The easy assessment today is that the Wild are a vastly better team today than they were yesterday. Justin Falk will get a Norris worthy mentor, Steve Kampfer will get his second of that caliber. Dany Heatley will get to play without always being the most recognizable offensive threat on the team Backstrom will get a guy in front of him who is healthy, highly skilled and driven. Koivu not only will end up with less responsibility to carry each game, he can sit home and smile for a couple days that he’ll have to playoff experienced veterans of high skill to deepen the talent pool, and help shoulder the burden of success.
A big reason for both Suter and Parise to sign in Minnesota is that both are used to defensive systems that make use of all five players in all three zones. Together with Koivu, Backstrom, and Heatley, they make a compellingly deep team. For all the defensive prowess of the Predators that can’t be said about them. For all the wizardry of Kovalchuk and the promise of Henrique, they aren’t a top team now, with or without Parise.
For the Northwest division, it just got uglier. The Canucks are no longer assured of a playoff spot, division title, and potential Presidents Trophy simply for playing in the leagues worst division. The Calgary Flames should see this as a sign they need to finally set off the explosives while Iginla, Bouwmeester and one or two others will still fetch something. The Oilers are possibly the worst off since a division rival just got better offensively and defensively. Colorado will have to scrap even harder, and get everyone pulling together or just pull the plug but things can’t continue as they have.
Hardest hit is likely one of the teams that never had either, the Detroit Red Wings. With the end of the Lidstrom Era, and the decline and fall of their once dominant forward group, another Dead Wings era may be in the offing, The Predators while losing an enormous talent are likely better off than the Devils. Suter was not the name and face of the franchise. Ideally they will replace him with a quality forward or two who can provide timely offense. For the Devils, some will call this a death knell given their financial troubles, or see it as a betrayal. The truth is the Devils had a great deal of luck getting to the finals last year, and didn’t have the money to upgrade to win.
Next season, the Devils are still likely a playoff team, as are the Predators. What this means for the draft pick the Devils could have forfeited this year is unknown, but this years pick is likely to be higher. Also look for the trade market to spring wide open. This may even include some of the prospects drafted just a couple weeks ago.