Everyone has a wish list, even professional hockey teams like the Minnesota Wild. This list could be full of many different things from the obvious like winning the Stanley Cup to finishing first in the division or conference.
The Wild were able to get started early on their list and cross one off over the summer by signing Russian hotshot Kirill Kaprizov. However, there are still several other wishes the Wild hope will come true over this next season.
Wish # 5: Ryan Suter and Zach Parise Keep Their Stride
Both defenseman Suter and forward Parise have managed to be in the top four in Minnesota’s scoring the last couple of seasons. They also managed to play in all 69 of the regular season games the Wild had with the shortened season and both had almost 50 points.
This wish is significant because these players have dealt with their share of injuries. Parise’s back became serious enough he required surgery as did Suter’s ankle. They have been in the lineup successfully since their surgeries and have done well.
The one worry is Suter’s ankle being he reinjured it during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers back in August, but he assured NHL.com that he’d be ready for this next season.
“I’m confident that it’s not anything near that,” Suter said Sunday. “I’m walking on it. We had an MRI up there (in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city). It was just pretty irritated so you couldn’t really see much. I’m confident that I’ll be fine.”
Fans will be hoping those two can stay healthy and keep up their point streaks so the Wild can make the postseason once again.
Wish #4: Spurgeon and Brodin Hold Down the Blue Line
When people think of the Wild’s defense the first name that comes to mind is typically Suter, but not far behind are Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. Suter is more of an offensively minded defenseman so that leaves the defending to the other two.
Spurgeon has proved time and time again to be both resilient and dependent when it comes to playing defense. This last season he had 102 blocked shots, averaging about four per game. He was second only to his counterpart Brodin who had 112 blocked shots.
The two of them together count for a big part of Minnesota’s defense and the Wild will rely heavily on them going into this next season. Especially if Suter’s ankle is on the rebound they’ll need to be at the top of their game and continue to keep the goals out of Minnesota’s net.
Wish #3: A Captain as Capable as Koivu
Obviously, Minnesota has known for quite some time they would need to pick a new captain once they let go of Mikko Koivu. Many had differing views on Koivu as a player but everyone seemed to agree on what a great leader he was both on and off the ice.
Everyone has speculated as to who the Wild will choose to take his place but general manager Bill Guerin made it clear that they would be picking a captain prior to the start of training camp.
“I think it’s important that the captain is somebody who everybody respects.” Guerin said. “Somebody that shows up every night, somebody that has the team’s best interest at heart and somebody you can count on. I think we’ve got some good options. We’ve got some players and some good people here, and it’s an important role.”Wild general manager Bill Guerin via Dan Myers
Suter, Parise and Spurgeon are all good fits. Spurgeon would be the logical choice being he’s younger and would have a few more years left compared to the others but they all have qualities fit for a captain.
Wish #2: Make it Past the First Round of Playoffs
This may seem like an odd wish but Minnesota has only made it past the first round of playoffs once out of the last six seasons. In the last five seasons, they missed the postseason once and lost out in the first round the other four, including last season.
The Wild were expected to do well in the playoffs despite the season being shortened and the pause in play, but they lost three games to one against the Vancouver Canucks in the Qualifying Round.
Why not wish for the Stanley Cup? Of course, every fan wishes their team would win the Cup, that’s an obvious wish but sometimes it’s not very realistic. For Minnesota, it’s one step at a time, especially after their last few playoff appearances. If they can make it past the first round, then they can set their sights a little higher and keep working on each round towards that Cup.
Wish #1: Kaprizov Lives up to His Reputation
This wish had to be number one because Kaprizov is basically the new face of the Wild. Now that he’s skating with the team it seems realistic that he’ll really don a Wild jersey this upcoming season. That makes this wish much more attainable than about six months ago.
He’s done very well in his play over in Russia but the NHL is a whole different experience and he’ll have to adjust quite a bit. He does have some time while the NHL works out the kinks of this next season and he can get adjusted to both his team and North America.
In his last season in Russia, he had 62 points in 57 games, which beats out the Wild’s number one points getter forward Kevin Fiala. He had 54 points in 64 games, so almost a reverse of Kaprizov’s stats. Breaking those stats down, Kaprizov had 33 goals and 29 assists while Fiala had 23 goals and 31 assists.
Both of them play left-wing however if there was a way to put them on the same line together, the Wild could have what they’ve been looking for these past seasons, a top scoring line that can produce every night.
Fans Wish List Doesn’t Ask for Much
Minnesota fans have been put through a lot over the last few years with the Wild looking extremely promising most of the season to end up tanking it for one reason or another in the playoffs.
Many fans just want to see the Wild succeed in the playoffs, it wouldn’t even have to be winning the Cup, just getting to the finals would be enough for some fans. After seeing their team fail time and time again, a little success is all they want. A Stanley Cup victory would be a bonus.
This author’s wish? That all of these wishes come true and more but mainly that hockey comes back safely and I can watch the Wild dominate with Kaprizov lighting up the screen.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.