Monday, August 29, 2011

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Devin Setoguchi

On June 23rd, Devin Setoguchi signed a three year, nine million dollar contract extension with the San Jose Sharks. The very next day, the Sharks traded him, F Charlie Coyle, and the 28th overall pick (The Wild drafted F Zack Phillips) to the Wild in exchange for D Brent Burns.

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

A New Face In The State of Hockey: Mike Lundin

Today, we look at the Wild's only free agent acquisition this offseason, defenseman Mike Lundin.

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

A New Face In The State of Hockey: Darroll Powe

The next few days, I'm gonna be doing some posts on the Wild's new additions this offseason. And today, I'm going to start with Center Darroll Powe.

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

A Defining Offseason

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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hockey Background

Late last night, I finally kicked off this blog. And I gave you a few fun facts about myself. Today, I'm going to dig a little deeper and give you a bunch of fun facts about me and the game of hockey. Then I think tomorrow, I will actually get to the Wild themselves with a offseason recap.

  • Growing up, I had no pro hockey team to watch here (North Stars were gone by the time I paid attention to hockey). So my favorite team was the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. They had a great logo, and obviously they had those movies made about them, so that helped me love them more. But they had some great talent with Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne so the actual Ducks were really fun to watch too.
  • I was a big Brett Hull fan back then as well. He was great with the Blues, but then went on to win the Cup with Dallas (Damn Norm) and Detroit. One of the best shots the game has ever seen, and clearly the best shot I've ever seen.
  • I made it to one Minnesota Moose game when I was young. I still have their jersey in my closet. If I remember correctly, the Moose lost in overtime. It was an interesting atmosphere in the old Civic Center, watching a game, compared to the one we have now at the X.
  • But then finally the Wild came around. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my first game was in December of their inaugural season. I got to sit in one of the lower level corners. It was a great memory. And what made it better was the fact it came against the Ducks.
  • I have made it out to a Wild game at least once a year since they have returned. The best game I have seen, is by far the game in which Marian Gaborik scored 5 goals against the NY Rangers (ironic isn't it?).
  • In their memorable season of 2002-03, I got to sit on the bench during warmups before a game. As a kid who never saw a game from that close before, it was really an eye opener to see how big those guys were.
  • I got to go to the 2004 NHL All Star Game when it was held here in St. Paul. My aunt was at the game and she came across one of the coaches wife, who was looking to give it away for free. FOR FREE! So she took it and asked if I wanted to come. That was a great day. Great atmosphere at the X.
  • You can find me as one of those crazy folks who camp out for single game tickets every season. I have done it for 7 consecutive years now, and I have no intention of stopping either.
  • Also I mentioned in my earlier post that I have made it to two playoff games. One came in 2007 against the Ducks, which the Wild won (Their only win in the series). The other came the next year against Colorado (Game 5), in which the Wild lost. Those were some fun games. I could only imagine what it was like for the playoff games of 2003 in the X.
  • Then this past summer, I got to attend the first round of the NHL Draft. Great experience again. It was great to see the variety of fans come to the X. Had a good conversation with some Oilers fans that sat in front of us. Then the Wild, stole the show, and had arguably the best draft day with their selections and their trade of Brent Burns to San Jose. But I'll get more in to that tomorrow.
As I before said, tomorrow, I'll get into the Wild's offseason. Today I was more focused on giving you all a little info on myself, much like I have with my Twins blog.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001

This has been a long time coming. Since I have my Twins blog going really well these days, it became time that I turned my attention to my passion of the winter, the Minnesota Wild. I have been their fan since the very first day in June of 1997. On this blog, I am gonna have some fun and of course make some analysis of the team's performance and moves. I have named this blog "The Team of 18,001" after the team's marketing phrase "Team of 18,000" and put the one at the end because I am the team's #1 fan! So to better help you get to know me, I will give you some little fun facts about me and the Wild.

First Wild Game: December 8th, 2000 (1-0 OT loss vs ANA)
Number of Playoff games attended: 2 (1 in 2007, 1 in 2008)
Favorite Current Wild Player: Mikko Koivu
Favorite All Time Wild Player: Wes Walz
Favorite Wild Memory: Andrew Brunette's OT Goal to defeat COL in '03 playoffs