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.
Senators GM Bryan Murray recently warned that Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips hasn’t completely recovered from his back surgery and that there “are some other issues that are going on.” Phillips has gone into detail about the other issue Murray was likely referring to.
Phillips has a small crack in a disc in his back that he sustained during his rehab process. As a result, he won’t be ready for the start of training camp.
“It’s a significant setback and it’s very frustrating,” Phillips told the Ottawa Sun. “The surgery went well and everything on that side was great. I don’t know if it was a complication of the rehab and I’m not 100% sure how it happened.”
This hasn’t changed the fact that the 37-year-old still wants to return to the NHL, although he will have to make sure it wouldn’t impact his quality of life. As it is, his back problems have affected his daily routine.
He is the Senators’ franchise leader in games played with 1,179 and is about to start the second half of his two-year, $5 million deal.
For training camp at least, Dylan Strome might be the most interesting prospect in the league.
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will inevitably get a lot of attention as the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres respectively are hoping that those potential superstars are able to make a smooth transition to the NHL and lead them out of a rough patch in their history. But the real story for them begins with the regular season as their past accomplishments have all-but guaranteed them roster spots.
Strome is a different case. Taken with the third overall pick in 2015 after McDavid and Eichel, Strome has a ton of upside too and could develop into an elite center, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that he will spend the season with the Coyotes. He might instead return to the Erie Otters, where he would be the team’s offensive leader as his former teammate, McDavid, obviously isn’t expected to play for them again.
That’s not the path Strome has set for himself though.
“There’s no question that I feel I can be there,” Strome said of the NHL, per NHL.com. “It’s obviously going to be a tough task to get there and it doesn’t happen for too many 18-years-olds, and there’s going to be one [McDavid] who does it this year. I’m hoping I can be that second guy who makes a mark and helps Arizona get back to its winning ways.”
If he does prove in training camp that he’s ready to make the leap, then he would certainly be filling a need for Arizona. While the Coyotes have quite a few promising young forward outside of Strome, they’re also coming off of a campaign where they were the second worst team offensively.