THE SUMMER SET-UP
June 17 // Former Penguins assistant and Houston Aeros head coach Mike Yeo was hired as the Wild’s third bench boss in franchise history.
June 24 // All-Star defenseman Brent Burns and the Wild’s second-round pick was sent to San Jose for scoring speedster Devin Setoguchi, talented prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick (28th overall, Zack Phillips).
June 27 // Acquired fast, hard-hitting grinder Darroll Powe from the Philadelphia Flyers.
June 30 // Bought out the contract of Cam Barker, opening up cap space and a roster spot for the organization’s defensive prospects.
July 3 // Acquired two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley from San Jose for maligned playmaker Martin Havlat, giving the Wild their first scoring superstar since the departure of Marian Gaborik.
July 9 // Signed free-agent defenseman, Apple Valley native Mike Lundin.
BREAKING IT DOWN
Chemistry will be key. Infusing the shoot-first mentalities of Heatley and Setoguchi should complement the playmaking abilities of captain Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Moorhead’s Matt Cullen will get another crack at being the second-line center. The Wild ranked dead last in shots per game last season with 26.2. That number will increase.
X-Factor: Guillame Latendresse – scored 25 goals in 55 games two seasons ago after being acquired by the Wild. Can he stay healthy and return to those numbers?
Whether you were a Burns fan or not, his departure leaves a gaping hole in the blue line. There are plenty of bodies – and promising ones, at that – who are looking to fill this void, but can the youngsters effectively and efficiently move the puck up ice at the NHL level? Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner could be the answer if they continue to improve. A healthy Marek Zidlicky will tally points. Veterans Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon are steady. Lundin averaged more than 20 minutes per game in Tampa Bay last year. Marco Scandella, Justin Falk and Elk River’s Nate Prosser are champing at the bit.
X-Factor: Who picks up the puck-moving slack?
Heatley was born on the power-play. His 128 goals with the man advantage leads the NHL over the past decade. As long as teammates can find him, he’ll continue that pace. Zidlicky and Cullen have the most experience on the point. Both power-play and penalty-kill numbers finished in the middle of the pack last season. Especially in today’s NHL, those numbers need to improve.
X-Factor: Who will step up as an effective power-play quarterback?
Veteran Niklas Backstrom played better last season. His calming presence in the net steadies the entire squad. After missing the entire season with injuries, Josh Harding was re-signed and will serve as Backstrom’s primary backup. Impressive prospect Matt Hackett could get a sniff if there are injuries.
X-Factor: Different blue line, different system, different coach. Backstrom needs everyone on the same page, and he’ll take care of the rest.
The youngest-active head coach in the NHL, Yeo got a great introduction into the State of Hockey with the team’s hit documentary series, Becoming Wild. His track record and most-recent success in Houston won Fletcher over. Yeo has plenty of new toys to play with and a familiarity with the organization, including several prospects clamoring to make an impact.
X-Factor: How quickly can he blend together new talent with old horses?
What do you think?