Work in Sports
NORTHWEST DIVISION |
5 Minnesota Wild
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 30
By Josh Elliott
The team will begin its inaugural season in the Xcel Energy Center, a name that is apt for the Wild. While expansion Minnesota will be hard-pressed to win more than 15 games, an invigorating, feel-good verve nevertheless pulsed through training camp. In a region desperate for the return of a pro sport it lost when the North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, this team, no matter how inept, seems certain to enjoy that most precious luxury: an extended, if low-scoring, honeymoon.
Whatever success the Wild attains will come courtesy of the defense-first philosophy of coach Jacques Lemaire, who, along with general manager and former Canadiens teammate Doug Risebrough, brings credibility to the franchise; between them they have won 16 Stanley Cups as players or coaches. To overcome the team's lack of offense Lemaire spent the bulk of camp implementing his infamous neutral-zone trap. Expect heavy doses of the somniferous strategy that, though criticized during Lemaire's Cup-winning days as coach of the Devils, will keep the Wild in most games. "He knows what it takes," wing Scott Pellerin says of Lemaire. "Hopefully, he'll show us how to win."
The enthusiasm of the gritty Pellerin, who drove three days from New Hampshire with his wife, infant daughter and dog for summer workouts, is emblematic of a team in which the preseason vibe was less that of training camp and more that of sleep-away camp. Arriving for those workouts, 31-year-old defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn equated the feeling to "the day when I was an 18-year-old in the entry draft. From everyone I've met, they all seem like great guys."
Speaking of fresh-faced 18-year-olds, the Wild has exciting Slovakian left wing Marian Gaborik, who was the third choice in June's entry draft. The 6'1", 183-pound Gaborik impressed the team during camp with his puckhandling and speed, and gives Minnesota a potential star to build around. "He looks like Pavel Bure out there," says defenseman Andy Sutton. "He's 18 and he has the world by the tail."
With a proven philosophy and two solid architects, the same could be said of the Wild -- regardless of how easily it is tamed this season.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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