When it comes to discussing his top-heavy power play, Wild head coach Mike Yeo isn’t beating around the bush.
“I think that we certainly loaded up that top unit,” Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “That’s a very talented group.”
The Wild opened camp with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley up front, joined by Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville on the points (the latter having played that role during his time in Buffalo.)
It’s a skillful quintet, to say the least.
Heatley’s a former 50-goal man, Parise’s a former 40-goal man, Suter finished sixth among all NHL d-men in power play assists last year, Koivu led the Wild in PP assists in 2008-09 and Pominville led the Sabres in PP assists in 2007-08.
If it sounds like the Wild are putting an extra emphasis on the man advantage this year, well, that’s because they are.
Minnesota operated at a 17.9 percent clip last season — 16th in the league — and that number was a disappointment considering the club added two key fixtures in the offseason in Suter and Parise.
Suter led the Wild in power play time on ice per game average (3:46) and Parise was third, with 3:25.
To pick things up, the club promoted Andrew Brunnette to a power-play consultant role in August.
[Brunette’s] an invaluable resource,” Yeo explained. “Our power play had the opportunity to be a lot better last year than it was.
“We were sixth in the league in total power-play shots on goal. That tells you we’re just not doing enough to score goals.”
Brunette is highly qualified for the PP gig. He was already working in Minnesota’s hockey ops department and is barely removed from playing (was with Chicago in 2011-12).
He also made his mark during his playing career as a PP specialist.
Brunette scored 114 power play goals during his career and was a deft setup man as well, tying Joe Sakic for Colorado’s team-lead in power play assists in 2006-07, with 27.
With all these changes in place, Yeo figures the Wild are ready to become a great PP team.
“I think we’re ready to take a step,” he explained. “Let’s improve on top of that, let’s be one of the elite teams in the league. If you can do that, then that would be a huge contributing factor to the success of the team.”