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  • Wilderness Walk: Playoff Drama

    Image courtesy of © James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
    Thomas Williams

    Your daily dose of Wild news, along with other interesting stories from around the NHL.

    That's Wild

    • Minnesota Wild prospect Marco Rossi is scoring a decent amount of points on a very bad Austria team over at the IIHF World Championships. This could mean a little bit of a confidence boost heading into a crucial season. [Hockey Wilderness]
    • Do the Wild have the best logo in the NHL? Some people are talking about it. [Sportskeeda]

    Off the trail...

    • Another Carolina Hurricanes season is over after a deep playoff run where they just meet an immovable object. On Wednesday night, they fell to their fourth consecutive game and got swept by the Florida Panthers after some last-second goal. Of course, it was Matthew Tkachuk. [Yahoo Sports]
    • The power of head coaches being nice guys and positive people is evident deep into the playoffs. [ESPN]

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    Toronto thought Fred Anderson wasn’t a good enough goalie. That turned out not to be true.

    Calgary thought Sam Bennett was replacable and never signed Tkachuk long-term when they could have. 

    Brackett thought Juolevi and Rossi were better picks than Tkachuk or Lundell. 

    Cup final for the eighth seed, all the top teams are done except Vegas. Looks like a Florida VS. Vegas Final if you asked me. I’ll be surprised if Dallas can win tonight. 

    Who was right? Paul Maurice when he said the Jets were languishing and he needed to leave. Worked out for him. 

    The Wild aren’t the only losers but there’s elements every year from the Cup final teams that should be noted. You need big players to step up. Tkachuk and Bobrovsky have done that. Stone, Hill have done it for VGK. 

    The Wild lack the high-end coach and big-time players to win playoff series. Playoffs are a different animal boys.

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    Florida was the #8 seed in the East. Their run proves that anyone invited to the dance has a chance at winning. How are they doing it?

    Their lineup isn't overly large. They do have some clutch scoring by Matthew Tkachuk and a healthy, hot goalie in Bobrovsky. If you look at their points breakdown, Tkachuk is the only player who is above PPG status. He has really geared up for the playoffs, too. Just in this series he had 2 OT winners and 1 in the final seconds last night.

    But, how much more talented is FL than our current Wild? They have Ekblad as a true #1 RHS D, but I think our depth is better. I would have to guess our D, though smaller, is probably better. 

    They are riding a hot Bobrovsky, who when he is hot is scorching, but when he is not he goes back to Siberia. IMO, if there is a long layoff in between series, that tends to cool down a hot goalie. We have Gustavsson and will have The Wall. Both are solid goalies, and both have shown hot streaks. If we catch them at the right time, they could perform close to a hot Bob, and I'd say they are likely better foundational 'tenders than Bob is at normal level. 

    The Panthers are really riding Tkachuk as far as scoring goes. He's been hot and clutch hot. We have that type of player in Kaprizov, who, when hot can carry this team. Their 3rd leading scorer is Barkov, and when playoffs roll around, usually, our Ek produces. But that's really where the comparison stops. 

    The rest of our guys chipped in scoring, but just not enough. But it wasn't just the production. Florida is solid down the middle. This is where our weakness is. Like Protec, I'm thinking Vegas advances. Vegas is also strong down the middle and quite a bit bigger. It should be a very interesting series, however, I'm believing it'll be on TNT so I won't get to watch it. 

    And this is our biggest problem. All 4 teams at this stage have strength down the middle as opposed to guys who can play down the middle. We currently have 2 NHL centers on our roster, Dewar and Ek. Freddy and Hartsy can play center, but really aren't centers. To get these guys, it's either promotion from within or a savvy trade for an unproven center who can accel in our system. This could come from an undervalued NHL center playing bottom 6, or a prospect ready from the A.  

    While we do need to get bigger on the back end, I'd say job #1 for Shooter, and it's been job #1 for a couple of seasons, is to find a solution to our center problem. Perhaps Rossi is one of the solutions, that would mean we need 1 bonafide middle 6 center, preferably top 6. It would be nice if that guy had a little size too, as Dewar and Rossi are tiny. 

    Protec has suggested Nosek, who would probably be a 4th line guy. That would mean Dewar get bumped up to 3rd line, which, I believe he's earned. I'd rather get someone a little higher up the ladder, but keep in mind, compensation for that type of player will likely be pretty high. Anyone have any suggestions?

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    Pius Suter is Swiss but not too old and had a poorer year with Detroit but I mentioned him in the list I posted. Almost 4M per year. Haula might be affordable for the Wild around 3M but there’s not tons of sweet middle six center options in free agency. 

    P.S. I’m getting really tired of these comment-jacking features on the site that derail your thought process and blow away your post for makeup ads...🤨

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    Out of these guys, I think I'd rather have Haula come back. He's got speed, is not easily knocked off the puck, and was a good overall player. His last season and subsequent sacrifice, I think, left a bad taste in his mouth with the organization. Sure, we have the "under new management" sign out with Guerin, and I think the fans loved him, but, there may be hard feelings with him.

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    I thought it might be a decent exercise right now to start projecting our '25-26 lineup. That would separate the placeholders from the projected players. 

    With the goalies, I'd say we would be really solid with Goose2 and The Wall as our tandem. Goose2 probably has a nice contract, The Wall would still be far lower. The Wall's delivery date would be '24-25.

    The defense has a lot more to it. I've listed the players in no particular order with their estimated delivery date.* As you can see, not everyone can play. We've got a huge pool here. Some could be used as trade chips.

    1. Spurgeon                    NHL
    2. Brodin                         NHL
    3. Middleton                   NHL
    4. Addison                      NHL
    5. Faber                           '23-24
    6. Hunt                            '24-25 
    7. O'Rourke                     '24-25
    8. S. Johansson             '24-25
    9. Spacek                        '25-26
    10. Masters                      '25-26
    11. Lambos                      '24-25 (late)
    12. Peart                           '25-26

    How do you see this playing out? 

    To me, I think Brodin and Middleton may be the only ones left at that time. Spurgeon is also a possibility, but it's doubtful he's a #1 pairing at that point. 

    *Delivery date is defined as when they make the team full-time, not their debut timeline. 

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    CHL Update: Good news, there needs to be 4 teams to compete for the Memorial cup in the CHL. There are only 3 league winners, so they automatically go, but Kamloops was chosen as the 4th team and is the host city. That means Bankier and Masters' seasons are not quite done yet! They have at least 4 more games to go, as there is a round robin for 3 of them. 

    Apparently the format is 3 round robin games, a designated game to separate any ties if needed, a semi-final game and then the final game. Kamloops is playing tonight!

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    Also saw a Lindholm rumor that he may not want to resign in Calgary. The guy is 28 and on the last year of his $5m deal. Minnesota was listed as one of his options. How would you all feel about Lindholm? His next contract is likely ^$8.5m.

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    I had suggested Dumba for Lindholm previously when Dumba was in the rumors phase of his entire time here.

    At that time, Monahan was having back trouble, and the Flames were firing on almost all cylinders. Tkachuk Guadreau and Lindholm on the PP were really good and Lindholm was a top center for Calgary. He's not a flashy player but effective. For an elite Swede he's not noticeably timid or finesse only. He's got some tenacity and guts which is a more NA style of hockey that's earned him a top six role for the Flames. Lindholm isn't a little lightweight and has a career face-off percentage of 53%. 


    I think it would be a good fit for MN if they could afford it. If he's just a placeholder type guy and the Wild can't sign him beyond next season what would be the ask from Calgary? Would the Wild give up a first in '24??? It wouldn't likely be an early pick in the 1st anyway. Would that be worth it for just one year? Lindholm's career highs in scoring came with great linemates so he's not a point per game guy with Foligno and some other third guy. With Mojo and Boldy or between Nyquist and Hartman could be interesting if let's say Ek, Boldy, and Kaprizov became a thing. Obviously, Zuccarello is probably gonna play out his deal here so maybe Lindholm plays with Kaprizov and the Norwegian Hobbit.

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