Okay, maybe I’m over exaggerating the new found expectations that have been placed on the Minnesota Wild since they pulled off the unthinkable and signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the offseason. It’s safe to say that the majority of Wild fans have come to the realization that the 2012-2013 squad are a division contender at best and nothing more. Then again there are a lot of people out there who seem to think that the current Wild lineup has the necessary tools to make a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup. So what should the expectations be? Playoff bound or Cup bound? Modesty or all out glory?
Let me begin by saying that every team, even the Edmonton Oilers, should expect to win the Cup every single year. It’s not realistic by any means but when you’re a professional sports team you strive to be the best year in and year out. If you don’t expect to win then you’re already a step behind your opponent.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way it’s time to be realistic. Obviously signing both Parise and Suter increases the Wild’s chances of making it to the playoffs, but does it elevate them into Cup contention? Probably not.
There is no denying that the Wild have a lot of strengths going into the 2012-2013 season. Resigning Josh Harding added depth to a goalie position that was decimated by injuries last year and creates a 1-2 punch between the pipes with Harding and Backstrom that could be the best duo in the NHL. Add in Matt Hackett who proved he NHL ready by posting a 2.37 GAA and .922 SV% in 12 games last season and the Wild seem to be set at the goalie position no matter what happens.
The addition of Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise gives the Wild two brand new offensive weapons they have desperately needed since the departure of Marion Gaborik. Paring Parise with Koviu and Heatley should give the Wild a potent first line and if Granlund centers the 2nd line of Setoguchi and Bouchard (if he is healthy) it will give the Wild two lines that can put up un-Wild like numbers.
The Wild will also have an unusual amount of depth in their organization after signing over half a dozen of their previously drafted prospects. So when the inevitable injury bug strikes the Wild they will be able to plug in the holes with talented youngsters like Zack Phillips, Charlie Coyle, Brett Bulmer, Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin.
There is also no denying that the Wild have glaring weaknesses going into the season. Even with Parise and Granlund joining the fold there is a distinct possibility that the Wild will struggle once again to score goals. The one thing that they seem to missing on the offensive zone is a prolific goal scorer who is a constant threat when he has the puck. Right now the Wild are comprised of playmakers and high energy players who will go into the corners but they lack a dynamic goal scorer.
That weakness could easily be overlooked if the Wild had an elite blue line but currently they are just considered to be adequate. Suter definitely raises the bar but they are still a young and inexperienced group. A lot of pressure will be placed on Scandella, Spurgeon and Stoner to elevate their play after having a disappointing 2011-2012 season.
How successful the Wild’s 2012-2013 season will be depend on how they deal with these weaknesses. If they can somehow overcome their flaw s then there is a distinct possibility that they could compete for the Cup. Even if they continue to struggle in these areas they are at the very least playoff bound which considering the Wild hasn’t seen the postseason in four years, is an improvement.