Sure, it's the end of July: the Bermuda Triangle of the calendar year for hockey fans. But, when my dad mentioned tonight that he had read my piece about 'that....guy' the Wild signed (read: Cooke), it made me realize that it has indeed been a while. So, in the absence of any actual news (sorry, Cuma, even Russo only gave you 62 words), I thought I would start talking about my expectations for the team for next season.
Let's start by looking back.
Last year my expectations were simple: make the playoffs. It was time. They had made the big two-headed splash, and I'm not talking about Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka. I tried to be very clear that I did not even need them to win a game or a series to consider it a good season. Just get into the top 53.33% of the league. That, my friends, is a low bar. Well, they met my expectations. I am satisfied with how last season transpired, once, you know, they actually deigned to have a season.
So, looking ahead to next year, what do we know? We know this team is still woefully short of the depth of talent, scoring, defense and goaltending (and maybe coaching) needed to compete with the big boys. Wait a second....talent, scoring, def...that's pretty much everything right? I mean, what's missing from that list? I guess....good equipment guys? Otherwise, yeah, pretty comprehensive list of holes.
Oh sure, they're coming. That's actually probably true. I suppose I could qualify that a couple more times. That's likely actually probably close to being not far from a reasonable interpretation of the truth. But anyone with a half-honest eye who saw the series against Chicago knows that this Wild team is not, in any way, elite.
But, the injuries.... Fair point. Backstrom, Heatley, Pominville. In the context of this Wild team, that's a pretty material list. But, seriously, are we really willing to say we're the 18th-best goalie, an aging sniper and a guy who didn't even get invited to the Team USA Oly training camp away from skating with Chicago? I didn't think so.
My expectations for next season for the Wild are again very simple: improve on last year. Specifically: win a round. For the record, I think this season's expectations will be harder for them to fulfill than last year's proved. But Lord knows we've been patient. And I'm not asking for a Cup run. I'm just asking to see the second round. Unlike last year, I don't know if I intrinsically believe they can deliver on my expectation. But it's just the principle of the thing. It was a low bar last year. And they barely snuck over it. So maybe that means my expectation is too high. But at the same time, is it? This is still a roster with Parise, Suter, Koivu, Backstrom, Heatley, Pominville and Brodin. And getting to the second round still puts them outside the 25th percentile (8/30) of the league. I want to see this team start to be greater than the sum of its parts, rather than as strong as the weakest link. It's time to start being a team in the organism sense, and not in the collection of disparate parts sense. So, yes. My expectations for the Wild for the 13-14 season is that they win one round in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But, now we have Matt Cooke.... Oh no you did not.