2013-14 NHL Season Preview: The Minnesota Wild

The NHL has a new look heading into the 2013-14 season, and as we continue our look around the league we now focus our efforts on the Minnesota Wild.
Much like the St. Louis Blues a few years ago, the Wild are known for having a young, talented team that is climbing the ranks of the NHL.  As the Wild enter the Blues division, the chance for a rivalry will heat up.
This time I spoke with Ger Devine of Gone Puck Wild.  Here is what he had to say about the Wild:

Sep 17, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter (22) celebrates his goal with teammates during the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

1.  The Wild made waves last season picking up the two biggest names in free agency, but that didn’t help the team as drastically as some had hoped.  How well do you see the team performing in the 2013-14 season?

I think the Wild could make the playoffs again this year, but right now that is dependent on a few things swinging their way. Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter need to harness their immense talent and establish themselves as NHLers. Parise’s production rate needs to get back to where it was during his peak years. Pominville needs to show why the franchise gave up so much to get him. If these things happen, then the Wild could make the playoffs and maybe even win a round. Unfortunately, it is just as likely that they will miss out, as Conference III is gonna be a dog-fight.

2.  The Blues and Wild have a chance to build a strong rivalry being located so closely.  In the past the North Stars and Blues shared a rivalry.  How do Wild fans view the Blues?

A lot of Wild fans really love the Blues because of David Backes being Minnesotan. Personally, I can’t stand the Blues, so I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of those games. The Blues are a physical, aggressive team and have guys like Ryan Reaves and Maxim Lapierre on the roster, so they’re quite easy to dislike.

Jun 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) during the 2013 Stanley Cup championship celebration at Grant Park in Chicago. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

3.  What team are you most concerned about in the new Central Division and why?

The Chicago Blackhawks. They were the best team in the league last year, yet they didn’t have to endure any cap-hell this Summer and actually look stronger now that dead weight like Dave Bolland and Dan “Gorilla Salad” Carcillo have been cast-off. They won the Stanley Cup with one of the worst powerplays I’ve ever seen, and without being able to win face-offs with any kind of regularity. Not to mention, they have one of the best prospect pools in the league, with guys like Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc looking to make the team this year. They’re a scary, scary team.

4.  What team entering the new division are you least concerned about and why?

I could say the Predators as they have no players who can score goals, or maybe the Avs, who have no defencemen…but I’m gonna go with the Dallas Stars. They’ve got some decent young players, and Tyler Seguin should help, but that roster is a long way from being competitive right now.

5.  With the Western Conference having just 14 teams to the Eastern Conference’s 16, do you think another mid-western team makes sense?  Where would you want to put one and would it make for a good rivalry?

I think it makes sense. As I’m Irish, my mid-west geography isn’t so good. But, at a glance, maybe Kansas City would be a good fit. They have NHL history, and would be a reasonably nearby rival for the Blues.

Apr 11, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) makes a save on Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville (29) during the second period at the Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

6.  With the development of some great young talent, the Blues and Wild seem to be two teams in the Central with a lot of young guns coming up the ranks.  Do you think we will be seeing a lot of each other in post season play?

Yeah I think so. I see the Blues, Hawks and Wild establishing dominance in Conference III over the next few years, as they all have strong prospect pools. Obviously, not every prospect works-out the way you hope, but, for the Blues and Wild, there’s the advantage of having a lot of young players already seeing some NHL action, which should help their development.

May 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Michael Frolik (67) is defended by Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) and goalie Josh Harding (37) during the first period in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

7.  The Wild seem to be missing one major piece, a goaltender.  Do you think the team will make a move in the near future to pick up a big name netminder or will they continue with an aging Niklas Backstrom and a lackluster Josh Harding?

Well, everything was set-up for Josh Harding to take-over as the #1 this year, but unfortunately this was derailed when he was diagnosed with MS.
Before Backstrom was re-signed, I was hoping the Wild would trade for the excellent James Reimer, who seems to be unwanted in Toronto, but that didn’t happen.
Now that Backstrom appears to be here to stay for the next 3 years, the plan seems to be to let one of our 2 elite goaltending prospects (Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson) develop in the AHL and then replace Backs. Obviously, Harding’s health is going to be a big factor in whether or not the team look to sign a veteran or make a trade in the near future.

I want to thank Ger once again for taking the time to answer a few questions for us about the Minnesota Wild in the upcoming 2013-14 season. For more information about the Blues, Wild and every other team in the league, stay tuned to Bleedin’ Blue and follow us on Facebook.

LET’S GO BLUES!

-Alex Hodschayan

Topics: 2013-14, David Backes, Minnesota WIld, Preseason, Season Preview, St. Louis Blues, Training Camp

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