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31 in 31

Three questions facing Minnesota Wild

Guerin's performance as GM, play of Staal, Zucker among areas of focus

by Jessi Pierce / Independent Correspondent is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Minnesota Wild.


[WILD 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]


1. How will Bill Guerin fare as general manager?

Guerin was hired Aug. 21 after spending the past eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the past five as assistant GM. He takes over for Paul Fenton, who was fired by the Wild on July 30.

Guerin, 48, won the Stanley Cup twice as a player (1995, 2009) and twice as an executive (2016, 2017). He will work with a roster that is essentially set after the Wild signed forwards Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman as free agents July 1.

"I think the lineup here is good. I like a lot of the pieces that we have," Guerin told the WIld website. "I know what a special opportunity this is. I just want to come in here and get better. This team can definitely get better and if we do the right things at the right time, everything is here for us to win. 

Video: 31 in 31: Minnesota Wild 2019-20 season preview


2. Can Jason Zucker and Eric Staal bounce back?

The Wild will be looking to their forwards to boost an offense that was 27th in goals with 210 last season.

Zucker had 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 81 games after setting NHL career highs in points (64), goals (33) and assists (31) in 2017-18. 

"I feel like I had an off year, but I still think I'm a 30-goal scorer," Zucker said. "I still feel like I've proven myself in this league. I don't feel like I have to prove that I can play." 

Staal scored 22 goals last season, 20 fewer than he scored in 2017-18. Even though it's hard to expect him to re-create his success of two seasons ago, Staal, who will turn 35 on Oct. 29, has proven he's capable of being a better point producer than he showed last season. 

"I think [Staal] can absolutely get back to, maybe not a 40-goal scorer because there's not many of those out there, but into the 30s. I don't think is unrealistic for him," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.


3. Will Mikko Koivu and Matt Dumba return to form?

Koivu missed the final 29 games last season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. The 36-year-old center was adamant at the end of the season that he was going to do his due diligence and not rush through the recovery, instead aiming to make sure he fully and properly heals. That might mean missing the start of training camp and potentially the start of the season. 

Dumba led NHL defensemen in goals (12) before he ruptured his right pectoralis muscle on Dec. 15, which required surgery. Dumba has skated and spent the offseason working hard to get back his full range of motion and should have no trouble returning from the injury in time for training camp in September.

Video: MTL@MIN: Dumba one-times PPG past Niemi in the 2nd

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