Traditionally, when the calendar hits Thanksgiving, NHL teams and fans start to examine how the season has gone. As the lockout drags on into December, no one has any answers yet, but here are some questions we would otherwise be asking about the Minnesota Wild.
1) How have Backstrom, Bouchard performed in contract years?
As I have written before, Nicklas Backstrom and Pierre-Marc Bouchard would be playing for new contracts if not for the lockout. After some early success followed by recent troubles, Backstrom may be headed elsewhere next year, and we all know about Bouchard’s concussion troubles. If there was a season being played, we would likely not have definitive answers yet but we would start speculating whether these two players would continue to wear the Minnesota sweater.
2) How much of a difference did signing Parise, Suter make?
After the biggest offseason in recent memory (and perhaps the history of the club,) Wild fans had very high hopes that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter could help turn the team around after last year’s collapse. By this point in the season, we would have a pretty good impression of how the “New Look Wild” would be doing. Parise and Suter are stars who can dominate all phases of the game, so by this time we would hopefully have a good idea of just how much of an impact the two newest Wild players could make.
3) What impact did rookies like Granlund, Coyle, and Zucker make?
Along with the huge signings of Parise and Suter, the Wild have one of the best farm systems in the league. By the time the calendar turned to December, we would certainly have seen a fair amount of Mikael Granlund, and based on the way they have dominated the AHL, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker would have likely gotten at least a cup of coffee with the Wild. The combination of Parise and Suter plus impact rookies like Granlund would definitely have given us an idea of what to expect from the Wild for the foreseeable future.
4) Is Mike Yeo’s system effective for the Wild?
When the Wild were on top of the standings last season (albeit briefly,) much attention was given to head coach Mike Yeo’s focus on opening up the game and playing a relentless forecheck. The rash of injuries last year derailed the strategy, but by now we would have seen how the system would work with all the new faces. We would also have seen how Yeo had adapted the strategy to fit Parise, Suter, and Granlund.
5) Which Minnesota Wild team is the real Wild?
The 2011-12 season was a roller coaster for players and fans. By this time last year, the Wild were well on their way to the top of the Western Conference, but then it all came crashing down. I think ultimately, the “real” team was somewhere in the middle of the two extremes we saw–they weren’t really as good as they looked in December but they weren’t as bad as the looked in March. If we had a 2012-13 season, we would have a much better idea of how the team stacked up in their division, the conference, and the league. As the CBA negotiations drag on, we might have to wait until the 2013-14 season to get the answers to these questions.