Yesterday I talked about the Wild's strengths. Today I discuss the other side of that particular coin.
*Lack of top tier scoring. This is the critical weakness of the Wild. Every team would want more top drawer scoring. But at least the Edmontons of the league have a Taylor Hall. The Islanders have a Tavares. The Wild has absolutely no elite scoring. And nothing in the pipeline. As I've mentioned before: are there any Wild players you'd take in the first five rounds of your fantasy league draft? Q.E.D. And, this utter lack of high end scoring is simply exacerbated by....
*Stubborn refusal to deviate from the UFA model. The Wild has been trying to go the "patch up the lineup with a couple (high-priced) UFAs and sneak into the playoffs" route for several years now. It hasn't worked. In fact, it has back fired and turned into a weakness in that the team has finished just high enough to be out of the money picks in the draft. Not in the playoffs (three years running now), but just over the horizon of the kind of draft position that lands you a Taylor Hall.
So, it becomes a vicious cycle. Patching up the line-up, spending to the cap, begets mediocre team, which begets mediocre finish, which begets Colton Gillies...and the beat goes on da de dum, de dum, dada.
The weakness here manifests itself as an expensive, older team with a farm system that is still bereft of high end talent. As my friend GreenStar likes to say, the Wild does not have enough sub-$1M players on the roster. Not a pretty combination.
*An experienced GM who has, to date, accrued a spotty record is another weakness. I like Chuck Fletcher. I think he's a hockey guy, obviously good hockey genes, etc. And he has some successes under his belt (Guillaume Latendresse, John Madden, Mikko's deal, Rick Wilson, walking away from Boogaard *RIP* at the money the Rangers threw at him, Mikael Granlund, etc.) so far in his two years at the helm of the Wild.
But he also has some misses. His first head coach was put in an unwinnable position - too little talent and a mandate to win that was at least partly created by Fletcher himself. The Barker trade is a miss (and those of you who know me know that's not because Leddy's a Minnesotan). Kobasew was a miss (though Fletcher gets credit for trying). Nystrom is very expensive for what he brought last season. So is Cullen.
The jury needs to still be out on Fletcher. I think he might also be an opportunity, and I thought about making him a threat, but I feel like threats that are neutralized end up being non-factors. Whereas, if Fletcher can overcome his spotty record, there's more upside to the "strength" side. So labeling him a weakness is sort of like giving him a "needs improvement" on the annual performance report.
*Inexperienced head coach, again. I've already talked about the situation in which I think Mike Yeo as head coach could thrive. And I'm hopeful that's the way Leipold and Fletcher go (read: youth). But the fact of the matter is this is his first trip around the merry-go-round at the NHL level and Wild fans' last exposure to a first-time NHL coach didn't go so well.
For the record, I firmly believe Yeo is also an opportunity, and will discuss him as such in that section.
But there can be no denying that he is inexperienced and, as such, and with the same caveat that it's not a pure condemnation as with Fletcher, that is a weakness.