I'm just reading an article in the most recent issue of THN about the surprising success of the Minnesota Wild. Even with the blockbuster trades Wild GM Chuck Fletcher made this past offseason no one in their right mind would ever have thought the Wild would be among the games elite. When Fletcher boldly stated that the status-quo had to change most in the hockey world assumed that included the style of play, especially when they added two proven top-six wingers, but it didn't...
The Wild are back trapping up the neutral zone under former AHL affiliate Houston Aeros' head coach Mike Yeo took the helm of the big club. The Wild are winning in dramatic fashion, leading the league in goals against in the third period and most come-from-behind and one-goal wins. No kidding.
They are still a largely unheralded group with not-so household names such as Gregg Zanon and Clayton Stoner patrolling the blue line and nine rookies dressed so far this season. So, can a team that is that short-handed in proven talent really trap its way to success in the new NHL? Apparently so.
It seems the entire team are so bought in to Yeo's system that they would perform ritual sipiku on their own Easton's if they ever disgraced the great neutral zone clogging, or by some dispicable twist attempted to open the game up a little bit. Here they are, often surrendering the first goal and sticking to their guns and putting up W's.
It's not just the violent allegiance to boring hockey but the familiarity of the team and personnel. Eleven current roster players won the Calder Cup with Yeo in Houston, and by promotin from within the Wild have grown successfully as a family. They added some key cogs, but not enough to disrupt the culture, and that is their bread and butter.
I think we'll see this as a trend in the NHL, coaches and systems being groomed in the AHL. It will probably lead to players or groups of young talent staying in the AHL longer to be programmed by the next guy in line. Look at what's happening already this season; six NHL coaches have already been gassed, most of them replaced by veteran NHL bench bosses, but are the new guys here for the long run? Likely not. Look for a gradual trend towards the Wild approach to it.
As far as Minnesota goes this once depleted farm system was quickly re-stocked by Fletcher when he picked up Charlie Coyle and a draft pick that became Memorial Cup winner and 100 point man Zach Phillips...and Mikael Granlund is looking like he's returned to form after a head injury. Offensive help is on the way and the Wild are for real.
The trap is old news, but the system of promoting your own talent, on the ice and off of it, together as a unit, is a new recipe for success.