by The Noogie

1. Defensive depth.

The defensive depth of the Wild is something this team can be proud of. From the top down they have plenty of talent, with lot of prospects waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine. Last season the Wild had one of the stingiest defensive groups in the league, allowing a fourth-best 27.6 shots against per game. With the pairings changing up this season, their ability to roll three solid defensive lines will bring Ryan Suter’s minutes down, while hopefully keeping their shots against per game as elite as it was last season.

2. Goaltending.

While shots against are all fine and dandy, this is a game ruled by goal scoring. The Wild’s goals against on the season don’t appear to be anything special, but from Jan. 14 through the end of the season the Wild allowed a fourth-best in the NHL  98 goals against. That magical date was when the Wild acquired veteran netminder Devan Dubnyk. Goaltending went from being a severe liability to a great strength overnight. Now they have a netminder who really makes those 27.6 shots against per game turn into a number you can care about. Prior to Dubnyk’s arrival, the Wild were a sixth-worst minus-16 goal differential. Once Dubs arrived in Minnesota, they flipped that to a plus-42, which was best in the NHL.

3. An elite PK.

When it comes to penalty killing, last season the Wild were as elite as it comes. Killing an incredible 86.3 percent of the opposition's power plays on the season, the Wild were on top of the NHL on the PK. With the combination of the Wild’s shot suppression and goaltending, look for them to continue killing penalties with the best of them this season.


by The Noogie

1. Goaltending.

While goaltending is a big strength for the Wild going into this season, it is also a big weakness. I know what you’re thinking, "Hey Noogie, how can this be a strength and a weakness?" Well, the fact that going into this season the Wild will be carrying three goaltenders on the NHL roster. With veteran netminder Niklas Backstrom having convenient offseason surgery, it prevented the Wild from buying out his contract, the speculated plan this past summer. Backstrom taking up a roster spot will eat up one of the reserve spots, essentially leaving the Wild with just two extra skaters on the 23-man roster.

2. Power play.

The Wild’s power play -- or passing practice as we’ve affectionately been calling it at Hockey Wilderness -- was abysmal last season. Converting at a rate of just 15.8 percent was fourth-worst in the NHL last season. While I’d love to get all ducky and bunny on the bit, and tell you all everything will be okay this season, until they prove otherwise I wouldn’t start counting on those PP goals. There is a silver lining, however. In their 10 playoff games last season, the Wild converted on the PP at an incredible rate of 30.4 percent. Small sample size, but that’s about all we have to hang our hats on at the moment.

3. Forward depth.

The Wild’s depth at forward is the Achilles heal on a team that, despite their second-highest goal total as a franchise last season, seem to lack the kind of firepower needed to push this team over the edge. Which is an odd thing to say with a workhorse like Zach Parise, the sniping ability of Thomas Vanek and up-and-comers Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter on this squad. This team is still just a couple injuries or another outbreak of the mumps away from losing any life they might have on offense. While there is some talent in the pipeline, most of that lies in the college ranks, and will not be accessible if the worst should happen this season.


1. Can the Wild’s goalie corps remain healthy?
2. Will the power play find some legs?
3. Will the veterans who disappointed last season enjoy more success this season?

Get the answers at Hockey Wilderness.


by The Noogie

The young forwards take a positive step, Jason Zucker improves on his numbers last year and stays healthy. Nino Niederreiter has a breakout season, causing New York Islanders fans to kick themselves for trading him for Cal Clutterbuck. Veterans Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek silence last season's critics and show they still have plenty left in the tank. Niklas Backstrom looks phenomenal in the preseason, leading teams to start knocking down Chuck Fletcher’s door trying to acquire the veteran netminder.

The Wild cruise through the postseason, avoiding the Chicago Blackhawks this time. Not because in this "best-case scenario" they would lose to them, but after three consecutive postseasons featuring the Blackhawks as an opponent it would be nice to see a little variety. The finish off the season hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, giving those fans who have been waiting for the parade down West 7th Street in St. Paul for 15 years the glory they have long sought.


by The Noogie

The worst-case scenario for any old-school Minnesota hockey fans out there has to be a complete collapse of the team. Attendance sinks into oblivion and the team packs its bags for some popular southern destination -- say, Houston, why not. Texas has taken one of our teams, why not give them another?

Taking it a little more seriously, the Wild fall apart in December and January, which is not unheard of. In fact, it’s been a major headache and a trend for this team the past few seasons. Unfortunately, with the Buffalo Sabres looking much more improved this season, they might not be the catalyst the Wild have relied on (along with a timely infusion of goaltending help) to save their season. The loss of a roster spot because the team is forced into carrying three goalies is a nightmare we’re already living with.

The team slowly slips into obscurity, but keeping with the standard form they do not fall so far as to garner themselves a decent shot of winning the draft lottery. This secures mediocrity for years to come, which in turn reminds everyone of the days when Doug Risebrough ran the team and sinks the State of Hockey into a perpetual state of depression.