It’s American Thanksgiving and while many families are gathered around their dinner tables enjoying family time, great food, and remembering everything they’re thankful for, the Minnesota Wild will be doing the same. While their season started out rough with three straight losses, things have turned a corner as of late.
As such, our Wild crew at The Hockey Writers discussed some Thanksgiving-related questions. Tyson McKay, C.G. Jones, and Mariah Stark put together their answers to some of the things the Wild should be thankful for.
What Wild Player Are You Most Thankful for & Why?
Tyson: It is an easy choice for me. Even though he is retired, my number one is going to be the one and only Wild No. 9, Mikko Koivu. Just an outstanding player, human being, and the first player that I can say I watched the day he was drafted. I watched almost every game of his career, and I was as happy as anyone to see his number raised into the rafters at the Xcel Energy Center.
Koivu was a pioneer for the Wild and helped establish the team from the beginning. His name will forever be laced throughout the record books and for good reason, as he was and will be one of the most dominant two-way players the Wild will ever have. His influence in the locker room and on the ice shaped the organization into what it is today.
C.G.: The player I’m most thankful for is probably a sleeper, but I’m going to go with Sam Steel. As a player who was wading through bottom-nine minutes, his recent performance could mean that he sees more playing time with the likes of Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.
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Mariah: My answer is probably cliché but I’m going to go with No. 97, Kirill Kaprizov. When I first heard about what a great player he was, I didn’t believe it until I started watching highlights and was immediately intrigued by his ability to skate circles around almost anyone. Then when he came to Minnesota, I was a little hesitant to believe that he could be the superstar the Wild had been looking for all these years, but he has turned out to be the real deal.
Kaprizov was the Wild’s first Calder Trophy winner, the first to record 100-plus points, and he’s set many more records. The crazy thing is he’s only in his third season and he’s already on a roll. The Wild have always had dedicated fans but he’s really given them a reason to cheer again and it’s going to be fun to watch his career unfold. He’s helped them win games, plus he elevates the play of everyone around him. I mean, what’s not to be thankful for when talking about a player like Kaprizov?
What Team Staff Member Should the Wild Be Most Thankful For?
Tyson: The man responsible for placing the Wild at the top tier of the NHL when it comes to drafting: Judd Brackett. The Wild’s Director of Amateur Scouting is one of the biggest reasons they have been able to be contenders through the worst of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts. His ability to find talent in every round of the draft has given them a powerhouse of a prospect pool that they can draw from for years to come, whether that be for roster players or for trading purposes.
C.G.: The staff member I’m most thankful for would have to be Frederic Chabot – the Wild’s goaltending coach. Not only are they underrated, in my view, but the fact that Marc-André Fleury has waxed and waned this season means that Chabot has been working with Filip Gustavsson and others more than was likely expected at the start of the season.
Mariah: I’m actually torn between two people on this one, I’ve always been curious about the duties of both the Wild’s equipment manager Tony DaCosta and their athletic trainer, John Worley. Each of these guys has a very important job that ranges from making sure all the players have exactly the right equipment to tending to all their injuries.
It can’t be easy trying to replace a specific piece of equipment after it breaks or trying to help rehab an injury to get the player back as fast as possible. The amount of stress they have to endure yet still keep their cool is very impressive. Without them, the Wild wouldn’t be able to suit up every game and be ready to go. Thankfully they have two of the best in the business and they’re always on top of it.
What Should the Wild Be Most Thankful for This Season? Why?
Tyson: As a team that has struggled heavily so far this season, it is fortunate for the Wild that they are only two points out of a wild card spot. A rather large number of teams in the Western Conference have also had their share of struggles, which has allowed the Wild to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot. If they can seize this opportunity and get a couple of wins during this homestand they can be right back where they should be – fighting for the top of the Central Division.
C.G.: This may be low-hanging fruit, but I think the Wild have to be thankful for their fanbase. As someone who grew up in the land of 10,000 lakes, Minnesotans are devoted to their hockey clubs, and the Wild are no different. Not every franchise enjoys this special brand of fandom.
Mariah: I think the Wild have to be thankful for their depth, I know some of their prospects (Marco Rossi) aren’t producing as much as they hoped but it takes time. However, they have to be proud of the way players like Mason Shaw and Calen Addison have really stepped up and fought to keep their roster spots, Shaw especially.
I wasn’t sure how Shaw would fit into the lineup but he’s been great, especially with his grit and determination to do well. Like Kaprizov, he can lift the energy of his linemates which is another reason he’s stayed in the lineup. I know the Wild have more talented prospects just biding their time until they can join the NHL, but they have a great future and I’m excited to watch each season with all these players coming up.
Wild’s Look Ahead
The Wild may have started out rough but they’ve recently strung together back-to-back wins and can enter Thanksgiving on a high note. Soon it’ll be time for Christmas and all the fun that surrounds it; maybe by then, the Wild will still be on a winning streak and in a playoff position.
Mariah Stark (Holland) is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.