NHL Free Agency: Why the Minnesota Wild Will Not Make the Playoffs in 2013
Yesterday, Minnesota went wild in free agency, signing the top forward and defenseman available in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, respectively.
OK, enough with the puns.
Anyways, the Wild made a huge splash and people are all of the sudden assuming that they will be one of the top teams in the Western Conference next season.
Sorry, this is hockey not basketball. It doesn't work that way.
There are several different factors that will provide huge obstacles to Minnesota becoming a force in the NHL.
Let's take a look at what some of those obstacles are.
Minnesota's top line may consist of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley.
While that will be one of hockey's top lines, take a look at what the other three will be like, in my opinion.
Line 2: Setoguchi-Cullen-Bouchard
Line 3: Clutterbuck-Brodziak-Johnson
Line 4: Powe-Dowell-Mitchell
While the second line is decent, the third and fourth lines are very thin.
Clutterbuck is a great physical force, but don't expect his line with Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson to do a lot of scoring. Same goes for the fourth line; neither of the three are offensively intimidating in any aspect.
I would take the fourth lines of several teams over Minnesota's third line, and the third lines of some other teams over Minnesota's second line.
Some examples are Winnipeg's fourth line, according to rotoworld.com's NHL depth charts, of Antti Miettinen, Alexander Burmistrov, and Chris Thorburn/Eric Fehr over the Clutterbuck-Brodziak-Johnson line, and Vancouver's third line of Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra, and Zack Kassian over the Setoguchi-Cullen-Bouchard line any day without a doubt.
Yes, Ryan Suter provides a huge help to the defense, but other than him, the Minnesota blue line is full of unproven and inexperienced youngsters.
Behind Suter are Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, Clayton Stoner, Kurtis Foster, and Marco Scandella. All have potential to be decent NHL defensemen, but hardly any of them have played a full NHL season.
This year will be a learning experience as these defensemen will learn more about how to play in hockey's highest league.
Suter will help out the defense, but the fact that these other defensemen behind him are unproven leaves a cloud over establishing the Wild as a top-tier NHL team.
Ryan Suter Without Shea Weber
Yes, Ryan Suter is a great defenseman, but it's going to be a little different for him playing with these inexperienced defensemen that I mentioned on the previous slide instead of next to the best defenseman in the NHL.
Without Weber, Suter may be much less effective, especially since he is playing with a defense like Minnesota's.
It is unclear who Suter's defense partner will be, but it is a guarantee that he will be nothing like Shea Weber skills wise.
Two Signings Don't Make a Contender
Remember this? Me too. Remember how it worked out? If you're picking the Wild to be Stanley Cup contenders...you don't.
Columbus traded for star forward Jeff Carter and signed defenseman James Wisniewski to a huge contract last summer, and they went on to post the worst record in hockey.
Wisniewski had injury issues and Carter was traded to Los Angeles, but nevertheless, the team was just as bad when they were both playing.
Columbus's core before the signings was not a whole lot worse than Minnesota's now.
For example, their team was based around Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Ryan Johansen, Fedor Tyutin, Derrick Brassard, and Kristian Huselius.
Again, not a whole lot worse than Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Cullen.
This is hockey, not basketball. Signing two great players will not transform a mediocre team into a contender.
Minnesota hasn't been the only Northwest Division team to improve this offseason. In fact, all of them have.
Vancouver has been the only team from the division to make the playoffs the past two seasons, and they finished with the league's best record in each of them.
This offseason, the Canucks added defenseman Jason Garrison, who will improve the defense.
Colorado has been a big player in free agency, signing former New York Islander P.A. Parenteau. He, believe it or not, finished with only two points less than Zach Parise despite playing for a much worse team. Interesting.
Edmonton's extremely young core will have matured another year, and the Oilers have also added young standouts Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz. The future is looking very bright in Oil Country.
Calgary was expected to be near the bottom of the division, but the Flames think otherwise. They have signed defenseman Dennis Wideman and forward Jiri Hudler, and are looking to make a charge towards the playoffs.
With a significantly tougher division and the fact that the Wild will have to play 24 games against these four teams, wins may be a lot tougher to come by than many people think.
Improved Western Conference
The parity in the Western Conference this season will be even greater than in 2012.
In order to have a shot at the Cup, you need to crack the top eight.
Not only do the eight teams from the West that made it into the postseason in 2012 each have a good shot at returning, but the revamped Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers also will.
Minnesota will have to fight hard to get a spot in the playoffs, but there may be too much competition in the Western Conference for it to happen this year.