BR: Hey Ryan, first let’s give the readers an idea about who you are and what HockeyWilderness is all about. When did your passion for the Wild start, and maybe your most memorable moment?
Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty new to Minnesota Wild hockey. I’ve been covering the Vegas Golden Knights since their inaugural season, and now I’m covering both Vegas and Minnesota at SB Nation. Basically our goal at Hockey Wilderness is to create a community for any and all Wild fans to converse, debate and discuss the state of the team. And as crazy as things have been with the Wild as of late, our readers have a whole lot to say, which we obviously love.
BR: The Wild had a trying season last year, ending a six-year streak of playoff appearances and ending up in the cellar of the Western Conference, what happened last year? Going into the offseason what did they need to accomplish to turn this into a blip and not a trend?
A lot of what happened last season can be attributed to the turmoil that was taking place in the front office. Former GM Paul Fenton ended up doing more harm than good for the Wild, whether it was his poor management skills or the objectively bad trades he executed (Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask, for example). It also doesn’t help that Minnesota’s core is getting older. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu (who missed a good chunk of the season with a pretty nasty knee injury) are all in their mid-to-late 30s, and that doesn’t serve Minnesota well now or in the future.
BR: What is the confidence level over at HockeyWilderness? I’m sure the excitement level is off the charts, real hockey is weeks away, who are the new names that you guys are looking forward to seeing and who should Blues fans look out for?
Despite their not-so-great season last year, I do think Wild fans are feeling somewhat optimistic going into 2019-20. The hiring of Bill Guerin as GM really seems to be a slam dunk, and a lot of fans are very much believers already of Guerin’s ability to run the franchise. In terms of on-ice personnel, I think a lot of Wild fans are particularly excited to have a full season of Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin in the lineup. Both of them have showed a lot of promise, and just having younger players out there is something Minnesota needs. However, I don’t think any of Minnesota’s prospects, Greenway and Kunin included, are nearly as hyped as Kirill Kaprizov, who is expected to join the Wild from Russia next season.
BR: What is the floor and ceiling for the club this year?
I’d say the ceiling for the Wild in 2019-20 is, yet again, a bubble playoff team. The floor, though, might end up being pretty low if the team fails to stay healthy. I don’t think anyone’s expecting a Stanley Cup run out of this team in the near future, that’s for sure.
BR: How do you think the division will shake out this year?
I really see the Central being a dogfight this season. A full season of Jordan Binnington, assuming there’s no sophomore slump, could make the Blues an immediate contender again. The Predators can never be counted out, even despite the departure of P.K. Subban. And I really like the Avalanche a lot this season. I think Cale Makar is going to be everything the fans in Colorado are hoping for, if not more.
BR: Thanks again, Ryan. I really appreciate it.
Follow Ryan at @RP_Quigs.
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