Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Cold Heater

In July, the Wild brought in Dany Heatley to score some goals. And here we are in December, and Heatley has still yet to truly catch fire. He is tied for second (With Cullen and Clutterbuck) on the team with 9 goals. But, he has not scored in a game since the 10th of December against Phoenix. So it makes one wonder, is Dany Heatley on the bad side of his prime years?

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

Let's Start Some Rivalries!

For the first time since February 28, 1993, a team from Minnesota heads north to play the Winnipeg Jets. No, the 'N' of the North Stars will not be on the Minnesota sweater. No, that classy Winnipeg Jets logo and jersey won't be found on the home team tonight either. What you do have, are reborn teams (Wild in 2000, and the Jets in 2011) who will take to the ice, and will relight a rivalry that's been in place since 1979.

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

Wild Moving To Central Conference

Today, Craig Leipold, his staff, and the entire State of Hockey can feel good when going to bed tonight. Starting next year, the Minnesota Wild will take part in the NHL realignment which will see the league go to a 4 conference set up (2 conferences of 8 teams, 2 conferences of 7 teams). Ever since taking over as princpal owner of the Wild, Leipold has lobbied for the Wild to get moved into a division with these teams, and he finally got his wish. Leipold will watch his team play in the more centralized conference with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Nashville, St Louis and Winnipeg. Also, any team not in your division you play a home and home series with them that year. The rest of your games come within your own division.

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