Minnesota Wild Season Preview Part I: Probable Forward Lines
As the summer draws to a close and the NHL creeps toward training camp, fans are looking forward to seeing their favorite players taking the ice and eager to find out what kind of combinations are in store for their team in the upcoming season.
For a new look team like the Minnesota Wild, training camp will give many fans their first look at new snipers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi and an idea of who they'll be matched with for the majority of the season.
The following slides are my predicted lines for the beginning of the season, subject to change of course.
Top Line: Setoguchi, Koivu, Heatley
Finally Wild fans will get an answer to the ageless question: What if Koivu was playing with legitimate first line talent?
After spending three long seasons anchoring an aging Andrew Brunette and one time 20-goal scorer Antti Miettinen, Mikko Koivu will be getting new sidearms for the upcoming season.
The offseason moves with San Jose made it clear that Koivu would be centering at least one of the two new acquisitions with perhaps Pierre-Marc Bouchard, but it's been confirmed that new Wild coach Mike Yeo intends to put the captain between Setoguchi and Heatley at the start of camp.
Already coined "Two Sharks and a Finn", this drastically altered top line will benefit by a three-pronged attack of Koivu's unreal play making down low, Setoguchi's frequent shooting, and Heatley's mixed bag of sick one-timers and front of net play.
Bouchard, Cullen, Latendresse
The Minnesota Wild had the strange notoriety last year of a team whose second line was often tagged more threatening than their top line. In flux all year, the only consistent pieces were Martin Havlat, Kyle Brodziak, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
When the year began last year, the presumed second line was to be Havlat - Cullen - Latendresse. However, Cullen struggled to find chemistry with either of his linemates. And Latendresse showed up to camp completely out of shape, was thrown into Todd Richard's doghouse and finally was injured for the duration.
With Havlat gone, penciling similar playmaker Bouchard in his place and bringing back a healthy Latendresse (who is no doubt hoping to relive the magic of 2009-2010 where he scored 25 goals in 55 games) may shake up the line enough for Matt Cullen to take the reins on the second line center job he was signed for.
My bet is that Cullen will make it work and the team will have a good secondary scoring line, but if he can't, a more than capable Kyle Brodziak has proven in the past that he can step up to the second line center role.
Clutterbuck, Brodziak, Powe
I think I can speak for most Wild fans when I say I legitimately look forward to seeing our third line take the ice.
Cal Clutterbuck is coming off a 19 goal season, Brodziak 16, and newcoming Darroll Powe a 17 point year. That's only on the offensive side. Opposing teams are going to outright dread this line and for good reason.
Hits, hits everywhere.
Gillies, Nystrom, Staubitz
Your standard bruiser line. If someone was to worry about any of the lines, I'd think this would be the one.
Staubitz isn't an everyday guy, Gillies is getting his long term call-up for the first time since the Lemaire era, and Eric Nystrom had a hideous plus/minus last year.
I suspect, that depending on the number of forwards Fletcher and Yeo keep on the roster, this line won't be intact night in night out. The third line will definitely be the shutdown line over this one.