Jordan Greenway is a player who can maximize the Minnesota Wild to its potential, but he has to maximize his own potential. No, Greenway (aka, The Big Rig) is never putting up the 30+ goals and 60-70+ points to replace Kevin Fiala’s scoring. That’s not the point. But Greenway is a monster among men, coming into this year’s training camp at 6’6” and 241 pounds. At age 25, Greenway is poised to break out, making the Wild will be the toughest team to play against in the Western Conference.
What does he need to do to break out? Most involve goals and assists. But in Greenway’s case, his breakout is transforming into the team’s bad boy.
Greenway doesn’t seem to realize his true power. It’s all about the grind in the NHL playoffs. Talent doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to grind. Greenway’s size and speed give him the best chance out of every individual on this club of being the scariest grinder to play against.
We’ve all seen the explosive hits when he’s a loose cannon on the ice and how players fall after bumping into him. What can he break out into? A loose cannon. No one wants him suspended like Tom Wilson — they need him in every game. But developing a bad temperament will make the Wild powerful in the games that matter most.
By becoming Minnesota’s bad boy, Greenway will enable their other grinders to be more intense. Our big and beautiful Moose Marcus Foligno already knows how to contribute physically. But when Greenway gets going, he feeds off the energy and takes things a step further.
Joel Eriksson Ek isn’t necessarily an aggressor who will drop the gloves or initiate explosive hits, but we’ve seen him grind and contribute in clutch playoff situations. Perhaps we see more of Eriksson Ek as an aggressive body checker this year? He has the frame for it.
Jacob Middleton is coming back as a full-time addition to the blue line. Think back to what he’s capable of physically, how he was a great wall in the playoffs this past season. Now imagine seeing it multiplied, thanks to Greenway’s contribution. He’s a physical brute on the backend, making life difficult for the opposition to drive the net.
6’8″ Andrej Sustr will be the team’s 8th defenseman, in all likelihood. While he isn’t exactly like the recently retired Zdeno Chara, he has the size to separate forwards from the puck and keep them to the perimeter. He can hem players against the wall, forcing turnovers. That’ll make the opposition think twice about coming to the slot. Sustr will be an upgrade over the likes of Jordie Benn, but without blocking Calen Addison.
The Wild don’t need to trade for a Nic Deslauriers if they already have these physical contributions. Brandon Duhaime isn’t exactly the biggest player on the team, but he plays with lots of heart and doesn’t mind occasionally dropping the gloves. With Greenway unlocking his physicality, Bill Guerin doesn’t need to waste a trade to get an unnecessary fourth-liner. They’d already have their group of physical players.
When talent plays with intensity, points happen. Second and third chances. Out-working and out-chancing the opposition will only bring positive results. Minnesota doesn’t necessarily need the greatest skill in the world, like the recent Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche. While it would be nice, it’s better to have a good balance of skill and grittiness. That’s what the playoffs are.
This team’s style should initiate more of an aggressive forecheck to force turnovers and set players up to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Goals and assists will come if they do this. While the offense can contribute to the transition game, we saw how that goes away in the playoffs last year. The team can see better playoff success by playing a grinding style paired with some great finesse in Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, and Matt Boldy. Someone like Ryan Hartman is better suited for this style of play. Watch him soar once Minnesota adopts a more aggressive mindset.
Greenway’s offense is secondary. The goals and assists will come if he commits to the physical side. He did this a bit last year and became more confident about his skill package, which is surprising for a man his size. An entire season of that will yield better results than 10 goals and 17 points.
He doesn’t possess the heaviest shot, but Greenway can learn from how Eriksson Ek collects the garbage in the crease. If he can do this, he can score 20 goals, far more than his previous best of 12. Regarding his career-high 26 assists, that shouldn’t be much of a challenge to best. Greenway can be a good passer with the vision to see open space. He can score 40-50 points realistically if he gets this message, all while suffocating the opposition and playing shutdown minutes. All he needs to do to unlock that is turn Minnesota Nice into Minnesota Mean.