Why My Team Is Better Than Your Team: Minnesota Wild

Wild logoWhile sitting in the Xcel Energy Center watching my Minnesota Wild get completely manhandled and outplayed in Game 3 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last April, I found myself somewhat concerned about the fate of my club. Were the Wild going in the wrong direction? Did Jacques Lemaire not “have it” anymore? I grew increasingly worried and impatient as the Wild showed nothing but ineptitude against a stronger and more talented Ducks team.

Thankfully, at the X, at least in the Club Level, they serve actual “doubles” and as I drowned myself in Citron, the prevailing feeling I was experiencing was dread. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as I originally believed on that warm spring day. The Ducks ended up physically dismantling every team they faced on their way to their “storied” franchise’s first Stanley Cup. So, as it is for every team in the offseason, hope springs eternal. So lace up your skates (if you have them) and join me as I attempt to prove why the Minnesota Wild are better than your team.

LemaireCoaching. It appears there are few fans of Jacques Lemaire’s coaching style, given that he has been named the originator of the hated netutral zone trap. No matter what you think of his style, you can’t argue with his track record. The man is a proven winner, from his playing days with the Canadiens (8 Stanley Cups!) to his Stanley Cup victory as coach of the Devils and now with the Wild. The man is the model of consistency and as a coach who always gets the most out of his players. He also has surrounded himself with competent assistant coaches (Mario Tremblay and Mike Ramsey).

BackstromGoaltending. Throughout its existence, the Wild has always had a surplus of talented goaltenders. After jettisoning Dwayne Roloson to the Edmonton Oilers two seasons ago and trading Manny Fernandez to the Bruins (who also happens to be Lemaire’s nephew – awkward!) last month, the Wild have reloaded at the goaltending position. Niklas Backstrom proved to be a more-than-capable replacement when Fernandez got injured last year and was rewarded with a two-year, $6.2 million contract this offseason. Despite his inexperience at the NHL level, he posted a 23-8-6 record with a .929 save percentage last season, good enough to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, which he shared with Manny Fernandez. Backing up Backstrom will be Josh Harding, a talented young goalie.

Marian Gaborik. Gaborik is an electrifying offensive player who may be the fastest skater in the National Hockey League. Despite being bitten by the injury bug frequently during his career, he has 164 goals and 331 points in his six seasons in the NHL. The good news is Gaborik is working very hard this offseason with the Wild training staff to ensure he does not experience the same groin problems that have plagued him throughout his career. The addition of best friend Pavol Demitra to the squad last season appeared to inspire Gaborik and both were very productive when they were on the ice at the same time.

RolstonIntangibles. Although last season ended with a disappointing thud, the Wild appear ready to improve on last season’s 104 points. Defense and goaltending wins championships (so they say), and the Wild possess above-average blue-liners (Nick Schultz, Keith Carney, Brent Burns, etc.) and solid goaltending. They also have one of the best fighters/enforcers in the game in Derek Boogaard, who appears to have passed on his pugilistic talents to a young Brent Burns, as illustrated by the beatdowns he inflicted on a couple of Ducks in the playoffs last season. Rounding out the squad are some decent young offensive threats, from the crafty Pierre-Marc Bouchard, veteran Wes Walz (if resigned) and talented Finn Mikko Koivu. Not to be forgotten is Brian Rolston, a leader both on and off the ice who is a sniper from the point, possessing one of the best slap shots in the league.

So there you have it. The Wild will contend for the Northwest Divison title and should have a far more competitive showing in next season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. I sincerely hope so because my liver can’t take another series like the last one.

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6 Comments

  1. So one expansion team is making fun of another’s history?

  2. I was more poking fun of the fact they were named after a movie (movie=story – get it?). Also, we Minnesotans have immunity as we had the North Stars taken away from us.

  3. Is Keith Carney still kicking? He must have borrowed some of Chelios’ Youth Juice.

  4. In a weird bit of irony, the Minnesota North Stars were featured in the Mighty Ducks movie.

  5. Do we really think Gaborik is working hard this offseason? Also, what are the odds we see a Boogaard v. Boogaard on Oct. 30, 2007?

  6. Do you really think Gaborik is “electrifing”? In all seriousness I just don’t see it. He’s always hurt, he’s useless in a shootout and IF he does go in the corners he rarely comes out with the puck. He may be the fastest skater in the NHL but so what? Half the time he doesn’t have control of the puck.
    He has improved since Pavol has joined the team but I never really saw him (Gaborik) as a team kinda guy. I’m just not really, really sold on him. Now Mikko Koivu……….


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