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  • There's A Reason Why Bill Guerin Traded For Swedish Players

    Mikki Tuohy

    Bill Guerin promised to make big moves for the Minnesota Wild at the NHL Trade Deadline. And he certainly did that. Unlike last year’s big, splashy trade for Marc-Andre Fleury, this year was a lot of little trades that all had one thing in common: all four players that are headed to the Minnesota Wild are originally from Sweden.


    Picking up Marcus Johansson, Gustav Nyquist, John Klingberg, and Oskar Sundqvist were all interesting deadline trades. Many fans picked up on the pattern of the Swedish background by the second trade and were left wondering what it was about Swedes that attracted Guerin and the Wild. The team already has Joel Eriksson Ek, Jonas Brodin, and Filip Gustavsson, and Swedish prospects Jepser Wallstedt and Liam Ohgren.


    What is it about Swedes?


    Enter the concept of Jantelagen. It is a Swedish cultural concept that emphasizes a “team first” mentality. It stresses falling in line and blending in. Instead of striving for individual praise, the group is more important. When the team wins, everybody wins. Modesty and humbleness are celebrated more than individuality.


    Does any of that sound familiar? Maybe because it lines up perfectly with the team-first mentality that Guerin, Dean Evason, and the rest of the Wild promote. They've mentioned that Kirill Kaprizov is the perfect superstar because he seems to also follow this idea. He doesn’t like to talk about his personal achievements. Ultimately, he cares about the team winning. And that provides a great outlook for the new Swedish players who have already started arriving in Minnesota.


    There can be some downsides to this idea. Sometimes it is good to excel and have the confidence to stand out. Many people don’t like the idea of always sacrificing for the good of the whole. But in hockey, this idea could lead the Wild further down the playoff line than it has been in a while.


    Many of the post-game interviews with players show that the “team-first” idea spreads throughout the locker room. More times than not, a player who is congratulated on a big goal or great save immediately turns it back around. They compliment the team and how well everyone was playing, modestly accepting the praise, but deflecting it at the same time.


    The idea of Jantelagen would only stand to improve the team. Unknowingly, it already has. The Wild have scratched Alex Goligoski for more games than he’s played this year. Sure, he has privately brought his concerns about playing to Guerin. But he isn’t letting it spread to the rest of the team. He continues to be healthy scratched, knowing that he will give it his all when he draws back into the lineup.


    The same idea extends to the “goalie rotation that wasn’t a rotation,” when Fleury and Gustavsson took turns starting in net. Fleury is a Hall of Fame goalie, but knows that he’s in his twilight years. Gustavsson knows that he’s the young up-and-comer. Together, they have worked together to improve and always seem happy no matter who is starting in net.


    One of the repeated phrases when it comes to the Wild is how underrated players are like Jared Spurgeon, Brodin, and Gustavsson. The team has several players who don’t get the respect they deserve from around the league. Could that be because of the team-first, Jantelagen ideals? If they get the spotlight, they’ll accept it modestly, but none of them are elbowing their way to the front of the crowd to get it.


    Heck, even the coaching staff believes in Jantelagen, in a sense. They’ve all taken turns getting punched by Evason in celebration after a good win.


    What that means for the four new Swedes drawing into the lineup is a greater sense of responsibility for learning the systems of the Wild and their style of play. It is almost a given that all four will at least try to change habits or re-learn a skill if it benefits the team. While some trades take a bit of time to mesh, hopefully, these four will be able to slot in without much fanfare. They don’t want the fanfare anyway.


    The Wild are here because they want to win. Guerin has made it clear that they aren’t there to have fun and make friends. At the end of the day, the goal is to win. And it takes a team to do that, not a group of individuals.


    Later this season, when they’re hoisting the Stanley Cup while they parade down Seventh Street, hopefully there’ll be some Swedish flags flying in the crowd. At that point, the Swedes and Jantelagen will need to accept their moment in the sun.

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