Last week, we urged you to take preseason predictions with a grain of salt. So naturally this week we are giving you all of ours. Now hear from our pass-first power play point-men, who will continue to play like the overpaid veterans that they are.
Unfortunately, the Wild spend another year in central division purgatory. Moving Coyle and Granlund to the wing prove to be good moves, as both have career years. Nino continues to produce at a solid level on all fronts, but continues to be underrated by the coaching staff, fanbase, and national media. Eric Staal is a great pickup for the Wild and Bruce Boudreau does all the things he can to make the Wild the cup contenders they want to be.
It's not enough. The St. Louis Blues fall off the map a bit, but Chicago is dangerous as ever despite arguably their worst lineup in 5 seasons. Dallas has made huge strides forward, and is the best team in the conference. Patrick Roy quitting proves to be the Avalanche's move of the season, as with a coach that knows how to coach they re-surge and challenge for playoff contention again, with help from Matt Duchene, Nate MacKinnon, and Semyon Varlamov. The Wild are solid and make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs, but ultimately they just don't have enough and they die out in a hard battle with the conference champion Stars.
Predictions can be a lot of fun, but the unfortunate part of this is nobody can really read the future. So I’d like to call this, my
best sad attempt at a guess at what the 2016-17 Minnesota Wild season will bring. There’s a lot of pieces to consider in this equation. How will the team react to a new coaching staff? Can Eric Staal shine in Minnesota? Will the Wild have enough to hold off playoff hopefuls like Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames, the Arizona Coyotes or the Colorado Avalanche?
The nice thing is, the season is just starting, so we all have reason to be hopeful of our respective teams. I’m inclined to believe that last seasons 87 point performance by the Wild was more an anomaly that the norm. In 2014-15 the Wild finished with 100 points, and in the 2013-14 season they registered 98 points. With much of the team in tact, and Bruce Boudreau’s penchant for regular season success, my powers of prognostication are telling me to look for the Wild to return to similar, if not slightly better numbers this season. Somewhere in the realm of 100-102 points or better. The division is just too good to go all-in and claim something like a division championship, but I see the Wild breaking out of wildcard status they’ve been in the past several seasons, and making a show of it in the playoffs. A run at the Conference Finals might be a fools dream, but it’s a dream I’d like to see. A trip into the second round is probably more realistic though.
As I’ve said before, predicting anything is a fool’s errand, but I’ll give it my best. I feel like it will take some time for the entrenched group of players to learn and master Boudreau’s system, so I’m not expecting the explosive start we saw last year. Instead, I expect the team to grow as the season progresses and eventually play their best hockey down the stretch. The impetus is on the 24 year olds (now including Teemu Pulkkinen) to drive the growth of the team. It is especially on the shoulders of Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund, who are in contract years, to be the difference for Minnesota. Playing under Boudreau should certainly ignite them, and all of the fodder is there for those two plus Zucker, Coyle, Haula, Pulkkinen up front and Brodin, Scandella, Spurgeon and Dumba on the blue line to break out. They just have to do it.
While I feel that Chicago and St. Louis got worse on paper while Nashville and Winnipeg have improved and Dallas has maintained, the Central will continue to be brutal. I do believe this is a playoff team that could press for the 3rd spot in the Central instead of the continual battle for a wild card spot, but a lot of things will have to go right in order to do that, and Devan Dubnyk could prove to be the key. I do see this team improving in possession and scoring and at least maintaining their defensive prowess. If the PK isn’t as morbid as last year and the PP gets a hair better, which both should hold true, it will transform this team.
Has been working diligently on preparing the prediction podcast. Please see all of his tireless work there.
The Minnesota Wild, with an offseason of change behind the bench, will likely get off to a slower start. It's a learning curve as the team adapts to life with a new voice and new system of doing things. I wouldn't be surprised if the Wild scuffles around .500 for the month of October.
However, I feel that this team will ramp up towards the second half of the season. This team, like a thoroughbred horse specifically bred to close in the stretch run, will make its initial move around December and January (no more swoons) and will pass the wire in a 2 length lead over the second Wild Card team. The Wild will be in the playoffs yet again. It won't be for another season that they finally bust into the top 3 of the Central division, but all the ground work gets laid now.
Wild finish with 96 points.