Monday, July 9, 2012

Parise and Suter Watch: Final Entry

(Left to right: Owner Craig Leipold, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, GM Chuck Fletcher, HC Mike Yeo)

This afternoon, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter took to the podium at Xcel Energy Center and donned Wild sweaters for the first time since signing equal 13 year, $98 million deals last week.

It was still surreal seeing both of them in Wild sweaters. It quite hasn't sunk in that both of them will be part of this franchise for the next 13 years. And it might not until they hit the ice this September for training camp (CBA permitting!).

Since the signing, we have talked about having realistic expectations and a new culture of winning. But, all there is really left to do is go out in the ice and perform.

So we bid farewell to the Parise and Suter Watch. It was a fun ride. But the even better ride begins this fall.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Culture of Winning

Yesterday, we talked about having realistic expectations for the 2012-13 season now that the Wild have Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on board.

But, eventually, with each passing season, there will become higher expectations. So say next year, we expect a playoff appearance. Then the next year we will expect, a second round playoff appearance, then a division title, and so on. Without a doubt, Craig Leipold, Chuck Fletcher, and company have their work cut out for them now that they have opened up a brand new culture to the State of Hockey: A culture of winning.

No, you simply cannot expect to have this culture just by signing Parise and Suter. Fletcher created this, by building up his farm system with immense talent (Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, etc.), while his NHL team struggled. Then last year he made some bold moves (Heatley and Setoguchi) to change it up in the locker room. And as we saw in the 11-12 season, his boldness paid off through mid-December. But then the bottom fell out from under the team and they limped across the finish line.

But now, Fletcher has his prospects signed and ready to play in Houston, and he has the big club looking its best, ever since he came on following the 08-09 season.

And now the real work begins. The team will open the season, and every other season for the following 12,  with the highest expectations in the history of the franchise. And now every time 18,000 fans flock down to St. Paul to see the Wild play, they will be expecting a Wild victory.

All because Chuck Fletcher has done what he was hired to do: Create a culture of winning.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Realistic Expectations

In case you lived under a rock all day Wednesday, the Wild signed on coveted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The news was by far the most celebrated news since it was announced that Minnesota was getting a hockey team back in June of 1997.

Today, there has been a lot of talk on what expectations are for this team, now that they have Parise, Suter, and their talented prospects signing on to play with either the Wild or their AHL affiliate, Houston. There have been some out there (Bleacher Report), who believes that this team has instantly become a Stanley Cup contender overnight. But, most realistic people (such as myself), believe this team has elevated themselves to a definite playoff team, but not much more than that.

Even with Suter in the fold now, the defense on this team is still very young and inexperienced. Youngsters Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, and Justin Falk (who signed a 1 year contract yesterday) look to improve from their first full season in the NHL in 2011-12. Tom Gilbert was brought in at the trade deadline to add some offensive to the blue line. And Clayton Stoner is back with the team on a new two year deal and he brings some much needed physicality to the defense. Its not exactly the best, but potentially, it could be a good one.

The Wild offensively should be solid with the top 3 lines consisting of Heatley-Koivu-Parise, PMB-Granlund-Setoguchi, and Cullen-Brodziak-Clutterbuck. They should be in the 10-15 range in terms of goal scoring in the NHL.

So, yes, we all should expect playoff hockey next April. But should we expect Mikko Koivu to be lifting the Stanley Cup next June? No.

But it will be the most fun we have had in 4 years…

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Parise and Suter Watch: Christmas In July

It happened.

The news Wild fans had been seeking for more than a year, finally came this morning when free agent F Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter both signed on with the Minnesota Wild. Per Russo, both players signed 13 year deals worth $98 million. That pans out to around $7.5 million annually for the pair.

Honestly, I don't think I can go much into this at this point. I'm too fired up. I'll break this down more when I calm down.

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Suter and Parise Watch: Waiting Game

Late this morning, Zach Parise arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Not to be taken to Xcel Energy Center, to be introduced as the newest member of the Minnesota Wild, but merely he is just going home. 

After 2 days at his agent's offices in Toronto, Parise best felt he could make the long awaited decision from his home after talking to his loved ones. Reports have the Wild, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Pittsburgh all making huge offers to the Devils captain.

Meanwhile, Ryan Suter continues to ponder his decision from his farm in Middleton Wisconsin. Many believe Suter will be waiting until Parise makes up his mind, before he decides to sign on somewhere. Its believe by some (Including Lou Nanne who spoke on KFAN yesterday) that if Parise signs in Minnesota, Suter will too. But should Parise sign elsewhere (Say, Pittsburgh), Suter will most likely end up in Detroit.

There has become an abundance of impatience on twitter between yesterday and today with the lack of decision on Parise's and Suter's part. But you have to understand, they are about to sign on with a team for the majority, if not all, of the remainder of their careers. And, when you have 5-6 teams knocking at your door, you want to take your time and make the right decision.

A decision could come as early as tomorrow from the Parise camp. But, I'd give him another day due to the 4th of July (Happy 4th in advance!), so look for his decision on Thursday. And you could bet Suter's decision follows closely thereafter.

UPDATE: Shortly after this was posted, Russo reported the the Wild contingent of Owner Craig Leopold, GM Chuck Fletcher, and Head Coach Mike Yeo met with Suter today in Madison, Wisconsin. This following reports that the Detroit Red Wings had been to Madison earlier in the day and visited Suter.

So following this report, one could assume that Detroit and Minnesota are the two finalists in the Ryan Suter sweepstakes (Unless more teams visit him on Wednesday). 

UPDATE 2: Later this evening, Russo was back at it again as he tweeted some rather interesting tidbits after his talk with Josh Reimer from NHL Home Ice. 

His first tweet was that Parise said he talks to Devils GM Lou Lamoriello 2-4 times per day since this process has begun. 

And tweets 2 & 3 were regarding Parise and Suter. Parise was quoted as saying he would love to play with Suter on a team, and that the two of them have been talking and that they also plan to talk (if they haven't already) again tonight. 

Russo ended by taking a guess that Parise will take one more day to decide his future and sign on with a team on the 5th. And as stated above, Suter will more than likely sign on shortly after.

To see my previous posts in the Suter Watch series, please click here

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wild Sign Konopka & Mitchell

This morning at 11 am, free agency opened up in the NHL. About 90 minutes later, the Wild announced they had sign F's Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. Konopka was signed to a 2 year deal worth $925,000 each year and Mitchell was signed for 3 years worth $1.9 million each year.

Konopka has played parts of 7 seasons in the NHL and has bounced around seemingly every year. He has previously played for Anaheim, Columbus, Tampa Bay, New York Islanders, and Ottawa. The only team he has spent more than one season with is Tampa Bay (2008-2010). Konopka is an enforcer and has ranked atop the PIM charts in the NHL the past three years (265, 307, 193 PIMs in those respective years). He will bring a tough guy element to the Wild that the team has not had since the late Derek Boogaard left the team. But, one would argue that Matt Kassian did a solid job in that role in the limited time he got up here last year.

Mitchell comes over from the San Jose Sharks after spending parts of 5 seasons playing for them. He will add a more gritty element to the team and will spend time on the third or fourth line for the next three years. Mitchell has never put more than 23 points in a season, so don't expect to find him on the scoring sheet much. As Russo pointed out in his blog today, Mitchell has good speed and is an excellent penalty killer, a player Coach Mike Yeo loves to have.

So far, we have seen the Wild get much tougher here in free agency. With these moves now in hand, it would appear that Chuck Fletcher and his staff will be focused on signing the big fish in the free agency pool (Parise, Suter).

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell!