The Substitution Game

From earlier this month, I held onto an insult in the Ryan Lambert article regarding the "the terribly convenient excuse of "Injuries!!!"" Frankly, it is already well documented how last season, the Wild were leading the league and then injuries uncovered the complete lack of organizational depth. I could re-hash the timeline, show why injuries caused the plummet, but at this point, why bother?

In looking towards the next season, several bloggers and even entire fanbases are making statements that are less than optimistic about the future of the Wild.  Will the Wild jump from a sad-sack, bottom rung, low chance lottery team to the play-offs? Any of the 30 in 30 columns so far have touched on the future of the Wild, therefore we will wait patiently for the collective insiders to express their opinions.

In the meantime, let us play The Substitution Game!

The substitution game is pretty simple; Make up an injury for one of our roster players and the duration, and then drop a prospect in their place.

For my part of the substitution game, I will use the following lines:

LW - C - RW
Parise - Koivu - Bouchard
Heatley - Granlund - Setoguchi
Cullen - Brodziak - Clutterbuck
Powe - Konopka - Kassian/Mitchell

Yes, I know that Mike Yeo stated that he'd like to see the line of Parise-Koivu-Heatley, but it is my personal opinion that he will quickly discover that he needs Bouchard up on the right side of Parise-Koivu and Heatley back on the left side of Granlund-Setoguchi.

Substitution 1:
My first and most logical injury is to Bouchard. Sorry Butch, but you just got cheap shotted by P.K. Subban. Thankfully, at least this time, Shanahan catches it and suspends Subban a whopping 2 games, but Butch is gone for the season.

Parise - Koivu - Heatley
Granlund - Brodziak - Setoguchi
Clutterbuck - Cullen - Mitchell
Powe - Konopka - Kassian/Veilleux

This substitution is really just moving Brodizak up to the 2nd line center to be the "worker" between the elite playmaker Granlund and the "shooter" in Setoguchi. Cullen slots back into the third line center role, Mitchell goes up to the 3rd line RW and Clutterbuck shifts back to his natural LW side. Activate Veiulleux and leave the prospects down in Houston. Our depth is still developing while Brodizak shifts to a spot where he has been known to excel.

Substitution 2:
The next logical injury is the perrenial Kaptain Koivu injury. Whether it is a shoulder, finger, elbow, whatever, he will miss two - three weeks worth of games.  Here is where it gets a bit more fun. Which prospect gets called up? Would it be Phillips? Larsson? Or better yet, do you toss the responsibility onto Granlund? Remember, Bouchard is already gone for the season.

Parise - Larsson - Heatley
Granlund - Brodziak - Setoguchi
Clutterbuck - Cullen - Mitchell
Powe - Konopka - Kassian/Veilleux

This substitution is short term, but Larsson showing the desire and talent, he would be the best option to temporarily replace Koivu. The leadership in the room does not falter this time, as Parise, Suter, Heatley and the rest of the guys can easily step up. In this Substitution, Granlund and Larsson can flip flop and see what sticks. No worries, and our depth is still fine. I would even argue that our depth is still great.

Substituion 3:
No team would be as unlucky as the Wild were last season, but while Koivu is out, Setoguchi gets clipped by Ray Whitney on the knee. Of course, Ray Whitney would *never* ever do that sort of thing intentionally, so there is no suspension. Even with Larsson already called up, the Wild have options to replace a top-6 winger. Would it be Zucker? Would it be Coyle? Maybe even Bulmer? I'd go with Zucker...

Parise - Granlund - Heatley
Larsson - Brodziak - Zucker
Clutterbuck - Cullen - Mitchell
Powe - Konopka - Kassian/Veilleux

If Heatley is injured, replace him with Charlie Coyle or Jason Zucker.
If Koivu is injured, replace him with Mikael Granlund or Johan Larsson.
If Setoguchi is injured, replace him with Jason Zucker or Charlie Coyle.
If Cullen is injured, (replace him with Brodziak...)
If Bouchard is injured, replace him with Granlund or Phillips.
If Clutterbuck is injured, replace him with Brett Bulmer or Johan Larsson.
If Brodziak is injured, replace him with Johan Larsson.

The team now has *options* at forward.

Defense Substitution:
About the only defensemen that the Wild cannot lose for an extended period of time would be Ryan Suter. With Mat Dumba being the only "major" prospect not yet available on the defensive side, the Wild also now have enough depth on D to replace players like Spurgeon, Stoner and Falk. Yes, our lack of D depth would be exposed if Suter or Gilbert were to go down, a player like Jonas Brodin can (and will) step up. If Marco Scandella happens to go down, it would be time to have Tyler Cuma prove himself.

Can you begin to see why this season's substitution game will be significantly easier? Lose a playmaker, call up a playmaker. Lose a two-way pivot, call up a two-way pivot.

While I agree with the sentiment that the additions of Parise and Suter alone do not make the Minnesota Wild an instant contender, I think I am on solid ground when I say;
Sure, but when you factor in the maturation of depth prospects we didn't have last year?


  1. The biggest difference injury wise between this year and last year is the Wild actually have the ability to call up their top prospects. Last year all of our top prospects were locked away in Europe, Major Juniors, and College. The Wild have actual depth this year and quality prospects to fill the roster when inevitable injuries occur.

  2. Exactly. We're not two All-Stars better. . . We're two All-Stars and seven legit prospects *that can be called up mid-season, unlike last year* better.