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
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
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
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
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
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.