Just like kids on the first day of school, the Wild got a new wardrobe Thursday morning. Players reported to Xcel Energy Center for the start of training camp to find newly designed jerseys, as well as T-shirts with the team logo and the slogan: “Good Isn’t Good Enough.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau came up with the motto he wants to define his second season in St. Paul. It’s a sentiment adopted by the players, too. Many of the 58 who will participate in camp wore those shirts as they attended meetings, went through physicals and sat for photo sessions, a day before they take the ice for the first time.
A flameout in the first round of the playoffs prevented last season from rising beyond good, even though the Wild set several franchise records. That made for a long summer for players and coaches who expected more. As happy as they were to see each other again Thursday, Boudreau expects the mood to be all business Friday, given that pent-up desire for another chance to show their capabilities.
“We want to strive to be better than good,” Boudreau said. “We want to be great. We think we’ve got a team that’s built to win.
“If [the players] are hungry and sort of upset about the way things ended after having six really good months, and we come out with that hunger, I think we’ll be really good. And there’s not a lot [of media] counting us to be going into the playoffs, even. I think that’s a real motivating factor for us.’’
Last season, it took time for Boudreau to institute new systems and for players to get to know his expectations and style. With no such learning curve this fall, he anticipates an easier start to camp.
As much as he liked last year’s group, Boudreau is even happier with the Wild’s improved depth. He said the prospects’ performance at the pre-camp tournament in Traverse City, Mich., was far better than last season. The maturation of some of those players, along with the addition of veteran forward Matt Cullen and newcomers such as Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno, have Boudreau believing the third and fourth lines will be “way stronger” than they were last year.
Boudreau insisted Thursday he wasn’t concerned that Foligno hadn’t yet signed a contract, saying the situation “would work itself out.’’ Hours later, Foligno agreed to a four-year, $11.5 million deal.
The forward will be paid $2 million this season, with payments of $3 million, $3.5 million and $3 million in the final three years of the contract. The Wild is looking for him to add some muscle to the lineup, and perhaps some scoring. Foligno was fifth in the NHL last season with a career-high 279 hits while scoring a career-high 13 goals.
“At 6-3 and 230 pounds, Marcus is nicknamed ‘Moose’ for a reason,’’ Boudreau said. “I think he’s got the capability to score more goals and of being a physical player.’’
Forwards Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson Ek distinguished themselves in Traverse City, adding to the buzz surrounding them.
Boudreau also praised former Gophers forward Justin Kloos of Lakeville, who had a goal and two assists in the tournament; forward Ivan Lodnia, the team’s top pick in last summer’s NHL draft; and 6-4 defenseman Carson Soucy, who had 15 points and 55 penalty minutes last season for Minnesota Duluth.
The Wild also will take a look at veteran forwards Ryan Malone and Daniel Winnik, invited to camp on professional tryouts. Malone, who hasn’t played for two seasons, is a long shot. Winnik has played for seven teams over the past 10 seasons, scoring 12 goals in 72 games with Washington last season.
“[Malone] will be given an opportunity to play and show his stuff, same as Danny Winnik,” Boudreau said. “I think Winnik is a heck of a player. I firmly believe he’s the best free-agent tryout guy out there. He’s going to push guys to play better.”