For the Wild, it was another offseason of change. The organization was not particularly active in the player market, but after parting ways with their head coach of nearly 5 seasons, Mike Yeo, the coaching staff was bound for a major shakeup. The Wild made some waves in the NHL this summer when they hired Bruce Boudreau on as Head Coach. Boudreau is famous for a crazy amount of success in the regular season, but having teams fall short of expectations in the post-season. He would fill out his coaching staff by hiring long-time buddy John Anderson and legendary NHL defensemen Scott Stevens.
The team appeared stagnant at the end of Yeo's tenure. After enduring epic mid-season collapses in 3 consecutive seasons, General Manager Chuck Fletcher felt is was time to drop the axe on Mike Yeo, passing the reigns on to two-time Iowa Wild coach John Torchetti. While the Wild were able to play well enough to make it to the playoffs in 4 consecutive seasons, Owner Craig Leipold, as well as the fans, had grown tired of the teams under performance after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to what now feels like enormous back-breaking contracts.
Boudreau was hired for his offensive acumen, in the hopes he can push a largely unchanged team to the next level. A key piece to this puzzle will be how the younger generation of players react to Boudreau's ways. Guys like Mikael Granlund, Matt Dumba, Charlie Coyle, and Hockey Wilderness fan favorite Nino Niederreiter have all showed sparks of greatness, but the development had plateaued under Yeo, along with the under-utilization of the young guns became a sore spot for fans. With questions surrounding declining production in from the veterans, as well with the health of Zach Parise who missed the playoffs with a back injury, for this team to be successful it's going to require the kids taking on a larger role on the ice.
- This is the third year in. Now that the Wild's success is dependent on the mid to early 20-somethings to take the next step, Can they rise together as a group?
- Will backup goalie Darcy Kuemper play well enough to spell Devan Dubnyk and keep him fresh down the stretch?
- Last season the Wild were dreadful in the 3v3 extra frame, despite going 3-2 in the shootout. Can Boudreau find success with a team that went 1-9 3v3 last season?
BEST CASE SCENARIO
The ultimate goal as always is the Cup. Keeping our feet on the ground though, just seeing this team get better would be great. To see marked improvements in the teams offensive motions, to see the younger class take steps in the right direction, and to not only make it into the playoffs, but to put up a real fight this time around, to play like they belong there. At times they sure looked good, but consistency plagued the team. This team knows what it takes in the playoffs now, while the rest of us are wondering what they're waiting for.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
If Boudreau just doesn't fit, this team will be in big trouble. Chuck Fletcher's job has to be next up on the chopping block. Fletcher is on his 3rd head coach and needs to hit a home run on this one after bringing in two first-time head coaches in Todd Richards and Mike Yeo. If Fletcher goes, you can bet your boots the reverberations from that exodus will be felt from the top down within the organization. A home run isn't necessarily winning it all this season, but if steps aren't taken on the ice, steps will be taken off it and the team will once again find itself in rebuilding mode.