Dom Lunardo | Aug 22nd, 2019
Minnesota. The state of hockey. Proud home to one of the most passionate fan bases in the National Hockey League. A state known for its widespread hospitality, infamous “Twin-cities”, and its love for all sports from the collegiate to the professional level. Teams like the Twins, Golden Gophers, Timberwolves, Vikings, and of course, the Wild, dominate headlines and conversations from all facets of life. Although there have been changes both on and off the ice this off-season, one thing remains certain: The love and dedication of the Minnesota fans for their sports teams run high and deep across the beautiful state of Minnesota.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this off-season for Wild fans was the dismissal of General Manager Paul Fenton after just 14 months at the helm. Typically speaking, a General Manager is usually given a longer time frame from which to work, than 14 months. But in this case, there were clear discrepancies between Fenton’s management of player personnel and the direction by which the team is headed. But as they say, it’s out with the old in with the new, and that “new” is Bill Guerin. After punching his time card in Pittsburgh as Assistant GM under the leadership of GM Jim Rutherford, Guerin got his chance at a GM gig and didn’t flinch. He did some good work in the Pittsburgh organization and was part of their back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017. With just a few short weeks until the start of training camp, Guerin will be eager to get to work and put his vision into practice come October.
The 2018/19 campaign will be remembered as a major disappointment in the eyes of Wild fans. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season, much to the dismay of Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. Be that as it may, there were several main reasons for the Wild’s failure to qualify for the post-season a year ago. However few would attest to the fact that an aging core, injury to defenseman Mathew Dumba, and their inability to generate offense as the main factors. Injuries aside, the other two issues will need to be rectified quickly if the Wild hope to return to the postseason next Spring.
Notable Off-Season Subtractions: F Pontus Aberg (TOR)
Breakout Candidates: F Jordan Greenway
Team Summary: Prior to being let go as GM, Paul Fenton dipped his toe in the free-agent market and signed Norwegian-born forward and fan-favorite Mats Zuccarello to a 5-year deal worth $30M. Zuccarello will be relied upon to provide offensive flair and savvy to a pretty lethargic team from a season ago. Besides that, the team decided to stand pat this off-season and “build from within”, under Fenton. With Bill Guerin now in charge, we’ll see how the narrative surrounding this team changes. In addition, F Jason Zucker (at least for the time being) seems to be staying put in St. Paul, after being at the very center of trade rumors all summer long.
Prediction: After finishing dead last in the Central division a year ago, the prognosis for the Wild in 2019-20 could very much be the same. The addition of Mats Zuccarello via free-agency should help provide a more consistent offensive punch to a forward group that suffered mightily to put the puck in the net a season ago. They will also need to lean on their defense to provide offense from the back end on a nightly basis. Names such as Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Ryan Suter, and the aforementioned Dumba, will play big, heavy minutes right from the get-go for this to be accomplished. In goal, Devan Dubnyk will have to continue doing what he’s been doing since the moment he arrived in St. Paul, and that is to stand on his head each and every night if this team is to have any shot whatsoever of returning to the dance in April of 2020. With an aging core and lack of game-breaking talent upfront, it could very well be another long year for the Wild.
Check out our other 2019-2020 NHL Team Previews:
Colorado Avalanche|Florida Panthers|Dallas Stars|Arizona Coyotes|New Jersey Devils|San Jose Sharks|Buffalo Sabres|Los Angeles Kings|Vancouver Canucks|Winnipeg Jets|Carolina Hurricanes|Boston Bruins|Ottawa Senators|New York Islanders
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