Wednesday, September 7, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Sean & the Minnesota Wild

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 20 of 30: the Minnesota Wild


Last season, the Wild enjoyed a European start to their season, playing an exhibition game against Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Elite League. They then opened in Helsinki with two games against the Carolina Hurricanes. And although the Wild did pretty well during the first half of the season, they eventually finished out the season in 11th place in the West.

On the way out the door for their summer holidays, however, they gave a gift to the Chicago Blackhawks, beating the Dallas Stars in their game 82, which meant that the Blackhawks instead of the Stars went on to the playoffs. They even quipped on their website, "By the way Chicago... you're welcome."

When a Chicago fan at the Wild Fan Fest thanked a Wild player for game 82, the player looked up with a sly grin and said, "They still owe us one."

The Wild haven't been in playoff contention since 2008. The Wild would like to change that, however, and they spent the offseason overhauling their roster, starting at the top - firing coach Todd Richards and bringing in Mike Yeo.

In the midst of the long summer came the terrible news about Derek Boogaard dying of an accidential overdose. While Boogaard was signed with the New York Rangers, he had been a beloved fan favorite in Minnesota during his time there. Boogaard's death was one of three active NHL player deaths this summer.

At the 2011 Draft, which was hosted at the Xcel Center, the team dropped a bombshell of a different kind by making a trade in the first round - trading away solid defenseman Brent Burns to acquire Devin Setoguchi and prospect Charlie Coyle from the Sharks; the draft pick they also acquired became prospect Zack Phillips. A little later in the summer, the Wild and Sharks traded again, this time swapping Martin Havlat and Dany Heatley. For outsiders, moving Burns and Havlat were a surprise, because Burns has been an important part of the Wild's defense and scoring, while Havlat has piled on the points as well (when healthy).
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Dany Heatley (SJS), Mike Lundin (TBL), Darroll Powe (PHL), Devin Setoguchi (SJS), Jeff Taffe (CHI)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): Cam Barker, Andrew Brunette (CHI), Brent Burns (SJS), Martin Havlat (SJS), Chuck Kobasew (COL), John Madden, Jose Theodore (FLA)

Unless they have some PTOs or other surprises up their sleeves, chances are that the Wild will fill any needs in their roster - notably in defense - out of their AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros. Yeo led the Aeros all the way to the Calder Cup Final last year (losing out to the Binghamton Senators) -- quite an achievement after the team had finished the 2009-10 season at the bottom of the West Division.

It Yeo's natural leadership and skillset that the Wild hope will pay off for them. It may not result in a Stanley Cup this season, but this season will be a good indication about the future of the team. The Wild has a solid core of reliable players like captain Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck (who led the league in hits for the past couple of years), Clay Stoner, goalie Niklas Backstrom, and now, Heatley and Setoguchi. They'll be surrounded by a mix of players who've been with the team for a while and a crop of young, hungry prospects looking to prove themselves. The Minnesota Wild could be the wild card of the Western Conference this year; keep an eye on their season.

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For the Wild, we talked with Sean, found on Twitter at @Wildhockey21. He's been a fan of the Wild for approximately 11 years.

Let's talk about your fandom a little bit.

I've been a fan since the Minnesota Wild was established. I was young, only 14 years old. I've always love hockey growing up and playing it. Had the chance to be part of the NHL All-Star in 2004 and now the NHL Draft. Both were very exciting!

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

I'm really excited to see Setoguchi and Heatley play on our team this year. Both are an excellent addition to the Wild.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on?

The past two seasons wasn't good for the Wild. New coach, system and last year, it seem the players stop playing for the coach. Now we have the another new coach and his work ethnic and dedication to the game will be exciting to see what he brings this year. It's his first time as a head coach in the NHL but has experience with the Penguins and won the Stanley Cup.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?

8th in the Western Conference

What existing hockey rule would you change (and how) if you could?

I'm not a fan of shootouts. It's skills versus skills and would like to see the players play an additional 20 minutes of play like you see in the playoffs or Olympics. If either team can't score in the additional time, it will go on as a tie and both teams will get one point.

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One other thing the Wild did this off season was to film a short TV series called "Becoming Wild", which talks about the future of the team and changes that are underway. So far, four episodes have been aired, presented below:

Becoming Wild Episode 1

Becoming Wild Episode 2

Becoming Wild Episode 3

Becoming Wild Episode 4

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