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Article: How Close Are the Wild To Being True Stanley Cup Contenders?

Luke Sims

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With the buyout/cap hit hovering overhead, I think it's time to bite the bullet and start bringing in our prospects and let them play and develop to the NHL standards.

Once the buyout is over the Wild should be in good position to bring in some great free agents and also have more in the prospect pool.

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I don’t agree that Ek is a top line center or that Zuccarello and Johansson are top 6 forwards on a true Cup contender.

Ek is a very good player.  But, I think he lacks the high-end skill.  He’s the perfect 2nd-3rd line center.  Big body.  Net front presence.  One of the best in terms of defending the other teams top line (which means you don’t necessarily want to reply him with your top scoring line).

Zuccarello looked good in the playoffs at times, but was terrible for a big stretch of the regular season.  He’s not getting any younger, and seems to be a passenger or Kaprisov’s more than actually driving any play himself.

Johansson was a no show in the playoffs, and is a career long mediocre player.  His speed seemed to make a difference early in the series until Dallas made some adjustments and he disappeared.  He’s also not getting any younger.  I’ll take on this team for his price tag, for sure.  But, He’s just not a top 6 guy on a Cup team unless you have some heavy weights around him (which we don’t).

Is Kaprisov an elite player, or just a really good one?  After no showing in 2 of the last 3 playoff series, I think that’s a fair question.  We can complain all we want about the refs screwing him and not getting calls.  But, that is what it is.

We’re just not anywhere near a Cup right now.  

Edited by Beast
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The Wild missed on Lundell who tonight got the assist on the GWG for FL.

The Wild missed on Jarvis who had a goal and assist in a loss to NJ.

The Wild missed on Mercer who had three assists in the win against Carolina.

The Wild aren't contenders cause they've failed to get NHL players on their roster from the 1st round of the draft. They got cap constraints that makes it way more difficult to gain top talent any other way.

Personally, I think the 2020 draft blunder was really significant along with XGMCF and XGMPF screw ups. That's why the Wild are forced to find decent talent from mid-level veterans. Had the Wild got Lundell there would be more depth at center. Had they got Jarvis, the PK would be fire plus added scoring. Jarvis has two shorties just this series I believe. Had the Wild got Mercer they could have a linemate for Boldy and not need 1-2M veterans so badly.

Hey at least we got a little Euro finesse guy in the AHL...

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18 hours ago, Beast said:

I don’t agree that Ek is a top line center or that Zuccarello and Johansson are top 6 forwards on a true Cup contender.

Ek is a very good player.  But, I think he lacks the high-end skill.  He’s the perfect 2nd-3rd line center.  Big body.  Net front presence.  One of the best in terms of defending the other teams top line (which means you don’t necessarily want to reply him with your top scoring line).

I think Ek might be a top line center, but not in the mold of McDavid or McKinnon but more in the mold of a Getzlaf or Kopitar.  Ek is definitely more of a shut down/forechecking center and less of a hands/puck handling center,  but is one of the best of the former like you say.  

The GREEF line was epic last year and I think that is the type of line that Ek should center.  Don't call it a top line, but a top line killer, which in essence is just as important in a championship building line as the scoring line.

We need another center with KK97 to be our top scoring line.  Rossi HAS to be that guy for us.

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It's a topic nobody ever seems to wanna touch but Rossi had a heart injury. Period. Unfortunate, yes. An indictment of his character or skill, absolutely not. Serious consideration for the organization, absolutely. 

I don't care what anyone believes, what myocarditis comes from. There's debate and conjecture on that, but the bottom line is that the Wild selected him and he hasn't been ready to play in the NHL let alone be a top mini-center who can battle the Kopitars, O'Reillys, and Thachuks of the league. I.e. top centers or hard-nosed players in the NHL are not intimidated or worried about what little Euro guys are gonna do against them.

The Wild can wait, but I don't think it's gonna happen fellas. Rossi is not going to morph into the big, skilled, tough center like Ek or a fast goal scoring center like Jeff Carter, or a dynamic play driver like Barzal. He's just not that kind of player. Never was...

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Here is my assessment without the Wild-colored glasses on:


Elite Center - ???
Top-Line Center - ???
Elite Winger - ???
Top-Line Winger - Kirill Kaprizov 
Top-Line Winger - ???
Top-Six Forward - Mats Zuccarello
Top-Six Forward - Joel Eriksson Ek

From a points production standpoint, Kaprizov isn't elite until he is top 15 in points per game. He is 21st. If he's elite then so is Alex Tuch (24th).

JEE IS NOT a top line center. He doesn't do near enough offensively to be one.



Elite Defenseman -  ???
No. 1 Defenseman - Jared Spurgeon
Top-Pair Defenseman - Jonas Brodin
Top-Pair Defenseman - ???

I think this is a fair assessment.


Elite Goalie - Filip Gustavsson*

I want to see at least another season at him playing more than half the regular season games before I consider him Elite. Right now I consider him a #1 goalie but I wouldn't put him in an elite category which to me means he's a top 5 goalie in the league.

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TC, I think you've got a decent look, but I do question the defensemen area.

For the forwards, we have a very good 2nd line center, and I believe an elite winger in Kaprizov. Boldy is in the top line winger category too. As for top 6 forwards, due to hitting the age wall, I think Zuccarello has to be taken off the list.

For the defenders, I'd say we don't really have an elite defender, nor a true #1. If you look at Spurgeon's playing history, he produces as a top pairing in the regular season, but fades to a 2nd pairing guy in the playoffs. This is where the sum of the group is better than it's parts. 

At goalie, Goose2 has the potential to be elite, but he's not there yet. Like you said, play at least 1/2 the games at that level, but I'd even consider needing 2 seasons of that play with a .925 sv%. The Wall also has that potential, and has no experience.

What we have are some nice pieces, but nothing in the elite category. So, to counter that, we've got to be solid defensively and outwork more talented rosters. Outworking usually means physically dominating, and we have pieces there too, but not enough. Our defense is too small, and we've got to many tiny forwards. 

Essentially, where that puts us is at a least talented position that cannot fully dominate physical play, kind of a hybrid, but a team that just doesn't have the higher gear for playoffs. And, with the eye test the last 3 years, that is what the results are. 

So, we either need more talent and skill, or we need more beef. It appears that skill is coming, though, not in the elite category. I would think that above average skill on 3 lines could get it done with depth, but that means those lines will also have to be disciplined to keep the opponents off the board. 

On defense, we need younger, cheaper, skilled and beefy options. I would consider 200 lbs. as the minimum weight class, and we could use another Middleton class player. We've got plenty of shorter 200 lb.ish defenders in the system. They should be solid and well able to clear the home plate area, plus, they offer some good skating and mobility. 

Bottom line is this, though: Until we can plug the center holes on this club, we are not close. '25-26 season is where I see our window opening again, and based upon what is in our system, we will need to buy our skilled guys. The next 2 seasons should be focused on developing this next young core of players. They need to be ready when we can buy skill, and they won't be ready as rookies.

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