I woke up this morning and there was a chillness in the air. Everything I saw was in shades of forest green, iron range red, harvest gold, and Minnesota wheat. I went to the fridge to grab coffee creamer for my espresso and found myself searching for Bailey’s Irish Cream. Then it hit me… Wild hockey is back at the Xcel Energy Center tonight, baby!!! With the 2021-22 Wild season upon us, there are definitely a lot of questions.
Who Exactly is Freddy Gaudreau?I think this is one of the biggest mysteries heading into the 2021-22 season. Over the summer, Bill Guerin and company signed Gaudreau to a 2-year, $2.4 million dollar deal. This is Gaudreau’s first one-way contract of his career. He is a late bloomer who has played for two previous franchises are Nashville and Pittsburgh. He has five-career NHL goals in 103 games played. Will his familiarness with head coach Dean Evason and linemate Kevin Fiala help Gaudreau take the next step in his NHL career? Can he become an everyday NHLer with more ice-time and opportunity? We shall see.
How Will Joel Eriksson Ek Handle the 1C Role?
In what was an incredible breakout season for Eriksson Ek last year, even more is expected of him this season. He was rewarded handsomely this offseason with an 8-year, $42 million dollar contract extension. This eight-year deal was the first max-term contract given out in franchise history. Eriksson Ek has always been a wonderful two-way center. Hell, he was nearly a finalist for the Selke Trophy (league’s top defensive forward) last season. Can he become a consistent 50-point player? Playing with the reigning Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello should definitely help.
Is Jordan Greenway Actually the Player We Think He Is?This has been a topic I’ve been communicating with myself daily since Greenway became a regular NHLer in 2018-19 with the club. He’s a very frustrating player in the sense that he teases you. One night he looks like the next best power forward in the game and the next he looks lost and seems to forget that he’s 6’6″ and 241 lbs.
We’ve seen him dominate at the World Juniors and we’ve seen him dominate in college. We’ve seen him dominate in the AHL. He hasn’t consistently dominated at the NHL level yet. Is this the season where Greenway finally puts it all together? Or is this the season when we find out he’s not the player we all thought he was? Internally, I don’t believe anyone has more eyes on them this season than Greenway.
Is Alex Goligoski Capable of Filling the Spot Next to Jared Spurgeon?For the past nine seasons, Ryan Suter has been the pillar of the Wild’s defensive core. Fast forward to this season and so much has changed. Jared Spurgeon is now that dude and Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba have all been elevated into much bigger roles. You’ve got the likes of Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill, Jordie Benn, and Calen Addison competing for the bottom defensive pairing. But wait, who is now going to fill the vacant spot next to Spurgeon?
That question was answered over the summer by management when they went out and signed Goligoski to a 1-year, $5 million dollar contract. At age 36, Goligoski’s best years are probably behind him. But over his 14-year NHL career, Goligoski has been the poster child for consistency. He’s missed the 20-point mark only once in his career. That’s a remarkable feature for a defenseman. Can he develop chemistry with Marcus Foligno so we can say “Goose to Moose AND HE’S LOOSE“? Can he continue that success playing next to Spurgeon? Will the Wild feel the loss of Suter? Only Goligoski can answer that.
Are Top Prospects Matt Boldy/Marco Rossi Ready for the Show?
You are hungry and have dinner reservations in two hours at your favorite restaurant. You decide to have a couple of snacks to help tide you over. One bowl of Kettle Brand Pepperoncini chips later, and you are still hungry. Now you are going in for a Jack Link’s Original beef steak because “it will help.” Then you get thirsty from all that salt and go in for a Castle Danger Cream Ale to wash it down. Two hours later, you are at the restaurant and you aren’t hungry anymore. You actually have a killer stomach-ache from the abrupt mixture of chips, beef, and beer. What a disaster this has all become.
This is the type of disaster the Wild want to avoid with their top prospects: the polarizing Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi. Heading into the 2021-22 season, the hype is real. Both players have received rave reviews from management, the coaching staff, and thousands of fans across the state. You are eager and you want to see them play on the big club right away, I get it. I just warn you… please do not spoil your much-anticipated dinner with temporary satisfaction just because you are hungry. I think that in time you will find that it’s worth the wait.