Sunday, April 22, 2012

Away from the Action

With playoffs in full swing, Wild take opportunity to assess season, make changes

As April drags on, and the number of NHL concussions grows with every day of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Minnesota Wild, who weren't even close to the playoffs as the season ended, wound up the 2011-12 season and looked ahead to the three things on the team's 'to-do' list:

1. The NHL Draft, June 22-23, at CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh. The draft used to be the Wild's version of a vast wasteland, as the Doug Risebrough regime would either trade away draft picks for middling, lower-level, past-their-prime veterans, or would choose so poorly, that the pick was almost immediately considered a bust.

No more. The current, Chuck Fletcher-led Wild regime has a track record of drafting talent fairly well, and that talent is just coming over the rise, to save the Wild from long-term mediocrity (e.g., 'Columbus Blue Jackets', 'Toronto Maple Leafs', 'New York Islanders', et. al.,) and return Minnesota NHL hockey to relevance.

2. Free Agency Day, July 1. Will Fletcher and his staff be able to lure the top-quality help to improve the Wild's roster? Will some of the big names, whose availability have been thrown about in local media the last three months, actually sign here? Or will the most talented players in the sport continue to not sign in Minnesota? Is the continuation of the 'Marian Gaborik syndrome' still in play, long after all of the principals in that one-act saga have moved on (most of whom to the same team, the NY Rangers?) What will the future of the Wild say to the prospective free agent(s) that Fletcher & Co. pursue? What will the cap room that Fletcher has to work with allow him to sign? Which leads me to Item No. 3...

3. Collective Bargaining Agreement Expiration Day, Sept. 15. Will the owners agree to a 50/50 revenue split for the players? Or will the owners insist on a 57/43 owner/player spilt? What will be the future of re-alignment? Free agency? Rookie contracts? Free Agency tiers? Will the NHLPA leadership, led by ex-MLBPA chief Donald Fehr, who was partially responsible for turning Mendoza-line (.200, for those of you who didn't know) pop-fly banjo hitters, into multi-millionaires, go 'hard-line' on the negotiations? Or will cooler heads prevail, as 4-5 teams lose over $10 million annually? How long does the NHLPA allow the league to prop up the Phoenix Coyotes franchise, now that the City of Glendale will be out of the picture after this season's playoffs?

There may not even BE a 2012-13 season, if some of these issues are not ironed out by mid-September. At which point, the season for the Wild, as exciting as might be when it is played, would just becomes one giant moot point.

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