44-28-10, 3rd in West; lost in first round to Avalanche
D Marc-Andre Bergeron, LW Andrew Brunette, RW Antti Miettinen, RW Owen Nolan, D
RW Pavol Demitra, RW Mark Parrish, RW Brian Rolston
WHEN THE Wild set
about retooling in the off-season, the team's goal was not merely to duplicate
its first-ever division championship—Minnesota would have had a strong shot at
that without changing much of anything—but rather to better its
one-round-and-out playoff showing of the past two seasons. "You can't be
fearful of change," general manager Doug Risebrough says. "I really
feel good about the team. Does that mean I know exactly how it's going to go,
that I feel totally comfortable? No."
Among the players
Minnesota imported are soft-handed, concrete-footed left wing Andrew Brunette,
a popular Wild player from 2001--02 through '03--04; veteran winger Owen Nolan,
who still has an edge at age 36; and, most important, puck-moving defenseman
Marek Zidlicky. They should compensate for the loss of offensive-minded
forwards Brian Rolston (31 goals last year) and Pavol Demitra (54 points) and
yield Risebrough's desired fresh outlook.
The Wild's playoff
fortunes, though, will likely continue to revolve around two holdovers: right
wing Marian Gaborik, whose 42 goals led the team in 2007--08; and Jacques
Lemaire, the only head coach in Wild history. Lemaire, who can find a way to
win a 2--1 game as well as any coach, will goad his talented team—defenseman
Brent Burns and center Mikko Koivu are budding stars—to clamp down defensively.
The explosive Gaborik needs to avoid the groin injuries that slowed him at
times in recent years. He is set to be a free agent next summer, and Lemaire,
63, has intimated that this could be his final season.
Now, if those two
leave, Minnesota would really be in for a change.
41-35-6, 9th in West