Rant Sports NHL 30 In 30: Previewing the Minnesota Wild
2011-2012 Season Recap
The Minnesota Wild got off to a fast start last season, carrying the league’s best record into early December. But their playoff hopes quickly fizzled under a lack of offense as they scored a league-low 166 goals on the season. They finished with a 35-36-11 record (81 points), good for fourth place in the Northwest Division as they missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
The Wild made big headlines by signing the two biggest fish in the free agent pond, left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, to matching 13-year contracts in July. But they also added some grit and toughness to their lineup with the signing of forwards Torrey Mitchell, Jake Dowell and Zenon Konopka.
The X Factor
Center Mikko Koivu is a solid, if underrated, two-way player who will likely be on the Wild’s No. 1 line with Parise and right wing Dany Heatley. Koivu’s injury issues last season coincided with the team’s decline and his presence as a team leader was clearly missed. Koivu’s health and production will be a big key to Minnesota reaching their heightened expectations this season–whenever the season starts.
Under The Radar “Breakout” Player
Right wing Devin Setoguchi was acquired by the Wild from the San Jose Sharks in June of 2011 and had 19 goals and 17 assists in 69 games in his first season in Minnesota. He set career-highs in games played (81), goals (31) and points (65) with the Sharks during the 2008-2009 season, but his production has fallen off right along with his durability over the past three seasons. Last season represents his career low in goals and games played over his four full NHL seasons, and he had just one more assist than his career-low for a full season. Despite having already played in 336 NHL games, Setoguchi will turn 26 in January and still has some untapped potential. The Wild will be looking for offense from their second line of forwards and things look to be aligning for Setoguchi to emerge as a scorer and shed the underachiever label he has started to earn.
2012-2013 Season Outlook
The signings of Parise and Suter has raised expectations in Minnesota and earning anything less one of the top seeds in the Western Conference playoffs would be a major disappointment. In fact, if all of the team’s key players stay healthy, a deep playoff run would not be out of the question.