Weekly Wild Whangdoodle – Offseason, Volume I

Well, yesterday was the first day of summer, and the Twins are playing good ball lately, so, naturally, I thought the time was just right to re-introduce the Whangdoodle.

Follow along, and I’ll ramble on about the new coach and the upcoming draft.

MIKE YEO IS YOUR NEW WILD HEAD COACH

I freely admit that almost all of my Wild news comes through Russo, so if you’ve read his thoughts on the hiring of Houston Aeros head coach Mike Yeo as the third head coach in Minnesota Wild franchise history, there may be some overlap here.  One thing that Russo really captured was my initial reaction to the announcement.  “Wow.  Really?” I thought.  I don’t follow the Aeros much, so I don’t have a good sense of what his strategic inclinations are (from all reports, he prefers a defensive style), but he took the Wild’s minor league team, which has never been particularly well-regarded talent-wise, and took them all the way to the Calder Cup finals.

So I read Russo’s breakdown, in which he points out how GM Chuck Fletcher has surprised people by choosing a coach that is, at least superficially, to his previous hire that lasted two years and garnered zero playoff seasons.  Both Richards and Yeo, at the time of their hiring, were young guys with no NHL head coaching experience.  They both came out of the Pittsburgh minor league system.  They are not the same coach, everyone points out that they have different styles, but those surface similarities are going to make for some easy pickings for the “Fletcher’s an idiot” crowd.

Then I read Wyshynski’s column on Puck Daddy, and looked at some of the other takes from various local columnists.  And I found myself liking the decision.  The Wild should get younger this year and next.  They probably aren’t a serious playoff contender next year (although it could happen).  I am not sure that any coaching hire, no matter their pedigree, would convince me that their prospects in the 2011-12 season just got better.  So, the Wild go with a guy who had success within their organization, with the players that will be (should be) a part of the team over the next couple of years.

Maybe it’s the thrill of the unknown, watching Ken Hitchcock grind out a 8th-10th place finish with a team that just isn’t talented enough to do better doesn’t excite me.  I think that’s because we know what Hitchcock (or MacTavish, or whoever) can do, and if that’s what they produce, well, there it is, that’s the ceiling for both the team and the coach.  I’m sure there are those who disagree that the same finish under Yeo will be more satisfying, more promising somehow.  I’m not even sure that I believe it at this point.  But that’s the closest I can come to expressing my feelings at this point, so it’ll have to do.

NHL DRAFT AT THE EXCEL CENTER

The draft is Friday, and I can’t tell you anything about any of the players that the Wild may pick.  For that there are lots and lots of mock drafts out there.

Almost all of them that I’ve seen have the Wild taking a wing or a center.  Hard to argue with that.  The Wild have a pretty deep blue line right now, with lots of younger guys who are ready to step in.  They have been short-handed at center forever (maybe it just seems that way), and they could always use more scoring everywhere in their organization.

Last year, the Wild took Mikael Granlund, the first player from Europe off the board, with the ninth pick.  Granlund has really impressed in the Finnish Elite League, playing against much older competition, and helping his team to the Elite League title last season, while averaging a point per game.  He probably won’t be in a Wild sweater this coming season, but whenever he comes over, it’s going to be really exciting.

The Wild pick tenth this year, and it’s going to be impossible for them to find anyone who will be able to contribute in the NHL immediately.  However, if they can find someone to complement Granlund (and 2nd round pick Jason Zucker, who won the WCHA Rookie of the Year playing for Denver) upon his arrival in a season or two, that would go a long way toward increasing optimism about this franchise.

The Wild do not have a second round pick (having traded it for Chuck Kobasew), but will have one pick in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds.

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