Souhan: Compressed NHL season will be sprint for Wild

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2013 - 7:37 PM

A 48-game season will mean the deeper, more talented Wild's playoff push must start as soon as the puck is dropped.


Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck on the abbreviated NHL season: "We're used to 82 games. So 48 will be no problem. I don't think the compression is enough to hinder our abilities. Plus, we feel pretty fresh right now. You don't usually feel this fresh in January."

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Saturday afternoon, Wild players practicing at Xcel Energy Center set up goals at both ends of the red line, creating an 85-foot rink for a 3-on-3 scrimmage, with extra players lining up on the blue lines acting like human boards.

That might turn out to be an apt visual metaphor for the NHL season. It's going to be short, intense, odd and perhaps even more exciting than when played at standard length.

Given that many Americans don't care about the NHL in November, and that few really care how much money an NHL owner or player makes, it's time to look at the lockout in a fresh way.

It might have created the ideal NHL season.

In six days, the Wild will open with Colorado at the X.

The Wild has the best front-line talent in franchise history, with the addition of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. In a shortened season, talent should prove to be more important than systems and experience.

"I really look for good results from this team this season," said team broadcaster Tom Reid, owner of Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub. "I think this is the most talented this team has been since the inception."

The Wild has improved roster depth.

"Just talking to a few of the guys who have been here in years past, we've got a lot of guys who are healthy now," Parise said. "I really like our depth. Sometimes that takes you a long way. You always see it in the playoffs. There's always that great third- or fourth-line story."

In a shortened season, the influence of a hot goalie will be dramatic. The Wild employs two goalies capable of getting hot.

The Wild as a franchise faces more competition for the sporting dollar than most NHL franchises. Many NHL franchises are based either in Canada, where hockey is the No. 1 sport, or in a market where they can claim to be the No. 1 pro sport, such as San Jose or Columbus.

Every fall, the Wild competes with the Vikings and Gophers football as well as the Timberwolves, Gophers basketball and Gophers hockey. By starting in mid-January, the Wild will play its entire schedule without competition from the almighty NFL.

"It'll be a playoff hockey sprint," Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck said. "It will be pretty interesting. It will be great for us as a group, with us being healthy and excited and ready to go."

The shortened schedule offers one other advantage: the promise of chaos.

The modern NHL has become almost too well-coached and systematic for its own good. The defensive systems that aid winning teams damage hockey as an entertainment product.

Watch a high school or college hockey game, and you see open ice and breakaways. Watch two good NHL teams, and the winning goal is frequently scored on a rebound or power play. In 2013, defenses might be just disorganized enough to allow for spectacular play.

"I think there might be some of that early," Suter said. "A lot of guys have changed teams and are learning new systems. I think it will take some teams some time to adjust. I hope we don't have that problem."

They might not. Many of the Wild's players live in or have been staying in Minnesota and practicing together. While some NHL teams were still scrambling to find ice times or get their physicals done on Saturday, the Wild had its entire roster on the ice.

"We're used to 82 games," Clutterbuck said. "So 48 will be no problem. I don't think the compression is enough to hinder our abilities. Plus, we feel pretty fresh right now. You don't usually feel this fresh in January."

For the average American sports fan, the 2013 season could be ideal, a combination of two of the most dramatic events on the calendar: March Madness and playoff hockey.

"It's going to be a sprint right away to get into the playoffs," Parise said. "Before anyone knows, the playoffs will be starting. It's going to be pretty unique."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 55 3rd Qtr 9:03
Boston 69
Philadelphia 46 3rd Qtr
Indiana 59
Portland 64 3rd Qtr
Sacramento 50
Charlotte 43 3rd Qtr
Orlando 42
Oklahoma City 34 2nd Qtr 9:23
LA Lakers 23
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 2 3rd Prd 8:40
Florida 4
Columbus 2 3rd Prd 11:47
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 1st Prd 13:38
Washington 1
Anaheim 7:00 PM
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 35 2nd Half
Wake Forest 37
Oregon 13 1st Half 11:25
Stanford 16
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Washington St 8:30 PM
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 2nd Half 0:16
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which is your favorite 'return' by a Minnesota athlete?

Weekly Question