Well, in case you didn't believe it would happen this year, it turns out there will be a season for the Minnesota Wild, and it is just two days away.
Shortly after the Parise and Suter signings, I had this post, which essentially amounted to an early (OK, it was apparently six months early) season preview for Minnesota.
I don't think too much has changed. It looks like Cullen and Bouchard will switch lines at the start. Again, I think the Wild could have the best top 9 forward core in the West, and think the second and third lines are more of a 2A and 2B. The Wild are going to be a very tough team to match up against, and should do well very well scoring goals against average defenses.
The defense is still the question mark. I think most of us recognize that Suter is a total gamechanger for the blue line corps. I think I was a little skeptical of Spurgeon in a top pairing, but last nights scrimmage has made me a believer. However, I still think if there's a good deal out there for Fletcher to acquire a second pairing D, he should do it. Especially with Gilbert's health now being a question. Fletcher doesn't have to rush a deal. As I said before Fletch holds a lot of cards in any trade, he should be able to bargain from strength if he makes a deal. A luxury this franchise has never seen.
I admit for the first time I'm a little concerned about Backstrom, I hope he's in better form Saturday than he was last night. He's a good goaltender, but I think the Harding signing makes it pretty obvious that this is Backstrom's last season in Minnesota with his deal coming to an end.
I don't know why people are down on the Wild's chances. I think they are a legit contender in the conference race, and I think should be able to finish in the top four. It's hard to put them ahead of Los Angeles and St. Louis, but I think they have a good chance to catch Vancouver, and frankly there's more to like about Minnesota's lineup than most of the Western Conference. Even if they don't finish top four they most certainly should be a playoff team and will be a tough draw for any higher seed in the first round.
Despite signing what the media proclaimed as the two biggest free agents, most national analysts are putting them out of the playoffs or at the bubble. Somehow I think the Wild have been underrated.
State of Hockey, I emplore you, please dare to hope! This team is going to be exciting!
I'll have my one line league predictions tomorrow.