Are The Wild The Most Vanilla Team in the NHL?
After the first round disappointment set in, I was reading some of the first round draft recaps and in particular the winners and losers as foreseen by the various media outlets.
In none of these did I read anything about the Minnesota Wild, yet by all accounts the selection of Filip Johansson with the 24th pick of the draft was as off the board a pick as there was in the first round. Combine that with the fact that this was Paul Fenton's first move as Wild GM, and the Wild having no pick in the 2nd round, the Johansson pick becomes more suspect.
All the talk leading up to the draft was how Paul Fenton was going to put his stamp on the Wild, as he looks to retool the roster in an effort to push them over the top. As owner Craig Leipold emphasized when he relieved Chuck Fletcher of his GM duties, this is not a rebuild.
Well if the team is going to get better there needs to be new faces and a new attitude, which follows along the lines that Leipold spoke of when he hired Fenton. He wanted a new set of eyes on the organization in order to get better production from the team and to make the necessary moves to make the roster more competitive.
With that all said, all eyes should have been focused on what the Wild would be doing leading up to the draft, and then of course who they draft with their first round selection. Well nothing happened prior to the draft and the first pick according to the experts is a "safe" pick of a defenseman that does not excel at any area of the game, but is very smart.
So getting back to the point of the Wild being the most vanilla team in the league, is that if that selection had been made by almost any other team in the league other than the Wild, the GM would have been ripped unmercifully. But it is the Wild, the team that is just a participant in the league. Yes they have made the playoffs for six straight seasons, but they have been dispatched so early that by May most people forgot that they were in the playoffs at all.
They are an afterthought when it comes to anything newsworthy concerning the NHL. They have no real identity other than that they are a solid regular season team that typically plays good defense. They have no face to the franchise and the lineup is loaded with a lot of players that all seem to be the same when viewed by fans around the NHL.
The NHL is a business, and it is also entertainment. Paul Fenton inherited a tough situation for sure, trying to retool a team that is aging and is hampered by the salary cap. But that does not absolve him from taking some heat for his first draft as Wild GM.
The fact that he came in with just a month to prepare for the draft is not a good excuse and one that the fanbase cannot allow him a pass on. If there was not enough time to prepare then Leipold should not have made the move to relieve Fletcher when he did. Either that or his expectation needed to be one of a rebuild rather than a retool.
Wasting a year at the draft table is absolutely unacceptable, especially for a team that has no first or second round pick last year and one that has dealt so many picks over the last several seasons.
By all accounts Fenton has been working hard, to try to make deals to bolster the roster, yet the only things we heard were the return was not very good in any of these proposed deals. The reason Fenton got the job was his history with the Predators, so he should have had an excellent working knowledge of this draft class regardless of the short window in which to work with his new team.
Here in Minnesota the fans are starving for a championship. With a new GM coming in to retool the State of Hockey's NHL team, hopes were restored that the team would be heading in a new direction toward that elusive title.
So there is more to the first pick than just going way off the board for what is determined a "safe" player vs going off the board for a player that has potential to be something special if all things fall into place. No one in Minnesota wants a "safe" player at all.
Social media was all abuzz from the Wild fans many stating their disappointment of yet another in a long list of letdowns. The referrals to selling their tickets were too many to count.
Remember, it is entertainment and the fans are the ones paying the freight. Winning is absolutely important, but being in touch with and having a feeling of the pulse of your fanbase is equally as important. The fans in Minnesota are as loyal and knowledgeable as they come.
So the Wild have a new GM, but the sentiment is that they are still the same old Wild, and that nothing has changed whatsoever. Even Paul Fenton's explanation of his first pick saying that he picked Ryan Suter, somehow implying that Johansson could one day play alongside #20.
For now nothing has changed for the most nondescript team in the league, the Minnesota Wild.
Let's hope that Fenton has something in the works over the next week heading into free agency, and more importantly that he doesn't get fleeced by any of the other GMs as he learns the ropes as a first time NHL GM.
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