My timing seemed logical enough. Piggyback a week of vacation on top of some furlough days and enjoy the heart of summer with a long break away from work. Aside from the Wild starting training camp, there wouldn’t be much news in the hockey world, would there?
Turns out, there were plenty of developments, so now it’s time for Puck Drop to catch up. Here are a handful of my thoughts on the hockey news of the past couple weeks:
Wild takes “interim’’ of coach Dean Evason’s title
This move made perfect sense given the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Evason went 8-4 after taking over for the fired Bruce Boudreau, and General Manager Bill Guerin was impressed with Evason’s leadership since the NHL season hit pause. Evason deserved a chance to coach in the expanded playoffs, and by making him the permanent coach, Guerin removed a distraction. The two-year contract works well for both sides, too. The Wild isn’t tied to Evason for an overly long term in case things don’t go well, and the coach can secure leverage for a better deal if he succeeds.
Kirill Kaprizov signs a two-year, entry-level contract
Finally, the Wild got it hot prospect under contract on July 13, the same day the team rewarded Evason. Problem is, the NHL won’t let him play until next season, robbing the Wild of the opportunity to immediately use the KHL superstar in the playoffs. Seems like a short-sighted decision by the league, and not just regarding Kaprizov. Hobey Baker Award winner Scott Perunovich, for example, normally would have joined the St. Louis Blues after Minnesota Duluth’s season ended and likely would played in the playoffs. Instead, COVID-19 hit, the NHL made its ruling and the defenseman instead signed a two-year deal that begins in the 2020-21 season.
As for Kaprizov, the Wild is trying to get him to Edmonton to become acclimated with his new team. He remains in Russia since his U.S. work visa hasn’t yet been approved, further delaying the 2015 draft pick’s introduction to the team. Frustrated Wild fans must think someone is pushing pins into a voodoo doll of Nordy when it comes to the Kaprizov saga.
St. Thomas gets go-ahead to move to NCAA Division I
Beginning in 2020-21, Minnesota will have a sixth team in both men’s and women’s hockey at the Division I level with the approval of St. Thomas to move up from D-III. This is great news for college hockey because both the Tommies women and men will fill needs. The women’s program will join the WCHA and give that league an eighth team, filling a void left in 2017 when North Dakota eliminated its competitive women’s program. On the men’s side, the Tommies don’t have a conference home yet, but barring major college hockey restructuring, it seems as if it’s an empty-net tap-in that they’ll end up in the new CCHA with the seven breakaway members of the WCHA in a league that begins play in 2021-22. Maybe we’ll eventually see a crosstown rivalry between the Gophers and Tommies.
The Seattle Kraken
Social media reaction to the nickname of the expansion NHL team that will begin play in the 2021-22 season ranged from love to hate. A mythical, gigantic, octopus-like sea monster, the Kraken certainly isn’t your run-of-mill name for a team. Seattle gets bonus points for creativity, but a demerit for a non-plural choice that creates grammatical confusion with the it/they pronoun. The nickname is starting to grow on me. After all, we in Minnesota have learned to live with an unconventional moniker like Wild for the past 20 years.