The Minnesota Wild will take to 2019-2020 with Bill Guerin as their general manager. He replaced Paul Fenton, who was fired in late July after 14 months on the job. Guerin has experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins, having served in their front office for the past eight seasons. He was assistant general manager for the last five.
For Guerin, it’s all about the team. Team, team, team. “The only teams that win are the teams that put the team first,” he said via the Wild website. “We all have to put the team first. Anybody’s individual agenda comes second. The team winning comes first and foremost and that’s it. Everybody sacrifices their personal interest for the betterment of the team.”
So how does this work? The Wild missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons last year, but the bigger issue is that they haven’t made it past the second round of the post-season since 2002-2003. Offence was a problem last season, as they finished 27th in scoring overall with just 210 goals. In 24 games, they scored one or fewer goals.
To address the scoring matter, Minnesota opted to bring in Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman as the major off-season acquisitions. Zuccarello signed a five-year deal in July of 2019 and was one of the last moves from Fenton before his departure. The Oslo native had 12 goals in 48 games last season.
Zach Parise led the way in scoring for the Wild in 2018-2019, with 28 goals and a total of 61 points. It was the best offensive season for the 35-year-old since 2014-2015. Injuries plagued him over the past five seasons, but he needed the bounce-back last season gave him. If he can build on that performance, Parise could be game for better numbers this season.
But Zuccarello is by and large the offensive draw for Minnesota now. The winger may have been limited last season, but he did set his best-ever points-per-game average with the Rangers and Stars. He fit well with Dallas, skating with Roope Hintz in the playoffs. Pairing him with Parise and probably Ryan Donato could turn up some slick numbers for the Wild.
Eric Staal was second on the team in scoring with 52 points. He posted 22 goals in 81 games, not the best way to follow a 42-goal campaign in 2017-2018. Staal has been streaky in terms of goal-scoring, but last season was still a step in the wrong direction.
The same can be said for Jason Zucker, who had 21 goals and a total of 42 points. That, just like the case of Staal, followed a lovely 2017-2018. Throwing Mikko Koivu in the mix could produce more space up front, but the centre could miss part of the season due to injury. As such, the Wild will take to the year with the same basic apparatus at the forward position – more or less.
Minnesota is one of the older teams in the league, with the average age of the forward group 28.3. Funnily enough, the average age of the defence is 28.6. The Wild have absolutely zero defencemen under the age of 25. Matt Dumba is the youngest at 25-years-old and he’s under contract for four more years.
Dumba will have to do a lot of heavy lifting this season and he should be up for the task. He led the NHL in goal-scoring before an injury took him down in December last season, so there’s still there’s no telling where his ceiling really is. He tends to be near the top of the charts in hits and power play points.
Ryan Suter led the league in ice time last season and finished with a reputable 47 points, including seven goals. He’ll once again receive a substantial workload and he’s good for more than a few power play points, plus he’s the top-earning defender. Jared Spurgeon is also worth a look. The 29-year-old is entering a contract year.
Minnesota knows what they have with Devan Dubnyk and they’ve shown a lot of faith in their goaltender. Dubnyk has, since joining the Wild in 2014-2015, played more games than any other NHL goalie. He’s third in wins during that span and fourth in save percentage, so he’s clearly a big part of the team’s success.
Dubnyk will be supported by Alex Stalock. The 32-year-old hometown netminder was signed to a three-year deal in January of 2019 and seems to be a stable option for a little over 20 starts. Stalock posted a 2.99 goals against average in 21 starts last season to go with a .899 save percentage.
The Wild are among the oldest teams in the NHL and could be due a transition. With Koivu, Parise, Zuccarello, Staal, Suter, Dubnyk, and Stalock all north of 30, it’s up to Guerin to start moving in some younger skaters. The likes of Donato, Hartman and Kevin Fiala could see an uptick in fortunes – and not a moment too soon for the State of Hockey.
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