Moments after the Wild rallied to beat the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night, Pierre McGuire grabbed a reporter by the locker room and said, “Told you they’re for real.”
Hours before the game, the well-traveled NBC Sports Network analyst praised the Wild, both present and future.
“I give them a ton of credit,” McGuire said. “They’ve put themselves in a great position to win a Cup. This is the best team they’ve had in Minnesota ever. Like, ever!”
He said the “most dangerous part for people around the league” is how good Wild prospects Alex Tuch, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kirill Kaprizov will be.
“The prospects that they have, they’re A-minus to A-plus prospects,” McGuire said. “Like, I think Luke Kunin could be Ryan Kesler, I think Greenway and Tuch can be like Wayne Simmonds, like dominant board players, slot players. Kaprizov, off the rush, is as good as any kid outside the NHL. He’s not a big guy, but off the rush he’s amazingly smart.
“And Eriksson Ek is just a great two-way player with no weaknesses. This team doesn’t need a lot of fine tuning. You get those young legs to come with the older legs, and then you’ve got the bridge players like [Matt] Dumba and [Mikael] Granlund and Nino [Niederreiter] and Charlie [Coyle] that connect the young guys and old guys, that’s really good.
“I’m really happy for [owner] Craig [Leipold] and [General Manager] Chuck Fletcher] and their amazing fans. Their scouting staff, both on the pro side with Blair MacKasey and amateur side with Brent Flahr, those guys deserve a ton of credit. Signing [Eric] Staal was a gutsy move, and bringing in Bruce [Boudreau to coach] was a smart move and … Scott Stevens [as an assistant] a brilliant move.”
Most impressively, McGuire noted that the future of the Wild “wasn’t looking good for awhile, but they’ve used a couple drafts to really fix this.”
Asked how he’d go about affording pending restricted free agents Niederreiter and Granlund when eventually these prospects will warrant spots, McGuire said, “That’s in your back pocket come negotiations. If they want crazy deals, you know these guys are coming.
“You identify your seven core players, and if you don’t make it into that core, chances are you’re going to be moving and young guys will take your place because they work cheaper. I’m not saying they make deals now because I think they like what they have. But if you don’t like the money they offer you, chances are you’ll be elsewhere.”
Despite it being the middle of the season with teams in playoff races and having played an uneven number of games, NHL goalies have been informed they’ll have to switch to more contoured goalie pants by Feb. 4.
It has been a long undertaking largely because of manufacturing problems with one company.
The Wild’s Devan Dubnyk, statistically the best goalie in the league, is not happy the change is being forced and spoke to the NHL Players’ Association on Monday night.
“I don’t want to tell you how I actually feel right now,” Dubnyk said. “I want to wait until I hear what they say back.”
Since Boudreau said on Jan. 8 in Anaheim that defenseman Christian Folin needed to get his game back on track, Folin has done just that.
Maybe the reason? More mobile. He removed his knee brace before the next game against Montreal.
“He felt a lot better. He scored in his first game without the brace, and I think it’s given him a lot of confidence,” Boudreau said.