Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.
Their contracts got attention for all the wrong reasons during the lockout. But now with the fight over “back-diving” deals in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to find out if Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are worth the $196 million the Minnesota Wild committed to them last summer.
Parise, 28, and Suter, 27 – each with ties to the Minnesota area – will make their Wild debuts Saturday at home to Colorado. First, the fans will give them a rousing ovation. Then, the fans will expect results.
The pair was signed for good reason. The Wild has missed the playoffs the past four seasons. Since entering the NHL in 2000, the team has won just two playoff series, both in 2003 when it made an unexpected run to the conference finals.
Mostly, the Wild has been known for playing, to put in bluntly, boring hockey.
All of which led to owner Craig Leipold’s aggressive pursuit of Parise of Suter, both offensive-minded players, the former a forward, the latter a puck-moving defenseman.
“This is a game changer,” said Leipold, who bought the club in 2008, of the signings. “We’re overnight changing who we are. We’re changing our identity. We’ll never get that opportunity again.”
Changing an identity is one thing. Winning is another. Because even with Parise and Suter – two stars, but not yet superstars – there remain numerous questions when it comes to this year’s version of the Wild.
Is there enough depth on defense?
Can Dany Heatley rediscover the form that made him a two-time 50-goal-scorer?
Can rookie Mikael Granlund make an impact?
Will the goaltending hold up?
But most of the focus will be on the new guys. If they fail to produce and the team keeps losing…
“We have a lot of responsibility on us to go out and perform now,” Suter said, “to help the team get to that next level.”