10 Predictions for the Minnesota Wild in 2011/2012
In my opinion, the Wild are one of the most improved teams this offseason. General manager Chuck Fletcher addressed the needs of his hockey team, and in doing so, he's made his team a playoff contender.
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Mike Yeo Will Be a Jack Adams Trophy Finalist
Mike Yeo, the rookie head coach of the Minnesota Wild, is in for a great year!
With the additions of Setoguchi and Heatley, the Wild can finally play the up-tempo style that Chuck Fletcher has wanted to play since taking the job a couple years ago.
As a young guy, Yeo is going to know how to connect with the young players while getting the most out of his older players. For these reasons, I believe he will be a coach of the year finalist.
Dany Heatley Will Score More Than 35 Goals
His offensive totals may have slipped last season, but Dany Heatley is ready to have a great year. The change of scenery and new teammates will help Heatley score more than 35 goals.
Mikko Koivu will be a great center-man for him, and Devin Setoguchi could be a familiar face on his other wing. I think we are going to see great things from Heatley.
This move could be exactly what he needed to get his career back on track.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard Will Play More Than 80 Games
It's a shame that Bouchard's career has taken a turn off course with all his concussion problems. He is truly one of the more gifted offensive players in the league. He can make defenders look silly.
With his health hopefully holding up, I believe he will play more than 80 games for the first time in two years. It would be great to see and I think everyone would be happy for him.
Mikko Koivu Will Have a Career Year
Mikko Koivu is one of the great, underrated players in today's game. A lot of people don't know what this guy can do. He's offensively superb and defensively sound. Not many players like him play the game right now.
With Dany Heatley sniping goals and the confidence of a new head coach, Mikko Koivu is in for a great year. I think he'll better his 71 point total from two season ago. It's going to be something special to watch.
The Wild Will Make the Playoffs
Despite losing Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks, the Wild are a much-improved team.
When you look at the Western Conference, many teams have gotten worse. Dallas lost Brad Richards, Phoenix lost Ilya Bryzgalov and Calgary is just getting older. Think about it. There's room in the playoff picture for the Minnesota Wild.
It would be great for a state that loves hockey so much.
The Wild Will Be Sold-out for Every Game
Prior to losing it this season, the longest sell-out streak in the NHL belonged to the Minnesota Wild.
While it will take awhile for them to sell-out that many games again, I believe they will have 41 this season. The state of Minnesota is such a great place for hockey, and fans will turn out in spades once again.
It's always fun watching the Kings go into the Xcel Energy Center. Not many teams have an atmosphere like the Wild do.
Devin Setoguchi Will Have a Cold Start but Hot Finish
It's a shame things didn't work out for Devin Setoguchi in San Jose. Though, San Jose's loss is Minnesota's gain, right?
Devin is really one of the more talented snipers in the Western Conference. For one reason or another, things just weren't clicking this past year.
The change of scenery will do him good, but it will take him awhile to get used to his new surroundings. In two years time, look for Setoguchi to put up huge numbers.
The Wild's Young Guns Will Step Up
Make no mistake; I realize that the Wild lost some key bodies like Andrew Brunette and Brent Burns. However, there is now a huge opportunity for their young guys to step up.
Remember, Mike Yeo was the head coach of the Houston Aeros, so he is familiar with a lot of these guys.
Look for Marco Scandella and Colton Gillies to make a big push to make the NHL this season.
Niklas Backstrom Will Rebound
For a couple of years, Niklas Backstrom was one of the most feared goalies in the league. Over the last two seasons, that reputation has faded.
This year, I believe Backstrom will come back and have a Vezina finalist worthy campaign. With a new coaching staff, new systems and a better team in front of him, the sky is the limit.
The Wild Will Win the Season Series Against the Canucks
For whatever reason, the Vancouver Canucks have had a great deal of trouble with the Minnesota Wild over the last two seasons.
When you consider that the Wild have gotten significantly better, that trend should continue.
I predict that the season series will be won by the Wild in a rather convincing fashion.