It’s easy to focus on Thomas Vanek’s late-playoff struggles and forget that the Minnesota Wild added one of the league’s most dangerous snipers this offseason. Wild head coach Mike Yeo sounded borderline giddy talking to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about Vanek’s potential impact and his early chemistry with Mikko Koivu.
“We’ve really started to see some chemistry between Mikko and Vanek that’s been fun to watch,” Yeo said. “It’s been exciting. I’ve been really pleased with Thomas so far. I have a whole new appreciation for his skill level and how smart he is. I mean, he’s thinking usually two or three plays ahead. So that’s been fun, and he’s been working.”
Yeo also joked that Vanek “reminds him of himself.” One assumes a joking Yeo is a happier Yeo, as opposed to the frustrated fellow grumbling about goaltending or his team being described as boring.
As excited as the Wild might be about Koivu – Vanek, there’s always the chance that the team will see different amalgamations. That’s the kind of rare luxury Yeo faces with Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and a growing number of promising young forwards to choose from.
(One other interesting note in that regard: Charlie Coyle’s apparently getting a chance to prove that he can stick at center.)
With Vanek added to a group of increasing star power, many joke that the Wild have little excuse to “be boring” any longer, whether that label was fair or not in recent years. Perhaps the 30-year-old winger’s creativity might inspire his teammates much like he managed to do in just a short time in Montreal, as Elliotte Friedman discussed in late April for the CBC?
15. Pretty interesting hearing David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty talk about how much they had to adjust their games to play with Thomas Vanek. Desharnais said that when he played with Brendan Gallagher, you had to go support him when the winger got the puck in the corner. Vanek wants the opposite. “The farther we can spread teams out,” he said, “The more success we will have.” Desharnais also had to get used to carrying the puck less and driving to the net more, because Vanek likes to carry it, too.
16. “I’ve never seen anyone make the decisions [Vanek] makes,” Pacioretty added. “He’s basically thinking, ‘What do guys think I’m going to do with the puck right now?’ and he does the opposite of it.” Pacioretty said Vanek is making him re-think how he plays the game. “One thing that really sticks out is he said to never have your stick on the ice in front of the net, because the d-man can tie it up. He’s always hanging around with his stick in the air, and instead of putting it on the ice and waiting for a tip, he kind of slaps at it when the puck comes…You get more speed on it.”
Snipers in Vanek’s age range tend to dip a bit in their early 30’s, yet he could even make a positive impact on the team merely in impacting the on-ice philosophy of youngsters such as Mikael Granlund.
Heightened pressures tend to come with climbing expectations, yet it’s difficult to blame the Wild for their excitement right now.