Thursday, December 22, 2011
My answer for that is no. He is definitely not the same scorer he once was, but he still brings a lot to the team's top line. He still has very good speed. He still has a tremendous shot. And as the team's #1 go to guy, he will get every opportunity to get those goals he is being paid to get.
If you have been watching the Wild games during this wretched 5 game losing streak, Heatley has been getting great scoring chances. He gets good hard shots on net. But, the goaltenders have simply been better than him. Also take into effect, he has been without his linemate Mikko Koivu the past 3 games (will be 4 after tonight's game). Not to mention, the power play has suffered with all those injuries to the team's top forwards and defenseman this team has accumulated too.
Heatley hasn't been great, yet. But, I certainly feel like he hasn't had the best chances to catch fire yet. And once the team returns from injury, I will have no doubt that he can definitely catch fire and put up a 30 goal season. And if he falls short, he will still be better than the player we traded to get him, Martin Havlat. So we can appreciate that at the very least.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Right now, the teams aren't even conference foes (Wild in the NW division of the West, and Winnipeg in the SE division of the East). But starting next season, the two will be part of the "new Norris" division along with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit Nashville, and St. Louis. As I have mentioned before, the Wild badly needed this move due in large part to the fact their road games hardly come in their own time zone (Tonight is MN's first road game in the Central time zone).
But ultimately tonight, I want to see this rivalry take off (Probably too unrealistic to expect, but a guy can hope right?!). I've heard all about the old rivalries from the old Norris division, but never gotten to see it happen in front of me (The best in playing with all the Western Canadian teams...yuck!). What you should expect from the Jets (13-12-4) is a gritty type of game that could agitate another gritty, hard working team, the Wild. If the Jets can keep in the game early on (Yes, Minnesota has been getting off to extremely hot starts on this 7 game winning streak), they can put up a really good fight.
Oh...and by the way, following the Jets, the league's best team has a date with its closest competitor for that honor, the Blackhawks, another old and upcoming Norris division foe. And believe me, the State of Hockey has not forgotten the old rivalries the Wild's predecessor carried with one of the NHL's most storied teams. The Blackhawks still receive the same vicious boos from Minnesota today compared to 20 years ago.
I have been trying to not get ahead of myself for this game (Hopefully the Wild do a better job than I have). But, this win or lose in WPG tonight, the Blackhawks game tomorrow will be a statement game for the Wild. It will be against one of the premier teams in the league. It will be seen by a national audience (The Versus 'A' team with Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire will be in the house), and it will be played in front of our fans in our building (Tickets still remain!!!). This is a game that we can not afford to put on a bad show for.
The Wild have played ridiculously above and beyond what anyone expected of them this year. But should this ride come to an abrupt halt or slow down significantly, fine. They will return next year with a better team and in a new division, with rivalries that get kicked off starting tonight, in Winnipeg.
Monday, December 5, 2011
This is terrific news for the State of Hockey. They no longer have the long Canadian road trips from playing in the Northwest division, more road games will be starting at friendlier times for Wild fans (6, 630, or 7 pm), and they can rekindle the old North Stars rivalries with Chicago and St. Louis (These games are pretty intense already). The only main rival the Wild have currently are the Vancouver Canucks, and lately this rivalry has been boring and lopsided (In favor of Vancouver). So this is a perfect time for the team to relocate.
But perhaps the best news of all, is the fact this will be the weaker division in the foreseeable future. So this will give the Wild a better opportunity to win and make the postseason (Something the Wild have yet to achieve with Leipold running the show). The front runner here will obviously be Chicago and they will have sustained success with core players (Kane, Toews, Hossa) locked up for years to come. St. Louis is a team on the rise and will pose a big threat Detroit is a sinking ship due to largely the fact that their star players are getting older and past their prime. Dallas and Nashville will be wild cards for now as they have had recent success, but do not have any marquee names power the team past the next few years. And then you will have the bottom feeders Columbus and Winnipeg who will not be successful in the near future, but a top draft pick could easily change that.
So clearly, with the talent the Wild have and the talent they have coming up, they have the potential to be successful in this division for many years to come. And their record against the Central teams so far this year (7-0-1 against CHI, CBJ, DET, NSH, STL) is a huge positive for them moving forward.
The Wild and their fans are a big winner in this realignment. Now all they have to do is build a solid hockey team that contends for years to come. And they can get far closer to achieving that in this new division...
Here's the other conferences and their teams:
Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver
Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto
Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington
Thursday, November 24, 2011
- Matt Cullen has 8 goals and 12 points so far this year, he scored 12 goals and 39 points all of last year.
- Josh Harding has fully recovered from his torn ACL and his 6-1-1, 1.82, .942 line is one of the best in the NHL.
- With the great outings from Harding, Nik Backstrom has stepped his game up (7-4-2, 1.97 GAA, .935 SV%) giving the team a potent 1-2 punch between the pipes every night.
- The young defenseman (Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser) have carried on the success of playing for Mike Yeo, and have stepped up to deliver on of the league's best defenses.
- Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley click very well on a line together.
- Kyle Brodziak gets the job done with good old fashioned hard work.
- Cal Clutterbuck's mustache is second to none.
- Mike Yeo has this team believing they can win every night...and it shows.
- The Wild are first in their division, in their conference, and in the National Hockey League.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Yesterday, the Wild were sent to the box 6 times. 5 of them, resulted in a Sharks power play. And as we saw, their power play has sharp teeth. The Sharks got two power play goals from Patrick Marleau in the second, and coasted to a easy 3-1 win over Minnesota at HP Pavilion.
After the game Mike Yeo acknowledged those power plays his team has been handing out too frequently saying, "We played a game of chance in Calgary and won, played a game of chance tonight and lost."
I guess its nice that Yeo has acknowledged his teams bad play in the last two games, but my concern is that it has to be fixed sooner rather than later, especially when your next three games are on the road (two of which coming against tough opponents in Los Angeles and Anaheim).
The Wild are not as talented as many teams in the Western Conference, just yet. So they have to rely on playing a very disciplined, hard working kind of hockey game to come out with a win every night (No better example of that then the November 3 game vs Vancouver). So taking all these trips to the penalty box on a nightly basis really dampens their chances of winning a game, and playing more games in the spring.
So please, for the love of all things hockey, stay out of the penalty box. Or it will undo that nice 5 game winning streak we just enjoyed...
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
- After allowing 1 goal in his last 73 shots (All in the previous two games against Detroit), Josh Harding has not only proved he has fully returned from his knee surgery, he is proving he is the best goaltender on the Wild roster. On the season Harding is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 GAA and a .965 save percentage in three starts, all coming against Detroit. It would be smart for Mike Yeo to keep starting Harding until this hot streak ends, especially with the inconsistent play from the team's #1 goalie Niklas Backstrom.
- After being shutdown for for 10 games and 59 minutes of the 11th game, team captain Mikko Koivu scored the game tying goal, off of a deflection, then throw the biggest check of his career to help set up the game winning goal by Devin Setoguchi. Hopefully now that Koivu is on the board with a goal, his stats will take off. Right now, ESPN.com only projects Koivu to finish the year with a line of 7-45-52, which is down from his 17-45-62 line in the previous season. Hopefully, he takes off and so does the team.
- Despite last nights epic come from behind win, this team still has some things to work on. One of those things is shots on goal. The Wild still rank 27th in the NHL with a average of 25 shots on goal per game. In my previous post, I said that the lack of shots on the power play is a big contributor to this problem. It still is. Last night, the Wild went 0-7 on the PP before Setoguchi's GW PP OT goal. But on those 8 power plays, the team only managed 9 shots. And on a crucial third period 5 on 3 that lasted 90 seconds, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was the only one to shoot (From a awful angle), registering the only two shots on that 2 man advantage. Too much passing happens on the power play still. They need to just start firing pucks at the net and see what happens. Especially when you rank last in the league in goals scored.
Monday, October 24, 2011
The main concern for me, is that I have grown tired of watching a forward (Lately it has been Pierre-Marc Bouchard) sit on the point with the top line. PMB's performance on the Power Play has been simply abysmal. For proof of this, watch his PP shifts against Pittsburgh. But, there is a lack of scoring defenseman on the team, and it would appear that we will be seeing a forward on the PP blueline for most of the season (Unless the team acquires a defenseman that can score). It also creates a lack of punch on the second line of the PP when PMB sits on the point, and guys like Bulmer and Clutterbuck take his spot (Not exactly the offensive types). But, Mike Yeo has taken notice of PMB's performance, and as Russo points out today, it would appear he is going back to the second PP line, while Matt Cullen takes over on the point.
Another concern with the man advantage is still the lack of shots this team is taking. The Wild are still towards the bottom of the league in shots taken (27th-25.4 shots per game), despite their offensive upgrades this offseason. And as much as I like the quality of their shots, it would still be nice to see them take more shots, period. You never know what can happen when you fire one on net. Hopefully, Yeo feels the same way and sends them the message to start firing more frequently.
I know, there are still some growing pains going on with the new system of Yeo. So you would like to think that at some point, the power play (and the team for that matter) can take off. Perhaps Yeo would also try juggling his PP lines up a bit, much like he has with his regular top lines (Switching up PMB and Devin Setoguchi between lines 1 and 2), to see if he can spark his stale PP units.
This team is very capable of scoring, so you would like to think that that the power play can get out of its funk sooner rather than later. This team needs a strong power play to help the lack of scoring on the team, in general. Otherwise, if it stays like this, we are going to be in for a frustrating season once again.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Pens have played 7 games on the young season. Crosby, obviously, has played none. Malkin, has played in 3 games (1G-3A), but has missed the last four as he continues to battle a knee injury. Despite their absences, the Pens come in to St. Paul with the second most goals scored in the NHL (19, Colorado has 20). They have been getting outstanding production from forwards Jordan Staal (2G-3A), James Neal (5G-1A), and defenseman Kris Letang (1G-6A) in the absence of their star forwards.
Perhaps, the only weakness on this team right now, is their defense. With the exception of Letang, the remaining 5 Pens defenseman have played abysmally. Paul Martin (U of M alum), Matt Niskanen (UMD alum), Zybnek Michalek, Deryk Engelland, and Ben Lovejoy have combined to put up a line of 2G-3A and a +/- of -11. Folks, thats an awful line from your remaining 5 defenseman. So if the Wild want to come out of tonight's game with a pair of points, they got to attack the weak Pittsburgh defense.
Mike Yeo's philosophy, as I understand it, is forwards get in behind the defense and create havoc while defenseman give an occasional help down low (If you are a defenseman who doesn't score, helping out down low is a minimal thing for you). If the Wild can keep out of the box, get their line changes in order, get a solid start from Nik Backstrom, and most importantly get behind the defense, they should be able to get those two points from Pittsburgh tonight. Also keep in mind, Pittsburgh is coming off a tough 2-1 loss in Winnipeg yesterday. So they will not be as fresh as the Wild. Also, they used their #1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury last night, so I would expect backup Brent Johnson (Don't mess with him!) to get the nod between the pipes. And he has played very well so far this season for the Pens, so don't dismiss him as well.
For me, this will be a very telling game for the hometown squad. They are coming off a tough 3-2 OT loss to Detroit on Saturday. They also have won just 2 out of the first five games, but they have come away with at least a point in 4 of the first five games (I was planning on doing a post on how this was a good sign, but my friends at First Round Bust beat me to it. Haha). They also are in the middle of a tough stretch of games. So I will look for them to have a bit more jump in their step as they play in the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center once again before hitting the road to division rivals Vancouver and Edmonton. You also have the nationally televised game tomorrow night, so hopefully they can put on a good show for the rest of the NHL. With all those variables going into this, I would like to see the team get their issues straightened out and earn a victory over one of the NHL's elite teams.
Don't expect a blowout Wild victory just because the Pens aren't at 100%. If they win, it will have to be a full 60 minute, hard fought effort. Otherwise, the Pens will bounce any chance you give them. Because despite the absences of their star players, this is still a very good team.
UPDATE (3:00 PM)-The NHL just announced that Kris Letang is receiving a two game suspension for a boarding penalty he took last night against Winnipeg. The Pens have called up Brian Strait to replace Letang for tonights game.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
- Per, Mike Russo of the Strib, F Matt Kassian and D Justin Falk will be watching the game from the press box tonight.
- With the scratches of Kassian and Falk, rookie forward Brett Bulmer will make his NHL debut tonight.
- Expect a pretty lengthy tribute to former Wild players Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra, who passed away during the offseason, prior to the game tonight.
- Mike Yeo, coaches his first game behind the Wild bench tonight. Russo had a nice story on him in today's paper.
- The Blue Jackets, tonight's opponent, are coming off a 3-2 loss in their season opener last night at home against Nashville.
- For those watching the game at home, be sure to tune into the pregame and postgame show to watch new Wild TV analyst, Wes Walz.
- The Wild will become the first NHL team to have free Wi-Fi in the arena. With this Wi-Fi, you can access replays not shown on the scoreboard, and even place food orders from their seats.
- I've also heard that concession prices have increased this season. You can now buy your beer for somewhere between $8-9 bucks.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Pacific: San Jose
1. Washington Capitals
2. Boston Bruins
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. New York Rangers
7. Philadelphia Flyers
8. Carolina Hurricanes
1. San Jose Sharks
2. Vancouver Canucks
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. Los Angeles Kings
5. Detroit Red Wings
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Calgary Flames
8. Nashville Predators
Finals: CHI over LA in 7
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Alex Ovechkin (WSH)
Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie): Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Calder Trophy (Top Rookie): Adam Larsson (NJ)
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Heading Out: RW Martin Havlat, D Brent Burns, LW Andrew Brunette, RW Antti Miettinen, RW Chuck Kobasew, G Jose Theodore
The Wild were very active this offseason, as GM Chuck Fletcher dealt first liners Havlat and Burns in separate deals to San Jose In return for Heatley, Setoguchi, RW Charlie Coyle, and C Zack Phillips. The Wild had to sacrifice their best d-man in Burns, but it was a move that will help out the team in the long run. I will admit, it would of been nice to see what Havlat and Burns could of done in the new system, but Fletcher felt they could best help the team by trading them. It was a very bold offseason for Fletcher, and hopefully for him, its one that pays off in the long run.
(Stats Listed are from the 2010-11 Season)
Dany Heatley-Mikko Koivu-Devin Setoguchi
Guillaume Latendresse -Matt Cullen- Pierre-Marc Bouchard (11-3-3-6)-(78-12-27-39)-(59-12-26-38)
Darroll Powe-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies-Eric Nystrom-Brad Staubitz
Greg Zanon-Marek Zidlicky
Nick Schultz-Marco Scandella
Mike Lundin-Jared Spurgeon
Starter: Niklas Backstrom (22-23-5-2.66-.916)
Backup: Josh Harding (DNP-Torn ACL)
Mike Yeo: The 3rd Head Coach In Wild History
5 Prospects That Will Impact the 2011-12 Season
Where They'll Finish
Tomorrow, I will have my final NHL 2011 Preview post, as I recap the division winners, pick the 16 playoff teams, award winners, and of course pick the Stanley Cup winner.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
4. Colorado Avalanche-Coming in a close second to the Oilers in the NHL’s basement, was the Colorado Avalanche. The team has some nice young offensive forwards (Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, and the #2 overall pick in the 2011 draft Gabriel Landeskog), and should put up some good offensive numbers. But why the Avs failed last year, was the fact they had poor defense and goaltending. The Avs traded for Washington G Semyon Varlamov (Giving up a #1 and #2 pick for him), to help fix that problem. The thing is, Varlamov has never played a full season yet. So giving up that much for him is a big time gamble, in my opinion. As for the Avs going into this season, they will do better than last year, but not well enough to contend for a playoff spot.
3. Minnesota Wild-Full team breakdown will be in tomorrow's post.
2. Calgary Flames-Last December, the Flames were playing like one of the worst teams in the NHL. But then, their GM Darryl Sutter was fired, and the team suddenly took off. They finished the season on a 27-11-9 tear, and finished just 2 points out of a playoff spot. This team is solid offensively (led by RW Jarome Iginla), and have a very solid presence in goal with Mikka Kiprusoff. However, their defense is average at best. They will need top blue liners Matt Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester to step up and now lead the defense, after Robyn Regehr was dealt to Buffalo this summer. I really can't explain why I believe in Calgary to finish second. It's really just a gut feeling. They somehow always find a way to get it done. And as long as they have Iginla, they should be good.
1. Vancouver Canucks-It’s hard to believe that the Canucks did not win the Cup last year. They simply were the complete package. They had the #1 ranked offense, #1 ranked defense, and arguably the #1 goalie in the NHL. But they were just simply outplayed in Game 7 against Boston. Not many changes for Vancouver heading in to this season. The only notable losses for the Canucks this summer were D Christian Erhoff and LW Raffi Torres. So essentially, they are bringing back the same team for 2011-12. And they should be just fine. This is still one of, if not the best team in the league. Look for Vancouver to compete for the West’s and NHL’s best record this season and make another deep run in the playoffs.
Monday, October 3, 2011
4. St Louis Blues-For some reason, people are picking St. Louis to be a playoff team. I just don't see it. They have a balanced scoring attack, but no real big scorer. They have a nice young defensive core, but nothing that says they are gonna be great this year. And I like their goalie Jaroslav Halak, but can he step up and be the big time goalie they need him to be? Many things need to go right for St. Louis this year, for them to get a playoff spot. And I just don't see that happening.
3. Nashville Predators-Nashville had the 3rd best defensive team in the NHL last year behind Vancouver and Boston. So the Preds, are really bringing the same team back in 2011. It was also the same team that finished 22nd in scoring last year. They also bring back Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie) finalist Pekka Rinne between the pipes. As much as their offense doesn't score, they still have a great defense. And it will keep the Preds in the hunt for a playoff spot all year.
2. Detroit Red Wings-Really ever since the mid '90s, the Red Wings have been the best in this division. But, that run is quickly coming to an end. Their stars are getting older, and their farm system doesn't look like its going to produce any good replacements any time soon. But, this team was still one of the best scoring teams in the NHL last year. But that will only take them so far, with all the good defensive teams there are out there. The Wings will still have a stellar 2011-12 season, but they certainly won't be tops in this division.
1. Chicago Blackhawks-Prior to Last year, the Blackhawks literally watched half their roster get turned over following their Stanley Cup championship. They then suffered the championship hangover, as they underperformed, but still made it into the playoffs (You can send a thank you card to 199 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN). This year, the Hawks should be back in prime form. They have a great offense (lead by Kane, Toews, and Hossa), a solid defensive core (lead by Seabrook and Keith), and they may have solved their goaltending issues for a while with Corey Crawford. The Hawks are lock to win the division this year, and also should be a Cup contender once again.
Tomorrow, we will look at the last division, the Northwest division.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
4. Dallas Stars-With Brad Richards, the Stars were a team that was contending for a playoff spot. Without Richards, this is a team that won't be anywhere near the postseason. Yes, the Stars still have Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribero. But they lack a good supporting cast and solid goaltending. Kari Lehtonen has posted poor GAA and Save Percentages, and will be too heavily relied on this year. Don't expect much from the Stars this year, as they finish towards the bottom of the Western Conference.
3. Anaheim Ducks-Anaheim boasts one of the best lines in all of hockey, with Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and reigning MVP Corey Perry as their number one line. Its a line that put up nearly 250 points last year, and will be expected to do the same again. Teemu Selanne and his 80 points also return to the Ducks this year. The main concern for Anaheim is on the defensive side. They ranked 20th in defense last year, and made no big acquisitions to help correct that deficiency. They also don't know what to expect from their net minder Jonas Hiller, who suffered Vertigo symptoms last year. Despite those issues, the Ducks still make the postseason, but will see a first round exit.
2. Los Angeles Kings-On the day before the NHL Draft in June, the Kings made a huge offseason splash, by trading for Flyers C Mike Richards. It made this team a real contender in the western conference. They were a horrible offensive team last year, but thanks to their great defense, they were able to make it into the playoffs for a second straight year. Richards and Simon Gagne will help add some more scoring depth to the Kings. And this team is now instantly a top 4 team in the West. So hopefully, they can make an appearance in the second round of the playoffs.
1. San Jose Sharks-The past two years have seen San Jose make it to the Western Conference Finals. But both times, they didn't even come close to the Campbell Trophy. So, a change was needed. And they turned to the Wild for some needed change. The Sharks first acquired D-Man Brent Burns from MIN, then eventually traded sniper Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. The Sharks have brought in those new faces to help bring a new result to San Jose. There is literally no weakness on this team, and they should be making another deep run in the playoffs come next April. But can they put the past behind them and finally make it into the Cup finals?
Tomorrow's post looks at the Central Division
Saturday, October 1, 2011
The hit comes when the NHL is trying to crack down on players delivering illegal hits to players in "vulnerable" positions. Nystrom had even been tweeting about those types of hits yesterday saying that players need to not put themselves in "vulnerable positions". Expect the NHL to now look further into maybe adopting the "no-touch icing" rule, to keep injuries down on those plays. You may remember former Wild D-Man Kurtis Foster suffered a similar injury in March of '08 against San Jose (Video below). Mike Russo tweeted last night that Foster will be in contact with the NHLPA about "no-touch" icing.
I'm really torn on the no-touch icing. Yes, I want to keep the players safe and on the ice. But I also want to see the hustle that Eric Nystrom showed last night while trying to beat out Fedun. They are the best at what they do and taking away the touching of the puck eliminates that hustle and also, the scoring opportunities that comes with beating out an icing call.
As Russo writes today, Nystrom is not expected to face any type of discipline for the play with Fedun. And he shouldn't. He was clearly making a play for the puck, and not the defender. It was just very unfortunate that Fedun was hurt so badly on the play. Sometimes, things like this just happen. Its part of the game. Nystrom even went so far to apologize to Fedun, he visited him in the hospital today, apologizing numerous times in his brief visit.
I ultimately believe you will see "no-touch" icing in the NHL very soon. If not sometime this year, then most likely next year. Player safety is being put front and center these days, and this will be a big move in ensuring more of it. Its sad to see the touch icing leave, but we got to keep the players safe out there. And that's the bottom line...
4. Toronto Maple Leafs-Last year James Reimer started 28 out of the Leafs final 33 games. He posted a 16-7-5 record with a .921 save percentage. Now moving forward to 11-12, the Leafs are hoping the netminder can produce similar results throughout a whole season. The Leafs bring in a very young team this year (average age is 26), and look to build off their final two months of success last year. Offensively, I think they will still struggle. Defensively, you should see some big improvements, lead by the 21 year old Luke Schenn, who the Leafs locked up for the next 5 seasons. If for whatever reason, the Leafs can put the puck in the net, they should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. But right now, I don’t see that happening this year.
3. Montreal Canadiens-I really like Montreal. In fact, I even considered putting them ahead of Buffalo. But the fact remains is they lack a good scoring punch. They did bring in Erik Cole fron Carolina, but he is not the answer for the “lack of punch” they have. They look to have a real solid defense, lead by the 22 year old P.K. Subban, in front of G Carey Price who had a tremendous season last year. If Price can continue his winning ways, the Habs should be able to win many games, if they can score more than three goals. If Montreal gets someone to step up, or find a way to acquire a scorer this year, they could be a darkhorse playoff team. But until they do, all they will be able to do is battle it out for a playoff spot at seasons end.
2. Buffalo Sabres-The Sabres were, by far, the most active team this offseason. They signed free agents F Ville Leino and D Christian Erhoff to multiyear deals, and traded for D Robyn Regehr from Calgary. With these additions, the Sabres now boast one of the best defensive cores in the NHL. Scoring wise, they are led by former Gopher Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, both coming off 30 goal seasons. Then add the fact they have all star Ryan Miller between the pipes, and Buffalo should have a contending team this year. But should they lose some players to injury, they have no cap space to make a deal, so they would have to promote from within. I believe this team will make a good run in the playoffs, but they will be looking up to the defending champs in the division standings.
1. Boston Bruins-The defending champs bring back essentially, the same team that won the Cup last year. In fact, their biggest offseason addition is Benoit Pouliot. That’s how quiet of an offseason Boston had. They have great depth in both their forwards and defense. That depth should carry over to another great regular season in Boston. The key for Boston is pretty simple: Goaltending. If Tim Thomas can remain solid, and Tuuka Rask can follow suit in his limited starts between the pipes, the Bruins should be in contention for the East’s top record this season. The Bruins are pretty much a lock to win this division. But the big question is: How far can they go in the postseason?
Tomorrow, I dive into the Western Conference and look at the Pacific Division.
Friday, September 30, 2011
4. New Jersey Devils-Last season, the Devils ranked last in the NHL in goals scored. Not a surprise for a Jacques Lemaire coached team. Now with new coach Pete DeBoer, the Devils hope to get out of the basement among goal scoring teams. But, with the team returning the same top two lines as last year, its pretty hard to believe the Devils will finish near or in the basement in scoring again. You also have to wonder if this is the final season for netminder Martin Brodeur, who turns 40 next May and is in the final season of his contract. Look for the Devils to flutter around the 10-12 seed in the East this year.
3. Philadelphia Flyers-This summer, the Flyers traded their two best players: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. For this season, I believe we will see the Flyers take a small step back, but in the long run we will see them take bigger steps forward from these deals. The Flyers will have young F's Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds on their roster this season, all coming over in the deals involving Richards and Carter. The Flyers also traded for G Ilya Bryzgalov, and inked him to a 9 year deal. The team also inked the ageless Jaromir Jagr to a one year deal, and by how he has looked so far this preseason, The Flyers have a very solid team. But with the young forwards, I believe 2011-12 will not be their year. They are still a playoff team, but a first round exit is more like it this year.
2. New York Rangers-The Rangers made the biggest splash of the offseason by signing C Brad Richards to an 9 year/$60 million deal, in the hopes of finally having an elite center for F Marian Gaborik. This move should help bolster a offense that was only good enough to finish 16th in the NHL last year. The Rangers now have two solid scoring lines to compliment their good defensive core. Factor in G Hendrik Lundqvist, and you have a very solid team for 2011-12. Look for the Rangers to finally make some noise in the playoffs this season.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins-Last year, the Penguins lost both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for their postseason run. They were taken out in the first round by Tampa Bay in 7 games. Now as we move to 2011-12, the Pens have gotten Malkin back and are expecting a Crosby return sometime before Thanksgiving. Once he returns, the Pens will be back as one of the East's elite. Offense, Defense, and Goaltending are all solid. Somehow, their defensive core is still one of the best in the league despite losing many key D-Men since winning the Cup in '09. The Penguins will win the Atlantic Division, and should be making a deep postseason run once again. But how far will they go?
Tomorrow's post takes a look at the Northeast Division.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
5. Winnipeg Jets-It will be really nice having hockey back in Winnipeg. But, remember, they inherited the Atlanta Thrashers. The team has some nice young talent featuring F Evander Kane, D Dustin Byfuglien, F Andrew Ladd, and G Ondrej Pavelec. But, the team lacks scoring and their defense is one of the worst in the NHL (They ranked 29th in defense in 2010-11). So don't look for the Jets to make any noise in their one year stint in the Southeast Division. Because all they will find is a last place finish.
4. Florida Panthers-Hard to believe I picked Florida ahead of somebody. But they made some solid additions this summer (D Brian Campbell, F Kris Versteeg, F Scottie Upshall, and F Tomas Fleischman), to help bolster a lineup that finished 28th in the NHL in scoring last season. The team brought in G Jose Theodore to man the net, after he had a decent season as Nik Backstrom's backup in Minnesota. The Panthers still won't be an easy team to watch in 2011-12, but they will be vastly better than their 2010-11 team.
3. Carolina Hurricanes-Last season the 'Canes finished just two points out of the final playoff spot. With their young players now breaking into the NHL, the Canes have higher expectations than 9th place this season. But, the team lost one of their best players, F Erik Cole this summer, and left to fill the spot from within their organization. They still have NHL stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward, and their Calder Trophy winner from last year Jeff Skinner. But a reasonable expectation for the 'Canes would be to be in the 8-9-10 seed range this year. Especially with the teams at the top being so good.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning-The Lightning boast one of the best offenses in the NHL. But, their defense is what holds them back from truly being one of the NHL's elite teams. The team is essentially bringing back the same defensive core, and resigned the "ageless" Dwayne Roloson to be the team's starting netminder for 2011-12. True, this was a team that was able to get within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals. But, their moves this offseason were minimal. Not exactly the best thing to do from a team that almost was the best in the East. The Lightning to have a bit of cap room, so they could add a solid D-Man at somepoint this year. But until they do, they will still be second best.
1. Washington Capitals-It hurts me to pick Washington first. Lets face it, they are a great regular season team. They have a good offense and a solid defensive core. But they have been lacking a solid presence in goal. And their answer for that problem this year is Tomas Vokoun. Not exactly the best solution. So once again, you will see this team will have a great regular season. But when it comes time to play when it matters most, who knows what will happen. I will say its possible they can win the east, but they have this thing about not making it out of the second round. So for now, I say its another second round playoff exit following a Southeast Division Title.
Tomorrow's post predicts the season in the Atlantic Division.
Monday, September 26, 2011
- Yesterday, the Wild trimmed their roster from 46 to 28 yesterday. Notable players that made the cut were Marco Scandella, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, Casey Wellman, and Brett Bulmer. The Wild need to have their roster trimmed to 23 players by opening night, so it will be interesting to see who can step up and make their case to stay on the team when the Wild open their season on October 8th.
- One of the players who made the cut yesterday was Marco Scandella. And honestly, if you have watched the Wild at any point this preseason, he should be on the opening night lineup card. He has been very solid so far. Not one bad play with the puck. And somehow, he managed to play all three consecutive games this past week between the Blues, Blue Jackets, and Penguins (On consecutive nights). The only blemish for him this preseason was the instigating penalty he took against Pittsburgh, that set him back 19 minutes in the box. Scandella projects to be a very good defenseman for the Wild, so look for him to get solid time with the big club this year.
- Up until Friday's game with Pittsburgh, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding had been having very solid preseasons. But then Harding had a shaky start against Columbus, and Backstrom did not look good against Pittsburgh (Then again, no one would, when Pittsburgh has 300 Power Plays). Both goaltenders were playing their first full games of the season then as well. So look for some bounceback games from the two this week as they tune up for the October 6th opener.
- This afternoon, the NHL announced that they will be playing the 2012 NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia between the Flyers and Rangers at Citizens Bank Park (Home of the Phillies). The Flyers are making their second appearance (2010-Boston) in the league's showcase game, and the Rangers are making their first. The Flyers join the Penguins as the teams to be in this twice. This is one of my favorite sporting events of the year. And hopefully, this event can come to the Twin Cities in the not so distant future.
Monday, September 19, 2011
- The Heatley-Koivu-Setoguchi line looked good for the most part. Their chemistry look good, and hopefully after a few games it can get even better. I noticed Heatley had more of a hesitation to shoot in the scrimmages, but I also think that should go away as the start playing actual games. I did take some video's of the top line when they were on the ice, but the shifts I got on tape, weren't anything special. So here is one of them.
- Guillaume Latendresse looked very sharp in these two sessions. For one, he has slimmed down and has come into camp in very good shape. He showed good speed, and had a lot of jump in his strides. I can't remember a shift where he didn't make something happen for the positive. He will be a huge key for the Wild's success this season, so having him play like that is very big.
- I payed a lot of attention to our young defenseman (Marco Scandella, Justin Falk, and Jared Spurgeon) during this session. They all seemed to do okay, but none stuck out as having a great scrimmage. I will give Scandella credit for a laser shot he fired on Saturday that hit the crossbar. Probably the best shot I saw all weekend.
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard looked outstanding in yesterday's session. He missed Saturday with a hamstring injury, but was back on the ice Sunday. And on top of that he was on the line with Latendresse and Matt Cullen, and that line looked as good as line 1 yesterday. As Michael Russo pointed out, having Gui and Butch back gives this team a different element.
- I also payed particular attention to C Zack Phillips (Acquired in Setoguchi trade) this weekend. He didn't do anything that stuck out, but he had some solid shifts. It will be interesting to see how he handles being in camp with these guys at the age of 18.
- Lastly, the teams only scored one goal in the two sessions. I didn't think it was a bad thing, but it is certainly not a good thing. My guess is that the players are still getting used to the new system, so as always, it will take some time to get used to. I think the goals will come in due time, but hopefully they can get that sorted out in the preseason.
- The Wild open their preseason schedule Tuesday at Edmonton. No one on the top line will be traveling, but the Latendresse-Cullen-Bouchard line will be. I look forward to see them in a actual game. The Wild's first home preseason game is Friday vs Columbus.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Mark Parrish-$927,778 (Bought out in July '08)
Cam Barker-$375,000 (Bought out last season)
NHL SALARY CAP FOR 2011-12:$64,300,000
WILD'S CAP SPACE: $9,494,222
(The salary numbers are courtesy of CapGeek.com)
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
You may remember the Wild acquiring Demitra in a draft day trade back in 2006.
And in his two seasons here, the Wild made the playoffs both seasons, including the division championship of 2007-08.
But Demitra was brought here to center RW Marian Gaborik. The pair had lined up for Slovakia in the 06 Olympics, and they put on an impressive show. And while he was here, Demitra compiled a line of 40-78-118 in two seasons.
It was fun watching Pavol and Marian play. And it was fun watching them help the Wild into the postseason twice. But its so sad that another hockey player has left us this offseason. Farewell, Mr. Demitra. And thanks for the memories.
(Demitra's highlight is just in the first minute and change)
Sunday, September 4, 2011
As you see in the above video, Yeo states what his goals are as the bench boss in Minnesota. Firstly, he wants a team that gives 100% every night. He wants a team that has an identity. A team that will pay attention to detail (Essentially, does the little things right). He wants to have a team that will be agressive, physical, and structured (Things the Wild were lacking under the previous coach). And secondly, he wants to establish higher standards here. Something he is carrying over from Pittsburgh. Meaning, he wants the team to set higher goals, and push themselves harder on the ice. Again, this is something the previous coach had been lacking to do here.
Mike Yeo plainly states he wants to establish a team identity, and he wants to set winning standards here. And this offseason he began setting a team identity by reaching out to all his players. He went so far in reaching out to his players, that he took a trip to Finland to visit his star players Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom. This was a smart move by Yeo. He reached out to his captain, first and formost, to help establish those winning standards he is bringing here. And he also is trying to have positive relationships with his players (Another thing I've heard the previous coach did not do well). So clearly, Yeo has gotten off to a positive start as Wild head coach.
Yeo began his coaching career with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and helped lead them to two Calder Cup final appearances in his 5 seasons as an assistant coach. Then, he was hired as an assistant coach in Pittsburgh when Michel Therrien was named the head coach in 2005. Yeo remained an assistant, when Therrien was fired and Dan Bylsma took over in 2008. While behind the bench in Pittsburgh, Yeo helped the Pens reach two Stanley Cup finals (2008, 2009) and winning one, in 2009.
Mike Yeo is a gamble by Chuck Fletcher. But as other GMs think, Mike Yeo will be a solid NHL head coach. And I truly believe the same. And after watching "Becoming Wild" this summer, it has furthered my belief that Yeo is the right man for the job. And I believe that Yeo will be behind the Wild bench for quite some time, giving us some great playoff runs in there as well...
This was the final post in A New Face In The State Of Hockey series for this summer. My previous posts included Darroll Powe, Mike Lundin, Devin Setoguchi, and Dany Heatley.
Friday, September 2, 2011
We all remember Heatley from his two seasons (1999-2001) in Madison, playing for the Badgers. There, he put up 52 goals in 77 games, before departing for the NHL (Atlanta Thrashers). And since his arrival in the NHL, he has been one of the best in the business, scoring 325 goals while adding 364 assists in his 669 career games. He possesses outstanding speed and a magnificent shot when he hits the ice. For proof of these skills, watch the following videos.
Heatley has also rarely been seen on the injured list, while just missing a handful of games in his 9 NHL seasons. The only exception to that was the tragic car accident he was in in September of 2003. He suffered a broken jaw, bruised lung, and torn knee ligaments. But Heatley returned to the lineup in January of the same season.
When Heatley was traded from Atlanta to Ottawa, the winger's career took off. His first two seasons with the Sens, Dany notched back to back 50 goals and 100 point seasons, while helping the Sens become a dominant force in the NHL (Ottawa made it to the Cup Finals in 06-07). And even when he was traded to San Jose, Heatley continued to average just under 40 goals per season.
Heatley also carries a 15-42-57 scoring line in his 68 career playoff games. His past playoff experience will be another valuable asset to the Wild going forward.
But last season, we saw Heatley have a down season. His numbers (26-38-64), were the lowest since his rookie season of 01-02. So that played a huge role in the fact the Wild traded for him and only gave up Havlat in return. But, as we found out, Heatley played most of last year while battling some nagging injuries. So, if he can be at 100% going forward, the Wild were the winners in this deal with San Jose.
The Wild finally got their goal scorer. And maybe now with a fresh start, Dany Heatley can go back and start terrorizing the rest of the league like he once did. He makes the Wild a great force to be reckoned with, when he steps on the ice. And I look forward to watching him for the next three seasons.
My final post in the New Face in the State of Hockey series, for this summer, will be on new head coach Mike Yeo. My previous posts had included: Darroll Powe, Mike Lundin, and Devin Setoguchi.
Monday, August 29, 2011
The trade became an instant success for all Wild fans. In addition to adding two young prospects, they got an incredibly talented goal scoring forward. In last three seasons, Setoguchi has never scored less than 20 goals in a season (Highest total is 31 in 08-09). And in each of those past three seasons, he has been a solid rock on the Sharks power play (23 PP goals).
In addition to his great goal scoring ability, the Wild are getting a player who comes with good playoff experience. In each of the past two years, the Sharks have made it to the conference finals. And last year, he led the Sharks in goals scored in the playoffs, with 7. And he also has been a clutch player, scoring three game winning goals in the past two years. So if the Wild end up making the postseason, they can count on Setoguchi to help lead the way.
Setoguchi will be 24 entering the season. And as before said, he signed a 3 year extension in the offseason, so he will be with the Wild through 2013-14. And perhaps the Wild got him at a great price for $3 million per season. So look for Setoguchi to make a big impact on the Wild for the next three seasons.
The next new face will be Dany Heatley
Friday, August 26, 2011
Mike Lundin was a fourth round draft pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He was taken as the 102nd pick out of the University of Maine. This after he had played high school hockey at Apple Valley high school here in Minnesota. Then after four relatively successful seasons at Maine (14G-56A in 160 career games), Lundin went straight to the NHL as he begun his 07-08 season with the Lightning. But shortly into his second season in the NHL, Lundin was sent down to the AHL, where he spent the rest of the season. After an up and down season between the NHL and AHL, Lundin was back with the Lightning full time in '10-'11. Playing in 69 games, the Burnsville native registered 1 goal and 11 assists, while have a +/- rating of -3. Then following the Lightning's postseason run, Lundin was let go by the team. The Wild picked him up on a one year deal for $1 million.
Unless Lundin has a break out season, 2011-12 will probably be his only one in Minnesota, given the young defenseman in the Wild's system. I haven't been able to get much video on Lundin. So I have had to make some assumptions here. If you haven't figured out by now, he doesn't do much offensively. So he must make up for his lack of offense, defensively. He projects to be a third line defenseman on this team (possibly second line, but I wouldn't bet on that).
As I before said, there wasn't much video on Lundin. But there was this feature on him that was shown during an intermission of a game last season.
The next new face will be F Devin Setoguchi
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
As I mentioned yesterday, Powe was acquired by the Wild for a 3rd round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He doesn't put up great numbers (He has never scored more than 9 goals in three NHL seasons), but he makes up with that with good speed and physical play.
For a good example of Powe's speed, watch this video:
Besides his good speed, I've been told that Powe is an excellent penalty killer. Which is something the Wild needed help with. And despite not even playing a game for them yet, the Wild gave Powe a three year contract worth $3.2 million. So clearly, they liked what they saw from him.
After watching all the video I could on Powe, the best comparison for him would be Wes Walz. Good speed, great penalty killer, and a very hard worker. For a good example of how hard this guy works, watch this video:
After spending a lot of time researching on Powe, I am even a bigger fan of his acquisition now, than I was before. He is going to be a solid rock on the third line and on the top PK line for the Wild. So definitely be glad we have him locked in for the next three seasons.
Tomorrow's New Face will be defenseman Mike Lundin.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Chuck Fletcher had his work cut out for him this offseason. The Wild were coming off a season that saw them finish 12th in the Western Conference and sitting outside looking in on the playoffs for the third straight season. His team lacked speed, and quality scorers. There wasn’t a great free agent class out there to help him with that. And then his team lacked a head coach when he axed Todd Richards after two forgettable seasons behind the Wild bench.
So how did he go about fixing these issues? First order was his head coach. Many speculated that former Oilers bench boss Craig MacTavish was going to be the next head coach. But Fletcher made a bold move and hired 38 year old Mike Yeo, who had just finished his first season of coaching the Houston Aeros (The Wild’s minor league affiliate). The Aeros had finished their season with a 46-28-6 record, and made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals (Stanley Cup finals equivalent) before losing to the Binghamton Senators in 6 games. Yeo also spent 5 seasons as an assistant (2005-10) on the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009 Stanley Cup champs) before being hired as the Aeros coach last summer.
With the hiring of a new coach out of the way, the time came to focus on the on ice product. The first emphasis Fletcher wanted to put on that was through his minor league team. The team held the 10th overall pick in the NHL draft, which was held in St. Paul. Then come draft night, the Wild selected Jonas Brodin (the 3rd overall rated European skater), a 6’1” 172 lb defenseman from the Swedish Elite League with that 10th pick. Brodin projects to be a solid two way defenseman for the future, so they made a very solid choice there. Then as most Wild fans had hit the exits after the team’s pick, Fletcher pulled off a big draft day trade sending all star defenseman Brent Burns to San Jose for forwards Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle (SJ’s 1st rd pick in ’10), and the 28th overall pick in 2011. The Wild would go on to select Center Zack Phillips from the St. John Sea Dogs with that 28th pick from San Jose. The Burns trade was met with great applause from Wild fans, including yours truly. The move gets the Wild a young scorer in Setoguchi (Who had just signed a 3 year extension a day before the draft), and some quality young forwards for their farm system.
But Fletcher did not stop there. He also acquired forward Darroll Powe from Philadelphia for a 3rd round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. The Wild went on to sign Powe, a very quick skater and outstanding penalty killer, to a three year deal worth $3.2 million. Again, a great move for Minnesota. Philly was a team that had a already reached the salary cap ceiling, and needed to make some moves, so Powe became one of many popular players to get shipped away.
Then on July 1st, free agents became eligible to sign with other teams. That meant that players such as Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, John Madden, and Chuck Kobasew would all be leaving. In fact, the only free agent the Wild signed this offseason was defenseman Mike Lundin (A Burnsville Native), who was signed to a one year deal worth $1 million. So it would appear that Fletcher will leave his defenseman core to Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, and Clayton Stoner; and then let youngsters Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, and Nate Prosser battle it out for the final roster spot next to Lundin.
Forward wise, the Wild were pretty set for the upcoming season. But then came perhaps the most surprising and most incredible move of them all. The Wild sent all star forward Martin Havlat to San Jose in exchange for forward and once 50 goal scorer, Dany Heatley. Again, the move was met with great enthusiasm from fans. This move gives the Wild the premier goal scorer they had been lacking since the departure of Marian Gaborik. The Wild have Heatley for three seasons and he will have a $7.5 million cap hit in each of those seasons. And not to long after, the Wild and San Jose met up again in a trade, as the Wild sent F James Sheppard to SJ for a 3rd pick in the 2013 NHL draft (They got back the pick they gave up for Powe, essentially).It wasn’t the easiest offseason for Chuck Fletcher. But you have to believe that he passed with flying colors (Even with these great moves, the team is still $10 million under the cap). And perhaps in 10 years, we can look back here and say this was his defining offseason. He has shaped this team into the best one he has had in his three years, and is now closer than ever to having that that quick dynamic team he has been seeking when he took this job. He still has some work to do, but this is a much better team than we thought it would be. And will this team finally be the one, that puts his team into the postseason? I think it will.