by Alan Nakkash
If the NHL were a color wheel, the Minnesota Wild would be grey. They aren’t offensive or brash. They aren’t anything really. You just hardly notice that they are around. They are kind of like the Minnesota Timberwolves—it must be something in the water in Minneapolis.
The Wild went through a transition last year—or at least that was the original plan. After Jacques Lemaire had led the team throughout their history to play a system in which defense was all that mattered and offense was an afterthought, new Coach Todd Richards was supposed to turn the team into a far more effective offensive threat.
It didn’t really turn out that way. They dropped from No. 2 to No. 21 in the defensive rankings in the league, and yet had only the 22nd best offense. It’s no wonder that they weren’t very good. Needless to say, Richards has some work to do this year.
One interesting development with this team is their renewed focus on conditioning in the offseason. Lemaire is an old school guy, so he didn’t place a lot of importance on offseason workouts. When Richards tried to turn up the speed on offense last year, he found a team that wasn’t up for the challenge. Players were worked with much more in the offseason, and have been held much more accountable for their physical preparedness in the fall. The impact of that, if it was done well, should show up on the ice.
Minnesota Wild Offseason Moves
The Wild cut some fat from the roster, including ancient forward Owen Nolan and useless tough guy Derek Boogaard. They replaced those guys with a couple of veterans in Matt Cullen and John Madden. They added a younger player in Eric Nystrom, who showed some promise with Calgary. Cullen and Madden are both centers who will help the team both up the middle and in the dressing room.
Minnesota Wild Predictions: Outlook
I don’t think that this is a playoff team, but they could be in the mix. To do that, though, they will need a lot of things to go right for them. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who missed all but one game last year with concussion issues, will have to prove himself healthy and productive.
Martin Havlat will have to prove that the big contract he got last year wasn’t a total waste of money. Mikko Koivu needs to take another big step forward. The team needs to learn how to be at least somewhat competent on the road—last year they were hopeless.
Minnesota Wild NHL Odds
Minnesota is 80/1 to win the Stanley Cup. Only the Islanders and the Blue Jackets are longer shots. They get scarcely more respect in the conference, where they are 50/1, or in their division, where they are 20/1. The season point total is set at 85.5.
Minnesota Wild NHL Predictions
The Wild could be in the playoff mix, and a second-place finish in the division and an eighth-place in the conference (and the playoff berth that goes with it) aren’t out of the question, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it. I don’t think that Richards is a great coach, and he doesn’t have a whole lot to work with here. If everyone played at their best this still isn’t a very good team.
As a hockey handicapper my best guess is that they will finish third in the division ahead of Calgary and Edmonton, but behind Colorado and in a different universe than the Canucks. That would put them 10th or so in the conference.
The season points total is pretty tight, but I would lean slightly to the “over.” They had 84 points last year and are healthier and fitter to start the season. I don’t look for a big move forward, but the neighborhood of 88 points would be achievable.
Doc Moseman is one of the pioneers of the NHL handicapping industry. Check out his Web site for up-to-the-minute NHL Odds and his famous winning hockey picks.