I know summer isn’t over yet but for those of you hockey fans… it couldn’t end soon enough. I love Minnesota summers but I don’t love them just for the weather. It’s also hockey trading time and a lot of teams make moves. The Wild have a key new name this year and that would be former Minnesota Gopher Thomas Vanek. There had been numerous talks for a few years that the Wild were interested in Vanek, but no moves were made until the time was right. Well that timing happened to be this past summer. Yep, Vanek will now be wearing the Iron Range Red and Forest Green jersey however, he won’t be quite as new as some people think. He’ll hopefully feel a little at home with former teammate with the Buffalo Sabres; Jason Pominville, standing alongside him in a Wild jersey as well. For those of you who are fairly new to the Wild scene, Pominville joined the Wild two seasons ago and has been a pretty good fit with Koivu and Parise. It won’t hurt Vanek that he also went to college in the great state of Minnesota before he went pro. Vanek is pretty speedy and I’m rather interested in what he’ll bring to the Wild both in skills and personality with several players also leaving the Wild such as Clayton Stoner and Dany Heatley both who had quite a presence with the Wild. I would like to extend well wishes to them as they continue on with other teams. The Wild still have a goalie situation that needs to be figured out also. Yes they have Kuemper who is currently a restricted free agent, along with Harding and Backstrom but can they stay healthy? They also have a few goalies in the system just ready for a shot at the big leagues. The Wild didn’t disappoint last season with their run to the playoffs and despite losing to Chicago, they still made many proud including myself.
This season I think the Wild will make an even bigger impression on many more people with the new and old faces. Fan favorites Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu will have to improve on their game from last season and some players will have to step up to prove they belong in a Wild jersey. Vanek will be expected to show what he’s made of and prove he wasn’t just good in college, however if fans check his pro stats I don’t believe they will be too disappointed by the Wild’s decision to give him a chance in the roster. Defense will be a key factor with improvements as well, with Suter at the head of the pack the younger players will be looking to him for guidance. I’ve been a Wild fan since the beginning and I have never really been disappointed in the team thus far. Yes, there have been a few times where I believe the team could have tried harder or cared more, but I’m not in their position, so I really don’t know how they feel or how much they care other than seeing expressions and remembering my own time in skates. So Wild fans out there, give Vanek a chance, he’s new to the team so don’t expect superstar status in the first game of the season. It’ll take some time for him to get adjusted, yes he is a pro, but pros need time to adjust to their surroundings as well. Take the time to put yourself in his shoes well skates, yes you would be making a lot of money, but the pressure would also be on your shoulders. If you disappoint, you may not have a job anymore. Just because pros make a lot of money, doesn’t mean they don’t have bad games or seasons too. The Wild may look a little rough at the beginning of the season but with mostly veteran players that have hung around for a while, the youngsters and not so young newbies will catch on and you’ll see your Wild hockey that you are so used to seeing in and out. Who knows… you may even see the Stanley Cup when the season ends… anything could happen especially when it involves the Minnesota Wild.