Hey guys, we’re back here for another roundtable discussion. I’m Brandon Warne, and I’ll moderate the discussion between our Minnesota Wild experts. Let’s dive right in!
Brandon Warne: When you look at this Stanley Cup Finals matchup, how would you compare it to another sport?:
Ben Remington: Oh man, this Stanley Cup Final is definitely like Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 19. You’ve got a respected veteran who is finally getting his due time on the grandest stage of them all, against a hot new up and comer who is a lot of fun to watch.
In the end, the series has become anti-climatic much like when the finish of that match was botched with Lesnar lawn-darting himself into the ring on an overzealous shooting star press, depriving us of what otherwise could have been an all-time series. Either way, it’s fun to have seen a dream matchup such as this, and undoubtedly given the circumstances, something that we’ll never see again.
Heather Rule: It’s one of the better matchups for the NHL, with a team that’s always fallen short in the Caps and the new, fun-to-watch underdog in the Golden Knights. These two teams draw a lot of interest, plus they attract casual fans that a matchup with, say, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg would not. Indulge me in a racing comparison, and the Caps winning the Cup would be like when Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500. If the Caps lose, compare them to Michael Andretti, one of the best drivers to never win the Indianapolis 500.
Giles Ferrell: This was best case scenario for the NHL with Vegas and Washington making the Cup Final. Ratings appear to be up, as casual fans are tuning in to watch the Cinderella run of the Golden Knights. However, the NHL is still far behind other sports in terms of final series hype, as the lack of promoting their stars is what really kills this league.
BW: Does this Cup Finals matchup give you more or less hope for the Wild getting there in the near future?
BR: I think it does, if for nothing more than what Vegas and Washington are doing, coming from completely different places. Vegas’ roster was certainly not tabbed as a Cup contender to start the season, but here it is. And the Capitals, despite all of their infamous failures, have finally broken through without completely changing the roster. Hot goalies are everything in the NHL playoffs, and we’ve seen hot stretches from Devan Dubnyk, and good efforts from him in vain the last two seasons running, so there’s always that shred that it could happen despite recent failures. Not to sound like Yogi Berra or anything, but sometimes things never happen until they happen.
HR: Every season watching the deep rounds of the NHL playoffs does not give me hope for the Wild. I see the teams that are left and just don’t see the Wild making the types of plays I see on the ice, or playing with that up-tempo, shoot-first style. It always seems like the Wild are far away from where they need to be. Although, the run Vegas has had this season does continue the hope that anything can happen in the NHL. Seasons and playoff rounds are still not very predictable, which makes it all so fun to follow.
GF: Everyone had Washington left for dead this season, as its window appeared to be closed after two highly successful seasons that ended in playoff failure. But after some retooling — or tweaking — of the roster, the Caps finally broke through and made it to the Cup Final. This should give one hope for the Wild, but they are also lacking the generational talent that Washington has.
So maybe not.
BW: What’s one move that Paul Fenton needs to make to show this is his team?
BR: Yeah, it’s a hockey trade. It’s a trade like Fenton was in the room for in Nashville — the Subban trade or the Johansen trade. Now, the Wild may not have the opportunity to have All-Stars gifted to them, but we don’t know that they haven’t in the past, and Fletcher didn’t pull the trigger. If I’m Fenton, I call Peter Chiarelli immediately and start grilling him into a stupid decision. Fenton’s drafts will be important, and could be game-changing, but probably not in the short term. The real money move? If Fenton convinces Kirill Kaprizov to come over early.
HR: Make a trade Chuck Fletcher wouldn’t have made. Deal Nino or Coyle. Or try to get one of the players to waive their no-trade clause. Make some kind of move that will get fans talking, something bigger than just a “tweak” to come back with a relatively different lineup next season.
GF: It will be when Fenton trades one of the players Chuck Fletcher was unwilling to part with (i.e. Brodin, Coyle, Niederreiter) to shake up the roster.
BW: Staying within the cap of course, what’s the best thing you can see the Wild doing this offseason to make themselves better?
BR: It’s going to have to be an unpopular move. Dealing Nino, Zucker, Granlund or Brodin might not be super popular, but they could each bring a decent return, from either rebuilding teams looking for young talent or contending teams looking to fill a hole. As I alluded to before, there are plenty of bad GMs in the NHL. Taking advantage of them as Nashville did in years past is going to be imperative to building a winner in Minnesota.
HR: Trade Charlie Coyle. I know with his injuries and lack of production this season his value might not be very high. And I’m sure the Wild would be worried about another Brent Burns or Alex Tuch/Erik Haula scenario if they shed Coyle from the ranks. But to me, he’s had plenty of time to show he can be a good player. He hasn’t delivered. He’ll have a very small window of being a streaky scorer and every once in a while make a great play. The consistency just isn’t there. I always liked Haula’s speed and scoring ability and saw the potential. I just don’t see it with Coyle.
GF: They need to get younger and quicker, and that is much easier said than done. As we saw in the Winnipeg playoff series, the Jets were literally flying circles around the Wild. Last summer speed, skill, and youth were sacrificed to keep this team in a win now mode and it showed most notably against the Jets all season. The Wild have to find a way to fill roster spots in the bottom six with players who can keep up with the young stars in this league.
BW: Look, I know the situation with Suter/Parise and their contracts, but if the Wild aren’t good this next year, do you consider blowing it up?
BR: Blowing it up would be great, but in reality, the core of this team (Suter/Parise/Koivu) very much aren’t going anywhere for the next two seasons. So could you blow up the team around them? Absolutely. But one season’s returns should be enough to push Fenton into something that off-course for where this team is.
For that matter, it’s entirely possible that this team IS worse this season, in a one step back, two steps forward kind of way while Fenton gets the pieces to the puzzle that he wants. While missing the playoffs would be a devastating blow, if it’s because of a retooling in the right direction, Wild fans might rather have that than another first-round exit.
HR: I don’t think blowing it up is an option. Even without the Suter/Parise deals, it’s not like the Wild can just go out and get four 30-goal scorers and find depth for all three lines. The Wild have been good enough to make the playoffs for six years in a row (yeah, I know), but not good enough to really do anything once they get there. Just as Fletcher was given a chance to shake things up after Doug Riseborough, I think Fenton should be given the chance to shake things up, too. Make some moves, but less can always be more.
GF: No. Retooling the roster can always take more than one year, and it sounds like Fenton has a few years to work some magic on this roster. It is also just not easy to blow up the roster in the NHL, as you can look to Arizona, Buffalo and Edmonton as examples of why you should not tear it all down.