Ahead of tonight's Central Division battle between the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild, let's check in with Emilie Wiener, a credentialed writer covering the team who took over the helm at Hockey Wilderness this summer.
1. It's been a few years now since Dany Heatley has put together a really strong goal-scoring season, with 39 back in 2009-10. Are there expectations that he'll return to that kind of production with the Wild, or is he looked at as more of a secondary scorer?
Wild fans had high hopes for Heatley when he showed up to training camp looking better than he has in years. He looked decent in the preseason, but so far in the regular season he has left much to be desired. At this point, the Wild are out-possessing every team they play, but have managed to lose both of their games in a SO/OT. Basically, they are looking for some more scoring from anyone.
|2013 - Dany Heatley||2||0||0||0||-2||0||0||0||0||3||0.0|
2. With Matt Cullen coming to Nashville as a free agent, how is Minnesota back-filling his spot at center?
Charlie Coyle was well on his way to proving that not re-signing Cullen was the right decision until his injury in the last game against Anaheim. Mikael Granland (who battled throughout training camp with Coyle for the 2nd C spot) will be shifted over to from wing to fill that spot for at least the next 3-4 weeks while Coyle recovers.
This will be a real test for Granlund after last season when the Wild set him up in a position that he wasn't ready for. Apparently he spent the summer working on increasing his speed and strength, and came into camp looking like a completely different player. Hopefully for the Wild the improvements he made will translate into excellent play (he's already looked really good playing wing).
|2013 - Mikael Granlund||2||0||2||2||0||2||0||0||0||1||0.0|
3. Now that Jason Pominville has been locked up long-term, how realistic is the speculation that the Wild may try to bring in his former Buffalo Sabres teammate Thomas Vanek as well?
Honestly, I think it's really realistic. But there are a lot of things that Vanek-to-MN will depend on. The Wild have made it clear that for the most part, they aren't willing to give up any of their blue chip prospects. I doubt that there is a trade for Vanek because of that. So, in order for the Wild to land Vanek he has to make it to free agency this summer.
The other side of the coin is that unless the Wild shift to a "4 scoring lines" model, piecing together Vanek and the prospects (most of whom can't really be considered prospects anymore honestly) is going to be really difficult. The top line of Parise/Koivu/Pominville are all signed though at least 2017-2018 season now.
With Coyle, Granlund, Nino Neiderreiter, and Jason Zucker pretty much being legitimate NHLers this season (they won't all be in the NHL all season though), It's going to be hard to find a place for everyone to fit in if you've got a limited-minute 4th line of lower-skilled players.
|2013 - Thomas Vanek||3||1||0||1||-3||2||0||0||0||15||6.66|
My thanks to Emilie for her insight, and make sure you head over to Hockey Wilderness to check out more of their coverage.