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The Wild Report Card

Todd Varga


blog-0660857001334685421.jpgThe Wild Report Card – 4/17/2012

How great have the playoffs been…and it’s only been a week! Every series has been emotional and entertaining, and the hockey has been fantastic. Add into that the start of baseball season and this is truly the greatest time in sports for the year. With that said, it is also the time of the season for reflection for teams that have failed to make the playoffs. Those teams are doing exit interviews, preparing for the draft and free agency, and looking internally for ways to make their team better. For observers of these teams, it is time for reflection and reviews. Today, we are going to grade every player to suit up for the Wild this season. For those of you that haven’t been paying attention to Minnesota, or haven’t been keeping up with the blog ( :’( ) that adds up to 47 different players. So without further ado, here is the Wild Report Card.

Mikko Koivu ©

It was a rough year for Captain Koivu. He missed 27 games this past year, making for some very pedestrian numbers for what you would expect from him (12G, 32A 45P). Koivu played well when he was healthy, and showcased the ability to distribute the puck and make the people around him better. He was the heart and soul of this team, and his absence was very noticeable.

Most memorable moment: Game winner in OT against the Florida Panthers. He skated through2 defenders and scored in 15 seconds.

Grade: B-

Dany Heatley (A)

Dany Heatley is easily the most polarizing figure that has put on a Minnesota Wild sweater in recent memory, and quite possibly ever. A lot has been said about him, and after the Wild acquired him this summer, it was amplified (kind of the perfect storm- the Sharks fans and media spoke up, and the Wild’s second game of the year was Ottawa’s home opener). I saw Heater called things such as, locker room cancer, selfish, lazy, washed up, and choke artist… to name a few. Not speaking for his time in Atlanta, Ottawa, or San Jose, I can say that in Minnesota last year I saw none of that. Dany Heatley was a great member of the Minnesota Wild last year. He led the team in points (24G, 29A 55P) and played every game of the season. Heatley did everything you could ask: he scored points, he stuck up for his team mates, and he played hard on both sides of the puck.

Most memorable moment: Scored a goal with 1.4 seconds left in the game to force overtime in Edmonton. The Wild would win in a Shootout.

Grade: A

Devin Setoguchi

It wa a rough year for Seto. He only scored 19 goals, and missed significant time with a knee injury. He also seemed to have trouble adjusting to the trade to Minnesota. It clearly took Setoguchi by surprise, and he didn’t really look all that comfortable with the team until the end of the year. I think Yeo’s healthy scratching of him against the Sharks after he missed a team meeting because he was out late with old team mates got to him a little bit. I really like Seto, and I think that he will have a much better year next season as he is more accustomed to the team and the city, and because there will probably be more talent around him to play with. Hopefully he will get back to his game, and take more shots, which is what the Wild traded for him for in the first place.

Most memorable moment: Overtime game winner in Detroit after Mikko’s exploding shoulder forced turnover.

Grade: C

Matt Culen (A)

It was another rough year for Matt Cullen. He got off to a fast start, but tailed off in the middle of the year. A lot of that was the ever rotating talent around him, and some of it was his health. He missed some games due to illness in the middle of the year, and missed the last 2 weeks of the season because of a broken finger caused by blocking a shot. Cullen also played his 1,000th game this season, which is a great accomplishment that he was very proud of. Hopefully Cullen is healthy next year, and hopefully he is playing with more talent regularly.

Most memorable moment: With the Wild injury riddled and down to 4 defensemen, Cullen turned around and played the last half of the third period on defense.

Grade: C

Cal Clutterbuck

Cal had sort of a down year by his standards. This was the first time in 4 years that he did not lead the league in hits, and scored only 15 goals (27 Points), which was down from his growth over the past few years. Like most of the other Wild players, Cal missed a little bit of time due to injury, which may have attributed to the stunt of growth in his stats. That is not to say Cal had a bad year, he provided a lot of energy for the Wild, and was very good on a line with Brodziak and Johnson, when the Wild were able to keep them together.

Most memorable moment: In a game against the Canucks early in the year, Cal was being pushed over the boards after the whistle, as a referee tried to break it up, he was punched in the face by Clutterbuck who couldn’t see what was happening, thus living out the dream of hockey players everywhere.

Grade: B-

Erik Christensen

Christensen came to the Wild in a trade for young prospect Casey Wellman. Christensen had been a healthy scratch for the Rangers for months, and Casey Wellman was going to get lost in the Wild’s incoming prospect pool, so this trade worked for both sides. With that said, Christensen got off to a slow start with the Wild. He was great in the shootout (really, really great to be precise), and once he scored his first regulation goal, he just took off. He was arguably the Wild’s best offensive player in the last month of the season, and it wouldn’t surprise me or anger me if the Wild brought him back next season.

Most memorable moment: Any of Christensen’s shootout goals. This guy has it completely figured out when it comes to the shootout. He has great hands, and just makes it look so effortless and easy.

Grade: B

Kyle Brodziak

It was a great year for Kyle Brodziak. He played all 82 games, and established a new high in goals (22) and registered 44 points total. He also earned himself a 3 year contract extension with the Wild that he signed in the middle of this year. The signing was perhaps the best move the Wild made this year. Brodziak is a hard working, heart and soul part of this team. He played with black eyes, and played the last 3 games wearing a Dany Heatley visor on his helmet after taking a high stick. Brodziak will be a great example and leader for all of the young guys coming into the Wild over the next few seasons.

Most memorable moment: The contract extension: Long overdue and well deserved. The excitement and expression he conveyed after it was announced made me feel good about this team going forward. #SignBrodziak

Grade: A-

Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson had an outstanding rookie campaign for the Wild. He was claimed on waivers from the Penguins 3 days before the first game of the year, and stayed with the club for the entire season. He notched 26 points (8G,18A) and really became a part of a strong energy line with Clutterbuck and Brodziak, unfortunately injuries didn’t allow them to keep the line together all year, but Johnson was productive no matter where they put him. He was also chosen to go to the All Star game as part of the rookie class, which is an honor he deserved.

Most memorable moment: His first goal. He was excited, and he earned it. Maybe the best move Chuck Fletcher has made for the Wild so far.

Grade: B-

Darroll Powe

Darroll Powe was a great grit guy for the Wild. He was touted as a Penalty Kill Specialist and a good defensive forward after he was signed. That is a good starting point. Powe is a master of killing penalties. The guy makes it look like a science. He was very strong defensively, and added 6 goals to help out the Wild offense. He also took up for his team mates whenever he needed to (his fights were awesome-see below). Powe was a great pick up for the Wild in the offseason.

Most memorable moment: His staged fights. Powe had two staged fights, and before both of them he threw off both gloves, his helmet, and rolled up his sleeves as he put up his dukes. It reminded me of an old fashioned duel.

Grade: B

Warren Peters

Peters spent his time with the Wild centering the 4th line. At times, the 4th line played really well, depending on who was on it. Peters was able to help that line generate a lot of time in the offensive zone. He had 5 points in 58 games, but was very good as a checking line center. Yeo was able to throw his line out and know they were going to be physical, and command the puck.

Most memorable moment: His constant drives to the net that never worked. Peters would contantly drive to the net, and for whatever reason (loses the puck, weak shot, stick lift, poke check) it just never happened.

Grade: C+

Matt Kassian

Kassian was basically the Wild enforcer. He played in 28 games, had 2 goals, and 55 PIMs. Kassian was good on a checking line, and played decent defense. His 2 goals came in the same game, on the road in Montreal, and unfortunately for him they get forgotten behind Devin Setoguchi’s shootout face plant. Kassian played well in stretches, and did his job well.

Most memorable moment: His two fights in one game in Minnesota where he was taunting the crowd WWE style. Both fights: decisive wins for big Matt Kassian.

Grade: B-

Jed Ortmeyer

Jed Ortmeyer spent the last part of the year on the Wild’s 4th line. He played in 35 games, and registered 2 points (1G,1A). Ortmeyer was a very good energy guy, and brought a good physical presence to the ice whenever he was called upon. This guy really brought his all to the rink every day, and played well in his role on the team. Ortmeyer is a free agent, and I really hope he gets an NHL job. I think he earned it.

Most memorable moment: His deflection goal. Orts deserved a goal and was super stoked when he got it.

Grade: B

Jon Disalvatore

Disalvatore played 1 game with the Wild. He had no points, and registered 2 shots. Disalvatore is the Captain of the Houston Aeros, and from everything the players say he is a great captain and leader for that team. He is a very important part of the Wild organization in this capacity, and will be more important next year as the Wild’s young future don the Aeros sweater. Take care of our boys Jonny.

Most memorable moment: Being billed as the Captain of the Houston Aeros. Not that the Captaincy is not an accomplishment, but being built up off of it was kind of entertaining.

Grade: C

Kristopher Foucault

He played one game for the Wild, and registered no points. He was up early in the year, and held the spot he was in fairly well.

Most memorable moment: He was one of the earlier call ups. I remember their being some excitement to see one of the young Aeros. That was of course before we realized we were going to see all of the young Aeros.

Grade: C

Cody Almond

Almond played 10 games with the Wild, and registered 1 goal. I see Almond as a guy who is going to be a mainstay in the AHL for the Wild. He doesn’t really blow you away with any aspects of his game, and I think with all the guys coming in, he may get lost in the shuffle of talent in Houston. His size may be his biggest asset, and if he learns to use it more as a weapon, he may be more of a factor. Time will tell.

Most memorable moment: He is a big kid. My most memorable moment is just that. I was shocked at how big he was. I don’t remember that being the case in the previous year.

Grade: C+

Guillaume Latendresse

G-Lat just can’t buy a break. Last year he had the abdominal surgery, this year it was a concussion. Latendresse is a beast when he suits up for the Wild. He had 9 points in 16 games for the Wild this season (5G,4A), and is a legit scoring threat every time he hits the ice. Gui was really learning how to use his size to go along with his scoring prowess, and was easily the best offensive threat for the Wild before he went down. The top line of Latendresse-Koivu-Heatley looked awesome for the short time it was on the ice. Gui has said he is symptom free, and will be ready to go next season, so hopefully we see what these three guys can do on a line, and see Latendresse reach the potential that we all know he is capable of.

Most memorable moment: In his first game back from his first IR concussion stint, he scored a goal in his first shift. Get well Gui.

Grade: B

Pierre-Marc Bouchard

It was another short year for PMB. In 37 games he registered 22 points (9G,13A), and played well during his time on the ice. However, Bouchard suffered at least 1 more concussion that ended his season, and has now raised legitimate concerns about his health going forward. This has become an all too familiar tale for Bouchard. I really hope he can play next year, and I hope he can stay healthy. Bouchard has amazing skills, and plays with great heart, and I really hope he ends his career on a good note and on his terms.

Most memorable moment: Not to be a Negative Nancy, but it really is the boarding call in Winnipeg. I’ve never seen a hockey player leave so much blood on the ice. No justice for PMB. Get well #96.

Grade: B

Brett Bulmer

Bulmer was the biggest surprise for the Wild at the beginning of the year. He made the club out of training camp as a 19 year old rookie. He registered 3 assists in his 9 games with the Wild before being sent back to his Junior Club. Bulmer did not look out of place and was playing very good hockey until he was sent down. I was really surprised they sent him back at the time, but it was a good move in hindsight. Bulmer is going to be a good piece for the Wild next season.

Most memorable moment: His making the team. Bulmer played well in Traverse City, and made the team on the second line out of camp. It showed that Bulmer is someone we should be excited about, and that Mike Yeo will put the best players on the ice, no matter what.

Grade: B+

Jason Zucker

It was really exciting to see Zucker both sign and play in the NHL this season. It was a good way to show fans what lies ahead. Zucker was really fun to watch, and I really look forward to see what he can do with the Wild in the near future. He is very fast, and has developed some good offensive skill in his time at Denver University. He is a good reason to be excited about next year.

Most memorable moment: The speed. Zucker can flat out fly on that ice. He created a number of scoring chances off of his speed, and his willingness to drive to the net. I am thoroughly excited to see him with the Wild.

Grade: A-

Brad Staubitz

Staubitz was puzzle piece that just didn’t fit. Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher saw that Matt Kassian could fill the role Brad Staubitz was occupying, and made moves in that regard. He didn’t have a great year with the Wild, and was not being a huge help to the team in any facet of the game. I’m glad Staubitz ended up with an NHL club, and wish him nothing but the best in Montreal.

Most memorable moment: His gaffe against the Oilers where Theo Peckham baited Staubitz into fights and then refused to drop the gloves. Good luck Stauby.

Grade: D

Stephane Veilleux

Veilleux played in 21 games with the Wild this season, and registered 2 assists. He was a great third line winger. In the last month of the season, nobody was winning more battles, or throwing more weight around than Stephane Veilleux. It was great to have him back in the State of Hockey. He was definitely playing for a job next season, and if the Wild bring him back, I would not be disappointed.

Most memorable moment: His interview between periods with Kevin Fallness about a week before he was reacquired by the Wild. Said he would love to come back. Your Minnesota Wild, making dreams come true.

Grade: C

Nick Schultz

Oh dear. This trade was a complete shock when it was announced. Schultz was a big heart and soul guy. He was the quintessential member of the Minnesota Wild. I was genuinely sad when I saw the trade, and it hurt a little bit when I saw him in an Oilers jersey. I also miss following his brother on Twitter, who watched every game and is hysterical. Even with that, the Wild needed to get more offense from the defense. I think this trade will be good for both for teams in the long run. Schultz was great, good luck to him with Edmonton.

Most memorable moment: TSN reporting that the Schultz found out about the trade through twitter, not from the Wild, and then trashing the Wild for about two minutes on how terrible it is to find out about a trade that way… then rescinding the comment 5 minutes later.

Grade: B

Greg Zanon

Zanon was a good defense man that blocked a ton of shots. Zanon showed up for every game, and always gave his all out on the ice. He scored two goals for the Wild this season, and is playing great for the Bruins in the playoffs. That being said, I think the trade was good. Zanon was not going to be resigned, and getting something for him versus letting him walk was good. Good luck to Greg Zanon.

Most memorable moment: He scored his first goal of the season against the Red Wings at the Xcel energy center. It was his first goal in 137 games.

Grade: B

Marek Zidlicky

Zidlicky was a joke with the Wild this season. He added no offense to the team from the blue line, and was a huge distraction off the ice as he was complaining about Mike Yeo or Chuck Fletcher or God knows what else. The bottom line is the Wild were playing better without him, and Mike Yeo played his best team with or without Zidlicky. Now, the deal that sent him to New Jersey was an amazing win for Chuck Fletcher. He turned disgruntled and unproductive Marek Zidlicky, who had a No Movement Clause, into a prospect and 2 expiring contracts. He helped the future and created a good chunk a cap room for some possible offseason shopping.

Most memorable moment: His giant whiff on a power play that resulted in a shorthanded goal. He was at the point, completely whiffed on a shot, and the other team put it in the back of the net.

Grade: D-

Casey Wellman

Wellman was part of the Wild’s top 6 for a good portion of the beginning of the season. He played OK, but never blossomed into the scorer that the Wild envisioned he could be. Not that he still can’t. The Wild moved Wellman because of the influx of talent they have coming in next year. He was going to get lost in the shuffle. Good job by them to get something back for him. Good luck to him in the future.

Most memorable moment: His first multi point game in Anaheim. He played great, scored a go ahead goal that held up as the game winner.

Grade: B-

Nick Palmieri

Palmieri had some very impressive games right after arriving in Minnesota. He was able to use his size and strength to make an impact in front of the net, but was unable to burry anything in the goal. He has a lot of potential, and could be a good power forward somewhere down the line. He had some flashes of brilliance, and it won’t surprise me to see him with the Wild at some point next season.

Most memorable moment: His first game. He played very well. He used his size and speed to be a real difference maker on the ice. This was a great piece to get back for Zidlicky.

Grade: B-

Chad Rau

Rau had 2 goals in 9 games. He was a very energetic forward with some scoring skill. He is very young and needs some more time to develop.

Most memorable moment: His goal against Boston on Hockey Day in America. He looked off Tim Thomas and buried it. He’s got lots of potential.

Grade: B+

Jarod Palmer

He played in 6 games, and scored 1 goal. Palmer looked fairly good in his short time with the team, which was unfortunately cut short.

Most memorable moment: His first goal in his first game. A Great goal, a great kid, and another sad concussion story.

Grade: B

Carson McMillan

McMillan had some good games for the Wild in his 11 games with the club. He was mainly on the 3rd or 4th lines, and had that awesome breakaway game winner against the Avalanche in December. He is a good third line center who is decent in the faceoff dot.

Most memorable moment: The game winner in Colorado. A great goal, in what at the time was seen as a very important game.

Grade: B

David McIntyre

McIntyre played very well in his time with the wild when he was in his role. McIntyre reminded me of a sort of Cal Clutterbuck type of player. When he was on the 3rd line as an energy/grit guy, he was awesome.

Most memorable moment: I remember his goal, and his grit. He played a very physical game, which was nice to see.

Grade: B-

Jeff Taffe

Taffe played 5 games, and scored 2 goals. He did not look totally out of place on the Wild, and brought great energy and effort.

Most memorable moment: His first game with the Wild in Florida where he scored a goal on the top line. He played very well for his short stay with the team.

Grade: B

Marco Scandella

Scandella took huge steps forward this season. He started to show us glimpses of the potential we have been hearing so much about. Scandella looked very confident and very poised on defense at the end of the year, and will hopefully gain more in Houston in the playoffs. Marco Scandella is going to be a cornerstone of the Minnesota wild defense for years to come.

Most memorable moment: His 35 minute game. He was on the ice the whole game it seemed like.

Grade: B+

Tom Gilbert

Tom Gilbert had a very interesting last few months with the Wild. When he arrived in Minnesota, he could not have looked more lost. His first game had me legitimately worried about how he would be able to perform for the Wild. The more he played, the better he looked. He really got a feel for the system and the team, and was very good in the last few games of the season, and played for 30+ minutes in several of them as well.

Most memorable moment: His pass to Koivu in Overtime for the game winner (see Koivu). Great play.

Grade: B-

Jared Spurgeon

Spurgeon had a great year going for the Wild before the concussion. This guy became the anchor of the Wild defense this year. At the beginning of the year, he was playing the most minutes, he was on both special teams, and even got an attempt at the shootout. If Spurgeon can get healthy and rejoin the defense that has been growing and learning without him, the blue line will be a lot better.

Most memorable moment: Again, not to be Negative Nancy, but it’s the boarding call in Colorado. No Justice for Spurgeon.

Grade: B+

Clayton Stoner

Stoner played alright this season. His main problem is his inability to stay on the ice. He played 51 games this past season. The Wild need him to put a season together, and to start adding some more points to his big physical style.

Most memorable moment: His goal. With the Wild’s defense, you can remember all the individual goals. His was a good snipe.

Grade: C+

Justin Falk

Falk played really well when he was healthy. He is learning more and more to use his size and strength to muscle his way to pucks, and his opponents into glass. Like the rest of the wild’s young core, the more he plays, the more confidence he gains. I really like Falk, and think he can be a very big piece of the wild defense for the foreseeable future.

Most memorable moment: His fore check. He created a great scoring chance while being stuck in the zone for the fore check. It was funny.

Grade: B

Steven Kampfer

Kampfer was by far the best piece the Wild got back in trades this spring in terms of immediate impact. Kampfer was sent back from Boston for Greg Zanon. I really liked Kampfer, he was dependable on defense, and he scored goals. He should have a good shot at being with the team out of camp next season.

Most memorable moment: His first goal. I had forgotten up to that point that the Defense was allowed to score goals.

Grade: B+

Kurtis Foster

Foster came over as part of the Zidlicky deal. He played very scarce minutes at times due to his back injuries. He still looked to have his booming shot, even though he couldn’t put it in the back of the net for the Wild. I don’t see him coming back, but we shall see.

Most memorable moment: His first game back in the Iron Range red. It was really nice to see him back in Minnesota. It sucks that the injuries got him.

Grade: C-

Nate Prosser

Prosser was solid on the backend for the Wild. He played good defense, and contributed to the offense regularly. I think he will be a good young piece of the Wild blue line next year. The more he plays, the more confidence he gets, and the better he seems to play. Glad they signed him.

Most memorable moment: I really want to say his goal, or his big minute game, or his moxy after the whistle, but it’s the head butt. It was a terrible move by Nate on that one. He also looks like Stiffler.

Grade: B-

Chay Genoway

Genoway played 1 game, and had 1 assist. He moved the puck really well, and was able to help the Wild get some scoring chances. I look forward to his next stint with the Wild, whenever that may come.

Most memorable moment: He wore number 47, and was the 47th man to suit up for the Wild this past year. I see what you did there Tony DeCosta.

Grade: B-

Tyler Cuma

Cuma played in 1 game, and registered no points. He looked OK out there with the other D-men. It was mostly just nice to see him get his shot at the NHL after all the injuries he has had to deal with.

Most memorable moment: Being the last defenseman from the first round of the 2008 draft to make his debut. He has dealt with a lot of injuries, and it was nice to see him get a shot in the NHL.

Grade: C

Kris Fredheim

Fredheim played in 3 games for the Wild and registered no points. He looked comfortable and solid on the blue line for his short visit, especially for a guy the Wild didn’t even have under contract at the beginning of the year.

Most memorable moment: His call up was a surprise, as he had to be signed out of Houston by the Wild before he could be called up. Michael Russo actually made the joke of his call up before he was signed, then it actually happened. It was funny at the time.

Grade: C+

Mike Lundin

Lundin spent most of the season injured or as a healthy scratch. When he was on the ice, he went mostly unnoticed.

Most memorable moment: When he signed with the Wild in the summer. I didn’t really get it then, and it didn’t really

matter anyway.

Grade: D

Matt Hackett

Hackett played a good fill in role for the Wild, and even got some starts down the stretch against some really good teams. He looked great in his debut, and played well for most of his time with the Wild. He looks really rough around the edges, and really looks like he just needs more time with Bob Mason refining his form and perfecting his craft. There is no doubt that this kid has the skills, and could be a crucial part of the Wild’s future.

Most memorable moment: The debut- his 50+ saves and shutout of the San Jose Sharks in San Jose.

Grade: B-

Niklas Backstrom

Backstrom had the typical up and down year that we have started to become accustomed to over the past few seasons. He had stretches where he played out of his mind, stretches where he played semi-mediocre, and stretches where he couldn’t stay on the ice. When he is on top of his game, he looks border line unbeatable, but he has got to find a way to stay healthy. If the Wild can’t increase team scoring, the goalie is going to be a huge piece of each victory, and the Wild need him to be that goalie.

Most memorable moment: Improvement in the shootout. I’ll always feel nervous, and never completely trust him, but Backs has definitely gotten better.

Grade: C+

Josh Harding

Hards got off to a very fast start, only to be slowed by injury. He played well for most of the year, making his case to other teams that they should sign him next year. I really think Harding can be a Number 1 goalie in this league. I’m very interested to see where he lands next year, and what kind of deal he winds up with.

Most memorable moment: His 4-0 start, which included a big 50+ save shutout.

Grade: B

So there it is: the Wild report card.

Have a good day; I’ll be back later in the week.

Todd Varga

On twitter @Wild_Halo


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