We’re inching closer and closer to the start of the hockey year, for the second time in three years, the Wild are in a major rebuilding mode.
Mike Yeo takes over the head coaching duties from ousted Todd Richards. Yeo wasn’t exactly the sexy choice for GM Chuck Fletcher; he apparently had Craig McTavish and Ken Hitchcock on his list. It’s a gutsy move brining in a first-time coach for a second time, especially when the first one didn’t work out so great. But one thing is for sure…Mike Yeo is a completely different coach from Todd Richards. Yeo preaches structure and puck control; I’m still not sure what Richards stood for. Yeo is fiery and gets after his players; Richards always had that I don’t know what to do look. And while Yeo sure seems to know his stuff it will be interesting to see if his age (he’s 37) plays into his ability to get his players to buy in. I’m optimistic…I think he’s smart and players will get that, and eventually the Wild will become a tough team to play against.
And then there’s the players. Oh my goodness were things shaken up this offseason. Gone is the uber popular but sometimes enigmatic D Brent Burns, the unhappy F Martin Havlat (and his agent), the potential never-realized F James Sheppard, the terrible D Cam Barker, the grandpa F Owen Nolan, and the revitalized G Jose Theodore. But coming in is potential for something of which the Wild are in desperate need – scoring. F Dany Heatley and F Devin Setoguchi should provide a good portion of that scoring, another important thing it does is gives the Wild two scoring lines. Opposing defenses will need to focus on a Koivu – Heatley – Setoguchi line, which should open up opportunities for a Cullen – Latendresse – Bouchard line. So if they score more goals, then the key is how they make up for the hole Burns leaves on the blueline. They’ll need one of the young kids to step up consistently and surprise us. If that happens, we’ll be ok.
The Wild are again a playoff bubble team this season. It’s generally a bad place to be, because you go into a stretch run trying to make the playoffs, but if you don’t make it, you’re not getting a good draft pick. But there’s a buzz for this squad again, and I’m cool with that. Playoff hockey is the most exciting time of all sports, so whatever it takes to get there in April baby.