John Torchetti and Andrew Brunette were kicking around ideas in the Wild coach's office last spring when "Bruno" said, "Try to throw this together."
The idea? To move Mikael Granlund from center to wing and plop him onto Mikko Koivu's line.
"We were trying to build a strong line. Just an overpowering line," said Torchetti, the Wild's former interim coach who's now an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings.
Granlund and Koivu flourished from that point, and the rest is history. New coach Bruce Boudreau made certain to keep the Finnish countrymen joined at the hip with Granlund playing exclusively at wing — mostly right wing, not center.
"I didn't know how good he was," said Boudreau, who coached Anaheim during Granlund's first four seasons with the Wild. "When you only played [Minnesota] three times [a season], you know he's skilled, but he never had put up the numbers that you would take notice and go, 'Wow.'
"But when you see him every day and you see the moves he can make and the vision that he has and playing both ends of the ice, he's a pretty good, amazing player."
Granlund, 24, the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft, did not live up to hype until this season.
Sure, he has shown glimpses of brilliance like his highlight-reel overtime winner against Colorado in the 2014 playoffs. But in his fourth season last year, his 13 goals and 44 points in 82 games topped out as his career highs.
In 43 games this season, he already has 10 goals and 36 points and is plus-23.
Moving to wing has given Granlund the ability to show off his offensive creativity. The theory is since the conscientious Granlund never cheated or cut corners, he expended a lot of energy defending, particularly at his 5-10, 184-pound stature.
"With Finnish players," Brunette said, "they're so responsible defensively, almost sometimes to a fault, especially for the offensive guys, this gave him a little more freedom — freedom to really get in on the forecheck and use his legs on the offensive side of the puck instead of always defending on the other side of the puck."
Granlund agrees this has been the biggest difference in his output.
"You don't really tire yourself defending as much playing wing," Granlund said. "I've learned it's a big responsibility in this league to be a centerman, and you win games if you defend hard. I think once in a while it took a little bit away from my offense."
Plus, Torchetti felt Granlund wasn't getting the puck enough at center.
"You always want to try to put the puck in your better players' hands," Torchetti said. "If he's not getting it, you've got to find ways to get it there. [We gave him] more power-play time, and just let him be. And more touches in the top six."
Moving Granlund to wing was in the back of Brunette's mind because former coach Mike Yeo tried it a couple of times with in-game tweaks and during an entire game last January against Tampa Bay. Granlund seemed much more dangerous.
"But we didn't feel we were deep enough to continue without him up the middle," said Brunette, an assistant coach the past two seasons but back in his original role as hockey operations adviser. "The problem was early in the year, [Erik Haula] wasn't playing to his capability. When Haulzy started to take off under Torch, we felt more comfortable with our play up the middle, so we moved Granny over."
Boudreau was able to start Granlund at left wing and Charlie Coyle at right wing in large part because of Eric Staal's signing.
"That's why the Staal acquisition was so important just to slot everybody in proper places," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "To sign Staal, we had to buy out [Thomas] Vanek, but then you lose offense from the wing."
But by moving Granlund and Coyle to wing, the Wild has more than made up for Vanek's production.
The day after Thanksgiving, Jason Zucker was elevated to the left side of Koivu and Granlund moved to right wing. In 24 games together, Granlund has six goals and 24 points and is plus-20.
"When you're a little guy, not that he's that little, but when you play behind the net and then go be an offensive guy, it sort of drains on you," said Boudreau, a strong offensive player during his career at 5-9. "He [no longer has] to do the battling that normally a center would do below the circles.
"But he plays his position and he's quick, so when we get the puck and we come out, he's usually leading the rush and he's the guy you want to have the puck."
The fit with Koivu is good because of trust. That started at the 2011 world championships when Koivu captained Finland to gold and Granlund starred as a 19-year-old.
"Mikko really looks out for him," Fletcher said. "Mikael's a very unselfish, team-oriented type of player. He plays hard every night, and I think all the attributes that he has are all attributes that Mikko has and really respects."
Granlund plays fearlessly and, over the years, has gotten stronger. Now, he's a more mature player in every sense of the word. He's even getting half-a-shot more per game than he did his first three seasons.
Torchetti recalled a minor league game with Houston in Oklahoma City during the 2012 lockout. All of Edmonton's big boys were down in the AHL, the Taylor Halls and the Ryan Nugent-Hopkinses. On a 4-on-4 in overtime, Torchetti threw out top prospects Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Johan Larsson.
"I said, 'Granny, do not lose a one-on-one battle.' And, he won the game in overtime," Torchetti said, laughing. "And that's when you know, he competes hard, man. He really does."
That's precisely what Brunette loves about Granlund.
"He's got character through the roof, like he reeks character," Brunette said. "I always say, 'I think he could be a captain one day.' That's how much character he has. He's not going to be vocal, but just the way he approaches things. And in a big game, he's one of the guys you want. He steps up in the big games just like [Jared] Spurgeon.
"Certain guys have an ability to play their best at the biggest moments."