ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau knows exactly where his team stands from an outsider’s perspective. He watches NHL Network constantly, and thus, has been reminded of the Wild’s place in the world at every turn this offseason.
Essentially, nobody is expecting the Wild to do much of anything this season, which for them, has turned the cliched chip on the shoulder into something more resembling a boulder.
“Every team that didn’t win (the Stanley Cup) is going to say it has a chip on its shoulder,” Boudreau said. “All I know is when they predict us to be No. 32 in a 31-team league, it might (upset) us a little bit.”
On the surface, it’s understandable why critics expect the Wild to struggle. They were the worst team in the Central Division last season, and worse, were mired in dysfunction during former general manager Paul Fenton’s one season in charge of the team.
That, of course, hit a boiling point this offseason when owner Craig Leipold abruptly terminated Fenton, and after a month-long search, handed the reins to new general manager Bill Guerin.
Asked if this was the whackiest offseason he has ever been a part of, Boudreau took the bait before trying his best to spin the narrative forward.
“It’s right up there,” Boudreau said with a smirk, knowing he outlasted Fenton, who wasn’t exactly his biggest fan. “It all seems to work out in the end and take care of itself. As of right now, I’m not worried about what is in the past. I’m worried about what’s in the future for our team. And I’m really excited about it.”
No doubt being back on the ice will help the Wild turn the page. There was a sense of relief Thursday at TRIA Rink with pretty much everyone excited to put last season behind them.
“I certainly feel more comfortable in the environment of being at the rink every day, and coaching, and dealing with players, and getting on the ice,” Boudreau said. “It’s when we have too much time on our hands that we lose our minds a little bit.”
There are some question marks for the Wild heading into this season, starting with the health of captain Mikko Koivu (right knee) and star blue liner Matt Dumba (chest), who missed the end of last season with injuries that crippled the team. And there will be the task of figuring out how to work newcomers like Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman into the equation.
“Just getting the attention to detail of what we’re supposed to be doing right off the bat,” Boudreau said, noting that he expects to make roster cuts a little quicker than he has in the past. “We want to make sure we’re ready to go for a quick start this season because we know our schedule is daunting. We have to get out of the gate quick.”
While the saying across the NHL is most teams don’t know who they are until Thanksgiving, the Wild might know that by Halloween, considering they play nine of their first 13 games on the road.
Not that Boudreau is too worried.
“You take last season out of the equation, or even the last half of last season out of the equation, and we are one of the highest point-producing teams in the previous two seasons,” he said. “I don’t think the world is over for this group. I think this group is going to be better this season than it’s been in the previous three seasons.”
OK. What about the haters?
“Let them pick us to be in the bottom,” Boudreau said. “We believe in ourselves. We’re counting on surprising people.”