2014 Minnesota Wild Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/30/2014
The Wild has the second-best year in their existence last year, but sadly that wasn't a particularly high barrier to achieve. In 2003 they shockingly made it all the way to the conference final in just their third year in the league, but they had made the playoffs only three times since and had not won another round. Last year, though, they knocked out Colorado in seven games in the first round then tested Chicago seriously before falling in six contests. In 2003 they couldn't build on the momentum of the success, but they are much better situated to do so this time around.
Last year there was a revolving door in net for the Wild. Josh Harding was the starter, but he had issues with multiple sclerosis and never played in 2014. He may not play much at all in the calendar year. He broke his foot in the offseason and has been suspended by the team, so his immediate future is unclear. Niklas Backstrom is 36, and he looked about 300 for much of last season. He was lousy, and I struggle to imagine him getting better. Darcy Kuemper was a 2009 draft pick and figures into the future plans of the team, but he was forced to step up last year. He did well - especially in the playoffs - and was signed as a restricted free agent in the offseason. Ilya Bryzgalov was acquired from Edmonton is March and was excellent down the stretch. He was a free agent after the season but is back with the team on a tryout basis. John Curry also came up from the minors to play two games. At this point we don't know what the situation in net will be to start the season. The duo of Backstrom and Kemper has had the edge, but I'm be much happier if the ditched Backstrom in favor or Bryzgalov.
Minnesota Wild Offseason Moves
The big move here is the signing of Thomas Vanek. He is a strong offensive player, but his free agent appeal was diminished somewhat by a lousy playoff performance for the Montreal Canadiens, who acquired him at the trade deadline. He'll likely play on the second line and should give the team a boost. The team made a handful of other additions and subtractions - Clayton Stoner and Dany Heatley are out, for example - but nothing that really is worth worrying about.
The Wild drafted huge winger Alex Tuch in the first round of this year's NHL Draft, but he will not be a factor this year as he is headed to Boston College to play.
Minnesota Wild NHL Outlook
This is an improved team with a chance to be really quite good. Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund dealt with injuries last year and could both be more productive offensively if they are healthy. Vanek adds depth up front, and young players like Charlie Coyle and Nino Neiderreiter should take steps forward. Add it all up and a team that has struggled to score over the years should be more impressive. Their defense is sound, with Ryan Suter anchoring things and Matthew Dumba coming along as a top prospect. The goaltending situation is a bit of a concern, but there is the potential for solid play between the pipes if they get it right. This is a team ready to be better than they were last year, and last year they won a playoff round. Their biggest issue, though, is that they play in an absolutely brutal division - by far the toughest in hockey. They are one of five teams in the division that would be extremely disappointed if they didn't not only make the playoffs but win a series or two - and only four teams can win a series in a conference.
Minnesota Wild Schedule
I didn't look too deep into their schedule because I couldn't get past the first two games. The opening series between the Wild and the Avalanche was incredibly intriguing, and the teams open up with a home-and-home series starting in Minnesota. It will be fun to see the teams renew their acquaintance, and the results will be a good indicator of where both teams are at out of the gate.
Minnesota Wild NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Wild are 16/1 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them behind only seven teams. I like them, but that seems a bit ambitious to me. Showing how tough the Western Conference is, they are sixth to win at 9/1. They are tie with Colorado as the third choice to win the Central Division at 11/2.
2014-15 Minnesota Wild Predictions
This is a playoff team. If they stay healthy, I have little doubt about that. They will score reasonably well, they can defend, and I am not as worried about their goaltending as I could be. I'm still not convinced that they stack up with the very best in the West, though, so a win of a series or more will require luck in their pairings - like they got last year when they faced a young Colorado squad.
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