Monday, June 20, 2011

Draft Week: Wild SWOT Analysis Pt. 1

by NiNY

I suck at mock drafts. In the first place, I might have actually seen a few of the eligible kids play - once - but not anything close to a material percentage of them. And, in any event, I'm no scout. And so I'd have to do a mock draft based on what I read from the same sources you read, so you don't want to read my regurgitations.

I like reading mock drafts, but I'm just no good at doing them.

That being said, the thing I like most about mock drafts is when people get into the SWOT analyses of the teams and cross-reference it when making the mock selection. I find that SWOT analysis to be more interesting than the projected pick. It's a quick reference to the high level state of the teams that I sort of lose sight of as the playoffs progress and you focus in on fewer and fewer teams.

I find that even my "Minnesota Wild" muscle has atrophied - you know, since they're never in the playoffs - by this point. So I thought I'd take a look at the Wild and offer my own little SWOT analysis.


*A stinking rich owner, willing to spend to the cap. This, in and of itself, is a strength. The opposite - a miserly owner barely willing to spend to the floor - would be a weakness.

While the application of the salary floor/ceiling dynamic to the NHL has had a homogenizing effect on the league overall, there is still variation from top to bottom within a conference, for sure, if not visible in an individual division. So owners willing to spend money are a boon.

*Goaltending is a plus for the Wild. Nicklas Backstrom is a quality #1. While the Wild had an enviable battery last year when Jose Theodore paired with Backstrom, by all accounts Theodore will get a chance to be a #1 somewhere else in the league starting July 1st - and he earned it; being the consummate professional with the Wild last season. While I'd love to have Theodore back (particularly if his very affordable $1.1M price tag from last year were still available), I hope he gets a job somewhere and am assuming he won't be back with the Wild.

Josh Harding, also a UFA, is sadly a deep value play right now. You just don't know where he is, coming off his injuries.

But, even without Harding, having Hackett, Endras and Kuemper means the Wild is well-positioned for the future. So well-positioned, in fact, that perhaps one of them is expendable in a trade scenario as the Wild tries to shore up a weakness. The Wild has always seemed to have either good goaltending or goalies who put up good numbers. That's still true today.

*Young defensemen is the third strength for the Wild. Obviously the Burns contract year situation looms large. And Burns' offensive capabilities are not easily replaceable. But between Schultz, Scandella, Spurgeon, Stoner, Bagnall, Cuma, Falk, Prosser and Genoway, the Wild has a strong stock of young, 3-6 defensemen. No clear Norris trophy types at this point, but scoring defensemen are in relatively short supply anyway.

*Best #2 center in the league, in Mikko Koivu. The Wild plays him on the first line. Because it has to. But I still believe Mikko's in the bottom half of top-tier centers in the NHL because he doesn't produce like the guys in the top half.

He was the 19th-highest scoring center in the league in '10-11. He was the 11th-highest scoring center in the league in '09-10. He was the 19th-highest scoring defenseman in the league in '08-09. The argument is that he hasn't had top notch wingers along side him - and that's true. But he likely won't have top notch wingers along side him in '11-12, either. At some point, he is what he is. And he is paid a lot of money.

On the other side of the coin, he's as good a defensive center as there is in the league. He's gotten better and better at faceoffs, he's as competitive as anyone he's willing to stand up for himself. All good qualities, and Mikko has them to spare. I have no problem with Mikko Koivu as the face of the Minnesota Wild. I just wish we had a legit scoring threat in front of him in the lineup.

*2nd and 3rd line forwards is definitely a strength. With players like Cullen, Clutterbuck, Bouchard, Latendresse, Havlat and Brodziak, the Wild has a solid stable of NHL-veteran secondary players. The downside is that group represents $17.63M in salary for next season, so it's expensive. But, if the Wild had a top line that put up consistent points, it has the secondary and even tertiary depth to supplement that top line that good teams have.

Tomorrow: Weaknesses

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