Pro Hockey Talk continues their run through the NHL, each day covering a different team. Today the Minnesota Wild are in the cross-hairs as Joey Alfieri of NBC Sports reviews Minnesota’s summer and previews the upcoming campaign for the Wild.
Alfieri highlights the hiring of former Washington Capital and Anaheim Duck head coach Bruce Boudreau to replace John Torchetti behind the Minnesota bench. He cites Boudreau’s past regular season success and suggests establishing a “winning culture” is the first order of business for the new coach.
Despite his postseason failures, the primary reason he was relieved of his duties in Anaheim, Boudreau is still an excellent coach and is well respected throughout the league. His teams generally excel in the puck possession department and have always played a solid two-way style. The Ducks got off to a slow start last season and it was rumored the team was considering making a mid-season change behind the bench before Boudreau was able to right the ship. Ultimately the Ducks would come all the way back to win the Pacific Division regular season crown but were eliminated by Nashville in the first round of the playoffs. It marked the second, first-round playoff exit in Boudreu’s four full seasons at the helm in Anaheim.
Minnesota is an interesting team in that they have enough talent to be considered a solid contender to qualify for the postseason, yet maybe not enough to realistically challenge for a Cup. They are also not bad enough to miss the playoffs altogether. Consequently they don’t have the resources to dramatically improve the roster to compete today but are also not in a position to add high impact young talent through the draft to build for the future. Hiring Boudreau has an excellent chance of paying off in the short term as he should be able to guide the team to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive campaign. Once the postseason begins, though, all bets are off.
- The biggest offseason player acquisition for Minnesota came in the form of free agent signee Eric Staal. Alfieri calls the three-year, $10.5MM deal Staal received from Minnesota “team friendly,” and while it was expected he would receive more lucrative offers on the open market, it’s important to note the veteran pivot posted his worst season since his rookie campaign back in 2003-04. Staal scored just 13 goals and 39 points while playing 83 regular season games – 63 with Carolina and 20 for the New York Rangers. He is still expected to center a scoring line for Minnesota and even if $3.5MM annually is a relatively small sum for a top-six forward, the Wild will need more production out of Staal if they wish to compete in the Central Division.
- In a separate post for Pro Hockey Talk, Jason Brough identifies young RW Alex Tuch as one of the team’s few top prospects and a player who could compete for a roster spot this season. Tuch, 20, is listed at 6’4″ and 220 pounds and was the Wild’s first round selection (18th overall) in the 2014 draft. He played two seasons with Boston College and scored 32 goals in 77 NCAA games skating for the Eagles. Brough believes Tuch is most likely destined to open the season playing for Iowa in the AHL but he also notes the big winger could conceivably make the team with a strong camp. The club did sign a similar player in Chris Stewart, to a two-year contract which should make him a presumptive favorite to beat out Tuch for a roster spot should it come down to a competition between the two.