Former North Stars General Manager and coach Lou Nanne says if the NHL playoffs were seeded by overall points, the Wild would be getting ready to face the Nashville Predators in the playoffs — a team they were 3-1-1 against in the regular season — but instead they will face the St. Louis Blues, against whom they were 2-1-1.
Nanne said he would rather have seen the Wild play Nashville, Anaheim or Chicago but still believes the Wild can win the series.
“It should be interesting, it should be exciting and the Wild are going to have to be at the top of their game to beat them,” he said.
Las Vegas currently has the Blues at 8-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, while the Wild is at 9-1.
Still, Nanne said the Blues should be just as wary of the Wild, which was the hottest team in hockey after the All-Star break, as the Wild is of the Blues.
“There’s not too many teams that have had a run like the Wild has had,” he said. “They’ve had a sensational run. They really came back to earn a playoff spot like they should have had. If you look back at the first part of the season, when they started out the first 10 games, they were terrific. They could have been 10-0. They lost a couple of games outshooting L.A. and Anaheim so bad they should have won those games. They had a 3-0 lead on the Rangers and they came back and beat the Wild. That’s when the goaltending problems really started.”
Nanne says it’s easy to trace that bad stretch of play, and the subsequent trade for Devan Dubnyk in mid-January, as the big reason for the turnaround.
“They had a severe goaltending problem,” Nanne said. “It wasn’t that the team wasn’t playing well, they were just giving up bad goals game in and game out and that just led to a disastrous record. [Wild GM] Chuck Fletcher finally made that deal for Dubnyk, he made a sensational deal, the best deal anybody has made in hockey this year and the most important deal by far. That’s what got the Wild back in the playoffs.”
Nanne said several players have been overlooked who have helped the Wild back to the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
“Because of the stupendous play of Dubynk, people haven’t really realized the effect that [right winger] Chris Stewart had,” he said. “That guy came at the deadline, and that was another sensational deal. I hope the Wild find a way to make him stay because that gives them the kind of balance and size and overall flexibility they need up front.
“[Left winger Jason] Zucker was having an outstanding season when he got hurt and he came back on an accelerated rehabilitation plan. He was supposed to be out another month, came back and scored a few big goals for them that really solidified their playoff position.
“[Rookie defenseman Matt] Dumba has really made an unbelievable rapid ascension into becoming a good NHL defenseman. He has the skills because he’s really fast, he shoots rockets — he has probably the best slapshot on the team from the point — the way he moves the puck, and the key was the way he played defensively. Those are three other reasons the Wild are where they are today.”
Nanne said if there is one big positive for the Wild going into the postseason, it’s that the team is healthy and has a tremendous amount of depth in the lineup.
“If you look at the lineup when you go in the playoffs now, you’re going to have three forwards and a defenseman out there sitting out that could be playing,” Nanne said. “That’s a good thing they have and also a quandary for them because at the end of the season, you have to find out who do you keep and who do you let go, because you’re not going to be able to keep them all with the salary cap the way it is. At this stage of the game, though, you need depth and they have as much depth as anybody in the NHL going into the playoffs.”
Reilly will get paid
Gophers junior defenseman Mike Reilly, who repeated as a first-team All-America, has a big decision coming up as he turns pro. He can either sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets — who drafted him 98th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL entry draft — or he can become an unrestricted free agent and sign with any NHL team.
Nanne explained the situation.
“Reilly will get the maximum no matter who signs him,” Nanne said. “He’ll go play with [Team] USA in the World Championships next month and then he’ll come back and be a free agent and can sign in August. He’ll get the maximum, which is a $275,000 signing bonus over three years, and get a contract like $875,000 [per year] in the majors and $60,000 [per year] in the minors for three years. The key will be the bonuses in there, the bonuses he can get if he wins Rookie of the Year, if he gets X amount of points, if he plays so much, those kinds of things that can really escalate the contract.”
Does Nanne see any other underclassmen leaving the Gophers squad in the offseason?
“I think they still could lose [sophomore forward Hudson] Fasching,” he said. “I’m sure Buffalo has to decide whether they’re going to turn him pro or not, I would tend to think they’re going to try to turn him pro. … Tim Murray is a very astute general manager, and I think you’re going to see him try and insert a lot of young guys there and build that team in a hurry.”
• There never was any doubt freshman point guard Tyus Jones was going to leave NCAA champion Duke and turn pro because it’s pretty hard to turn down the contract offered by the NBA — around $1.5 million for a mid-first-round draft pick last season, with the price escalating each season and a big pay raise in the fourth year. The consensus of Jones’ advisers is that the former Apple Valley star is ready to play in the NBA.
• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill made a great move when he welcomed Giovan Jenkins, who was the head coach at Minneapolis Washburn for six years, to be a volunteer coach helping with recruiting and defensive quality control. Jenkins coached defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman, transfer tight end Noah Scarver and running back Jeff Jones.
• Mortenson Construction is building the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium and it is costing $400 million more than originally planned at $1.4 billion. The new Vikings stadium will cost slightly more than $1 billion. … Wide receiver Greg Jennings, who was released by the Vikings, has met with officials from Jacksonville and New Orleans but hasn’t signed a deal yet.
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