It's still early August, but the Minnesota Wild appears ready for the regular season. The last major bit of off-ice business - finding a replacement for departed Assistant Coach Mike Ramsey - has been completed with the hiring of Rick Wilson. After a long, hurdle-ridden process, Wilson signed his contract in the Wild's corporate offices today, his 60th birthday.
The Wild had several outstanding candidates for the vacant position, but none possessed as much experience as Wilson, who has coached in the NHL since 1988, and most recently was an associate coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning last year.
This will actually be Wilson's second stint in Minnesota. He was an assistant for the North Stars during the 1992-93 season before relocating with the franchise to Dallas, where he won a Stanley Cup in 1999. Wilson was with the Stars for 16 years, which included seven division titles, two Western Conference championships and two President's Trophies. He was also Dallas' interim coach in 2002, when he led the club to a 13-11-7 mark.
Wilson's expertise is working with defensemen, which was a priority in Head Coach Todd Richards' search. Under Wilson's guidance of the Dallas defensive corps, the club finished in the top three for fewest goals against in 2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07 and 2007-08.
Despite having an experienced and talented group on the blueline last year, it appeared several d-men struggled with inconsistency and lapses as they tried to adjust to a freewheeling, up-tempo style implemented by Richards.
With Wilson leading them, players like Brent Burns, Cam Barker, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon should flourish. Wilson's experience will also be welcomed as the club prepares to infuse young defensive prospects into the NHL ranks, including Clayton Stoner
, Marco Scandella
, Nate Prosser
, Tyler Cuma
and Justin Falk
Prior to embarking on a long and successful coaching career, Wilson played four NHL seasons with Montreal, St. Louis and Detroit. The native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan developed his game during three seasons with the University of North Dakota, the last of which when he served as team captain. Wilson's coaching career also started at UND, where he won a national championship as an assistant in 1980.
More to come.