There was a heartfelt moment in this preseason that perfectly explained how different this version of Wilde is from teams of the past.
Shortly after top prospect Adam Beckman scored the winning goal in overtime to give Wilde a dramatic 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues, everyone on the team waited in the locker room ready to celebrate. Was.
As 20-year-old Beckmann came in, winger Marcus Foligno showered him with baby powder, and the team erupted into a raucous cheer.
You’d never know it was such a meaningless game. And it’s that sort of thing.
Goalkeeper Cam Talbot laughed in reference to Foligno’s postgame antics, saying, “He was just Moose who was Moose.” “Just having a little fun with[Beckman]. He took it like a champion. He’s a good kid.”
As Wilde begins a new chapter this season with a new leadership group – Jared Spurgeon as captain; Foligno and Matt Dumba as options – have a very different vibe from the past decade.
“I think we’ve said it a lot in the last few weeks,” Spurgeon said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your first year, or where you come from, you speak and say what’s on your mind. If you have something to say, and how long you’ve been here, you Let’s listen, and have that kind of dialogue. It’s been good so far.”
While it’s entirely fair to wonder how much this past season has to do with the departures of veteran stars Zach Parris and Ryan Sutter — as well as the season before longtime captain Miko Koivu — to say that the only reason Things feel different, it will be a disservice to the work Spurgeon, Foligno, and Dumba have done before this season.
“It’s part of holding each other accountable,” Foligno said. “You do this by getting everyone involved. If people are able to be themselves, and people feel comfortable in the locker room, the team will be better for it. It’s no longer the old-fashioned mentality where a pecking order is.” ”
Maybe it hasn’t always been like this. Asked if this season feels different, Dumba smiled and replied, “Yeah, very different.” Most of the players inside the locker room agree.
“Just being able to be yourself is a great thing,” Dumba said. “Everybody is on the same page. We’re chirping each other and talking like that. That’s just what team camaraderie is so important. It goes a long way on the ice and off the ice.”
The excitement about the new leadership group starts at the top of the organization.
“I’m really, really excited,” said Wild owner Craig Leipold. “I found out who they were going to pick (as a substitute) and I said, ‘Wow. That’s great.’ I’m glad they came with those two guys, Foligno and Damba, and I think they’re both very emotional people. They’ll talk in the locker room. I’m very supportive of this move.”
As General Manager Bill Guerin has noted, however, the new leadership group works so well because Spurgeon, Foligno and Dumba are all comfortable giving voices to.
“I think Spurgi said this when he was making his announcement on (Foligno and Dumba) that it doesn’t matter whether someone is wearing the letter or not,” Guerin said. “If you have the experience, you have the potential to be a leader in this team. And for the younger players, they’re going to learn from some really good people, and we’re looking to provide them with the energy and the spark.” I think it’s a really good mix.”
It goes back to that moment with Beckman in the locker room. He was extremely boisterous throughout the training camp as he felt quite comfortable with himself. Not once did he feel that he was walking on eggshells.
“We want a culture where every young player feels good to be here,” Foligno said. “We know there will be opportunities and people coming from (the Iowa Wilds of the American Hockey League) who love being in our room. We want it to feel like a family. That’s the biggest thing. We want everyone to feel like we have room for them in our room. It doesn’t matter whether the person has 10 games or 1,000 games. We want everyone to be themselves. ”
That’s music to train Dean Iveson’s ears. He came through the NHL in the 1980s and remembers how it felt to be a young player.
“It’s not like someone (Beckman) is saying, ‘You’re a rookie. You can’t talk nonsense like that. Just sit in the corner,'” Evans said. “Gone are the days. Those days are over.
“It’s not an issue that a man has life and a man has energy and a man is assertive,” Evans said. “I don’t know what the other teams are doing. All I know is that it’s changed since the ’80s, that’s for sure. You would never have a young person (if things were still as they were). You wouldn’t say a word, would you? It clearly meant nothing then or now. we are all in this together. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s the environment we’re trying to create.”
In the same breath, Evans went out of his way to praise Spurgeon for his ability as a leader. Everything starts with Spurgeon on top of what Evason appreciates as much as what Foligno and Dumba bring to the locker room.
“He allows people to lead next to him, not under him,” Koch said. “It’s exciting for us.”
The way Iveson leads the team is equally exciting for the players. From the day he took over former coach Bruce Boudreau, he has preached accountability – and he has never strayed from that message.
“It was in the past,” Foligno said. “It wasn’t always consistent. I think people can now look into each other’s eyes and their ego doesn’t come in the way. I think it’s easier now to say, ‘You need to work harder,’ ‘ Or, ‘You did it wrong.’ There’s positive and negative feedback, and it’s taken a lot better now.”
While the locker room can never be perfect, hopefully, led by Spurgeon, Foligno, and Dumba, everyone at least feels like they have a voice.
“You have to come together and understand each other, and I think that’s where our leadership group comes in,” Foligno said. “We have to set the standard, and once that standard is set, we can’t go below that. I think that’s what we’re going through right now. It feels really cool.”