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We release two Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs a week, one on Tuesday (Minnesota Vikings related) and one on Thursday (Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves related).
For this, our first Thursday edition of the Minnesota Sports Ramble, our Wild analyst Peter Ripka reflects on the teams 2017 season, their offseason moves, and what to expect in 2018.
How well do you think new Wild GM Paul Fenton handled the offseason? Should have he done more to pick up more pieces? What would have you done differently?
Considering that multiple sources confirmed that a handful of teams low-balled the first year GM, I think he handled it well. Zucker and Dumba (not the most popular player over his tenure) were key re-signings as they both still have significant upside. The one thing I would have done differently is shop Gustav Olofsson and get out from under that bad contract by the former management.
What current Wild players do you think will most likely be dealt this season? Which players, if any, would you deal?
If the season goes belly up before the trade deadline, I could see Coyle, Nino or Brodin being dealt. Although I’d definitely want an instant return for them. If the season is dead and you can get a decent return, I’d also deal veterans Fehr, Read, or Hendricks for prospects.
How good of a job do you think that Bruce Boudreau is doing with the Wild?
Bruce has proved that he is one of the best regular season coaches. It's more difficult for a coach to have influence in the post-season, but this major fault has followed him to the Wild. This is especially true considering how many Wild players go missing in the playoffs.
Who were the best players and the biggest disappointments for the Wild in 2017?
The best player for the club in 2017 was by far Eric Staal. Dumba stepped up his game and made big strides after early season struggles. The biggest disappointments were Nino and Coyle, although due to injury. The Wild definitely need those two to produce more in 2018.
What Wild players really need to step it up in 2018 in order for them to succeed?
The easy answer is Coyle and Nino. I expect Mikko to have a bounce back year as well, especially offensively.
Give a letter grade for the following players 2017 season, followed by a brief explanation of what they’ll need to do to succeed in 2018.
Zach Parise B+ He needs to remain healthy for the first time in a long while.
Ryan Suter A- He’ll succeed if he stays true to his game and doesn’t let the injury that ended his season prematurely have a lingering negative impact.
Mikko Koivu B The defense is always there, so he needs to show he still has the offensive talents he possesses.
Mikael Granlund A Consistency is his biggest key for success.
Jason Zucker A Our big offseason signing needs to build off last season’s momentum. Most fans in attendance always yell that players need to shoot more. In his case, it’s true.
Devan Dubnyk C I was not a fan of how unreliable his glove seemed to be last season. He needs to close up that hole to succeed in 2018.
Eric Staal A+ If he stays in his element and plays with the audacity we saw last season, everything will work out.
Matt Dumba First 10 games D, last 72 B+ Our other big offseason signing needs to show that the end of the year wasn't a mirage. He will always have the high-risk, high-reward plays, but he needs to know when those risks are worth attempting.
Charlie Coyle D Staying healthy and playing the big-guy game are his keys to success. He could also use to shoot more, as good things tend to happen for him when the pucks at the net.
Nino Niederreiter D Three words: health, health, health. If he plays 95% of the games this year, he'll easily score 30.
All things considered, what is your 2018 Wild prediction?
What fans don’t seem to remember is that this team has had back-to-back 100+ point seasons. This year, if they stay healthy and the kids improve, they should accomplish that again. The best they can hope for is making the playoffs as a wild card and maybe having an upset in the first round.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.