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July 7, 2012 | 11:29am ET


A Line in the Ice
Twelve seasons into their NHL life, the Minnesota Wild finally announces their arrival.

LOS ANGELES -- Good for the Minnesota Wild. Good for their loyal fans that sold their building out for years while enduring the tedious Jacques Lemaire hockey show. Good for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, two gentleman of the game that worked 20 years to get to the point where they could win, for all intents and purpose, the Minnesota State Lottery.

Not everyone was happy on this day, the one that celebrates American independence as the irony of Suter and Parise announcing their liberation on July 4 is thick.

It's a sad day for those fans whose teams Zach and Ryan leave, the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators. The emotional investment of rooting for fresh faced young men who you'd want your sister to marry is a double edged sword. Though the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the dudes that gave every ounce of strength to help your team win to walk away, the cats in Newark and Music City have every right to feel betrayed and abandoned.

Another group of fans, primarily in Pittsburgh and Detroit, are feeling like the high school dude rejected by the hot girl for a prom date; it stings, but you'll get over it -- and no one is feeling sorry for Sid Crosby or Pavel Datsyuk. Blackhawks fans, mostly unaware until late in the game that Stan Bowman had come in large, are resigned to the "nothing ventured, nothing gained" reality, while Canucks fans swear up and down they don't have a dance partner in the Northwest division.

To break the bank and go for $196 million for two players isn't the classic way to get into contention, but for GM Chuck Fletcher, he had little choice. The team has missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. With all the well documented regular season offensive struggles of the eventual champion Kings, there was one team that finished behind them in goals scored.

It wasn't the Bruins.

With three playoff appearances out of 11 seasons in their history and no recent success, the sheen of the NHL returning to "The State of Hockey" had finally lost its luster in Minnesota. The long streak of sellouts in the Twin Cities had gone by the boards and to continue on this track of failure was unacceptable to ownership. To Fletcher's credit, and with a huge assist to those who write the checks, the Wild executed the boldest stoke in the NHL in years and one that many insiders didn't think would happen even on the dawn of Independence Day.

So, now what? It might sound crazy, but 200 LARGE is a nice start for the Wild and doesn't even get them a division title.

Both Parise and Suter bring life to the Wild, emotionally and on-ice; they are the linchpins in what's necessary to win (at least this coming season) in the NHL, an up-tempo offense with finishers around the net.

If healthy, Mikko Koivu is arguably the most talented center Parise will play with in his career and Suter is by far No. 1 on the depth chart on the blueline. They will combine to make the 27th best powerplay far better and sell a ton of 11 and 20 sweaters into the bargain.

The dynamic duo (not sure which one is Batman yet) will galvanize and energize the fan base throughout a glorious summer in the land of 10,000 Lakes. Expectations will be at an all-time high when they drop the puck for real on Saturday, Oct. 13 (we hope) against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.

But now for the bad news. It's not about Suter and Parise, it's about the other guys.

If the Wild are going to make a horserace out of the Northwest, they have a lot of heavy lifting to do. Even with two All-Stars bolstering the roster, they were a whopping 30 points behind Vancouver and were closer to 15th place Columbus than the President's Trophy winners. Koivu, Matt Cullen and Kyle Brodziak are honest pivots, and with Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund waiting in the wings, Minnesota can compete down the middle.

But as you drift out to the flanks, it's crystallizes why the Wild were all in on Parise. The San Jose Sharks didn't improve with the acquisition of Brent Burns and the injured Martin Havlat, but both Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the bounty that was extracted for the two, had poor seasons and must bounce back to the form of previous seasons to meet expectations. Cal Clutterbuck is a glue guy that any roster would welcome, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard must find a way to stay healthy as to give the Wild want every contender needs, scoring depth.

Suter is the far more intriguing addition to this roster. Unlike Parise, he was not the face of the franchise in Nashville and the next time he steps on the ice his partner will be Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon or Tom Gilbert, not Shea F-ing Weber.

Though the presence of Parise guarantees to deflect the glare of the spotlight, every bad game that Suter plays will be accompanied by "Weber made him, he's not worth the money" chirps. We'll also suggest that one of Suter's other options, the Detroit Red Wings, weren't attractive because, after all, who wants to replace Nicklas Lidstrom?

And that's where the fate of the 2012-13 lies, not with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but with the rest of the roster that deservedly earned their 12th place perch in the Western Conference.

While the infusion of their talent pushes them by Calgary, Colorado, Phoenix and Dallas, the reality in Minnesota is they're only a playoff and not Stanley Cup contender.

Dennis Bernstein is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period Magazine. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.


 

 

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