The Wild’s NCAA prospects form the heart of the team’s developmental system, yet perhaps the team’s best assets are playing in professional leagues in Europe this season. College players have been central to Chuck Fletcher’s developmental approach – perhaps because he himself is a college man – with half of the Spring Top 20 coming out of NCAA programs.
Chuck Fletcher’s name comes up in the discussion for best general manager in the NHL. While his record is not without blemish, and he cannot really claim the title without a championship, the consensus is that he has done a good job of building a contending squad from one that seemed to be running in place. However, some of that success came at the cost of organizational depth. The AHL results have been poor, and misguided drafting takes some blame for the lack of skill in the developmental league.
This offseason the Minnesota Wild faced the problems of a contending team. Veteran players are key to winning in the NHL but their salaries can make for tough salary-cap decisions elsewhere in the roster. Veterans also tend to decline in performance at some point. To offset any drop in performance, the team relies on young and relatively inexpensive talent whose growing pains can sometimes be costly. Could this be the season that the young guys and the older guys hit the perfect balance and propel the team to the Finals? It presents a tough situation for the player who has yet to establish himself.
July 4th, 2012 changed the Minnesota Wild’s course for the foreseeable future. Twin 13-year contracts for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter switched the Wild into win-now mode: an expensive and risky move that is easier announced than accomplished. Three seasons later, the team has qualified for the post-season in each season and won two playoff series total. Read more»
For any organization dedicated to the near-term goal of a Stanley Cup, having the bulk of the team’s prospects in colleges or European leagues is sound policy. The young men get their chances to grow as people, the team’s contract status is unaffected, and there is less rush to decide on a player’s future. The pressures of pro hockey in Europe are real, especially for younger players, but so is the NCAA Tournament atmosphere. Both make for excellent developmental opportunities.