The Minnesota Wild have never really done anything of note since joining the league. They have made the playoffs only three times in their history, and not in the last three years. They just haven’t shown progress as a franchise, and that is getting increasingly frustrating for the rabid fans in Minnesota.
The last few years they have tried to play more offensively, and more aggressively, though that hasn’t worked well so far and it cost coach Todd Richards his job after just two seasons. Now Mike Yeo is the man in charge, and the one responsible for making this team resemble what they should be giving the hockey-crazy market they play in. Let’s make some 2011-12 Minnesota Wild predictions along with some NHL futures odds and betting picks.
Minnesota Wild Offseason Moves
To speed up their improvement this offseason the Wild have employed a bold strategy—they have tried to become the San Jose Sharks. They repeatedly traded with the Sharks in the offseason, sending off Martin Havlat and Brent Burns in exchange for Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and several other pieces. They were bold moves that certainly set a tone for the team. Both Heatley and Setoguchi are massively talented offensively, but neither guy has performed at his best recently. If these moves work out then this could be a team to watch.
Beyond that the team cut ties with several players who just weren’t pulling their weight—Chuck Kobasew, Patrick O’Sullivan and Jose Theodore, for example.
Minnesota Wild NHL Outlook
The season is going to come down to how well the new parts fit in. If Heatley and Setoguchi can find some chemistry with linemates—something both guys are very dependent on—then they could have a big impact. They are as strong in the net as any team with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and Mikko Koivu is the kind of captain teams dream about, so they have a solid core.
They also have a wealth of young talent thanks to trades, stockpiling and a great draft this year. It’s not yet clear how much they will rely on youth right now—though given that coach Yeo was with their farm team last year, he is probably more comfortable with the youth than many would be. But this is going to be a team to watch in the years to come as they mature. There are few teams that are leaving more to be determined in training camp and early in the season than the Wild are.
A couple of home games jump out as obvious ones to watch. The Sharks bring all their old Minnesota faces back into town on Jan. 10. Winnipeg starts what should turn into a very good regional rivalry in coming years when they visit on Feb. 16.
Minnesota Wild NHL Futures Odds (from Bodog)
This is not a team that is getting a lot of respect from oddsmakers. They are at 70/1 to win the Stanley Cup—only three teams have a higher price. At 35/1 they are the longest shots on the board—along with the Oilers, Blue Jackets and Avalanche—to win the Western Conference.
2011-12 Minnesota Wild Predictions
I certainly don’t see them as a championship team, and even the playoffs are going to be a dogfight given how deep the middle of the conference is this year. However, I like what this team has done.
In Yeo they have snagged an aggressive and impressive coach—the youngest in the league—who can move this team forward. By making bold gambles they have sent a message to this team that things are going to change, and that management isn’t happy with just sitting still.
I don’t think that either Setoguchi or Heatley are as high risk as some people are suggesting. They won’t win the scoring title, but both guys should have strong offensive campaigns.
Given how well they are set up in net, their offensive core and the young talent they have I think that this is a team that is going to give an honest effort every game, and which will surprise a lot of teams along the way. I hope that a lot of people underestimate this team because that will make it easier to find value betting on them when they sneak up on some teams—especially early. I think that they are a playoff team, and I like them a lot better than some of the other teams that they will be fighting with for playoff contention.
Doc’s Sports is very excited for this upcoming NHL season. Visit our home page to access all team previews, as well as more sports articles, betting odds and full coverage on the 2011-12 NHL season.