Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Zach Parise

Zach Parise
195 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: July 28, 1984
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota

No free agent was more coveted in the NHL this summer than Zach Parise. And for the first time in...well...ever, a top free agent chose to sign in Minnesota. The Wild signed Parise to a 13 year contract worth $98 million on July 4th, giving him one of the longest and highest paying contracts in the NHL (Ryan Suter got the exact same deal).

In his 7 seasons in the NHL, Parise has been an offensive force, scoring at least 30 goals in 5 of those 7 seasons (He only played 13 games in 2010-11 due to a torn meniscus in his right knee). In 08-09, he set career highs in most major offensive categories when he put up a line of 45-49-94 and registered a +/- rating of +30. Parise is coming off a 31 goal, 38 assist season, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Finals (Parise scored 8 goals and 7 assists in the Devils' run to the finals).

But there is much more to Zach Parise than his offensive skills. He is a very skilled defensive forward, making one of the better two way players in the game. He was an anchor on the Devils PK, leading them to the #1 PK ranking (89.6%) this past season. He set a career high with 3 shorthanded goals last year, making him all the more dangerous when his team is on the PK.

Additionally, Parise is a proven team leader. In 09-10, he was named alternate captain of the Devils, before being named their captain in 2011-12. Now that Parise is on the Wild he will serve as one of the team's alternate captain to Mikko Koivu (Please, don't think for a second Parise will be captain while Mikko still wears the Wild sweater. This is Mikko's team.).

Parise is a fierce competitor and plays the game very hard. Adding his skills to his desire to win every night makes him one of the game's best players.

He came within 2 wins of the Stanley Cup this past summer. He could of easily stayed in New Jersey so he could of given it another try to win it all with the only team he has ever played for. But he chose an alternate route. He believed the Wild had a greater future and gives him a better shot to win the Stanley Cup at some point than the Devils do. And that's ultimately why Zach Parise chose to sign with the Wild.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 Zach Parise!

This was the fifth post in a five post series on the Wild's free agent signings. We have previously looked at Jake Dowell, Zenon Konopka, Torrey Mitchell, and Ryan Suter

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Ryan Suter

Ryan Suter
198 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: January 21, 1985
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin

Since he came into the league in 2005-06, Ryan Suter has been just about as solid as you can get in terms of defenseman in the NHL. He has played no less than 70 games a season. He has 5 straight seasons of scoring at least 30 points. And he carries a career +/- rating of +43. He is clearly, the right man to anchor the Wild blueline in the next decade.

Suter is not known for being a goal scorer (career high in goals in a season is 8). But that could be in part due to playing with an even better defenseman in Shea Weber all his years in Nashville. So now that Suter is free of Weber, you could perhaps see an increase in goal scoring now that his defensive partner will be Tom Gilbert.

Suter, as before mentioned is an iron man. He will play no less than 90% of the team's games. And last year, he was 3rd among all defenseman in time on ice by averaging 26:30 per game. Take into account his likely partner, Gilbert, averaged 31 shifts last year, you will see plenty of the two on the ice in the upcoming season.

Last year, the Wild seemingly shuffled a few players out there as the quarterback of their powerplay (Matt Cullen got the most time), due to lack of offensive defenseman (A big reason, in my opinion, that the Wild PP was atrocious in 11-12). Suter will now be stepping into that role, and moving whatever forward Mike Yeo wanted to put on the blue line, back to forward, and giving the Wild two bold power play lines. 

In addition to his skills, Suter is a proven leader. He served as alternate captain in Nashville the last few seasons, and will serve in the same capacity here in Minnesota. 

Ryan Suter is just about everything the Wild need in terms of a defenseman. And I for one am glad, he chose to take up residence in the State of Hockey for the next 13 years.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001: Ryan Suter

This is the fourth post in a five post series on the Wild's free agent signings this offseason. We have previously looked at Jake Dowell, Zenon Konopka, and Torrey Mitchell. Tomorrow will be our final installment in this series by taking a look at Zach Parise.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Torrey Mitchell

Torrey Mitchell
190 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: January 30, 1985
Birthplace: Greenfield Park, Quebec

Mitchell was signed by the Wild just a few hours after free agency opened on July 1st. He signed a 3 year, $5.7 million deal (Cap hit of $1.9 million per year) to be a stronghold on the team's 3rd line.

You may remember Mitchell, as the Sharks player who checked Kurtis Foster into the boards in San Jose and broke Foster's femur, just a few weeks prior to the 2008 playoffs (That was a huge blow to the Wild).

Mitchell does not jump off the page statistically (30-43-73 line in 260 career games). But if you watch him closely, he brings speed and gritty play to the table, something Mike Yeo is always looking for to add to the squad. He also will add some depth to the lower lines, something the Wild did not have much of in 2011-12. Mitchell is also a pretty decent penalty killer, so look for him to help bolster a pretty decent PK unit from 2011-12.

(Mitchell doesn't score often, but when he chooses to do so, he can make it look pretty)

He had played his entire 5 year career with San Jose to this point, so in addition to his gritty play, he will also bring some valuable postseason experience to the Wild. He has played in 55 playoff games thus far in his career, and that puts him up there with Dany Heatley (66), Matt Cullen (63), and Zach Parise (61) as team leaders in the playoff games category.

Torrey Mitchell has the characteristics to fit the Mike Yeo system perfectly, so look for him to be a valuable part of the Wild for the next three years.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 Torrey Mitchell!

This is the third post in a five post series on the Wild's free agent signings this offseason. We have previously looked at Jake Dowell and Zenon Konopka. Tomorrow, we will take a look at Ryan Suter.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Zenon Konopka

Zenon Konopka
209 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: January 2, 1981
Birthplace: Niagara On The Lake, Ontario

Konopka was a July 1st signing, when he signed a 2 year deal worth $1.85 million ($925,000 cap hit per year). He played for Ottawa last season, and he posted 193 penalty minutes, which was third in the NHL behind Derek Dorsett (235) and Zac Rinaldo (232). 

As you can imagine, Konopka was simply brought in here to be the team's enforcer. Between 2009-2012 Konopka has spent those three seasons with three different teams (Lightning, Islanders, and Senators), but has racked up 765 penalty minutes, the most of anyone during that time.

Plain and simple, Zenon Konopka is here to throw some hits, and drop the gloves.

Like most bruisers, he doesn't give you much offensive production (11 career NHL goals). So he will be a mainstay on the fourth line for the next two seasons.

After Derek Boogaard left the team, we all thought Brad Staubitz was the team's future enforcer. After a year and a half of that project, Staubitz proved to be a poor replacement. But, they have found a proven NHL tough guy in Zenon Konopka. And I for one, am glad to have him on the team for the next two years.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001, Zenon Konopka.

This is the second post in a 5 post series on the Wild's free agent signings this offseason. Yesterday, we looked at Jake Dowell. Monday, we will take a look at Torrey Mitchell.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Jake Dowell

Jake Dowell
198 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: March 4, 1985
Birthplace: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

For those wondering, when did the Wild sign Jake Dowell? Well, he was signed about an hour before guys named Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed on with the team. (No, that is no way implying Jake Dowell helped bring Parise and Suter here)

There is not much you can say about Jake Dowell except for the fact he will drop the gloves when he needs to.

In his short NHL career, Dowell has racked up 133 penalty minutes in his 154 games played. In 08-09 with Rockford, Dowell spent 128 minutes in the box in his 75 games played.

He has scored a few goals in his time, but please by no means expect him to do so, while wearing a Wild sweater (11-22-33 line in his NHL career).

(Here's rare footage of a Jake Dowell goal)

Dowell projects as a fourth liner, who should only see time with the club if big bruisers Zenon Konopka and Matt Kassian are unable to play. So look for him to spend more time with Houston this year, protecting the club's best prospects.

Dowell was a 5th round pick in 2004 by Chicago, and made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in 07-08. He is coming off a season spent with the Dallas Stars where he posted a line of 2-5-7 in 52 games and had 53 penalty minutes.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001, Jake Dowell.

This is the first part of a 5 part series on the Wild's free agent signings this offseason. Tomorrow's new face will be Zenon Konopka

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Its rather hard to believe, but one year ago today, I launched this blog. And what a year it has been (Not to mention, I started with a god awful background and I finally got a good one for the forseable future.).

In this year, we saw the Wild jump out as the best team in hockey in 2011-12, through mid December before suffering a collapse of historic proportions, en route to their fourth straight year of not making the post season.

But perhaps the pinnacle of this past year, came in July when the Wild bagged the two best free agents on the market in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.

Also in this year, I have been fortunate to come across some great blogs and some great people behind them:

-I love the guys over at Hockey Wilderness. They do tremendous work, and their content is second to none. They have set the gold standard for Wild blogs.

-Nate and Dan run First Round Bust, and they do a fantastic job doing so. Their work on prospects is outstanding. They have been huge in helping me get the stuff I put out there with their many mentions of my work, so a big thanks to them.

-Some of the other bloggers I've interacted with over cyberspace include: State of Hockey News, Jacques Lemaire's Trap, and Gone Puck Wild. Give these guys a follow, and read their stuff.

Of course it would be foolish to not acknowledge Mr Russo and all his fine work he gives us during the year. He is truly second to none among beat writers in the NHL. 

A big thanks to my friend Graeme, who continues to push me into being a better hockey fan. Truth be told, I started this blog to help me be as knowledgeable about the Wild and NHL as he is.

But lastly, thank you to everyone who continues to read the stuff I put on here. Especially in the past few months, everyone has been very kind in giving a few minutes of their day to read what I write.

So here's to hoping I can make the next year with the Team of 18,001 a better one than the last one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vacation Time Is Over

 I decided it was time to end my hiding and come back out and start blogging about my favorite hockey team. So in the next few weeks I'm gonna try and get as much in here as I possibly can, despite my seemingly full schedule. So please bear with me.

First of all, upon my return today, I noticed that I broke my monthly record for pageviews in the month of July, despite my last post coming on July 9th. So a BIG thank you goes out to everyone for helping me shatter the record again after I broke it in the month of June.

Over the next few weeks, I will have a few series of posts, including my new updated top 10 prospects list, and The Welcome To The State of Hockey series that I also did last year.

Also this week, the blog will be celebrating it's one year anniversary. So there will be a special post for that.

Lastly, while I was away, the Owners of the NHL and the NHLPA exchanged their first proposals in the hopes of reaching a new agreement on a CBA before the September 15th deadline, when the current CBA expires and the players will, unfortunately, be locked out. And unfortunately, there is no evidence to believe that the two sides will reach an agreement before the deadline. So don't expect the season to start on time.