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Wild players see 'brighter days ahead' as offseason begins

With injured players healing and new ones incorporated, goal is to get back to postseason in 2019-20

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- After missing out on the postseason for the first time in seven years, there is universal belief that Minnesota's absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be just a one-year thing. 

Any number of factors contributed to the Wild's -- admittedly -- sub-par 2018-19 campaign. Among them: Injuries to crucial players, a bunch of new faces added later in the season, and a home record that ranked among the worst in franchise history.

The belief is, however, that with a healthy team and some continuity with newcomers like Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala and Victor Rask, that Minnesota can be right in the mix this time next spring.

"Oh yeah, for sure. Definitely. We have a good team," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "I think some good summer training and getting everyone on the same page. We had a lot of new guys, and it's tough for a team to go through that transition on the go. I think this summer will help us. Each player will get where they need to be, and in return that'll help our team."

Video: Locker clean out: Suter

One of those players is Suter himself, who did not have anywhere near a normal summer in 2018 as he recovered from a severe leg and ankle injury

He's looking forward to getting back to his typical offseason routine now that he's healthy.

"I haven't been able to do much, and I think it'll be good," Suter said. "When I come back to camp, I'll feel good again and feel the way it's supposed to."

With the exception of known injuries to Matt Dumba, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, Wild General Manager Paul Fenton said the team escaped any other major ailments, classifying others as normal bumps and bruises.

Rest will be key early in the summer. Parise should be back to 100 percent in about a month.

Dumba and Koivu will continue rehabbing their season-ending injuries with the belief that both will be ready to go for training camp in September. 

Those three back healthy will go a long way toward putting the best roster possible on the ice in the fall.

Dumba, for example, was on his way to a career season. He led the NHL in goals by a defenseman with 12 when he tore his labrum a couple weeks before Christmas.

Think he could have helped a slumbering Wild offense at the end of the season? 

"That was a tough part about it. It wasn't easy watching the games," Dumba said. "It was a tough stretch. Just learn from it, and we'll be better next year."

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon said he will use this season's finish as motivation to be back in the playoffs next year. 

Entering the final year of a four-year, $20.75 million contract extension he signed in 2015, Spurgeon is used to Minnesota as a playoff staple. The Wild missed the postseason in his first two NHL seasons, but has been back in each of the past six. 

"It's definitely different. Every year, you expect to be in the playoffs this time of year. Obviously, things didn't go the way we wanted them to," Spurgeon said. "It's going to be a long summer of everyone having to improve and come back hungry and not ever wanting to feel this way again."

For veterans like Parise, the early offseason also provides a sobering reminder that the end is probably closer than the beginning. 

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Parise led the team in scoring with 28 goals and looked mostly healthy after a back injury limited him to half of a season in 2017-18.

"It's a hard thing when you're a younger player. You don't understand -- we've all been there -- you don't understand how fast it goes by and really how hard it is not only to make the playoffs but go far in the playoffs and how many things have to go right for you," Parise said. "You think, 'Oh, we'll get 'em next year,' and all of a sudden eight years later, you're still saying the same thing and who knows how many good years you've got left to play?"

With a team that began the season as the NHL's oldest, and finished it as one of its youngest, it will be incumbent on Parise to share that veteran wisdom with a new crop of youthful players. 

Video: Locker clean out: Parise

"I had good veterans around me when I was younger that would remind of that," Parise said. "It goes by quick, and you can't always sit there and tell yourself that it will come next year. I think we do have players that work hard that care about the game and that want to win. I believe that a lot of them will have good training summers and come ready to play."

Veteran Eric Staal signed a two-year extension with the Wild on trade deadline day because he said he believes in the future here and that he wants to see it through to the end. 

He's a guy that will be counted on again next year when it's likely the Wild will continue to get younger.

"It's extremely disappointing now, having to miss the playoffs and not even having a chance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Staal said. "But I know this organization is committed to trying to win. That's why I've wanted to stay. I see brighter days ahead."


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