July 9, 2012; St. Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise (left) and defenseman Ryan Suter (right) laugh during a press conference at the Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Wild Team To Beat In The West?

The Minnesota Wild have been the talk of the NHL this offseason, getting not one but the two top free agents of the summer, in former New Jersey Devil winger Zach Parise and Nashville Predator defenseman Ryan Suter. Both Suter and Parise, who grew up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively, signed 13-year, 98 million dollar contracts on Independence Day. But even as the  Wild greatly improved their roster, have they done enough to move into contention in the Western Conference?

The Wild were the NHL’s best team through 36 games until they went on a 11-28-7 skid to finish up the year 12th in the Western Conference, 14 points out of the 8th and final seed. After spending a combined 196 million so far this offseason, many are calling for the Wild to be immediate contenders in the west. However, you have to delve deeper into their lineup to see that not only is Minnesota not a Stanley Cup Contender, but they may barely be a playoff team.

Besides the great scoring line of Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley, the Wild are relatively thin up front. They have some young talent that has potential to make an impact in the coming seasons, especially Mikael Granlund, the Wild’s 2010 first round pick from Finland, but it is not likely they have enough firepower to make much noise this season. Minnesota will definitely improve from their last place finish in goals per game (2.0) last season, but not enough to be a consistently potent offensive threat.

On the defensive end, the addition of Suter helps greatly, but he has been paired with fellow all-star Shea Weber throughout his young career. Surely, Suter will struggle early on while most likely being paired with Tom Gilbert, the best incumbent right hand shooting defenseman on Minnesota. Gilbert is a clear drop off from Weber, and it will be interesting to see if Suter’s influence can push a young Wild defense that fell apart in the second half of the season last year.

Even though Minnesota will have its best team since they made the playoffs in 2008, they will not be a serious contender to the Blues, Kings, Red Wings, or Canucks in the west. They will surely be improved, and end up anywhere from the 6th to 10th seed heading into the 2013 post season.

Check out our other team previews on Bleedin’Blue!

Tags: Dany Heatley Mikael Granlund Mikko Koivu Minnesota WIld Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils Ryan Suter Shea Weber Tom Gilbert Zach Parise

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