Watching the Wild play hockey is like staring at an abstract painting. You can spend all day squinting at it and see different things.
Are they good? Kind of good? Bad? Kind of bad?
Depends on the week. The Wild is world champion when it comes to flip-flopping opinions from one extreme to the next. Just when you scream for them to blow it up … hey, look, a winning streak and inspired hockey.
“We can beat anybody on a given night,” Wild General Manager Bill Guerin said Monday.
Yep, and they can turn around and lose to a bad team the next game. And then swing back again.
Imagine being in Guerin’s shoes as the new GM as Monday’s trade deadline neared. The Wild keeps hanging around the playoff bubble, neither great nor awful. Technically, the team still has a shot at the postseason. Realistically, the Wild is a long way from being a true Cup contender.
Familiar territory, right?
Guerin was unable to swing any trades before the deadline, but he’s already made his intentions clear through his actions.
He’s ready to pull a Rosas.
All aboard the rebuilding train. Gersson, boss of the Wolves, is already on it.
Frankly, it’s time.
Guerin already has fired coach Bruce Boudreau (still don’t get the timing on that move) and traded veteran Jason Zucker essentially for future assets.
News surfaced last week that Guerin had conversations with veteran center Mikko Koivu about waiving his no-trade clause (he declined). Guerin also acknowledged that he had trade discussions with Zach Parise, who also has a no-trade clause.
That both players are still members of the organization doesn’t mean they will be here by the start of next season. Koivu, a free agent, likely won’t return, and moving Parise (and his contract) should be a priority this summer.
Wild owner Craig Leipold infamously mandated roster “tweaks” during one of his state of the organization briefings. Guerin’s idea of tweaks probably involves a stick of dynamite.
The Wild has been in a weird semi-satisfactory place for some time now. Losing stinks, but being stuck in a cycle of good-but-not-good-enough can create a false sense of contentment.
Regardless of how the rest of this season plays out, the Wild needs massive upgrades at center, better goaltending, more high-end finishers and more youth. Those aren’t tweaks.
“You can’t say that if we make the playoffs, then everything’s off and we stay the same,” Guerin said.
Zucker brought value as an established veteran who clearly wasn’t part of Guerin’s plans. Trading him to Pittsburgh represented a win-win for both sides. Unloading Parise’s contract in exchange for pieces that fit a reconfigured roster would have similar value. Guerin probably has more moves in mind as he positions the Wild for the next chapter.
Guerin declined to give specifics when asked how he would explain to fans why he attempted to trade Parise, saying he prefers to keep those matters private. Some reasons are just obvious. Money. Age. Roster construction. Timing.
The Wild is not unlike the Vikings in recognizing that a roster purge of respected veterans is necessary. Both organizations seem primed for a significant roster churn that bids farewell to familiar faces.
The Wild’s signing of Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year contracts in 2012 cannot be judged as a backfire just because those moves have not resulted in a championship. Their signings have proved successful in that the Wild became a playoff regular, a hot ticket and a more credible organization. The big payoff simply hasn’t materialized. The risk and investment were worth taking, though.
Now, the Wild seems ready to turn the page. That Parise apparently agreed to waive his no-trade indicates he’s ready — or at least willing — to move on, too.
Guerin said he wasn’t disappointed to emerge from the trade deadline with the same roster. Even if that was GM spin, he knows changes are coming. It’s both inevitable and necessary.