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Found 28 results

  1. The Instigator |Episode 26 Shootouts “It’s a Mockery” The Minnesota Wild were beat twice by the Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansson in shootouts this week. Goalie Devan Dubnyk is not happy about it. Sunday, Johansson beat backup netminder Alex Stalock in the shootout and last night, it was Dubnyk’s turn. Both times, the Predators forward showcased his quick hands, however, Dubnyk believes that he is using filthy tactics as he slowly approached the net, adding that Johansen is making a “mockery” of the breakaway competition. Actually does anyone even like the shootout. Brad Burud discusses these controversial plays and gives his opinions on the shootout. PODCAST
  2. Former Wild forward and White Bear Lake native will assist with the club's digital content team and with the team's community relations and marketing departments The National Hockey League's (NHL) Minnesota Wild announced today that the team has hired Ryan Carter to its business staff. Carter will work closely with the team's web and digital content, community relations and marketing departments. As part of his new role with the organization, Carter will travel with the team to select road games as part of the wild.com digital content staff to help provide unique and creative content throughout the season on www.wild.com and the team's social media channels. Ryan will also serve as an ambassador for the Wild's "Faceoff for Fitness" school assembly program. The educational initiative emphasizes physical fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices to students throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Carter will also provide analysis on Wild Live presented by CenturyLink before and after select Wild games on FOX Sports North. The White Bear Lake, Minn., native totaled 93 points (41-52=93), 444 PIM and 691 hits in 473 career NHL games during nine seasons with Anaheim, Carolina, Florida, New Jersey and Minnesota (2007-16). He recorded 25 points (10-15=25) and 103 PIM in 113 contests during two seasons with the Wild (2014-16). Carter played in 18 games with the Iowa Wild in 2016-17 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He announced his retirement as a player in Sept. of 2017. Carter appeared in 46 career Stanley Cup Playoff matches and won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. He played two seasons at Minnesota State University Mankato (2004-06) and helped White Bear Lake High School reach the 2001 state high school hockey tournament. I got this of the Minnesota Wild Website here is the link and I give credit to the Minnesota Wild for the article: [Hidden Content]
  3. [Hidden Content] Yesterday (2-11-18), Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has recalled defenseman Nick Seeler from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL) and reassigned defenseman Viktor Loov (pronounced LOOV) to Iowa. Seeler, 24 (6/3/93), has recorded 12 points (2-10=12) and a team-leading 74 penalty minutes (PIM) in 49 games with Iowa this season. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Eden Prairie, Minn., tallied five assists and led Iowa with 109 PIM in 57 games during his first professional season in 2016-17. He ranked T-2nd in games played amongst team rookies and third amongst AHL rookies in penalty minutes. Seeler collected 10 assists in 36 games during his junior season with the University of Minnesota and led the team with a plus-21 rating, 43 PIM and 91 blocked shots in 2015-16. He redshirted the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules after playing two seasons at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Seeler helped Eden Prairie High School win the 2011 and 2009 Minnesota Class AA State Hockey Championships at Xcel Energy Center and was a First Team All-State pick following his senior season in 2010-11. Seeler was selected by Minnesota in the fifth round (131st overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Saint Paul. He has not appeared in an NHL game and will wear sweater No. 36 with Minnesota. Loov, 25 (11/16/92), was acquired by Minnesota on Feb. 8 from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forwards Christoph Bertschy and Mario Lucia. He totaled 17 points (5-12=17) and 45 PIM in 36 games with Binghamton (AHL) this season. Loov recorded two assists and a plus-4 rating in four career NHL games with Toronto in 2015-16. He's notched 59 points (16-43=59) and 178 PIM in 216 career AHL games with Toronto, Albany and Binghamton (2014-18).
  4. The Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA) today announced the nomination of Minnesota Wild center Matt Cullen for the National Hockey League's (NHL) Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The trophy is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Cullen, 41 (11/2/76), has recorded 21 points (10-11=21) and won 333-of-661 faceoffs (50.4%) in 73 games this season as the oldest player in the NHL. The Virginia, Minn., native reached the double-digit goal mark for the 16th time in his 20 NHL seasons in 2017-18. The three-time Stanley Cup Champion has skated alongside players who were born after his NHL career began, including the debut this season of his Wild teammate Luke Kunin, who was born 37 days after Cullen's first game in the League in 1997. Cullen celebrated his 41st birthday on Nov. 2 by becoming the oldest U.S.-born player to register a goal and assist in the same game. He became the 38th player in NHL history to skate in 1,400 career games on Dec. 22 - the fourth American and fourth active player to hit the mark. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound center also posted his 700th career NHL point on Jan. 20, becoming the 233rd player in NHL history (24th active) to reach the milestone. Cullen owns 710 points (258-452=710) in 1,439 career NHL games with Anaheim, Florida, Carolina, the New York Rangers, Ottawa, Minnesota, Nashville and Pittsburgh. He ranks third amongst active NHL players in games played and has won more than 50 percent of faceoffs taken in every season since 2003-04. He has also registered 56 points (18-38=56) in 123 career Stanley Cup Playoff games and won the Stanley Cup three times: in 2006 with Carolina and in 2016 and 2017 with Pittsburgh. The former Moorhead Spud and St. Cloud State Husky ranks second all-time among Minnesota-born players in NHL games played, fourth in assists and points, and fifth in goals. Cullen signed as a free agent with Minnesota on Aug. 16, 2017, and was originally selected by Anaheim in the second round (35th overall) of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. Matt, his wife Bridget, and their family have played a major role in community initiatives, including the creation of the Cullen Children's Foundation. Since its inception in 2005, the Cullen Children's Foundation has donated more than $3 million to organizations that support children's healthcare needs, with an emphasis on children battling cancer. The Cullen Children's Foundation has increased the quality of life for thousands of children who are dealing with life-threatening diseases, and their families. The winner of the Masterton Trophy is selected by a poll among the 31 chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season. NHL writers first presented the trophy in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, who played for the Minnesota North Stars and exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968 as a result of head injuries suffered during a game. [Hidden Content]
  5. Please check out the full article at Below the Goal Line. Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out BTGL's complete preview of the NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament exclusively here. NHL Game Updates: Columbus Blue Jackets @ Boston Bruins, In a match-up of two teams that could potentially meet in the playoffs, the visiting Blue Jackets score the game deciding goal in overtime to take the 5-4 win over the banged up Bruins. Columbus has now won eight in a row. Rookie Ryan Donato scored in his NHL debut. Nashville Predators @ Buffalo Sabres, Nashville how has points in 15 straight games after a 4-0 shutout of the Sabres. Florida Panthers @ Montreal Canadiens, Roberto Luongo made 28 saves for his 76th career shutout. Aaron Ekblad scored his 15th of the season in a 2-0 win over Monreal. Calgary Flames @ Arizona Coyotes, Calgary continues to struggle to stay relevant in the Western Conference playoff race as they lose to the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. The score is a little inflated after Arizona scores two empty-net goals, but a loss is a loss for the Flames who sit six points out of a playoff spot. Los Angeles Kings v Minnesota Wild: On a night with lots of playoff implications, the Los Angeles Kings visit the Minnesota Wild in a clash between Western Conference playoff hopefuls. The Wild entered the day in the third spot in the Central Division, three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche. Los Angeles began this contested in the second Wild Card spot in the West with 84 points. The Dallas Stars are tired with the Kings in points, but the Kings have a game in hand. The St. Louis Blues also sit just one point back from the Kings for that playoff spot. This was another thrilling game between two playoff teams. The Kings race out to a 2-0, thanks to Tanner Pearson and Jeff Carter goals. Pearson gets his 15th of the season when he finds the soft spot in the Wild defense and puts the puck past an overly aggressive Devan Dubnyk for the early lead. Jeff Carter adds to that lead in the second when he deflects a powerplay shot from Jake Muzzin past Dubnyk. The Wild would answer with three goals. Zach Parise would get his 9th of the season when he drifts into the zone with the puck and floats one past goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was sprawled out several feet from the grease. Quick basically gave up most of the net when he committed to the save and Parise kept his legs moving to open up a better chance. Eric Staal tied the game at 19:04 of the middle period with his 39th of the season. Staal receives a great pass from defenseman Ryan Suter, and breaks in with some space before wristing a puck past Quick's blocker side. Quick was overly aggressive again, but this time it was the skill of Eric Staal that found the tiniest of openings for the tying goal. The surge would continue for the Wild in the third period. Rookie forward Joel Eriksson Ek scores at 17:29 of the final frame to give the Wild a 3-2 lead. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the home team, as Dustin Brown is able to tip in a goal with just 47 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Jeff Carter scores his second of the game in overtime when he picks up a rebound and wires a shot past Devan Dubnyk for the extra point. This pushes the Kings to 86 points on the season, good for third place in the Pacific Division. By getting to overtime, the Wild hit 90 points on the year, four points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for third place in the Central Division. For me, the Wild looked like the strong of the two teams in this game. They had, at times, a significant speed advantage over the Kings, but they were the hungrier team throughout much of the game. The Kings played strong defense in front of their goalie, and generated a good number of scoring chances of their own. The goalies were the story of the game for me in this one. Quick stopped 24 out of 27 Wild shots, and Dubnyk allowed four goals on 30 Kings shots. Both goalies had some sensational saves in this one, but then had moments where they were just lost while the other team scored. Jonathan Quick was out of his crease a lot, which lead to some good saves, but also left him vulnerable to several good chances by the Wild. Devan Dubnyk survived several opportunities where he overplayed a puck behind the net, or was way off to one side of the net and the Kings were able to get a good chance at a somewhat empty net. Both of these goalies are very good, and should play well for their teams down the stretch and into the playoffs. Look for these two teams to play well in all three zones as they attempt to make deep runs in the postseason. Thanks for joining us. Please subscribe for email updates of future posts on the right side of the page (or after the entire article on your mobile devices). Don't forget to check us out on Twitter and Facebook!
  6. Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced that the club has reassigned forwards Joel Eriksson Ek and Kyle Rau to the Iowa Wild. [Hidden Content]
  7. The Minnesota Wild placed defenseman Kyle Quincey on waivers Wednesday (11-29-17). Kyle Quincey has tallied only 3 assists in the NHL this season with the Wild. This means that defenseman Jared Spurgeon (groin) could play in tonight's game (11-30-17) against the Vegas Golden Knights, giving young defenseman Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly the chance. [Hidden Content] [Hidden Content] [Hidden Content] [Hidden Content] Zach Parise has skated for the first time since his microdiscectomy surgery on October 24. "Everything kind of came back toward the end of the skate," he said. "Most importantly, nothing hurt. It was a really good day, a really good sign," --Zach Parise before team practice on Wednesday [Hidden Content] [Hidden Content]
  8. Mitchell was called up from Iowa today......Kunin and Ericksson Ek have been reassigned to Iowa.......Mitchell has been hot in the AHL Here is the link to the article. [Hidden Content] He leads Iowa with 16 points in 11 games. He has played 16 NHL games in his career.
  9. The New Jersey Devils haven’t made the playoffs since the 2011-12 when they fell to the Los Angeles King in six games and there seems to be a simple reason for that. The Devils have been absent from the post-season the last two seasons and why is that, it could simply be because they no longer have star left winger Zach Parise. It’s hard to put so much on one player and of course one player doesn’t make a team, but you have to at least consider the numbers. Here is a list of the years when Parise played and how the Devils finished in the standings (The first number is how they finished in the NHL, the second is how they finished in the Eastern Conference: Year-----------------Place in the League------------Place in the Eastern Conference 2006-07----------------------7th --------------------------------------------2nd 2007-08 ----------------------6th --------------------------------------------4th 2008-09 ----------------------5th --------------------------------------------3rd 2009-10 ----------------------6th --------------------------------------------2nd 2010-11 ----------------------23rd -------------------------------------------11th 2011-12 -----------------------9th --------------------------------------------6th Since the 2011-12 season the Devils have finished 10th and 12th in the Eastern Conference without the Minneapolis, MN native. The success the team had with Parise in the lineup is kind of incredible, never finishing lower than sixth in the eastern conference. “Yea, but what about in 2010-11?” Well this is what makes the argument even more concrete; during the 2010-11 season Parise was limited to just 13 games after suffering a devastating knee injury. In that year Martin Brodeur also missed 13 games of the season with an injury, but in doing so Johan Hedberg filled in and he ultimately finished the season with a higher winning percentage, goals against average, and save percentage with half the amount of starts as Brodeur, who still started 59 times. So, once again the loss of Parise seems like the key factor. What has also plagued the Devils the last few years is that they have had one of the worst shootout records in the league. This season they are 1-4 in the skills competition, last season the Devils didn’t win a single shootout, and the year prior to that the team had a shootout winning percentage of 22 per cent. Once again, you can’t put that all on the shoulders of the 5-foot-11, 197 pounder, can you? Well Parise is currently tied for the most shootout goals since the shootout was introduced back in the 2004-05 season. Parise has taken the second most shootouts all-time only one behind Alex Ovechkin and Minnesota teammate Mikko Koivu with 85 attempts. The Devils all-time have the seventh most shootout wins and are tied for first with the most games in which they’ve gone to a shootout with 109. The Devils have a career winning percentage of 52 per cent. Since Parise has left, the Devils have a 3-24 record in the shootout, a winning percent of just 11.1 per cent. Prior to Parise leaving, the Devils were 45-25 in the post-overtime shenanigans (dating back to 2006-07, Parise’s first year with the Devils), a winning percentage of 64 per cent. In fact Parise actually has much worse shootout numbers since he left for the Wild. In three years with the Wild he has gone 8-for-22, a success rate of 36 per cent, while with the Devils he went 29-for-43, capitalizing on 67 per cent of his attempts. Then straight up Parise had 410 points in 502 games with New Jersey good enough for a very respectable 0.81 points per game. During his seven years with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2003, he recorded 51 powerplay goals was a plus-57, and the former team captain. He was twice named the team MVP and during his time also amassed 37 game-winning goals, speaking to just how important he was with the team. What really stings is knowing last year New Jersey missed the playoffs by just five points, giving up 13 points in the shootout while in 2012-13 they missed out by seven points; points that could have been attained if they had gone perfect in the shootout. Parise was always a big part of the Devils during his seven seasons with the team, but as the Devils sit 12th in the East one really starts to see just how important he really was. Follow me on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman
  10. Wild Musings 1/18/2013 Wild Outlook and Season Predictions An Aside: If this is your first time reading the blog (or if you’re getting reacquainted, after all, it’s been a while) let me explain what it’s all about. First off thank you for taking the time to read. I appreciate it, and encourage you to create dialogue in the comments, and comeback and keep reading. Now, Wild Musings is a blog that focuses on the NHL, with an emphasis on the Minnesota Wild (clever title right?). I will post articles on both the Wild, and the general happenings around the NHL usually at least once a week. Now with that said, it’s good to have the NHL back, and it’s good to be back writing for the Hockeyboards.net readership. Thank you. Hello everyone, and welcome to the 2013 NHL Season. Hope everyone is well rested because the next hundred or so days are going to be intense. In this edition of Wild Musings we are going to take a look at expectations and realistic outcomes for the Minnesota Wild, and I’ll give out my season predictions for the divisions and the Stanley Cup at the end, so stay tuned. The last time we saw the Wild play, they were finishing twelfth in the Western Conference. No wait, it’s worse than that, they were finishing twelfth after starting 2012 as the first seed in the Western Conference, which if you’re wondering, is a historical collapse. It’s important to remember that. Now, were the Wild really the third worst team in the West? No, but that’s what they played to. Were there lots of injuries? They absolutely did. The Wild lost 395 man games last year, and suited up almost 50 different players trying to stop the bleeding. But looking past the injuries; past the Kris Fredheims and the Jeff Penners, the Wild lacked scoring. They were amongst the worst in the league in goals (177), and just about every major offensive category. They were also last in scoring from the blue line (One of the major reasons for that Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz trade). That was the Wild last time we saw them. Now let’s hit fast forward by say 9 months, and the Wild have become an enigma. The addition of superstar winger Zach Parise, all star defenseman Ryan Suter, and Calder hopeful Mikael Granlund have the hockey world all over the place. I’ve seen people predict the Wild to finish out of the playoffs and fourth in their division (Harrison Mooney of Puck Daddy- Yes, I am aware he is a Canucks fan. He is also a very good and intelligent hockey writer), as well as making the playoffs and winning the Western Conference (Barry Melrose of ESPN/NHL Network). I dare say no other team in the league is as spread across the grid as that. Yet strangely, after all the reports out of camp, the Red Vs. White scrimmage that happened on Wednesday, and the look of the Wild line up, I can’t discredit either Mooney or Melrose. I could see it either way. If Mikko Koivu can play to his potential, Parise and Suter are as advertised, and the defense can be a bit more aggressive in the offense (Keep your eyes on Jared Spurgeon folks)- they could be a major player in the West. If Parise and Suter struggle out of the gate, Granlund takes some time to get his legs under him, or the goaltending should struggle- I could see them in the lower half of the West. With all that said, let’s look at what I stated in the first paragraph: “realistic expectations” for the Wild. -Can the Wild win the Northwest Division? Could they, Sure. Will they, probably not. The Canucks are still the more complete team (and who knows what a Luongo deal could bring them), and are still the overwhelming favorites to win the Northwest, as they should be. -Can the Wild make the Playoffs? Yes, and they should. The Wild should give the Canucks a run for their money in the Northwest. The scoring is improved, the defense has matured, Niklas Backstrom is in a contract year, and knows he is auditioning for other teams with Josh Harding recently signed and Matt Hackett waiting in the wings to jump into the NHL (not to mention Backstrom is a notoriously fast starter, which should bode well for 48 games). This team is legitimately three lines deep with a good checking line, and a lot of added depth. With the improvements the Wild have made, the Wild should be in the playoffs. -Can the Wild make a run at the cup should they get in? As the Kings showed us last year, anything can happen. If the Wild are healthy come playoff time, they could make a run. Now…. Predictions time. I’ll run through the conference standings, the cup final, and the winner. Western Conference 1. St. Louis Blues- Central 2. Los Angeles Kings- Pacific 3. Vancouver Canucks- Northwest 4. Phoenix Coyotes 5. Chicago Blackhawks 6. San Jose Sharks 7. Minnesota Wild 8. Detroit Red Wings 9. Nashville Predators 10. Colorado Avalanche 11. Anaheim Ducks 12. Edmonton Oilers 13. Columbus Blue Jackets 14. Dallas Stars 15. Calgary Flames Eastern Conference 1. New York Rangers- Atlantic 2. Boston Bruins- Northeast 3. Tampa Bay Lightning- Southeast 4. Pittsburgh Penguins 5. Carolina Hurricanes 6. Philadelphia Flyers 7. Ottawa Senators 8. Washington Capitals 9. Buffalo Sabres 10. New Jersey Devils 11. Toronto Maple Leafs 12. Florida Panthers 13. Montreal Canadiens 14. New York Islanders 15. Winnipeg Jets A couple notes: *The Jets travel is going to be nuts. *The Islanders are building for Brooklyn. *It was really difficult to not put the Sabres in the playoffs. *The Ducks could be the most misplaced team depending on what happens with Perry and Getzlaf. *If the Leafs get Luongo, they would be in my top 8. My Cup final- Chicago Blackhawks Vs. New York Rangers- Rangers in 7. Thanks to all who made it this far. Feel free to tear apart my standings (or agree….) and ask questions or what have you in the comments. Thanks for reading, Todd Varga Find me on Twitter @Wild_Halo Also, check out Varga and Shulman present The Box Score Podcast on Itunes or at theboxscore.libsyn.com .We talk all kinds of sports, hockey included, and people seem to like it. On twitter @VandSSports
  11. Todd Varga

    Draft Review

    Wild Musings 6/27/2012: Draft Review The Minnesota Wild are in the final days of preparation of what is perhaps the most anticipated free agency period in franchise history. The expectations of both the fan base and the organization are to bring elite talent to the State of Hockey, and to add them to a team that is seen as being a couple of pieces away from being something special. But before we get to all of that (I know- its exciting and fun to think about) let’s take a look at what the Wild and some other teams accomplished this past Friday at the Draft in Pittsburgh. The Wild held the Seventh overall pick in the draft, and were able to draft Defenseman Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels with it. This was definitely a solid pick for Chuck Fletcher and the Wild Brass. Before the draft started, I didn’t think Dumba would be available at 7. Even during the draft, I thought for sure the Ducks were going to take him at 6 (they took defenseman Hampus Lindholm- more on that later), and was shocked and happy to see him fall to the Wild at 7. Dumba is going to be a great piece on the Wild blue line. He is physical, he moves the puck, and he has a great shot. The guy has great leadership qualities, and will be more than capable of leading the Wild Power Play (and actually contributing to it). When the Wild are able to put the Matt Dumba-Jonas Brodin pairing on the ice, Brent Burns will seem like a very distant memory (Brodin may make the team this season- I don’t think Dumba will. We may see Dumba get the Brett Bulmer treatment, but I don’t believe he’ll be on the team for the full season). The other notable picks for the Wild were Winger Raphael Bussieres at 46, Defenseman John Draeger at 68, Center Adam Gilmour at 98, and Winger Louis Nanne (Yes THAT Nanne) at 188. Overall, I think this was a good draft for the Wild. They got some good talent, and a lot of young talent, which is good given the Wild’s situation. The Wild have their top 7 prospects all turning pro next season. It’s a good idea to draft developing talent that you don’t have to sign right away when you have what the Wild are going to have next season. These guys will get to develop, and hopefully have an impact in 2 to 3 years. The draft itself was very entertaining. The Penguins pulled of a huge trade that I think really helps both teams, sending Jordan Stall to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and the 8th overall pick. We saw prospects fall, prospects taken higher than believed, and a great crowd in Pittsburgh to provide a wonderful backdrop. The Best Picks I saw at the Draft- Washington- Filip Forsberg at 11 and Tom Wilson at 19. Forsberg fell well below where he should have gone. It may have been the best value for a pick in the Draft. This guy will more than likely be on the Caps roster next year, quickly making people forget about Alexander Semin. Tom Wilson reminds me of Mike Alstott (Former running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and I imagine that is what he’ll look like on the ice. He plays a physical and punishing game, and will add a lot of grit to the Caps lineup. Love this draft for the Caps. Pittsburgh- Not only did they clear cap space, not only did they get two first round picks, but they got Olli Maatta at 22! Matta should have probably been a top 10-15 pick. It could be argued nobody did better at this draft than the Penguins (especially if their cap space yields what they hope it will). New York Islanders- I loved the Griffin Reinhart pick. The Islanders have young forwards that can score, and by adding Reinhart, and Lubomir Visnovsky over the weekend through a trade with Anaheim, they have a good Defense Core that should supplement that well. The Islanders are going to be vastly improved next season. The Questionable Picks I saw at the Draft- Anaheim- They took Hampus Lindholm with the 6th overall pick. I don’t have a problem with this player, I think Lindholm is going to be good, I just think they reached and took a guy they could have traded back to get. With Forsberg still on the board, and the offensively starved Wild picking behind them, I have to imagine that there were at least a couple of teams expressing interest. I know Lindholm was on the rise, and he was on a lot of team’s radars, but I still think they could have moved back and got him. Tampa Bay- They had 2 first rounders, so they were able to be somewhat adventurous I suppose, but they took Andrei Vasilevski at 19 when Malcolm Subban was still on the board. I think Subban is a better prospect, granted with their acquisition of Anders Lindback they are not in desperate need of a goalie- but still, Subban was there, they should have taken him. Calgary- They went completely off the grid when they took Mark Jankowski at 21. I didn’t think this guy would go until the mid to late 2nd round. If this was the guy they wanted, they should have traded back- Maatta was still on the board, everyone knew the Penguins would jump on him at 22, sell high and get your guy later. This was the only baffling pick of this draft for me. I’ll be back later this week with a look at Free Agency for the Wild, which gets under way Sunday. It should be interesting. Thanks for reading, check back for my free agency preview later in the week. Todd Varga On Twitter @Wild_Halo And PLEASE check me out on The Box Score Podcast. We talk about what’s happening in the sporting world (and we always talk a good amount of Hockey). It’s getting good reviews, so please check us out on Itunes or at TheBoxScore.Libsyn.Com And follow us on Twitter @TheBoxScore
  12. Granlund has landed in Minnesota 5/24/2012 Welcome to the State of Hockey Mikael Granlund!!! Yesterday it became official: Mikael Granlund is a member of the Minnesota Wild. It was widely expected that the 9th overall pick in the 2010 draft and the Wild would have no problem getting a contract done before the June 1st deadline, but that withstanding, it is nice to see it become official. Granlund signed his 3 year 2.1 million dollar entry level deal yesterday morning, bringing the Wild much needed offense, and creating some good buzz for the organization. The Wild have been very savvy with the Granlund signing. They have advertised that Granlund jerseys, featuring his well known number 64, will be in all 3 Hockey Lodge stores (the official merchandise store of the Minnesota Wild) on Friday. They also have a promotion offering the first 64 people to become new season ticket holders an autographed Mikael Granlund jersey. Very well done from a marketing and advertising perspective, now let’s hope this all rolls over to good things on the ice. With that said, where will Mikael Granlund fit in on the Wild roster as constructed? He will be a top 6 forward for this team, be it at the Wing or at Center. My guess is that he will Center the second line. Things can always change with free agency, the draft, and the Wild’s mass amount of blossoming prospects entering the fold this year, but Granlund is going to be on the Wild roster from day 1. Who will be around him may be another story. Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be back provided he is healthy to finish out the last year of his contract. Guillaume Latendresse may be another story. Gui is a RFA this year, and his qualifying offer is 2.5 million, which is a little steep for a guy who has played only 27 games over the last 2 seasons. Will the Wild extend that offer, or let him become UFA? Time will tell, but I would really hate to see Gui go. The guy can be an absolute monster if he can get healthy. In the brief time we saw him last season, he was astounding. He was physical, he was working hard, and he was scoring goals. The Wild need to do the utmost possible to keep G-Lat in the Iron Range Red for the foreseeable future, even with the emergence of Charlie Coyle, who has a great chance at making this Wild team next season as well. Perhaps the most exciting part of this signing is the realization that this is the new era of Wild hockey that has been bantered about for the last couple of seasons coming to fruition. All these building blocks for the future are here. Granlund has clearly been the most polarizing of the youngsters, but right behind him are Charlie Coyle, Zack Philips, Johan Larsson, Brent Bulmer, Jonas Brodin, and the now experienced vet of the group Jason Zucker (Zucker signed out of Denver University last season and played in the Wild’s last 6 games). Perhaps for the first time in a while there is legitimate hope for the Wild franchise and its fans. After so many failed first round picks (A.J. Thelen, Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, Colton Gillies, and Tyler Cuma- not necessarily a bust yet, but It’s been 4 years and he has only played 1 NHL game) and some mediocre play over the last few seasons, the Wild look primed and ready to build on that hot start they had at the beginning of last season. In closing, I can’t wait for the Draft, Free Agency, and Training Camps to start. Luckily the playoffs have been amazing, and a great watch in between all of that. Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings on their Stanley Cup finals birth. They are playing amazing hockey at the moment. The Finals are going to be an awesome show no matter which team they play. As always, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and Thank You all for reading. Todd Varga On the Twitters @Wild_Halo
  13. The Wild’s Biggest Trade Chip? 4-24-2012 We are just under 2 months away from the 2012 NHL Entry draft. The playoffs are in full effect (and so far they have been amazing), and teams are either focused on winning the cup, or the draft and other ways to improve their team. Unfortunately for the Wild, it’s the latter. Right now, Chuck Fletcher, Craig Leipold, and Mike Yeo, are all looking at ways to make the team better, so that this time next year, they are chasing the cup. No doubt that the Wild will be counting on the young prospects coming into the system full time next season. Owner Craig Leipold has also stated that the Wild will be very aggressive on the free agent market, going after the best talent available. The other way to improve the team would be through trades, which is what I’ll be focusing on today. The Wild got a real good look at the prospect pool in Houston. Some of the young Aeros were good, and some even stayed a while, and I think the most impressive call up came in the form of goalie Matt Hackett. He wasn’t perfect, hence the 3-6 record this past season, but he was very impressive. With some consistent work in the NHL, and some good coaching, Hackett could be a good NHL net minder. Now, this information is relevant for a couple of reasons. Josh Harding is UFA, and the Wild will be in need of a second NHL goalie. It’s entirely possible that Harding resigns in Minnesota. The Wild drafted him to eventually be there number one goalie, and he is capable of such a role. But before free agency, we will have the draft, and what is sure to be rapid player movement. With all this in mind, the Wild have a wealth of goalie depth in their system, and could move one of them if they plan to resign Harding. Today we will look at the idea of the Wild moving current starting goalie Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom would undoubtedly fetch the most in a trade, especially with so many goalie needy teams next season. The goalie market is filled with the usual suspects, the Kings Jonathan Bernier, the Predators Anders Lindback, and one of the Canucks goalies (looking like Luongo who has a NTC). If the Wild were to make Backstrom available, they would be offering a proven net minder, versus unproven, though very impressive, un-established back-ups. Now the question is which teams are in need of a proven goalie. There are 3 obvious teams with goalie needs: Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. The Blue Jackets are in the best position to grab an elite goalie. They have the number 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, and are open for business on Rick Nash. Columbus can probably get any goalie they want, provided they can convince Nash to go to the desired location. Toronto has the 5th pick in the draft, and a couple of assets it could move to acquire a goalie. I can’t see Brian Burke moving the 5th pick, maybe the Leafs 2nd round pick, but not the 5th pick. Tampa Bay will have the hardest time acquiring a goalie out of these 3 teams. They have the worst picks, and the least moveable assets, but perhaps they have the highest ceiling of the three teams. Some dark horse teams to watch in terms of goalie movement: the Sharks, the Blackhawks, and the Devils. Antti Niemi was largely underwhelming for the Sharks this season, especially in the playoffs. The Sharks have said they are going to make a run at it again next year with the same core group of players, which means they are going to need an upgrade in net. Their main problem is going to be a lack of moveable assets. They don’t have great picks, or any decent prospects to move. I’m not sold on Corey Crawford, and I doubt the Blackhawks are either. They signed Ray Emery to a contract for next year, but they aren’t going to be relying on him to back them to a cup. Crawford is going to have to step up his game in order to hold on to the Hawks job. The Devils are going to have to realize at some point soon that Martin Brodeur is on the decline. Brodeur has been very inconsistent, and is declining each year. Johan Hedberg is not a long term solution in goal. These are all teams that have goaltending issues. And they are all teams that could use an established number one goalie like Niklas Backstrom. The Wild should be able to obtain prospects, picks, or roster players for their starting goalie, if they were to choose to move him. It will be very exciting to see what happens at the draft. I think we will see a lot of player movement. Nash will probably be dealt, and perhaps a goalie or two. I’m looking forward to see what happens. Until then we have the playoffs to watch. The Panthers will look to close out the Devils tonight in game 6 in New Jersey. It should be a great game. I hope everyone has a great week. Todd Varga On Twitter @Wild_Halo
  14. The 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
  15. A Wild Season… And Playoff Picks – 4/11/2012 This is a great week to be a hockey fan. We have some great first round match ups that are going to create some classic hockey moments (and undoubtedly some future commercial spots for the NHL and NBCSN). Alas, this week can also be a very cold reminder that your team came up short, and is now a spectator just like us. Such is the case for the Minnesota Wild. The team has missed the playoffs for the past 4 years, and will be drafting 7th overall at the draft in Pittsburgh (How incredibly lucky are the Edmonton Oilers when it comes to the draft?! Absolutely ridiculous odds for them to have the first pick again…). But as much as this season looks and feels like a disappointment and a letdown, it isn’t totally a loss. This year was not supposed to be the year the Wild broke through and started leading the Western Conference, or the NHL as it were. The Wild were supposed to finish in the 8th to 10th place range this year. With that said, the historical meltdown the Wild suffered after December was brutal and very hard to watch. The Wild became the first team in NHL history to be leading the NHL after December 1st to completely miss the playoffs. Their hot start completely raised the modest expectations set upon the team and rookie head coach Mike Yeo, and left us all feeling saddened and disheartened as the Wild were officially eliminated from the playoffs. In hindsight, the start of the season is very encouraging. When healthy and playing the game the way Mike Yeo wants his team playing, the Wild are a good hockey team. The story of this season, whether anyone wants to say it or not, was injuries. December saw the Wild lose Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard to concussions, Mikko Koivu to a shoulder injury, and Devin Setoguchi to a knee injury. The injuries crippled the Wild. This team was having trouble scoring as it was, taking away all of those guys is crippling. The Wild didn’t have the depth to replace the scoring from any of those guys, much less all of them. That however, is where next year is going to be very interesting. The genesis of what will ultimately become the Minnesota Wild will start next season. -Mikael Granlund -Zack Phillips -Charlie Coyle -Jason Zucker -Brett Bulmer -Johan Larsson -Jonas Brodin All of these guys will be able to play for the Wild next year. Most of them will probably start in Houston, and provide the depth that the wild will need to overcome the injuries that a team endures over an NHL season. Add to that, whoever the Wild draft this summer, whoever comes to the team through free agency, and that Latendresse and Bouchard should be back and healthy (reports have said Latendresse is symptom free, and will should be good to go for training camp- Bouchard is said to be feeling better, but with his history of concussions, I would not put all my eggs in that basket). This team is going to be younger, faster, and much more exciting to watch next season. The competition that these young men will create in camp and throughout the season should help the Wild get back into the playoffs and be competitive next season. Now…. Playoff picks. East Rangers V. Senators- Rangers in 5 Bruins V. Capitals- Caps in 7 Panthers V. Devils- Devils in 6 Penguins V. Flyers- Pens in 6 West Canucks V. Kings- Kings in 7 Blues V. Sharks- Sharks in 7 Coyotes V. Blackhawks- Hawks in 5 Predators V. Red Wings- Preds in 6 The only real upsets I think are here are the Caps over the Bruins, and the Kings over the Canucks. I know that New Jersey, Chicago, and San Jose winning are technically upsets, but I don’t think it would surprise anyone to see the Hawks, Sharks, and Devils advance. With that said, I have no statistical or realistic reason to believe in the Caps. There is just something about that team as of late that gives me a hunch. I do not think they can make it to the cup, but I think they get out of the first round. The Canucks and Kings is a different beast. Jonathan Quick can flat out steal games. If the Kings can find that groove that had them leading the division before Carter got hurt, I think Quick will be more than enough to help them upset Vancouver. Quick is ridiculously underrated nationally, and should be a finalist for the Vezina trophy. As for the Stanley Cup finals, I’m going with a Penguins V. Predators finals- Predators in 7. Thanks to all who read. Please leave comments and questions, and subscribe to the blog. I’ll be back later this week with my grades for the Wild this season. I’m going to grade everyone who suited up for the team… all 47 of them. Have a good day. Todd Varga On Twitter @Wild_Halo
  16. What a Difference a Week Makes! 4-3-2012 Last week, I discussed how the current losing streak that the Minnesota Wild were on could drop them to 14th in the West and possibly give them the 2nd overall pick in the draft. Since then the boys in Iron Range Red have won 3 out of 4, including wins over division leaders Florida and Los Angeles. If the Wild win out, which looks possible if they keep scoring at the rate they are, they could finish 10th in the West, something I would not have thought possible last week. Last week the Wild also started the long awaited future, signing and playing prospect Jason Zucker. Jason Zucker was the Wild’s 2nd round pick in 2010. Since then, he has been playing college hockey at Denver University, and captaining the U.S. team at the World Juniors. Zucker was seen as a third line energy guy when the Wild drafted him, but has developed into a good offensive threat in his time at DU. His first game with the Wild was last Wednesday against the Panthers, and he didn’t look out of place. He had a few shots on goal, and was definitely feeling out the game, but he looked good. He has great speed, and may be the fastest guy they have at this point. He scored two assists in his second game on Saturday against the Kings. This experience looks like it could be invaluable to Zucker going into training camp next season. The Wild will have all of its major prospects turning pro next season, and Zucker may have a leg up on the other guys coming into camp (I will be discussing this in the offseason, probably more than once J). The move to get Zucker signed, and the decision to have him play in the NHL immediately, has offered Wild fans a nice sneak peek at what the future holds for the franchise, which has worked out very well. Lastly, Wild head coach Mike Yeo has been asked a lot lately about tanking and the team’s draft position. He’s repeatedly answered the way you would expect- he cares about winning and culture not the scouts and the draft team. While I personally think it would be better long term to get the best pick possible, if anyone is complaining about their team playing well and winning, they are insane. I understand and agree with the argument for tanking, but most teams, and especially this group of Wild players that has had such a rough run of it the last three months, need to win and get that momentum and feel back. If the Wild can win out (yeah I know, just go with it for second) these guys will be more excited and pumped up to get back in the summer than they would have been had they limped into the offseason like we all thought they were. Again, this is just a thought, and I am very excited and intrigued to see what training camp will look like next year with all the young talent the Wild are bringing into the fold (and that’s not counting the draft prospects of this year- for all intensive purposes they could lose out, win the draft lottery, and have a great pick- we’ll see). I’m also excited to see what Yeo can do with healthy players, fresh young talent, and healthy competition. Despite the results of this year, I think Chuck Fletcher and the Wild hit a homerun with hiring Mike Yeo. With all of the aforementioned traits at his disposal this summer, I think he can get the Wild where they need to go. Some closing thoughts- -Tom Gilbert has really come around over the last week or so. He has played 30+ minutes in 2 of the last 3 games, and has really looked strong as he has learned the Wild players and the system. He made an amazing pass to spring Mikko Koivu for a break away to win the game last Wednesday in overtime. He looks better every game. -Niklas Backstrom returned last week, and has looked pretty good in his return. His play, and his injuries, should make it very interesting when it comes to whether or not to re-sign Josh Harding. -The top line of Heatley-Koivu-Setoguchi has looked pumped and energized since Zucker got into the lineup. I really think his exuberance and excitement has gotten the Wild going again. They pranked him in his first game by making him skate around in warm ups by himself. He got two laps in before anyone ever came out… Awesome. I hope everyone has a good week. I will be back on Friday with some thoughts on the Wild season, and the upcoming playoffs. Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, and subscribe to the blog. Todd Varga On twitter @Wild_Halo
  17. The Countdown is on... 3-27-2012 The Minnesota wild were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday by way of a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Washington Capitals (I stress the word officially). The Wild have now officially become the first team to have lead the NHL on December 1st that missed the playoffs. And the cherry on top: Matt Cullen broke his finger blocking a shot Saturday in Buffalo, and is more than likely done for the year. This isn’t unexpected; the Wild have won 12 games since the second week of December. That’s obviously not going to get it done. With that said, most Wild eyes will turn to the NHL Entry draft, where the Wild will more than likely have a lottery pick. As it stands now the Wild have the 4th pick, and are only one point put of the 2nd pick. The possibility of having the 2nd pick are very good, taking into account the way the Wild are playing and their remaining schedule. Picking in the top 5 at the draft would be a big help for a team that has a severe need for some elite talent right now (A lot of people are speculating about what the Wild may try to do in free agency, which could certainly help the team significantly, but is by no means guaranteed). A lot has been made of the Wild’s good line up of prospects (Mikael Grandlund, Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Jonas Brodin, and Erik Haula- Go Gophers J, among others), but this is a team that needs help now. I know having a top 5 pick obviously doesn’t guarantee that, but the odds are significantly better than picking 9th or 10th. This is the problem the Wild have been enduring for the last several years. They have been mired in that 8th to 12th draft spot that yields talent, but not immediate impact talent (For the record, the Wild have done an amazing job at the draft over the past few years. They have gotten great talent in their draft position and in the later rounds. This is just a critique of circumstance and not a knock on the Wild at the draft for the past few years under this new regime of ownership). Now, with all of that said, the Wild will go out there and try to win games as best they can. Mike Yeo is not a guy who is going to coast to the end of the season. That will all start tonight in St. Paul as the New York Rangers roll into town…. So that’s looking promising. For tonight’s game: -Josh Harding will get the start and Nicklas Backstrom will back up- This is Backstrom’s official return from injury, so emergency call up Matt Hackett will be sent back to Houston. Harding has looked very good as of late, and may be trying to show the Wild how important it may be to re-sign him (He wants to stay with Minnesota). -Jared Spurgeon (Concussion) and Matt Cullen (Broken Finger) are both likely out for the season- Chad Rau (brother of Kyle Rau- Go Gophers J) is an emergency call up for Cullen and Kurtis Foster (Back) will play in tonight’s game. - The Rangers have the Penguins hot on their heels for the one seed in the Eastern Conference, so expect them to come out and play their best- This is the first night of a back to back for the NYR, who are in Winnipeg tomorrow, so it could be Biron or Lundqvist, but my money will be on Biron. Have a good day everybody- feel free to leave comments and questions. Todd Varga On twitter @Wild_Halo
  18. Winning Now? Or Winning in June? 3-20-12 Last night, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Vancouver Canucks 2-0. Josh Harding recorded his 6th career shutout, and his second of the season. This was Harding’s first start since he suffered an injury last week, and he looked great. Erik Christensen scored his 4th goal in the last 4 games on the Power Play at the end of the first period, and Kyle Brodziak netted an empty net goal in the 3rd to seal the game. Last night was the best effort I have seen from the Wild in a while. The team gave a very good effort, and was rewarded with what is becoming a rare win. The Wild have just 3 wins in their last 11 games, and the remaining schedule does not get any easier. Their remaining games: CAL, @BUF, @WAS, NYR, FLA, LA, @CHI, @NAS, CHI, PHO. All teams that are in the playoffs or fighting like mad to get into one of the last spots. And with Mikko Koivu yet to make his return from a shoulder injury, and Niklas Backstrom yet to return from a groin strain (though it is said both are close to return), I am trying hard to be optimistic. However, the Wild could be losing the battle while winning the war. This was not supposed to be a year where the Wild were supposed to be great. They were supposed to be a 8th to 10th place team that was building for the next couple of years with their young prospects. The Wild’s fast start skewed those expectations, and the injuries and their freefall over the past few months have even killed the modest goal established in the summer. Currently, the Wild are 13th in the Western Conference, and 26th overall in the NHL. As they sit, not counting any changes that occur due to the lottery process, the Wild will be drafting in the top 5 at the NHL Entry Draft in June. Looking at the standings and the schedule above, the Wild could easily play themselves into a top 3 pick, and if Edmonton gets hot, maybe even a top 2 pick, if their current trend of play continues. This would obviously help the Wild by giving them an elite level prospect that could possibly contribute at the NHL level next year, and at this point in the year, with things the way they currently sit, that will be the biggest benefit to this team. (Disclaimer: I am not advocating that the Wild should be tanking for a draft pick. I am simply looking at the current trend of play, the schedule, and the standings and drawing conclusions. Trust me, every time the Wild hit the ice, I want them to win. When they don’t, it bums me out… just ask my wife.) The Wild will be back in action at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday against the Calgary Flames. -Unless Backstrom is fully recovered, Harding should get the start in net. -Someone must have finally told Erik Christensen that he is playing for a job next year. He has scored 4 goals in the last 4 games, and has played very well in the last several games. If he can keep up anything close to this pace, especially playing with 3rd line minutes and his current line mates, I would welcome him back next year. -Mikko could be back, but is it worth it to bring him back at this point? Have a great week everybody. Feel free to leave comments or questions. Todd Varga On twitter @Wild_Halo
  19. This is getting a bit ridiculous. This was my thought after Wild goaltender Josh Harding was helped off the ice last night in the 2nd period of the Wild’s Shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. The injury didn’t look serious as Harding was skated off the ice, but looked pretty painful for the 4-5 minutes before Harding left. For those unaware, the Wild’s number one net minder Niklas Backstrom is currently out with a pulled groin. With Harding hurt, the goaltending burden falls to youngster Matt Hackett, who has looked good for the most part. For Hackett, and the Wild, having Hackett shoulder the goaltending load could be a blessing. Harding is a free agent at the end of this year, and if Hackett can prove he is a capable NHL goalie, Harding may become expendable. There are other scenarios that can play out, especially if Harding is resigned (He has made it clear he loves Minnesota, and wants to play with the Wild), but that is another debate for another day (more than likely an offseason day- stay tuned). The main problem the Wild are facing is backing up Matt Hackett. The other young goaltending stud the Wild have is Darcy Kuemper, who is also hurt. The only other goalie in the system that would possibly fit at the NHL level would be Dennis Endras who is on loan in Finland. More than likely, Harding will be on the bench and everyone will be praying that nothing happens to Hackett, but it is definitely a situation the Wild is going to have to deal with down the stretch. The ridiculousness of the Josh Harding injury was exaggerated by the events that happened before it. Jared Spurgeon, the heart of the Wild’s new look defense core, was a healthy scratch due to illness. Tyler Cuma was called up from Houston to fill in, but missed the flight from Houston to Phoenix and was unavailable. Kurtis Foster is having terrible back problems and really shouldn’t be on the ice, but was suited up to play. The Wild ended up playing the game with 5 ½ defensemen. Foster had 13:26 TOI, while the other 5 defensemen all played 30+ minutes. To add to that, Devin Setoguchi missed a good chunk of the second period as he apparently caught Spurgeon’s illness, and was running from the bench to throw up in trash cans. How ridiculous that this is the game out of the last 5 the Wild actually win. Mike Yeo called this a big character win in his post game press conference. Yeah, I’d go with that. Hopefully it is something the Wild can build on, and string together some wins. If not, they can keep falling up the draft boards and maybe end up with a top 5 draft pick. Either way, the Wild’s last 14 games should be entertaining in some form or another. Thank you greatly to everyone for reading. If you’ve been reading regularly I’m sorry for the abrupt gap in posts. My wife and I are in the midst of trying to buy a house, and I had a big job interview this past week, so I had to put this on hold. It was a very hectic and crazy week. I will be back with a new blog on Monday, so please give it a read when you see it. Please feel free to leave comments and questions, I love talking hockey with everybody. Have a great weekend, Todd Varga On twitter @Wild_Halo
  20. Wild Musings- Reverse the Curse; the Deadline Cometh 2/24/2012 Hello, and Happy Friday everybody. Today the Wild are gearing up for the second day of a road back to back. They are coming off a shootout win in Sunrise against the Panthers, and are looking to sweep the trip with a win in Dallas. Tonight will be a crucial game for the wild’s playoff hopes. The Stars are sitting in 8th place, three points ahead of the Wild in 12th place. A regulation win for the Wild tonight would be huge. It puts them right behind Dallas, and in the thick of the battle for 8th. A loss, or even an OT win, is going to keep the Wild in this sort of trade deadline haze of whether to buy or sell. With that said, I’d like to break down what the Wild may be willing to move at the trade deadline. The obvious place to start is with players who are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents on July 1st. -Erik Christensen- The Wild just acquired Erik Christensen, and are not going to deal him. Christensen has been an interesting pick up for the Wild. He hasn’t really had an impact on the ice during regulation, or Overtime, but has been pretty invaluable in the shootout. He’s 2 for 3 in shootout attempts for Minnesota, and makes it look effortless. The guy has great hands, and great moves. He instantly injects some confidence into the Wild as they go into the shootout, which is an area they desperately needed help in. Hopefully as he plays more, he finds his game in the first 65 minutes of the game. -Warren Peters- Peters has been a serviceable fourth line center for the Wild. He is a center with size, and some offensive talent and instincts. He has some good speed for his size, and is able to get pucks to the front of the net on rushes or off the boards. I don’t see any value in moving Peters, or any teams wanting him. -Greg Zanon- This is a player I actually see having some value at the deadline. Zanon is a serviceable defenseman that can really help a team heading into the playoffs with depth on their blue line. Zanon is a shot blocking machine, and I could really see him being a good depth defenseman for a team heading into the playoffs. I also see him as a guy the Wild will move. He isn’t a player the Wild will be bringing back, so I could see them moving him for picks or prospects. -Mike Lundin- Lundin has been somewhat forgettable for the Wild this season. He spent the first third of the year on IR, and has been a decent defenseman or a healthy scratch the rest of the year. I think he could be a good defenseman for a team in the playoffs, but I’m not sure he is someone teams are going to depend on, and I don’t see him fetching much in return. -Clayton Stoner- Stoner is a young defenseman with size. He is currently on IR, and the Wild have had preliminary talks with him on a contract extension. I don’t see him going anywhere. -Josh Harding- Here is the biggest chip the Wild have had all season that may not be worth anything anymore. If the Wild would have traded him when they were winning earlier in the year, when his numbers were robust and he was generating buzz, they probably could have acquired some real talent from a team in need of goaltending. Since December, the buzz about Hards has greatly died, and as of now I don’t see him being moved. With that said, Toronto and Ottawa have made it known they’re in the goalie market. Tampa Bay and Columbus could use an upgrade; Detroit may need a back up for Jimmy Howard, Chicago may look to upgrade, so Harding could be dealt. After hearing all that, he picked a very poor time to get sick and stay off the Wild road trip. Now to add to all of that, we have the Marek Zidlicky cloud hanging over the Wild. I have no doubt that if he is not moved before the deadline, he will be dealt over the summer when his full no trade clause becomes limited. Zidlicky has shown signs of the offensive skills that make him valuable and still could be dealt before the deadline. The trick is finding a team he agrees to go to, due to his no trade clause. It should be an interesting weekend by all accounts. I hope everyone enjoys the trade deadline buzz and all the coverage that goes along with it. Have a good weekend everybody. Todd Varga Subscribe to my blog “Wild Musings” Follow me on twitter @Wild_Halo
  21. Wild Musings 2/21/2012 - Hockey Day in America #SignBrodziak On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild beat the Boston Bruins in 2-0 shutout. Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was in masterful form, stopping 48 shots, and 3 breakaway chances in the first period. Fitting enough that on Hockey Day in America, Matt Cullen and Chad Rau, two Minnesota Natives, scored the two Wild goals (Interestingly enough, Chad Rau has scored twice in the NHL: once on Hockey Day in Minnesota, the other on Hockey Day in America, so let’s make sure somebody tells him Thursday is Hockey Day in Florida). The win pulled the Wild within 4 points of 8th place Calgary, ended a 7 game losing streak, and sent the Wild into a 4 day break with some much needed momentum. Now if Mikko Koivu could get healthy enough to get back into the lineup on Thursday, the Wild would be firing on all the cylinders that it has. They are gearing up for a back to back on the road in Florida and Dallas, and the Wild need all hands on deck to keep their playoff hopes alive. Now, the biggest story to come out of the Wild win on Sunday was the announcement of the club reaching a contract extension with Kyle Brodziak. The Wild Center signed a new three year deal worth 8.5 million with an annual cap hit of 2.8 million. That is a very workable cap hit for a heart and soul type of player that really drives the Wild. Kyle Brodziak is a grinder type of player that plays in all facets of the game. He is a great third line center, which is where the Wild will play him ideally. He is great on the penalty kill, and is third on the team in goals on the power play. He scored a shootout winner in Edmonton earlier this year, and has 15 goals on the year so far. Over the past two seasons Brodziak has really stepped up his offensive game, scoring 37 points last year (16G-21A) and being on pace to score more goals and hopefully more points so far this year (15G-14A 29 points). The real value in this contract is going to be seen in the next few years. Brodziak is a hard worker, he plays the game the right way, and he never takes a shift off. Brodziak is going to prove invaluable as the Wild infuse all the young talent they have accumulated into their lineup over the next few years. Guys like Brodziak and Koivu are going to be the examples that young guys like Zack Phillips and Mikael Grandlund are going to be held to. This is all part of the culture Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher are trying to build and instill in the organization. This is a great sign for the Wild, and a well deserved pay day for Kyle Brodziak. Up next for the boys in green, a trip to Sunrise to play the Panthers on Thursday, followed by a trip to Dallas on Friday, where the Wild haven’t won since 2003. This is a crucial stretch for the Wild’s playoff hopes, as the deadline looms near on the 27th. Friday I’ll look at the Wild and the trade deadline, and breakdown what they should and shouldn’t be doing. As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to comment and ask questions. I love talking hockey with you guys. Have a good day. Todd Varga On Twitter @Wild_Halo
  22. Wild Musings 2/21/2012 - Hockey Day in America #SignBrodziak On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild beat the Boston Bruins in 2-0 shutout. Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was in masterful form, stopping 48 shots, and 3 breakaway chances in the first period. Fitting enough that on Hockey Day in America, Matt Cullen and Chad Rau, two Minnesota Natives, scored the two Wild goals (Interestingly enough, Chad Rau has scored twice in the NHL: once on Hockey Day in Minnesota, the other on Hockey Day in America, so let’s make sure somebody tells him Thursday is Hockey Day in Florida). The win pulled the Wild within 4 points of 8th place Calgary, ended a 7 game losing streak, and sent the Wild into a 4 day break with some much needed momentum. Now if Mikko Koivu could get healthy enough to get back into the lineup on Thursday, the Wild would be firing on all the cylinders that it has. They are gearing up for a back to back on the road in Florida and Dallas, and the Wild need all hands on deck to keep their playoff hopes alive. Now, the biggest story to come out of the Wild win on Sunday was the announcement of the club reaching a contract extension with Kyle Brodziak. The Wild Center signed a new three year deal worth 8.5 million with an annual cap hit of 2.8 million. That is a very workable cap hit for a heart and soul type of player that really drives the Wild. Kyle Brodziak is a grinder type of player that plays in all facets of the game. He is a great third line center, which is where the Wild will play him ideally. He is great on the penalty kill, and is third on the team in goals on the power play. He scored a shootout winner in Edmonton earlier this year, and has 15 goals on the year so far. Over the past two seasons Brodziak has really stepped up his offensive game, scoring 37 points last year (16G-21A) and being on pace to score more goals and hopefully more points so far this year (15G-14A 29 points). The real value in this contract is going to be seen in the next few years. Brodziak is a hard worker, he plays the game the right way, and he never takes a shift off. Brodziak is going to prove invaluable as the Wild infuse all the young talent they have accumulated into their lineup over the next few years. Guys like Brodziak and Koivu are going to be the examples that young guys like Zack Phillips and Mikael Grandlund are going to be held to. This is all part of the culture Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher are trying to build and instill in the organization. This is a great sign for the Wild, and a well deserved pay day for Kyle Brodziak. Up next for the boys in green, a trip to Sunrise to play the Panthers on Thursday, followed by a trip to Dallas on Friday, where the Wild haven’t won since 2003. This is a crucial stretch for the Wild’s playoff hopes, as the deadline looms near on the 27th. Friday I’ll look at the Wild and the trade deadline, and breakdown what they should and shouldn’t be doing. As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to comment and ask questions. I love talking hockey with you guys. Have a good day. Todd Varga On Twitter @Wild_Halo
  23. Wild Musings, Marek Zidlicky, and NHL Thoughts 2/17/2012 The Wild dropped a heartbreaker to the Winnipeg Jets last night, losing 4-3 in the shootout. Evander Kane scored twice, and had the shootout winner. Devin Setoguchi remained hot for the Wild, scoring twice in the losing effort. Setoguchi has been on fire, scoring 4 goals since the return of Mikko Koivu on February 9th, who also scored a goal last night. The topline has actually been responsible for all of the goals since Mikko’s return, which is a huge problem (one of many, mind you) for the Wild as of late. They have zero secondary scoring right now. Matt Cullen has been snake bitten the last couple games, getting stoned on golden scoring chances in the past few games. Clutterbuck has been hurt, Nick Johnson hasn’t really been playing on a line with NHL talent, and Erik Christensen has not really been much of a factor- although he scored in the shootout yesterday and he made it look really easy. I like Christensen, and hope he finds his game here quick, because at this point he is a complete non-factor. Now Marek Zidlicky…. What an interesting mess Zid is creating. In case you missed the past few days of this, Zidlicky told the media he would waive his no trade clause and approve a trade to the Devils, fueling speculation that the Wild was close to a deal with New Jersey. Chuck Fletcher seemed genuinely surprised, and said no deal was in place. That may or may not be true, as are all statements made by GMs ten days before the trade deadline. The Wild have to move Zidlicky. He and Mike Yeo are not on the same page, he is becoming a distraction, and in all honesty was not contributing to the team before that anyway. Random thought: If there really is no deal in place, or no talks ongoing with the Devils, why did Zidlicky pick the Devils? Does he like the city? Does he like the team? Or did he think he could create a bunch of media buzz and false hope in fans minds by picking the team with the most desired, soon to be UFA that is being clamored about in Minnesota in the franchise’s short history? Minnesotans are salivating at the mouth at the thought of Zach Parise coming to the Wild. Convincing him to play in his home state for the foreseeable future, would be a grand slam for the Wild. The man scores goals the Wild desperately need, and would instantly become the face of the franchise (sorry Mikko). I just found Marek Zidlicky’s statement and choice of team interesting in this light, if Fletcher is being truthful, and there really is no deal in place. Around the NHL: -The Red Wings are ridiculous. 22 game home winning streak. Absolutely absurd, but not all that surprising given how good this team always is. What a great time to be a Detroit sports fan. The Lions are on the verge of being great, The Tiger’s have added Prince Fielder to the middle of their lineup, and the Wing’s haven’t lost at home in 22 games. Good for you Detroit. -The Hal Gill trade worked out well, even though that is a big price for a rental player. Nashville is making their push to be a serious contender in the West. The Preds have added another talented defenseman to an already impressive D-core that will provide needed depth come the playoffs. They also add size and strength which, as we’ve seen, goes a long way in beating a team like Canucks. Montreal got two good youngsters and a pick for a UFA. You’ve got to feel good about that. All that being said, good luck to Blake Geoffrion in playing in Montreal with the media. -Rick Nash is for sale, and is using his no trade clause to pick his team. Rumored teams include the Kings, Sharks, Rangers, Canucks, Flyers, and Bruins. All of the trade’s people have been coming up with have been really entertaining. But at the same time, it is kind of sad. Rick Nash is the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the thought of him not being there is kind of strange. I understand him wanting to move on, and wanting to be in the playoffs, it is just that “end of an era” kind of feel to it… if he gets traded. For comparisons sake: Borrowing from the world of baseball this reminds me of one of my boy hood heroes, Tim Salmon. I have been an Angels fan since I was a baby (1987 is the first season I remember). Tim Salmon joined the Angels in 1992 and retired with the team at the end of the 2006 season. Timmy was part of those brutal teams I grew up watching in the 1990s. If you’re not familiar with baseball, the Angels in the 1990s were terrible. They made the playoffs in 1989, and didn’t get back until 2002. Fortunately for them, and Timmy, they won the World Series in 2002, so it was well worth it. This is what the Rick Nash in Columbus situation reminds me off. It all worked out for Tim after he stuck with the Angels through all those years. Rick Nash has been that guy, just without the happy ending. Nash is the Blue Jacket’s Tim Salmon… unless he gets traded. Thank you all for reading. I really appreciate everybody’s input and support. I hope you have a great weekend. Todd Varga Follow me on Twitter @Wild_Halo
  24. Wild Musings, Marek Zidlicky, and NHL Thoughts 2/17/2012 The Wild dropped a heartbreaker to the Winnipeg Jets last night, losing 4-3 in the shootout. Evander Kane scored twice, and had the shootout winner. Devin Setoguchi remained hot for the Wild, scoring twice in the losing effort. Setoguchi has been on fire, scoring 4 goals since the return of Mikko Koivu on February 9th, who also scored a goal last night. The topline has actually been responsible for all of the goals since Mikko’s return, which is a huge problem (one of many, mind you) for the Wild as of late. They have zero secondary scoring right now. Matt Cullen has been snake bitten the last couple games, getting stoned on golden scoring chances in the past few games. Clutterbuck has been hurt, Nick Johnson hasn’t really been playing on a line with NHL talent, and Erik Christensen has not really been much of a factor- although he scored in the shootout yesterday and he made it look really easy. I like Christensen, and hope he finds his game here quick, because at this point he is a complete non-factor. Now Marek Zidlicky…. What an interesting mess Zid is creating. In case you missed the past few days of this, Zidlicky told the media he would waive his no trade clause and approve a trade to the Devils, fueling speculation that the Wild was close to a deal with New Jersey. Chuck Fletcher seemed genuinely surprised, and said no deal was in place. That may or may not be true, as are all statements made by GMs ten days before the trade deadline. The Wild have to move Zidlicky. He and Mike Yeo are not on the same page, he is becoming a distraction, and in all honesty was not contributing to the team before that anyway. Random thought: If there really is no deal in place, or no talks ongoing with the Devils, why did Zidlicky pick the Devils? Does he like the city? Does he like the team? Or did he think he could create a bunch of media buzz and false hope in fans minds by picking the team with the most desired, soon to be UFA that is being clamored about in Minnesota in the franchise’s short history? Minnesotans are salivating at the mouth at the thought of Zach Parise coming to the Wild. Convincing him to play in his home state for the foreseeable future, would be a grand slam for the Wild. The man scores goals the Wild desperately need, and would instantly become the face of the franchise (sorry Mikko). I just found Marek Zidlicky’s statement and choice of team interesting in this light, if Fletcher is being truthful, and there really is no deal in place. Around the NHL: -The Red Wings are ridiculous. 22 game home winning streak. Absolutely absurd, but not all that surprising given how good this team always is. What a great time to be a Detroit sports fan. The Lions are on the verge of being great, The Tiger’s have added Prince Fielder to the middle of their lineup, and the Wing’s haven’t lost at home in 22 games. Good for you Detroit. -The Hal Gill trade worked out well, even though that is a big price for a rental player. Nashville is making their push to be a serious contender in the West. The Preds have added another talented defenseman to an already impressive D-core that will provide needed depth come the playoffs. They also add size and strength which, as we’ve seen, goes a long way in beating a team like Canucks. Montreal got two good youngsters and a pick for a UFA. You’ve got to feel good about that. All that being said, good luck to Blake Geoffrion in playing in Montreal with the media. -Rick Nash is for sale, and is using his no trade clause to pick his team. Rumored teams include the Kings, Sharks, Rangers, Canucks, Flyers, and Bruins. All of the trade’s people have been coming up with have been really entertaining. But at the same time, it is kind of sad. Rick Nash is the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the thought of him not being there is kind of strange. I understand him wanting to move on, and wanting to be in the playoffs, it is just that “end of an era” kind of feel to it… if he gets traded. For comparisons sake: Borrowing from the world of baseball this reminds me of one of my boy hood heroes, Tim Salmon. I have been an Angels fan since I was a baby (1987 is the first season I remember). Tim Salmon joined the Angels in 1992 and retired with the team at the end of the 2006 season. Timmy was part of those brutal teams I grew up watching in the 1990s. If you’re not familiar with baseball, the Angels in the 1990s were terrible. They made the playoffs in 1989, and didn’t get back until 2002. Fortunately for them, and Timmy, they won the World Series in 2002, so it was well worth it. This is what the Rick Nash in Columbus situation reminds me off. It all worked out for Tim after he stuck with the Angels through all those years. Rick Nash has been that guy, just without the happy ending. Nash is the Blue Jacket’s Tim Salmon… unless he gets traded. Thank you all for reading. I really appreciate everybody’s input and support. I hope you have a great weekend. Todd Varga Follow me on Twitter @Wild_Halo
  25. The Wild Conundrum 2/13/2012 It’s been a rough week for the Minnesota Wild. The past week has seen the boys in green lose two games to the last place Columbus Blue Jackets, and a game to the division leading Vancouver Canucks. For a team that is desperate for wins, this was not a good week. Not only were the results bad, but for two of those three games, the Wild played fairly uninspired hockey in two of those games. It was so bad to the point that Mike Yeo vented his frustration to the media after Thursday’s game against Vancouver (I covered this in a previous blog “Wild Musings-Judgment Day”). While the effort was there on Saturday, the results were still the same. The Wild have scored only six goals in their last five games, and are about to run into another rough patch in their schedule, approaching games against the Blues, Bruins, Panthers, Stars (in Dallas-where the Wild have not won a game since 2003), Sharks, and Kings. If the Wild are going to make the playoffs, they are going to have to beat teams that will be in the playoffs, and be serious contenders in the Playoffs. All of this brings us to the Wild conundrum. The Wild will play the Sharks on February 26. If the results don’t change over the next week, the Wild team that plays in that game could look very different than it will tomorrow against the Ducks. The schedule may actually set up the Wild perfectly to either solidify their role as buyers or sellers. If they can defeat these teams, they will gain points in the standings, and hopefully the confidence they will need to push forward. Should the Wild continue their slide, they could easily become sellers mid next week. Looking at the schedule, and how the Wild have been playing lately, I’m finding myself (admittedly an optimist by nature) having to convince myself that they can make it happen. Losing to Columbus was bad. Losing to Columbus twice was very sad. But the game that hit me the hardest was the Vancouver. Vancouver really has an embarrassment of riches. They have all stars on every line, they play good defense, and they have two very good goaltenders (most of the time). The Wild don’t have the talent that Vancouver does. It was evident in that game. This isn’t news to me or anyone else, I just never saw it illustrated as much as I have in that game (That’s not to say the Wild can’t beat the Canucks, they can, they just aren’t going to do it on raw talent… and probably not consistently - or in say… a seven game playoff series). With that said, the Wild are going to be even more shorthanded as Cal Clutterbuck is now officially day-to-day after Saturday’s game with Columbus, and Clayton Stoner’s return from IR not looking as immanent as once thought. That means more of what we have to expect this season from the Wild… Call ups from Houston. Marco Scandella and Kris Foucault have been recalled from Houston. Scandella has played 37 games for the Wild this season, and has 3 goals, 3 assists, and is a -10 on the year. Foucault will be making his NHL debut, and will wear #72 for the Wild. I’m glad to see Scandella back. He is going to be a big part of the Minnesota blue line for the next several years, and I’m anxious to see if he was able to refine his game at all in Houston. He should also help in putting up shots from the defense, which is something Mike Yeo has been asking for more of. I Hope everyone has a good week. Thanks for reading- I appreciate all the comments, questions, and feedback, and am really enjoying talking hockey with everyone. Todd Varga Follow me on Twitter @Wild_Halo
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