One of the takeaways from the Wild’s most recent general manager search — and the one before that — was that the team requires revisions rather than a rebuild to unlock its potential.
And although that mind-set will accompany the Wild into its first game Thursday against the Predators after it wrapped up the preseason Sunday with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Jets, owner Craig Leipold is open to pivoting to a more patient strategy if the payoff is worth it.
“I want to win a Stanley Cup,” Leipold said. “And if somebody came down and said, ‘OK, here’s a guaranteed five-year plan. You’re absolutely going to win it, but you’re going to have to go through a little pain and suffering.’ You show me that plan that gets me there, I’m good.”
Leipold took in the exhibition finale from his suite inside Xcel Energy Center. Despite an effort riddled with penalties and blown leads, which dropped the Wild to 2-1-3 in the preseason, Leipold is optimistic for 2019-20 based on the reports he’s received from new GM Bill Guerin and coach Bruce Boudreau and the team-first philosophy that’s been emphasized since Guerin’s arrival.
“There is such a fine line between the 12th team and the first team, a fine line,” Leipold said. “It’s injuries. It’s goaltending. It’s the little things. So how far can we go? I don’t know. But I do know if we play together and give 100 percent effort and have just normal injuries, I like our chances.”
After a day off Monday, the Wild will reconvene Tuesday when opening-day rosters are due.
If the team decides to carry the maximum 23 players, it will have to make only one cut once it designates Mason Shaw (knee) as an injured nonroster player and if it shifts Greg Pateryn (lower-body injury) to injured reserve, which seems likely.
The debate about whether to keep Louie Belpedio or Carson Soucy on the blue line is set to revolve around need or style.
Belpedio would fill the hole vacated by Pateryn since both are right shots.
“I’m happy with my performance, and I think I showed I can compete here and play here for a long time,” said Belpedio, who finished with three points in the preseason after chipping in an assist Sunday.
As for the 6-5 Soucy, he offers a more physical, rugged presence.
“I wanted to show that I’ve improved and that they can trust me at this level whether it’s now or later in the season,” Soucy said.
Winger Kevin Fiala looked better Sunday than he did in his first preseason game Thursday, tallying a goal before he was on the ice for the Jets’ game-winner on a 2-on-0 break in overtime. Goalie Devan Dubnyk totaled 23 saves.
Winger Mats Zuccarello, defenseman Matt Dumba and captain Mikko Koivu were the other scorers, with Koivu also logging 3 minutes, 57 seconds of penalty-kill time. Winnipeg went 1-for-7 on the power play, while the Wild was 1-for-5.
The center said he’s ready for the regular season after recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus.
“I’m pretty satisfied personally with the camp and feeling a lot better than I did before camp,” Koivu said.
Ready to go
Defenseman Ryan Suter was idle Sunday, but his preseason was a success after he returned completely healthy — unlike a year ago when he was still working his way back from a severe ankle injury.
“Sutes has done everything I’ve asked,” Boudreau said. “If you think about it, he didn’t train all summer last year. It’s like playing pain-free for the first time in a long time. You feel so good about yourself. You feel it’s not tough to get out of bed, to walk anywhere. So the healthiness is really beneficial. You see him leading rushes, so he’s played well.”
Even though it was a process last season for Suter to regain full strength, he still led the NHL in average ice time (26:42). And now that he’s back to normal, the 34-year-old isn’t expecting that workload to shrink.
“If I can do it on one foot,” Suter said, “I should be able to do it on two.”