.

      • wutangwild - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

        Great to hear about Josh and Backs, but I’ll have to believe it when I see it. I really hope Josh has his meds figured out and doesn’t have to make the switch around the holidays that he’s had to do the last few years it seems. It would be great if after this year, the Wild offer him some type of job in the goalie coaching department, he would be a great guy to keep around.

      • alexbaymac - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        I’m a Hawks fan but I am still hoping for the best for your goalies. Harding’s story is amazing & I wish him success…everywhere except against Chicago! This is becoming a great rivalry & those are always fun!

  4. lbeezyse - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    I’d be fine going into the season with Hards/Backs as the 1/2 with Darcey in the wings waiting. If Harding can stay healthy & play at last years level even better.

    The big thing everyone forgets is that the Wild had the 7th best gaa. Our defense was very good keeping shots outside & I think that unit is upgraded with Folin in the mix & Spurg/Scanny taking a step last year. Stoner had a good playoffs, but that is about it. He was a liability during the season & will be replaced by a more mobile offensively gifted Folin.

  5. greej1938l - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Well…..they re-signed John curry :)

  6. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Still have two RFA’s to sign

  7. wutangwild - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Re-sign Nino and Kuemps! This team is headed in the right direction, and if we could maybe, just maybe, have a reliable goalie without health issues that would be fantastic. Hopefully Dumba, Folin or Olofsson can make the jump to the NHL this year and let Suter play less minutes. I expect a bounce back year from Brodin, and can’t wait to see what Granlund can do between Vanek and Pominville. 2 months and counting

  8. i1theinternet - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    “By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper holding down the fort with Bryzgalov standing tall while helping beat the Avs. If you predicted that would happen before the season, let’s hope you’re sitting on the beach relaxing as a new millionaire.”

    Except that’s not what happened. This is the second time I’ve seen the Wild’s playoff goalie situation misreported on PHT, so this time I’m going to correct it. Bryz started and lost games 1 and 2, while not looking particularly sharp in either. Kuemper was tabbed to start every game thereafter. He didn’t have much work to win games 3 and 4, in which the Avs put up 22 and 12 (!) shots, respectively. He was solid to spectacular in games 5, 6, and 7, and was only pulled halfway through the third period of game 7 due to injury. Bryz made ONE save in the remaining 13+ minutes he was in the game and was awarded the win because he was in net when the GWG was scored. In reality, the Wild won that game because of Kuemper’s play. In short, the Wild didn’t beat the Avs because of Bryz as much as in spite of him. And Bryz only started against the Hawks because of Kuemper’s injury. Having watched Kuemper and Bryz against the Avs, if Kuemper had been healthy I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them upset the Hawks, too.

    • chief361 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:53 PM

      ah, it’s funny how what actually happened sounds so much more familiar than wild fans supposedly needing to thank bryz for getting us passed the avs. though bryz wasn’t terrible against the hawks, i’d have much rather had kuemper in there for that series.

  9. illogic87 - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Interested to see how the Wild handle the contract situations of all their young players. I hope they get Nino wrapped up soon so they can start working on other players deals that are coming up next year like Granlund, Coyle, Haula, etc..

    • rsmaggiemae - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      They have to get Haula signed for sure.. and give him more of a offensive type play instead of the defensive area… could not understnd Yeos thinking on that as watched him play at the U and he has a great sniper shot and he has beat out Parise in speed on the ice and even Zucker… so get this adopted Finnesotan signed asap

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