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2011 Training Camp Preview

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

Prior to this offseason, the only Minnesota Wild player to own a Twitter account was Martin Havlat, and his updates came about as often as a 70 degree January day in St. Paul.

This year, the Wild has at least two consistent "Tweeters" in Eric Nystrom (Enystrom23) and Devin Setoguchi (Dsetoguchi10), who seem to be summing up the feelings of everybody in the State of Hockey these days.

Last night, Nystrom said "Getting a grant night before testing meal in @barlagrassa…Camp starts tomorrow #butterfliesinmystomach." Two days earlier, Setoguchi said "…Can't wait for camp to start #boom"

#Boom is right. As Mitch Martin's co-worker in Old School told him while pleading to join the fraternity that contributes nothing to society, "I need this, okay? Oh, I go golfing on Sundays. I hate golf."

In the State of Hockey, we need this. It was a long offseason, and while very interesting, very tragic as well. We need games. We need wins. We need to feel good about hockey again, and that only happened in April when the UMD Bulldogs won the National Championship and in June when the Boston Bruins prevented the Vancouver Canucks from winning their first-ever Stanley Cup.

They're not playing games yet, but players went through fitness testing this morning and passed their physicals. At lunch, the youngest coach in the NHL, Mike Yeo, articulated for the media what they can expect tomorrow and for the next three weeks as training camp leads into the offseason.

"You certainly want to have the best opportunity to succeed and I think Chuck (Fletcher) has done this," said Yeo. "Through this offseason, you look at the acquisitions we’ve made, you look at the guys we have returning, I think this a real exciting time for this organization; from anybody involved in it, from top to bottom, you talk to every one of the players and they’re sensing that, they are picking up on that and it’s a good feeling. A good feeling to go into the season and have a chance to start something special.

Yeo has been pretty forthcoming already, laying out who the top four lines are to start off with, as well as the defensive pairings. He threw out the names of Colton Gillies, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella and Casey Wellman as guys with the best shot of cracking the roster.

Still, there are going to be questions people want answered, and fans that come to Xcel Energy Center this weekend for open scrimmages will be quick to judge.

Is Dany Heatley poised to rebound from a "down" year in San Jose?

Is this relatively young defensive corps going to be able to make up for the loss of Brent Burns?

Will Guillaume Latendresse put last year behind him and get back to filling the net?

Will the line of Darroll Powe, Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck be the most entertaining checking line in the history of the NHL?

Can a young coach quickly gain the respect of this NHL roster and implement his system in short order?

A reminder that you're on, so the answer to all these questions is obviously, "yes." But for the sake of elaboration, let's get to the why's and wherefores.

Heatley scored 26 goals last year, which would have led the Wild. He averaged 44 the previous five seasons. He'll likely be playing alongside a pass-first, playmaking center in Mikko Koivu, and a shoot-first winger that will provide plenty of rebound opportunities.

Burns will undoubtedly be missed as one of the top offensive blueline threats in the NHL. But that offense should be made up for with the upgrades on the front lines. What the Wild was lacking last year was consistent positional defense. That's what Yeo strived to implement in Houston, preaching the importance of not getting caught out of position.

Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon don't get caught out of position on a regular basis. Jared Spurgeon is young, but he appeared to be one of the most positionally sound players on the roster last year. Clayton Stoner is never going to try to fool anyone by leading an offensive charge up the ice. He'll stay at home, and he'll punish opposing forwards.

Latendresse dealt with a nightmare season last year. A slow start in training camp gave way to abdominal issues, and eventually surgery. The season was lost, as was the chance to see him play alongside a set-up man like Pierre-Marc Bouchard (another positive story as he's coming to camp healthy and clear-headed for the first time in three years). Latendresse was modestly called out by Wild Owner Craig Leipold in a radio interview this summer, but the two were golfing together at Wednesday's corporate golf outing, and Latendresse appears trim and completely healthy.

Brodziak spent much of the last two seasons playing center on the second line with Martin Havlat and another skill player like Bouchard or Latendresse. While he fit in nicely with them and showed the ability to score, Brodziak's strength is his grit and his two-way play. Now centering two Energizer bunnies that pound opponents rather than bass drums, that line will give teams fits. And with names like "Clutterbuck" and "Powe" we're going to have waaaay too much fun with wordplay on that it's going to annoy the crap out of you.

As for Yeo, we feel like we already know him well and he's never been a Head Coach for a single game in the NHL. But the behind-the-scenes access provided by "Becoming Wild" presented by Toyota gave us some pretty good insight into what this guy is all about. Yes, he's young. Yes, he seems like a really good guy and one you'd want to have a beer (or soda) with. But he's also intense as evidenced by his berating of his team during a game in the AHL playoffs. And he's confident in his abilities. He'll tell you what he expects, and he sure doesn't give off the vibe that he'll let guys get away with coasting at any time.

So there you go. Expect big things from this group this season. And if you're still skeptical, check out the weekend scrimmages at Xcel Energy Center or online at

After all, you need this.

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