Not An Expert: Looking At Minnesota Wild Predictions From July 2012

Predictions are like opinions...everyone has one and you only hear about them when they are right.

Last July, Bryan Reynolds of Hockey Wilderness emailed me to take part in a roundtable for their site. The idea was to give some thoughts on what had happened in free agency and spend time talking about the Wild during the long part of the offseason. I agreed and answered a dozen questions.

Somehow, the idea was lost or there weren't enough responses to Bryan's questions and the roundtable never got posted. My guess is that the Lockout played a role. Enthusiasm went down between August and January so by the time the season actually started everyone forgot about this. Even I did before stumbling upon the email chain last week.

This is old. The Wild have been done with the 2013 season for almost a month and postseason mortems have made way for Draft Coverage. They are so old that it would be very stupid and time-consuming to actually make them up now or do any editing.

At the same time, this fits as a companion piece to a couple things on the docket later this week. Plus how often do people go back and look at their preseason predictions (or in this case, the pre-preseason)?

Bryan's questions are in bold, my (Nate's) answers from July are in regular font and any thoughts from now are in italics.

Given the odds of a draftees becoming a long term NHLers, and the odds of Wild fans getting hosed, which of the Wild's prospects is most likely to be labeled a bust?
Based on expectations, the prospect who has the largest chance of busting is Zack Phillips. That's not a knock against him but he is much closer to the second tier of prospects than the Granlund and Brodins of the pool and more boom/bust.

Do Zach Parise and Ryan Suter make the Wild a playoff team?
They make the Wild the most improved team in the NHL, which is not hard to do when you add (conservatively) a top-10 forward and defenseman through free agency. How much improved is a different story.

While it's nice to think about Minnesota leading the league in December before injuries, the fact remains they were a lot closer to being a lottery team than playoff-bound (and you can make an argument that they were the worst for a couple months). Yes there were injuries to several key players but they also exposed that the team had major issues with scoring, depth and defense. Depth has been addressed with free agency and a half-dozen prospects starting first year in the pros and bringing in a 30 goal scorer like Parise helps wonders for a team that scored the lowest number of goals since the Lockout.

I also think Suter will do wonders for Minnesota on D and not force guys like Marco Scandella to be playing 25-30 minutes but the blue line as a whole is still questionable. The Wild can't be spending shifts and periods trying to get the puck out of their zone and forcing forwards to bail out over-matched defenders like last year and are only an injury or two away from it again.

With all that said, Minnesota has made huge strides from being the "12th-best team" in the Western Conference and expectations for this year are playoffs or bust. Signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter doesn't fix every problem (and there will be some tough times this year) but I'll be disappointed if the Wild don't make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

[Not too far off, especially when it comes to defense. The depth, while not as up to par as I would have liked, was improved from last year. Both Suter and Parise made major impacts. There were tough times but in the end, Minnesota made the playoffs as an 8 seed before losing in 5 games to the Chicago Blackhawks. 

More on this later in the week.]

Which signing, Zenon Konopka or Torrey Mitchell, adds more to the Wild?
Konopka makes the bigger impact, pun intended.

[Wrong. Even with Matt Kassian never getting another chance despite signing a new contract, trading for Mike Rupp and Konopka having a broken foot, Mitchell added more last year.]

In the event of a long term lock out, what will you do to pass your time?
Cover the Gophers. I'll do that even if the NHL plays in October and if they aren't, I look forward to seeing Michael Russo and Ben Goessling at Mariucci.

[All of this happened except the NHL playing in October.]

What is one rule you would like to see added in the NHL? One removed?
One rule I would love to see implemented in the NHL is one that exists in college that I call the "and 1 rule." Essentially, even if a team scores on a delayed penalty, they still get a two minute PP.

One removed? Touch icing.

If you could remove one writer from the hockey world, who would it be and why?
That's hard. I couldn't take anyone from the Wild blogosphere because it's small to begin with. Hell, it's smaller than most teams who get made of for having no fans You guys put out great stuff, Dan Shrader (who also writes at First Round Bust) is easily in my opinion the best untapped hockey mind out there and while there are a few other good writers who discuss the team, I would love to see more. It's easy to complain about the lack of mainstream media attention Minnesota gets yet no one is really doing anything about it.

[Things picked up for the Wild blogosphere this year. While the same goes with mainstream attention, it didn't take an expert to see the team would get more attention after signing the top 2 free agents and making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.]

Taco Bell or Burger King?
Not a fan of fast food but if a gun is pointed to my head, Burger King.

Favorite kind of beer?
Am a fan of beer, probably more than I should be. I'm still looking for a beer that can knock off Surly Darkness and it hasn't happened yet.

What is your name?
Nate, King of my Mother's Basement.

What is your favorite color?

What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
African or European?

What is the meaning of life?
Nothing special - try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. Did I mention I'm a Monty Python fan?

Are the Houston Aeros favorites to win the Calder Cup this year?
Not unless they pull off another miracle playoff run or Stephane Veilleux becomes the next Kirby Law. That isn't the point of the Aeros this year and fans will be rewarded by last season's pillaging with the next wave of young, talented Minnesota players.

[Many good points that are correct but it is still tough to read now. Didn't see the Aeros moving to Des Moines back then.]

Huge thanks to Bryan, who is stepping down as editor of Hockey Wilderness (didn't see that coming in July either), for coming up with the questions.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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