Sometimes the Minnesota Wild feel like they’re controlled by a video game or fantasy hockey player.
Time after time, they seem to sign or trade for one of the biggest names available.
Unfortunately, you can’t just put reality’s difficulty setting on easy, and those impulsive moves frequently end up being flops for the Wild.
(Just look at Jason Pominville‘s bumpy start to 2015-16 and Thomas Vanek getting bought out as two easy examples, while the Minneapolis Star-Tribune goes through the laundry list of letdowns.)
In signing Eric Staal, the Wild once again opted for one of the biggest resumes available, and they hope he approaches the heights of his past.
Granted, even Wild GM Chuck Fletcher knows there are limits to such expectations, as he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“Let’s be honest, when you’re 32 years old you’re not the same player as when you’re 25, 26,” Fletcher said. “But we think this is a good situation with Eric, and obviously, he felt the same way. We have some quality players he can play with. We certainly have an important role he can fill.”
They pumped up Staal’s defensive abilities along with his scoring skills, and a cursory glance at his possession stats would imply that could be true.
Really, it might all come down to expectations and context.
Yes, he’s produced solid-enough possession stats, yet he’s also enjoyed some cushy zone starts.
If that continues and he draws strong linemates, Staal would face nice odds of being a plus for the Wild. He also rid himself of the baggage that comes with a huge contract, as his $3.5 million cap hit is risky but not crippling.
Bruce Boudreau’s positive approach is likely to do wonders for his morale, too.
On the other hand, Staal was ineffective to the point of near-irrelevance at times with the Hurricanes and Rangers last season. If that’s merely the reality rather than a down period for the veteran forward, then the Wild just saddled themselves with a three-year error.
In other words, an all-too-familiar mistake.
Ultimately, there are enough pluses and minuses to make this an intriguing situation: will Staal find that extra life?