The Wild Are in Trouble
By Patrick Hoffman
The Minnesota Wild are in big trouble heading into the upcoming season.
For starters, they currently do not have a general manager. Last week, Wild owner Craig Leipold fired Paul Fenton after only one season on the job.
Under Leipold, who was only the general manager for one season, this team missed the postseason, did not get any better roster wise, and have no real star power. Looking back at it, it's easy to see why the club disappointed their fans last season.
Leipold said the following in his press conference regarding the firing:
"It wasn't a good fit. That was really it. The culture wasn't the same," Leipold said. "I didn't have the same vibes with our employees in hockey ops, and I think the attitude of some of the players and all the people and the coaching and in the locker room and in the training room, it was just a feeling that we didn't have the right leader for our organization."
As of this writing (August 5), the team has talked to guys like Ron Hextall and Peter Chiarelli. I do not know who the other candidates are yet, but hiring Chiarelli certainly would not be a good idea. Yes, I know he has a Cup, but he's made a lot of awful trades and is someone who could end up hurting the Wild more than Fenton ever did. Yes, I know he has a Cup, but he's made a lot of awful trades and is someone who could end up hurting the Wild more than Fenton ever did.
Another problem the Wild have is that they still don't have a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net. The team was 27th in the league in goals scored last season with 210 goals in 82 games, which means they were scoring less than three goals a game for much of the season.
Unfortunately for the Wild, not much was done to address this problem. Yes, now former general manager Fenton went out and signed Mats Zuccarello to a nice five-year, $30 million deal, but he is not known as a goal scorer so paying that kind of money to him probably wasn't the smartest decision.
You need a lot of goal scoring to win in this league, especially in the Western Conference. There are a lot of top flight offensive teams in the West such as the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, and Colorado Avalanche.
The Wild simply do not have the talent to match the clubs mentioned above. While the club still has guys like Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, and a few other solid offensive players, but even these guys are not filling the back of the net.
One last problem that this team has is that Leipold believes that they can make the playoffs with the roster that is currently in place. It's easy to understand why a team's owner would say that, but it is not exactly smart to throw that out there when no one knows which direction this franchise is going to go in.
This is what Leipold said to reporters last week at the press conference:
"We're kind of in an area of not really knowing where we're going to go. I really sense that we need to get recharged and we need to get refocused on who we are as a team," Leipold said, later adding: "I believe we are a playoff team. We have to get everybody believing that and moving in the same direction."
I know the season has yet to start, but in my eyes at least, this is not a playoff hockey team. If the new general manager, whoever may that be, is smart, he will come in and realize that this team needs to start being rebuilt.
In today's NHL, it's okay to say that the team needs to change course. Heck, it's kind of expected nowadays so doing something like this would be a great thing for the Wild.
Getting back to the present, this team is in trouble and may miss the playoffs for the second straight year. Should that happen, the Wild and their fans will need to accept that they need to go in a different direction moving forward.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.