Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild: The X-Factors

After looking closely at the forwards, defense, and goaltending, its time to single out a player from each of those areas who most needs to make an impact on the Wild roster this season to help this team succeed.

Dany Heatley
After two subpar seasons, the third one will be Heater's swan song here. But coming into camp this year he has been in much better shape than the previous two seasons, and now is surrounded with solid players (Warren Peters was centering him his first year here at one point). The Wild's top line expects to draw a lot of attention, which means that they need their second line to step up. Enter Heatley. He will be joined by youngsters Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle on the second line, and if Heatley can find some of that magic from Ottawa and San Jose, it would greatly help alleviate the pressure off his linemates and the first line. A motivating factor for Heatley is that he is in a contract year and a good season can help him cash in one more nice contract in this league.

Jared Spurgeon
Try and remember a memorable (good or bad) play from Jared Spurgeon last year. Can't remember one? Well no worries, because none exist. Spurgeon completely flew under the radar but did nothing impressive or horrible. In the offseason, he was blessed with a nice new contract that hits the Wild cap at $2.66M for the next three seasons (making him the second highest paid defenseman on the roster). Spurgeon did notch 15 points (5 G, 10 A) in 39 games last year, but the Wild need much better production out of him since he will be anchoring the second defensive pairing with Marco Scandella. Speaking of Scandella, a solid season from Spurgeon also takes the pressure off of Marco (who had a forgettable preseason), who the Wild are expecting big things from.

Josh Harding
Yeah yeah yeah, I know this is out in left field. But in all seriousness, the Wild need a solid healthy year from Josh Harding. It was touched on in the goaltender post Sunday, and it will be echoed here again. Harding is good enough to earn a few more starts a season. Running Niklas Backstrom into the ground will do the team no good. Get him some rest and give Harding a few more starts. He performed admirably when being called upon in the playoffs (defense did him no favors), and Mike Yeo should take that as a sign he can handle a few more starts during the year. Having healthy goaltenders are good, but in this case, having a solid healthy Harding will do the Wild many favors over the course of the season.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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