Trade deadline acquisition of three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury, brings legitimacy to Wild playoff chances and more to the team.
What a spring it has been in Minnesota!! We are two days into April and we have already seen temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s this year!! Yet, we only hear about the bad parts of global warming. We have no snow on the ground and the flowers are starting to bloom. Speaking of flowers, Marc-Andre Fleury, a.k.a., “the Flower” is settling in nicely to the State of Hockey.
In another brilliant move by GM-of-the-year candidate, Bill Guerin, Fleury was acquired at the trade deadline from Chicago in exchange for a conditional second-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft. That becomes a first-rounder, if the team makes it to the Western Conference Finals and Fleury is the winning tendy in at least four of those games.
It was an absolutely perfect move for Guerin to make for multiple reasons:
- Fleury was obviously not happy in Chicago, as the Blackhawks have been horrible this year, unless you consider them currently beating Arizona to stay out of last place in the division thus far in the season, a success. Didn’t think so.
- Fleury and Guerin won three Stanley Cups together as teammates during their time in Pittsburgh. You know they have a rock-solid relationship, even before the 2021 Vezina Trophy winner came to Minnesota. It’s probably one of the reasons that he waived his no-trade clause – you know, besides getting out of the Pit of Misery in Chi-town. Dilly, dilly!! Who knows, Guerin could possibly talk Fleury into signing a contract extension that is cap friendly – it could happen.
- Fleury wanted to play for a contender, and he clearly was not in Chicago. Coming to Minnesota, a team that is on the cusp of greatness, is a very promising team and if they can remain healthy as we close out the regular-season, they are a legitimate threat in the West going into the playoffs. Sure, Colorado is seen as the favorite, at least to win the division, but stranger things have happened. Plus, the Wild didn’t have one of three goalies in NHL history with 500+ wins in the first half of the season.
- Minnesota LOVES him!!! For those of you who don’t live in the State of Hockey, say what you will, but ‘Sota is a great place to live and to raise a family. Do our taxes, mosquitoes (the state bird), road construction and -30F temperatures suck? You betcha!! However, it has been evident immediately from his first start in the X, that Minnesota fans have quickly adopted the Flower as their brick wall in net that will hopefully bring a Stanley Cup to Minny. Of course, he has been loved everywhere he goes, but Minnesota love is different. Does that sound weird?
- The Wild have tremendous depth that will be of huge benefit as we get closer to the playoffs. There are so many guys on the team that can step in and fill a gap when injuries occur, or when someone just needs a night off. Not only that, but they give MAF a great defense and an outstanding offense in front of him on a nightly basis.
- I think everyone was initially worried about how Wild goalie Cam Talbot would accept playing second-fiddle to Fleury before he came to Minnesota. That is a valid concern, but I think he actually has to feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of his shoulders. Even being the optimist that I am, there would have been very little chance that the Wild would have won the Cup this year with Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen in net. It just wasn’t going to happen.
There would be no way that they could stop Colorado in a long series, let alone beat Florida or Carolina in the Stanley Cup Finals. The odds of that would have been longer than the lines at a Minnesota car wash the first day that temps hit 40F in the spring.
- I know that everyone in the media have been talking about how great Minnesota’s depth is with their skaters. We have savvy vets like Mats Zuccarello and Jared Spurgeon, to young superstars like Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy, to gritty guys like Marcus Foligno and the newly-added, Nic Deslauriers. Now, the Wild have, perhaps, unmatched depth in goal as well.
The Wild are again on fire, as they are 8-1-1 in their last ten games. They played a great game against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh and won 3-1. Fleury was solid in goal and Kirill Kaprizov (85 points) set the team record for points in a season with a goal and an assist to surpass Marian Gaborik (83 points). Kaprizov, who led the NHL in goals in March with 14, now has 39 goals and 46 assists on the year. In net, Fleury is now 3-0 with the Wild, with a 1.33 GAA.
At this point of the season, the only real knocks that I have on the Wild are their Special Teams. They are 18th on the power play at 20.9% and 22nd on the penalty kill at 76.5%. Seeing as we have Fleury in net and an inspired Cam Talbot, hopefully that will at least result in a better penalty kill. If their power play can improve through the rest of the season and into the playoffs, watch out NHL.
All-in-all, you can tell the entire team has been inspired with the trade deadline moves. You can almost see the confidence level every night and we saw it in the Columbus game this past week in the Flower’s Wild debut. Down 2-1 with a minute and change left in the game, the Wild, again, score 6 on 5 (NHL leaders in that category) and then win it with a brilliant move on the break away by Joel Eriksson Ek. Teams should know by now, that they have to play the full 60 minutes against the Wild, or they will come back to get you.
Wild fans everywhere are hoping and praying that this is the year that a Stanley Cup travels down Kellogg Boulevard and stops at the Xcel Energy Center until next year. The Wild have all of the pieces in place for a serious run and the team is pumped. So is the State of Hockey.