Can Wild take the next step in 2013-14?

Can Wild take the next step in 2013-14?
August 15, 2013, 5:15 pm
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(Associated Press)

MINNESOTA WILD

2012-13: 26-19-3, 55 points

Where they finished: 2nd in the Northwest; 8th in the West; 15th in the NHL

Coach: Mike Yeo (3rd season)

Key additions: LW Matt Cooke, RW Nino Niederreiter, D Keith Ballard

Key subtractions: RW Devin Setoguchi, RW Cal Clutterbuck, D Tom Gilbert, C Matt Cullen, C Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Projected lineup

Forward

Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Dany Heatley

Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Matt Cooke

Mike Rupp – Kyle Brodziak – Torrey Mitchell

Defensemen

Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella – Keith Ballard

Jonathan Blum – Jared Spurgeon

Clayton Stoner

Goalies

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Our take: Now it’s time for the next step. The Wild made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs last season – but barely. Minnesota needed the tiebreaker for the final Western Conference berth. It lasted just five games in a first-round series with eventual champion Chicago.

The Wild would like to do better. If they do it will because their talent-laden farm system begins to produce results.  Mikael Granlund, 21, and Charlie Coyle, 21, have arrived and Jason Zucker, 21, should stick this season. Nino Niederreiter, still just 20, has shown promise in the AHL and was acquired via trade from the Islanders. Zack Phillips, 20, and defenseman Matthew Dumba, 19, the No. 7 pick in the 2012 draft, are possible promotion candidates. 

But you need veterans, too. Matt Cooke was brought in to provide stability among the forward corps and in the short term he should help. Keith Ballard will play a similar role on the blueline.

Offseason Grade: C

Will they make the playoffs in 2013-14: Yes.