The first three seasons of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter era with the Minnesota Wild weren’t a disaster, but they’ve been subject to a narrative that’s getting old fast: They claw their way into the playoffs and get eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The fact that their last three seasons can be summed up in one relatively unflattering sentence is a problem, but it’s one the Wild will get another chance to correct in 2015-16.
Suter puts a lot of pressure on himself and he wants to his team to live up to the aspirations Wild owner Craig Leipold had when he handed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts with Suter and Parise. At the same time, Suter wants to put that narrative into context.
“There’s a reason they won the Stanley Cup this season. And two years ago. And five years ago. How many other teams lost to them?” Suter said of Chicago, per the Pioneer Press. “We’re in a good spot; we just can’t take a step back. If we keep progressing the way we are, we’re going to be fine.”
Minnesota certainly isn’t lacking in young talent that might be ready to take a step forward, including Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker.
Even still, Suter likely hit the nail on the head when he said that they can’t take a step back. Of course, many other players from a variety of teams would say the same, but Minnesota’s recent history and expectations make that sentiment particularly relevant. This is a team that seemed to be on the brink of disaster last season before acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk. If the Wild struggle mightily again, if the fourth season of this era ends without so much as a playoff berth, will they really maintain the current status quo for 2016-17?
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
We unintentionally got an early look at the new third jerseys for the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks:
Information regarding Steven Stamkos‘ contract talks has been scarce, but here’s what’s known. (Sportsnet)
A look at Patrick Marleau, who is coming off of a down season. (CSN Bay Area)
Ryan McDonagh feels it’s important for kids to play multiple sports to stay healthy. (NHL.com)
What would each team look like if it was made up entirely of the players it drafted? (Bleacher Report)
Zach Boychuk talks about the projected competition at the Carolina Hurricanes’ training camp and The Bachelor. (Hurricanes.nhl.com)
Phil Kessel‘s time in Toronto is over, but what about captain Dion Phaneuf?
Like Kessel, Dion Phaneuf is inked to a long-term contract (seven-year, $49 million through 2020-21) and, at the age of 30, he might be on his decline by the time the Maple Leafs are serious contenders. Phaneuf was also a big part of the group that, in the words of president Brendan Shanahan, “wasn’t getting the job done, and it wasn’t good enough.”
In the end Phaneuf might be traded as well, but for now he appears set to be involved in Toronto’s rebuilding effort. For his part, new Leafs coach Mike Babcock seems very happy to have him.
“He’s going to have the best year he’s had in a long time,” Babcock said, per Sportsnet. “He’s prepared hard all summer. We’re going to help him with his game and he’s going to help us by being the player he’s capable of being. And we’re going to look after him. We’re not leaving him hung out to dry, either on the ice, with the media or in town.”
From an offensive standpoint, at his height Phaneuf recorded 60 points, but that was back in 2007-2008. Over his last two campaigns he’s recorded 31 and 29 points. On top of that, he’s had a negative 5v5 Corsi compared to his team’s Corsi when he’s off the ice for three straight campaigns. Of course, there’s more to his game than those numbers indicate as he will throw his body around and frequently blocks shots, although in terms of the former, he went from 227 hits in 80 contests in 2013-14 to 166 in 70 games last season.
Expectations are low for Toronto this season, to the point where Phaneuf having a great campaign might not be enough to make the squad competitive. At the least though, it would provide Maple Leafs fans with a silver lining in what might prove to be a painful campaign.