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Spurgeon readies to captain different-looking club in 2021-22

Roster changes give Wild a new vibe as upcoming campaign approaches

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Jared Spurgeon will be captaining a very different-looking hockey team with training camp on the horizon.

The Wild's longest tenured players is one of the hold overs that has survived a roster overhaul in the 24 months since General Manager Bill Guerin arrived on the scene.

In the year before Guerin's arrival, roster mainstays like Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle were traded. Guerin has continued that trend, trading Jason Zucker and Devan Dubnyk while buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this summer.

That's left Spurgeon as one of the few remaining faces from a core that has seen plenty of changes over the past two seasons.

"There's a lot of excitement," Spurgeon said. "From the veteran guys and the young guys, there are spots open and there's excitement in terms of what we can do. Obviously we need to gel together as a team and have a good training camp, but there's a lot of new faces and getting to know each other now a couple weeks before camp is fun."

While normalcy in society is still a ways away, there is some semblance of normal at the rink, where several veterans and a bevy of the Wild's prospects have gathered at TRIA Rink this week for captain's practices. 

The youngsters will take part in the Tom Kurvers Prospects Showcase here next week before the 2021-22 season kicks off with the start of training camp on Sept. 23. 

And while the full array of Wild veterans hasn't arrived in town yet, Spurgeon acknowledged there does seem to be an air of excitement and a new energy surrounding this season.

"There's a different dynamic for sure," Spurgeon said. "The young guys and the new faces, they all bring something a little different from what we had. And that's not to say that what we had wasn't good, but you always need to change if you're not winning [championships].

"To be able to add the guys we did, and with the youth that we have pushing for lineup spots as well, it should be fun."

Where a bulk of that change will take place for the upcoming season will come on the blue line, where half of the team's six regulars will see turnover.

That includes Spurgeon's defensive partner, where Suter is now in Dallas and the Wild added veteran Alex Goligoski, who is expected to log big minutes next to the Minnesota captain.

While Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba seemed primed to resume their partnership, the Wild will also need to identify a third defensive pairing among newcomers Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill and Jordie Benn, with youngster Calen Addison also expected to make a push in training camp. 

"I think with our d-core now, there's more grit on the back end and we're going to be hard to play against," Spurgeon said. "We've played against those guys for a long time, and just the way they play down low and still create offense - and for Goose as well, tough to play against, creates offense with his skating - I think everybody brings a different dynamic to that back end and that's good for the team."

No matter how the pairings shake out in training camp, Spurgeon said he's looking forward to a return to semi-normalcy, at least at the rink. 

As of now, the vast majority of players in the League are vaccinated, which means some of the strict precautions that were needed last season may be relaxed a little bit. That should allow for more interaction with teammates and an occasional trip outside the four walls of the hotel room when on the road. 

It also means fans in the stands, renewing rivalries with traditional Central Division rivals, and trips to Eastern Conference cities for the first time in nearly two years. 

More than anything else, at least when it comes to normalcy, hockey will start the season on time, there will be 82 games to play and teams should be able to get back into a semi-normal routine, at least in terms of the schedule.

"Last year, it was fun because of the team we had put together and just being on the road, we had more time together as opposed to a regular schedule," Spurgeon said. "But I think we're all looking forward to getting back to some normal, getting fans back in the stands, getting to every single building and having the same rules within every building. Last year, I think we had a new text every day saying what we could or couldn't do. 

"I think we're all looking forward to that and even camp being more normal than it was last season. It's a relief."

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