Wild banking on changes to lift club
For the first time in their brief history, the Wild have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons after finishing 12th in the West this past year. And with those failures comes the club's second coaching change in three years. Mike Yeo is the new man behind the Minnesota bench, and he'll be charged with turning around a team that last won a playoff series in 2003.
2010-11 record: 39-35-8, 86 points (3rd Northwest Division; 12th Western Conference; did not qualify for playoffs)
Key additions: F Dany Heatley (trade with San Jose); F Devin Setoguchi (trade with San Jose); F Charlie Coyle (trade with San Jose); F Darroll Powe (trade with Philadelphia); F Jeff Taffe (free agent); D Mike Lundin (free agent)
Key losses: D Brent Burns (traded to San Jose); F Martin Havlat (traded to San Jose); F James Sheppard (traded to San Jose); D Cam Barker (signed with Edmonton); F Patrick O'Sullivan (signed with Phoenix); F Robbie Earl (signed with Dinamo Riga, KHL); F Andrew Burnette (signed with Chicago); F Antti Miettinen (signed with Ak Bars Kazan, KHL); G Jose Theodore (signed with Colorado); F Chuck Kobasew (signed with Colorado); F John Madden (free agent)
Burning question: Will Dany Heatley find the success in Minnesota that eluded him in Atlanta, Ottawa and San Jose?
Heatley has been one of the league's most prolific scorers in his nine-year career, scoring 50 goals twice and topping 40 on two other occasions. But he hasn't enjoyed much success in the postseason despite several relocations. The Thrashers never made the playoffs during his stint in Atlanta. He did put together a solid showing with 7-15-22 totals in 20 games in Ottawa's run to the Finals in 2007, but he managed just five goals in 32 postseason games in his stay in San Jose. That included 3-6-9 totals in 18 games last year, which followed a 26-38-64 campaign in the regular season, his lowest output since a 13-12-25 season in just 31 games back in 2003-04. The Wild are banking on him enjoying a renaissance in Minnesota, but he's now on the wrong side of 30 and may be running out of chances to prove he can produce in the playoffs.
2011-12 outlook: Heatley won't have as strong a supporting cast around him as he had in San Jose, but he won't have to do it all alone in Minnesota. Mikko Koivu (17-45-62) remains one of the better two-way centers in the league, Pierre-Marc Bouchard (12-26-38 in 59 games) made an inspiring return from his concussion problems and Devin Setoguchi (22-19-41), who also came over from San Jose in a separate trade, will be a key part of the Wild's revamped forward corps as well. The bigger issue could be on defense with Brent Burns gone. Marek Zidlicky (7-17-24 in 46 games) will be counted on to be the top guy on the blue line, but will have to stay healthy after missing much of last season to shoulder and hamstring injuries. The last line of defense is solid with Niklas Backstrom (22-23-5, 2.66 GAA, .916 save percentage) in goal.
Did you know? In just three seasons in the NHL, Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck has already amassed more than 1,000 hits. He's led the league in that category each year, with 356 hits in 78 games as a rookie in 2008-09, 318 in 74 games in 2009-10 and 336 in 76 games last year. He also had four hits in two games in 2007-08, giving him a total of 1,014 in 230 career games, an average of 4.4 a contest. Some of that may be the result of generous scoring by the stat-keepers in Minnesota, but there's no denying that Clutterbuck makes his presence felt in nearly every game he plays.