Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Players the Wild Should Pursue

Tomorrow, the Wild open up their post all star break schedule against the red hot Nashville Predators (Winners of 4 straight and 9 of their last 10). As they sit just 27 days from the February 27th (2 PM central time) deadline, the team currently holds a 24-18-7 (55 points) record, which is good enough to sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. But, they are only one point in front of ninth place Colorado and three points ahead of twelfth place Phoenix. Clearly, this team needs to make some improvements.

So with some cap room, and some holes on the roster, here are 5 players (Sorry for you folks looking for Shea Weber or Zach Parise, this is a realistic list) the Wild could trade for as the trade deadline approaches:

Francois Beauchemin D (ANA)-The Ducks are on a tear right now (won 8 out of 10 going into the break), but can they truly dig themselves out of the hole they put themselves in to start the year. They are still 13 points behind Minnesota, and it has been made clear that no one on the roster is safe. Beauchemin leads the Ducks defenseman in goals (6), points (18), plus/minus (1), and average time on ice (25:48). If the Ducks hit another slump, look for Beauchemin to get moved as he is in the final year of his contract. The Wild need a veteran presence on the blueline, and Beauchemin can give them that and eat up big time minutes. Moving forward, he should be priority #1 for them.

Hal Gill D (MON)-Its a stretch to think Chuck Fletcher would go after Hal Gill. He is old (36 years old) and is seeing his role diminished (ATOI of 14:11 in January) on a underachieving team. He is not offensively gifted, but he brings experience and mostly solid defensive play (His -9 on the season tells me otherwise). Gill would be able to get better ice time here and could help mentor the young defenseman the Wild have on their roster. Gill is also in the final year of his contract, and would come at a low price due to his diminished role.

Ryan Suter D (NSH)-Friday it was announced that Suter would not sign an extension with Nashville during the season. So now Nashville has to decide if they want to keep Suter for the playoffs and risk losing him on July 1st, or trade him and get something in return. Should Nashville decide to move him, this is the guy the Wild should look at. An all star this year, Suter currently holds a line of 5-23-28 and is averaging 26:29 of ice time this year. The price for Suter may be more steep than Chuck Fletcher wants to go, so acquiring him this year could wait until July 1st. But it doesn't hurt to call now, does it?

PA Parenteau F (NYI)-Should the Wild determine that Pierre-Marc Bouchard and/or Guillaume Latendresse can not return to the lineup this year with their concussion symptoms, they need to go out and get a top 6 forward. Parenteau would fill that hole nicely. So far this year with NYI, he has a line of 10-33-43 and has registered 11 points in 12 games in January. He too would be considered a "rental"(A player in the final year of his contract) and will probably want to hit the free agent market in July due to his age (28). But nonetheless, the team should give him a look in case PMB or Gui can't return.

Vaclav Prospal F (CBJ)-Should the Wild need to get another forward, Prospal should get a good look from them. He was once a 20+ goal scorer in the league. But last year he was injured, and this year he plays for the worst team in the league. So his stats have taken a hit. But he would be a good fit for the Wild in their top 6, while also bringing some good playoff experience (9 seasons of playoff hockey for Prospal). It is pretty much a guarantee Prospal will be moved, due to the lack of winning in Columbus. So why not give him another chance at the postseason in Minnesota?

UPDATE: I just was informed that Beauchemin signed a three year extension with Anaheim last week. So it would appear he is off the trade market. So you may disregard him on this list.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taking A Break

In addition to the Wild getting some much needed time off during the All Star Break, I will be doing the same. I will be back on Monday with some new posts, and hopefully the team can come out of this break the way they went in, on a two game winning streak. Don't forget you can watch Wild Forward Nick Johnson in the All Star Game Skills Competition tomorrow night at 6 PM central time on the NBC Sports Network (Formerly Versus). Then of course the NHL All Star Game will be on Sunday at 3 PM on the same channel. Enjoy the break, and the festivities everyone!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Sinking Ship

Yesterday, the Wild announced that Mikko Koivu will be out on a “week to week” basis, after suffering a upper body injury in the first period Saturday in St. Louis. Russo followed that up on twitter by saying that Koivu suffered a separated shoulder and will be out 4-6 weeks.

This is the worst news the Wild could have received. Koivu is their leader and best player. And as we have seen in previous years, the team has not done well without #9 in the lineup. And to make things worse, the team has won just once in the month of January, with him in the lineup, and they get to finish out this four game road trip against the Flyers (26-13-4) and Maple Leafs (22-17-5) without their captain.

Koivu becomes the fourth player from the Wild’s opening night top 6 (Heatley-Koivu-Setoguchi, Bouchard-Cullen-Latendresse), to miss an extended period of time with injury so far this season (Latendresse and Bouchard are still out with concussion symptoms). And as we have seen of late, this team has suffered due to the lack of healthiness from their most skilled players.

Last season, the Wild were still in the playoff hunt late in the season, but Koivu went down with a hand injury, and never returned. The Wild suffered dearly and went from playoff contenders to playoff spoilers almost instantly overnight. And with the way the team has played lately, you should expect a similar type of collapse with Koivu out.

Before this injury, the Wild had a slowly sinking ship, which one thought would eventually work itself out if players could stay out of the trainer’s room. Now, this season appears to be sinking faster than the Titanic did. By the time Koivu returns, the season may not be salvageable, and we should be looking at maybe trading away some free agents to be (Harding, Zanon, Brodziak, Stoner) and get a nice package in return for the future. The only way you can see this team staying afloat without Koivu, is if they dip into the prospect pool (something Chuck Fletcher does not want to do) and acquire a top line scorer (Something that has 0.1% chance of happening).

It’s very hard to be positive right now. As you can see, there is next to none in this post. But, this is the cold truth. This team is built around Mikko Koivu. He is their engine. And when he is out, it is not a pretty sight. Be prepared for the worst…it will be around until #9 returns.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Better Times Are Ahead

Today, the Wild officially ended a dark period in their franchise history, when they announced that 2007 first round pick Colton Gillies was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. It officially ended the final five draft picks held by the team's previous GM, Doug Risebrough, which amounted to absolutely nothing. Between 2004-2008, the team drafted AJ Thelen, Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, Gillies, and Tyler Cuma. As you can see, not exactly the cream of the crop there. And as Russo mentions in his blog today, it is a big reason as to why the on ice talent has been suffering.

We can't yet close the book on the Risebrough era. We are still reaping the rewards of his more notable draft picks (Koivu, Schultz, Bouchard, and Harding). But today was a big step in doing so. Sure, we can say the team made 3 postseason appearances under Risebrough and have yet to make an appearance under current GM Chuck Fletcher. But, the way the team was left to Fletcher was a disaster. The team had just lost its best player (Gaborik) to free agency. They were coming off an abysmal season that saw them miss the postseason. Their farm system was in the bottom 5 in all the NHL. And with the retirement of Jacques Lemaire, the team lacked a coach. Not exactly a shining franchise to take over.

In his three seasons, Fletcher has vastly improved the farm system (Now ranked in the top 2 by most people). He has now found a coach that should work out (Mike Yeo, but only after we suffered through two years of Todd Richards) in the long run. And the team is now on the verge of perhaps of returning to the postseason (If they can ever get out of this rut they are in). The team still lacks a true goal scorer, but who's to say that that player is not among one of our top prospects?

The best times of the Chuck Fletcher era are ahead. That is a fact. He has done all the right things (except for the Richards hire) in his time here, and should continue to do the same in the future. All he has left to do now, is get this team in the playoffs. And that, possibly, could happen as soon as this season.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mikko Koivu: NHL All Star

Congratulations to Wild Captain and Center, Mikko Koivu on his first (and hopefully not the last) career All Star Game selection. Watch for Mikko in the All Star Game weekend events which will take place between January 26-29 in Ottawa.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

This One's For Jabs

This past week, I have been pondering many things to write up on this blog. I touched on one of them on Monday with the Wild and the possibility of hosting a Winter Classic. Then I have been wanting to touch on the Wild's power play woes, Dany Heatley's lack of scoring, and more recently the fact the NHL realignment was put on hold. But everytime I get close to writing one of those posts, I get sucked in to another story that has captured the hockey world: the story of Jack Jablonski.

As we all know, Jablonski (or Jabs as he is more commonly refered to) suffered a serious injury to his spinal cord, after being checked into the boards during a HS game on December 30th. Since we have learned that he will never be able to walk, let alone play hockey, again. And he has received tremendous support from everyone involved with hockey across the globe.

My friends over at First Round Bust did a post on this the other day, and I felt compelled to do the same here today. If you wish to donate to the Jack Jablonski fund you can click here or here or send a donation to:

Jack Jablonski Fund
Wells Fargo
8200 Golden Valley Road, Golden Valley, MN 55427

Ill always keep a link to this on the right side of the page as well.

My thoughts and well wishes continue to go out to Jabs and his family. No one should go through what he is going through, especially at the age of 16. Here's to hoping Jabs can overcome the doctors prognosis and some day walk again.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Minnesota and the Winter Classic

Happy New Year everyone. I took a little hiatus from here to relax and enjoy the holidays. Too bad the Wild one just once during that time. Also as you can see, I changed up the blog design on here. Hopefully you all enjoy this than the last background (It really annoyed me in the end). Now on to business...

Today, the Flyers and Rangers partake in perhaps the NHL's biggest event, the Winter Classic. They play it in Citizens Bank Park (Home of MLB's Philadelphia Phillies) in the city of brotherly love. It is the fifth consecutive year, the NHL has put this event on ('08 in Buffalo, '09 in Chicago, '10 in Boston, and '11 in Pittsburgh). And for everyone of those years, Minnesotans (including myself) have asked: When does the State of Hockey get its chance to host the league's premier event?

Since the event's inception, the game has been played between two of the league's premier teams, and in one of the league's premier US markets. So first and foremost, Minnesota has to start putting up more wins every season. Something that appears to be trending in the right direction, under rookie head coach Mike Yeo. Also, the league likes to have teams in there with some big names players on the teams, something the Wild is lacking (Mikko Koivu should be put in the big name discussion; Dany Heatley was a big name, but lack of production is killing that). Its not a necessity, but it certainly helps when the NHL decides on which two teams get to play every year. And then finally, this market certainly supports NHL hockey, so securing a WC after the team starts winning should be no problem.

So realistically, if the Wild continue to improve at the way they are under Yeo, when can Minnesota expect the NHL to come calling for the Winter Classic? As I mentioned earlier on twitter today, you should expect Detroit to host the WC in 2013. They are one of the league's most storied franchises, and they have been one of the most consistent teams over the last two decades. Its pretty much a lock for them next year. Then I took a guess that in 2014, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will host the WC. The Caps were promised a WC "soon" following their appearance in last year's WC against Pittsburgh. But, the way the Caps have gone down hill this year is a cause for concern, but I'm sure by '14 they will have righted the ship. So that leaves 2015 up for grabs for the WC. And I'm sure Craig Leipold will do everything he can to get that game here, but I'm sure he will have to go up against the city of New York because they have not hosted a WC yet. So given the league's east coast bias in this event, look for the Rangers to host the 2015 WC.

By the time the 2015-16 NHL season comes around, you should expect the State of Hockey to get its chance to host the Winter Classic. Do I believe we should wait that long, absolutely not. But as I mentioned before, the league has seen just one team from the central time zone play in this event (Chicago '09), and I don't expect that to change any time soon (Unless the Wild acquire one of the league's best players and become a top 5 team next year...but don't bet on that).

The league has acknowledged Minnesota as a future site for this event. They always come away impressed when a big event comes to the State of Hockey (See: '04 ASG, '11 Draft). But, our love of this game will not secure the league's best event...its going to have to come from our on ice product. And that's the cold truth. So let's hope we can continue to win. Or else we may see a later WC here than 2016.

UPDATE (1/3): Today had a story on where the Winter Classic will go from here. There are a lot of similarities to this post.