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  • MINNESOTA WILD MAILBAG: Paul Fenton's Decisions, New-Look Roster and Top Twin Cities Burgers

    Ben Remington

    Hello friends, I once again am doing a mailbag, as I do every month. Much like the Wild, my plea for questions seemed to get much more attention this month. Enjoy!




    Lord, we can only hope.


    I don't think so, honestly. This team still has several players that excel at passing the puck, especially on the defensive end. They've also got players that aren't always shoot-first, like almost all of their centers. In the end, a team needs a balance of playmakers, goal scorers and other role players. Unless Fenton keeps trading until he has an entire roster of Dany Heatleys, I don't think the Wild will suffer from any imbalance in the other direction.




    These are tough.


    First, I'll go with Staal, for the reason that it makes Koivu better. With Staal lining up at 1C, Koivu is able to do his thing, locking down the opposing 1C, and working his magic that way. Also, it takes some scoring pressure off him, which as we've seen, helps. I don't think Staal is better without Koivu, however.


    Second one is brutally tough. I'm going to go with Dumba, assuming we're talking about the current Dumba and what he's become. Without this injury, Dumba may have had a breakout season as an ELITE scoring defenseman. To say that and also note that he'd still only be slightly more valuable than Spurgeon tells you how good Spurge is all around.


    Third, I'm going to go with Fiala, because I think there's more upside there, and for the sake of Paul Fenton, I hope he reaches it. Fenton traded that Wild's most productive player for just Fiala, so hopefully he delivers. This isn't a knock on Donato, but I think Donato ends up as a Coyle-type player, production wise, perhaps just a tick better. He'll be in the 50-point range, and maybe go on some hot streaks. Fiala could hit 70.



    Yeah, I think so. Eriksson Ek has really come into his own since his last trip up Highway 35, and he's really easing the discomfort of the end of Mikko Koivu's contract/possibly career. If he can slot in exactly as Koivu did, as a lockdown second line center with some decent offensive skills, it really makes Koivu's return to the lineup next season gravy. Not sure Ek can fill Koivu's leadership and faceoff contributions, but maybe, just maybe, he'll have a touch more offense as he develops.



    God, this is scary. I remember when this rumor came out, and lots and lots of very smart Wild fans and writers dismissed it as something a sane NHL GM wouldn't do, giving away players in this manner. Little did we know.


    Nino would be better off, as he has been in Carolina, and Zucker would've likely played the whole season with the fire that we've seen in the last week. The Yotes would be a lot more solid in the playoff picture than they currently are, and I have to think the Wild would be on the outside looking in, assuming everything else stays the same.




    My favorite burger topping is probably BBQ sauce. It's so versatile that you can put it on virtually any kind of burger and it makes sense! Not to mention it's the King of Condiments. Least favorite is mushrooms, which is a textural thing for me. They just feel like I'm eating fleshy tires or something. Most underrated is probably bleu cheese. I really think it should be featured on more than just one burger per establishment (in most cases), and really brings a nice new flavor that stands up to burgers. Most overrated has to be raw onions. Maybe it's just my palette, but when I bite into anything with raw onion, all I taste is the burning sensation of raw onion, and more raw onion, with a side of raw onion, washed down with a glass of raw onion. No, thank you.




    There's so many good choices here, and for a good reason. I absolutely love that the Twin Cities has a culinary "thing" in stuffed burgers that other places don't take nearly as much pride in. I can't possibly pick one, so I'll give you three go-tos from my three favorite burger spots.


    -The classic Blucy from Blue Door Pub


    -The 60/40 from Red Cow


    -The Spanish Fly from The Nook/Shamrocks




    Well, my future St. Paulian friend, St. Paul is a great town. It may not have all of the amenities and hustle and bustle of Minneapolis, but that's what is great about it. There's so many dive bars, so many low-key restaurants, so many people who aren't pretentious jerks. As far as activities, here's a few that you should definitely do.


    -St. Paul Saints game at CHS Field


    -High School Hockey Tournament at Xcel (Not promoted)


    -Walk around Harriet Island when there isn't an event


    -BBQ at The Revival


    -St. Patrick's Day in downtown St. Paul (you can skip the parade, if you want)


    -Drinking at bars with open stools, and you can hear the person next to you


    I've also heard the James J. Hill House is super cool, but I haven't been. And for the love of God, avoid that Bears bar in St. Paul with the girls.



    I have not, actually. But I will swear by the Lobster Bacon Mac & Cheese.



    Well, Russo put the percentage at 70 percent before the deadline, and I guess it turned out to be 100 percent, at least from the Wild side. Sadly, I still think it's more likely than not Zucker is dealt this summer, since Crazy Pills Fenton wants to get rid of a player he just signed to a 5-year deal, for some reason. The only thing that may save Zucker is if he continues to play like he has since the deadline, and becomes too valuable to get a proper return on, i.e. not Michael Frolik.


    So I'll put the percentage at roughly 69 percent, just slightly less than the pre-deadline buzz. As for a Free Agent 'splash' I just don't see anything that splashy, unless they dump off Spurgeon AND Zucker and make a hard charge at a guy like Matt Duchene. Otherwise their biggest offseason signing is going to be a guy in the $4-5M AAV range, I think.



    Oh, man, this is a good one. I'm a big, big cheese guy, so a good pizza has to have enough cheese to where I can't possible see any sauce underneath, unless it's a stuffed deep dish from Giordano's. Beyond that, I think the toppings really make the pizza, contrary to what many fundamentalists will tell you. I can get over a lackluster sauce or crust if there's stupid amounts of delicious meats and cheeses and such on top. The quality of the meat is especially important. Also, don't bother wasting my time with vegetables.



    Haha, it sure would appear so, wouldn't it! I think it was cute with the Aberg trade, got a little perplexing with the Bitetto claim and has reached full-on concern with the Fiala trade. Not that acquiring Fiala was bad; but just in the lack of leverage he seemed to have going after one of his favorite draftees. Hopefully it's out of his system now.


    But if it's not, he should go after Eeli Tolvanen.


    As far as getting Nino back, trust me, I'm with you buddy, but that ship has sailed. I'm fairly sure Victor Rask and a very high draft pick wouldn't get that deal done anymore. It's the classic case of two values changing dramatically in opposite directions, and as good as Nino looks now, I doubt Fenton would swallow his pride and trade anything for him.



    You know, I doubt it -- not discounting Koivu and what he means to this team, but because of Koivu's knee. Koivu was not, uh, the most fleet of foot to begin with, and this ACL injury could really hamper him. Koivu is going to be 36, entering the final year of his contract, coming off major knee surgery. I'm almost to the point now where I've convinced myself that next season will be Koivu's last. However, if it's not, I would expect them to get an extension done early in the season (a la Chuck Fletcher's old move) once we all (including Koivu himself) know that the Captain can still skate.



    Oh man, this one is tough, and poignant, given my impending fatherhood. I've thought a lot about this recently, as one might imagine, and I'm trying, very hard, to convince myself to not push my interests on my kid and let them do whatever they want.


    I really, really don't want to push my love of sports/writing/wrestling/food/etc on them, but don't get me wrong, I would be ecstatic if they picked one up. If I had to pick one, I'm sure it'd be sports, just because there's so much variety there as to what they can do, and I'd be happy with any of it, and I'm a huge believer in sports being a huge positive for kids mentally, socially and physically. In the end, I just want my kid to be successful at something they enjoy.


    Or a billionaire. Either way.



    This is impossibly hard.


    I think I name them the Walleye. It's simple, fun and pays a great homage to the state without getting too cute. I think I keep the Forest and Wheat, but replace the red with a royal blue shade, to represent water and keep the word 'Christmas' out of everyone's mouth.


    I un-retire #1 from the fans, and I ban the wave at Xcel Energy Center.



    Really, at this point, who knows? I remember a simpler time; a time when folks complained about Paul Fenton's lack of 'tweaks' leading up to the season and well into the holiday season. Times have changed and no one knows what Fenton will do. I'm a little apprehensive, but I think this team could look very different come the start of next season. Jared Spurgeon, Jason Zucker, Jonas Brodin and even Devan Dubnyk could all be shipped out.


    As far as that outlook goes, it's really tough to tell what direction this team is going. Were the moves this season just a little reset? Meant to inject some fresh blood into the team? Or were they the start of a bigger, longer rebuild, where everything not nailed down is dealt, and Fenton wants 'his guys' and 'his guys' only, including the head coach? I lean towards the former more than the latter, but they're both entirely possible.



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