For the first time in what seems like an eternity the Minnesota Wild are relevant. With the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, as well as Mikael Granlund joining the organization, the Wild have not only given their fans something to be excited about, but has put the rest of the NHL on notice that they are no longer satisfied with sitting on the playoff bubble.
With a revamped roster and a new found depth in the organization, there are plenty of things to be excited about for the upcoming 2012-2013 season. For the next few weeks I’ll be taking a closer look at what’s ahead for the Minnesota Wild and how they stack up against the rest of the Northwest Division.
Perhaps the biggest intrigue surrounding the 2012-2013 season (besides Parise and Suter) is what the 2nd line will look like.
As of right now the most popular projections have Devin Setoguchi playing on the left wing while Pierre-Marc Bouchard (if healthy) is on the right. From what I can tell, most people are opting to place Finnish rookie Mikael Granlund at center, but some can’t help but wonder if Kyle Brodziak gets the nod after having a career season (22 goals, 22 assists) in 2011-2012. So who should it be?
In order to answer that question there is another question that must be answered first. Does the Wild coaching staff prefer to have their 2nd line balanced or small and skilled?
Both Brodziak and Granlund bring a distinct style of play to table. With Brodziak the Wild have a center who is physical and hardnosed. He’ll go into the corners and crash the net consistently which is where his offensive game thrives the most. Granlund, on the other hand, is a mastermind with the puck, excelling at distributing to his wings and having the ability to dip around defenders with his stick handling.
Of course the decision can’t be made without highlighting their weaknesses as well. Brodziak is limited when it comes to his offensive skill set. His 22 goals last season will most likely be the most he ever produces due to his style of play, which is cleaning up around the net. His style of play might not blend well with the likes of Setoguchi and Bouchard as well, considering Bouchard thrives with puck moving centers and Setoguchi would benefit from a center who could set him rather than forcing him to create his own shot.
The most obvious knock against Granlund is his lack of experience. He has thrived in the Finnish Elite league but the NHL is a completely different beast. Centering the 2nd line could be a lot to ask a rookie who is not only assimilating to the league but the culture as well. Granlund also needs to work on his footwork, which most scouts believe is his biggest weakness as of right now.
So who should the Wild go with? The young and dynamic Granlund, or the veteran Brodziak? If I had to venture a guess I would say the temptation of pairing Granlund with Setoguchi and Bouchard is too much to pass up. The line won’t out muscle anyone but they have the potential to give other teams fits with their speed and puck moving ability. Combine the 2nd trio with a 1st line of Parise-Koivu-Heatley and the Wild have a top six that could put on the type of offensive shows that Wild fans have been longing for.