With every passing week, the NHL season draws closer and closer. And this, more than anything, has kept me going through these last few weeks of unbearable heat.
If you can’t tell, I am not a huge fan of summer, mostly because I hate the heat and humidity that come with it. I much prefer the winter months when it is cold enough out to see my own breath. So it isn’t hard to tell why I have always enjoyed playing hockey over any other sport.
Anyway, the NHL season couldn’t get here soon enough for me. I have been missing hockey since the last game was playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Even though I didn’t really like either team in the finals, hockey is hockey and I can’t get enough.
This year, I am really feeling like my favorite team, the Minnesota Wild, might have a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs. But at the same time I am not setting the bar too high either.
I know that the signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter is exciting, and that the Wild have a good crop of young players ready to make an impact at the major league level, but that does not mean that the Wild will instantly be the best team in the league, or even that they will win the division. There are still a lot of really good teams in the Northwest Division who have also made big moves this off-season to improve their teams.
And there is always the off chance that the Edmonton Oilers string of #1 draft picks might catch fire and shoot the team up the standings.
Like I was saying before, it is never easy for a player like Parise or Suter to come into a new system and be expected to save a team. That is way too much pressure for fans to put on two players, no matter how good they are.
At the same time, you can not overlook the rest of the Wild line-up. Mikko Koivu is finally healthy again and when he is at 100 percent he can be a tough player to defend. The Wild also have Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi who all have to contribute and be at the top of their game for this team to have a shot at the playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Wild have a real chance to be a good team this year, but I am not expecting them to make it to the Finals let alone win the Cup. The depth this team will have this year on the offensive side is just ridiculous. With the likes of Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Zack Phillips, Charlie Coyle and Brett Bulmer ready to turn pro, the Wild could be looking at a year they have a rookie in the running for rookie-of-the-year honors.
The Wild might not be as deep on the defensive side of the ice as they are on the offensive, but the players they do have are skilled and young, which is a good combo for any team. If the defense can play up to their potential there is no reason the Wild couldn’t give up less than one goal a game this coming season.
Minnesota is also set between the pipes. That is as long as Backstrom and Harding are both healthy and can replicate their performances from the beginning of last season when the Wild were the number one team in the league.
Backstrom is one of the best goalies in the league when he is on, making saves look easy and turning away shots that should be in the back of the net. And Harding is no slouch either. When the Wild needed him, Harding came in and got the job done. I have never been a fan of Harding, but he has proven to be a more than capable backup and possibly the future everyday starter for the Wild.
However, this team will only go as far as Backstrom and, to a lesser extent, Harding takes them. If the Wild’s goaltending tandem falters, Minnesota could once again be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start again this next season.
Like I said before, I can’t wait for the NHL season to get started this fall so I can find out what the Wild are really made of. I just hope they are finally able to end their playoff drought this year so I can have someone I actually want to cheer for in the playoffs for a change.
That’s if for now.