Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Awesome GIF and a Thank You

Thanks to our friends at for this glorious gif

Thank you to all my followers this past month. It was the most viewed month in this blog's short history. As a thank you, you can stare at the gif of Parise's shootout goal last night.

Ill be back tomorrow with an actual post, as I still try and fully wrap my head around the last two games.

Again, thank you everyone!

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Believe In Backstrom

Following last night's 3-1 defeat to Nashville, many fans took to social media, to voice their displeasure with Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom. And while his bad clearing attempt did lead to the game winning goal, the loss was not all his fault.

The highlights of the game on Wild TV does not truly paint the picture as to how well Backstrom played. He was positioned well, and made some stellar saves to keep the score 1-1. If you look at the other 2 goals he allowed, he really had no chance to make saves on them (A blocked shot put the puck on Spaling's stick with an empty net, and a 3 on 1 rush on a power play). Its just that second goal allowed that has everyone up in arms today.

As you can see, Backstrom was huge. He made 23 saves, and gave his team a chance to win the game. That's what you want from your starting goaltender. The fact is, the Wild dominated the first 15 minutes of the game, then went into a deep sleep until Erat's goal. So had Backstrom not brought his best to the rink last night, Nashville easily could of won the game 5-1 or 6-1.

Before everyone cries out for Harding to get the majority of the starts, please, look a little more closely at how Backstrom plays. Because he is a pretty solid goaltender. He just had some bad breaks last night.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Kings raise their Stanley Cup Banner at 2. Wild drop the puck at 8.

Enjoy your day full of hockey. I know I will.

Friday, January 18, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Playoff Predictions

Over this past week, we have looked at the 6 different divisions and picked their standings. Now, its time to pick the 8 teams from each conference that will make it to the playoffs. We will also be picking the conference champions and the Stanley Cup Champions.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Boston Bruins
3. Washington Capitals
4. New York Rangers
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. Tampa Bay Lightning

Eastern Conference Champion: New York Rangers

1. Vancouver Canucks
2. St. Louis Blues
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Los Angeles Kings
5. Chicago Blackhawks
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Minnesota Wild
8. Edmonton Oilers

Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Kings

Stanley Cup Final
New York Rangers over Los Angeles Kings in 6 games

Tomorrow, we finally drop the puck. Enjoy the season everyone!

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Northwest Division

5. Calgary Flames-One would think that with the fifth highest payroll in the league, Calgary would be destined to finish high up in this division, right? Wrong. The reason Calgary has such a high payroll, is they have brought in overrated players and massively overpaid them (Cammalleri-$6M, Bouwmeester-$6.68M, Wideman-$5.25M, Giordano-$4.02M), to prevent fans from thinking they are rebuilding. The fact is, Calgary should be rebuilding. They have a stale offense, overhyped defense, and a goaltender (Kiprusoff) who will eventually run out of gas from starting so many games a season. With all the other teams in this division getting better, Calgary has nowhere to go but last.

4. Colorado Avalanche-Colorado was probably the hardest team in this division to pick. They have some blossoming young stars (Landeskog, Duchene), but still have some question marks on the squad (Defense, goaltending). The Avs top defensive unit consists of Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda (Yikes!), and their #1 goaltender heading into the season is Semyon Varlamov. All these players have shown signs of brilliance, but they also have shown horrible stretches of play. Colorado doesnt get off to the best start in 2013, but they have a strong finish. But it only gets them a fourth place finish.

3. Edmonton Oilers-At long last, Edmonton gets out of the Northwest's basement. They had 11 players playing during the 119 day lockout, including their top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle (They played on the same line for Oklahoma City, too). Since they have had the #1 pick in the draft for the past decade (Slight exaggeration), Edmonton now has the best crop of young forwards, and now has the best defenseman prospect in all of hockey, when they signed Justin Schultz this summer. The Oilers however, still have a lack of depth at defenseman, and have a big question mark in net, handing over the reigns to Devan Dubnyk while letting Nikolai Khabibulin sit on the bench. Edmonton gets off to a fast start in 2013, but the leaders of the division will catch up and pass them eventually. But the question remains, can Edmonton hold on for a playoff spot?

2. Minnesota Wild-As we saw yesterday, Minnesota made a flurry of moves this offseason, capped off by the July 4th signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Even with Suter, the Wild will need increased production from D-Men Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella (When he recovers from injury), to stand a chance in this division. Minnesota has tremendous depth in the entire organization, so should someone go down with an injury, they have boatloads of talent to replace them. The Wild may not get off to a fast start, but they recover quickly and take second place in this division, and sneak their way into a playoff spot for the first time since 2008.

1. Vancouver Canucks-Despite injuries to Ryan Kesler and David Booth, this is still the team to beat in the Northwest. Perhaps the greatest strength for Vancouver this year, will be that they will have Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo sharing time between the pipes (Unless Luongo finally gets moved). Both are #1 goalies, and Vancouver will most definitely use this to their advantage. The Canucks went out and bolstered their blue line, by signing Jason Garrison away from Florida. Garrison gives the Defense a little more offensive punch. Up front Vancouver is still led by the Sedin twins, and they still are the best tandem in the league. Vancouver has to a work a bit more to earn it, but they still take the division.

Check back tomorrow for playoff predictions.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Minnesota Wild

Three days from now, the 12th season in the history of the Minnesota Wild, will get under way. And perhaps, this is the most anticipated season in the team's history (Rivaling year one). Today, we look back at the previous year, and look ahead to the upcoming year, and in between, we will break down all the moves this team made during the summer.

Offseason Moves

Coming In: F Zach Parise, D Ryan Suter, F Torrey Mitchell, F Zenon Konopka, F Jake Dowell, D Brian Connelly

Heading Out: F Guillaume Latendresse, F Nick Johnson, F Erik Christensen, D Mike Lundin, F Warren Peters

In case you lived under a rock since the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no moves in hockey were bigger than when the Wild inked Parise and Suter to matching 13 year, $98 million deals. The deal should boost the last place Wild offense, and strengthen the power play, to where they can put up goals with any team in the league. The additions of Mitchell and Konopka strengthen bottom 2 lines, and give the Wild prospects in Houston, more time to get acclimated with professional hockey. The Wild now enter the season with 4 complete lines, and perhaps the best on paper foward line combinations, they have ever had.

Projected Lines
(Stats listed are from the 2011-12 season)


Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley

Matt Cullen-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
(14-21-35)-(DNP in NHL)-(19-17-36)

Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Darroll Powe-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Reserves: Matt Kassian (2-0-2), Stephane Veilleux (0-2-2), Jake Dowell (2-5-7), Nick Palmieri (4-3-7)


Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert

Justin Falk-Nate Prosser

Reserves: Steve Kampfer (2-3-5), Marco Scandella* (3-9-12)
* denotes player is injured


Starter: Niklas Backstrom (19-18-7, 2.43, .919)
Backup: Josh Harding (13-12-4, 2.62, .917)

Reserve: Matt Hackett (3-6-0, 2.38, .922)

Head Coach
Mike Yeo
2nd NHL Season

Players That Need To Step Up

Dany Heatley
Last year, Heatley came over in a trade from San Jose. He played all 82 games and had top line minutes in every one of those games. Problem was, his production was the lowest its ever been in his 10 year NHL career. Now that the Wild added Zach Parise to play opposite Heatley, Heater will need to increase his production to take pressure off Parise and give the Wild a dual threat on their top line.

Devin Setoguchi
Like Heatley, Setoguchi is in his second season in a Wild uniform.  And he too had the worst statistical season of his career in 2011-12. Setoguchi often played on the top line for Minnesota in 2011-12, but this season you can write him in pen on the second line. The Wild need Setoguchi to step up his game to give them a great 2nd scoring line. With puck movers Cullen and Granlund on his line, he will be relied upon to score the goals on that line.

Tom Gilbert
In 08-09, Gilbert had the best year of his career, when he notched 45 points (5G, 40A) for Edmonton. Since then, he has been on a slow decline. Gilbert, was acquired before the trade deadline in 2012, for fan favorite Nick Schultz, and was brought in to be the puck moving defenseman the Wild needed. Now that Ryan Suter is in the fold, Gilbert will be on the second defensive pairing, and the Wild need him to play some big minutes and make some big plays. If he can't, one could see the Wild using one of their compliance buyouts on him in the offseason with young D-Men Brodin and Dumba on the way up.

5 Prospects That Will Impact 2013

Mikael Granlund-F
Obviously, Granlund will be making an impact on the 2013 roster. He will be starting as the second line center in between Cullen and Setoguchi. Granlund is a great talent, as he has great skills and vision to set up and sometimes score goals. The team's top prospect finally signed on with the club this past summer, and will be a huge addition to the squad in 2013. 

Jason Zucker-F
Zucker is not slated to start the season with the big club. But should one of the forwards get injured, look for the Aeros leading scorer to be the first man called up. Zucker has transitioned his game from the WCHA to the AHL quite nicely, putting up similar numbers between the two leagues. He has been a force on Houston's top line, using his speed and great hands to keep his name in the scoresheet.

Matt Dumba-D
The Wild's first round pick in 2012 will get his chance with the club in 2013. An injury to Marco Scandella has helped open the door for Dumba to get some NHL minutes this year. But in all likelihood, Dumba will play a few games with Minnesota before he gets sent back to Red Deer to finish off the season. Dumba is an offensive minded defenseman, scoring 20 goals for Red Deer last year (He has 10 this year). Look for him to fire the puck on net often, when he gets his chance with the Wild this year.

Matt Hackett-G
Hackett made this in last year's Wild Preview. He is still considered a prospect, and he will make an impact at some point this year, so it made sense to put him on this list. Hackett has been the starter for Houston for three years now, and in the final year of Nik Backstrom's contract, the goalie would like to send the front office a message by playing strongly. He will only see time with the Wild this year should Backstrom or Harding go down with an injury. And if he does, the Wild will need him to play very sharply, given the condensed schedule and all.

Jonas Brodin-D
Entering the season, Jonas Brodin is injured, and not playing anywhere. But, in the next couple of weeks he could return to the ice. Brodin is a solid defensive minded defenseman and has ridiculous vision when he is on the ice. He was so much of a rock for Houston's blue line, before going down with injury, that there was/still is talk of him making the Wild roster at some point this year. Its more likely now that Brodin will only get a shot with Minnesota this year in the event of someone getting hurt, but should he get called up, he may not get sent back down.

Where They'll Finish
Check back tomorrow to see where the Wild will finish in the division standings in 2013, and then on Friday to see where they will finish in the conference standings, when we predict the NHL season and playoffs.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Central Division

5. Columbus Blue Jackets-This is just about the poorest looking hockey team, one has seen in quite some time. Their top line consists of Artim Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, and RJ Umberger (Anisimov and Dubinsky came in the return package for Rick Nash). They finally found someone to talk over for Steve Mason as the #1 goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, but Bobrovsky has not played #1 minutes before. They have a blueline of overrated players (led by James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson), and a coach who couldn't win with better talent on a different team (Former Wild bench boss Todd Richards). Columbus is a lock to finish last in this division, and finish last in all of the NHL.

4. Nashville Predators-Nashville was poised to make a deep playoff run last year. But, all they could do was get past the first round, then bow out to Phoenix in the second round. But despite the loss of Ryan Suter in the offseason, this is still a pretty good team. They rely on defense (Led by Norris finalist Shea Weber) and goaltending (Pekka Rinne enters 2013 as one of the best in hockey between the pipes) to win games. They don't scare you much offensively, so if you can get up past 3 goals a game on them, you have a good chance to win. Nashvilee has a good core, but they lack scoring to be a serious threat to win the division. They will be a team battling for a low playoff seed in late April.

3. Detroit Red Wings-Last year, we Detroit's run of dominating the Central division come to an end. They finished 3rd in the division and were sent home by Nashville in the first round of the playoffs. Then in the offseason, they lost their team leader, Nicklas Lidstrom, to retirement. To replace him, the Wings will have youngster Brendan Smith take the spot on the top Defense line. The Wings are still solid up front, with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg leading the charge. The defense is now pretty average that Lidstrom is gone, and their attempts to replace him with a high profile name (Ryan Suter, Justin Schultz), failed. Jimmy Howard is sneaky good between the pipes, but Jonas Gustavsson will have to step up his game as the back up after coming over. This is still a playoff team, but they are not anywhere close to being at the top of the West hierarchy, like they used to be.

2. Chicago Blackhawks-Perhaps no team has underachieved more in the last 2 seasons than the Chicago Blackhawks. They barely made the playoffs in 2011, and they were handed a first round playoff exit by Phoenix in 2012. And no player has taken more heat than Patrick Kane (23-43-66 in 2011-12), in the last year, when it comes to underachieving. The Hawks have a weakness at center (Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland are the only 2 established centers on the team), but can make up for it with their talented wingers. All eyes will be on Corey Crawford, and if he can handle the team's role of being a #1 goaltender. If not, maybe the Hawks go out and get a goalie before the trade deadline. Chicago comes in a distant second to St. Louis in this division. But, can they avoid a third straight first round exit in 2013?

1. St. Louis Blues-In a shortened season like this one, you need two solid goalies on your roster. And look no further than St. Louis, for the best goalie tandem in the league. Last year, Brian Elliott (1.56 GAA in 2011-12) and Jaroslav Halak (1.97 GAA in 2011-12) allowed the fewest goals (155) in the NHL. The Blues rely heavily on defense and goaltending to win, and they are very strong at both areas. Their defense, led by blooming stars Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo, is young, but exceptionally good. Up front , the Blues have 2 solid forward lines, but lines 3 and 4 need much improvement. After the success of last year (Central Division Champs), this team looks to move further on in the playoffs. Its hard to see that with their lack of depth at forward, but their defense and goaltending gets them the Central crown once again.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Monday, January 14, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Pacific Division

5. Dallas Stars-Dallas brought in Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy to help bolster their top 2 lines. So now, they have 2 solid scoring lines. Problem is, their 3rd and 4th lines will struggle, and their defense doesn't project to be that good. They have Kari Lehtonen in the net, and he has been solid since he arrived in Dallas. The Stars had the worst powerplay in the league last year (13.5%), and ranked in the bottom half of the league in total scoring (22nd in goals scored). The new additions will help, but they still are facing an uphill battle in this division. The Stars come in the cellar, in a close race with Anaheim.

4. Anaheim Ducks-A slow start will doom the Ducks in 2013. They have aging veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. Their stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are set to be free agents after the season ends. So should the Ducks have a bad start, Getzlaf and Perry could end up being traded, so the Ducks dont walk away empty handed if they leave.The Ducks have 2 solid lines, and their defensive core is average at best. A healthy Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes trying to keep the Ducks in games. In an incredibly strong division, the Ducks will come in 4th, but they will battle it out with Dallas for this spott. They just simply wont be able to keep up with the others, even in a shortened 48 game schedule.

3. Phoenix Coyotes-A surprise run to the conference finals, was how the Phoenix Coyotes season went last year. They are a gritty hockey team, that wins games on its defense keeping pucks out of the net. And last year, they saw Mike Smith have a huge breakout year, which was a big help with Phoenix coming in 5th in the NHL in goals allowed. They did lose their leading scorer Ray Whitney, who signed with division rival Dallas, but other than that, they kept the core of last year's team intact. Phoenix will be a tough team to play every night, and scoring on them will not be easy. This will be a team that competes for a low seed in the playoff mix, and with a short season, Phoenix will have plenty of competition to get in the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Kings-Everyone has the Kings pegged to win this division and make a deep postseason run again. Im not denying that the defending Cup champs will make a deep postseason run. They are returning the same roster from last year (The only player the lost or added was Ethan Moreau who retired). But they will be without their star Anze Kopitar for a few weeks to begin the year. They have great depth all around the roster. Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick is set to return after having back surgery in the offseason. But, the Kings finish second in this division. They make the playoffs, but the lack of Kopitar to begin the season will hurt them in the end.

1. San Jose Sharks-San Jose had a down year in 2011-12. They finished 7th in the West, and had a first round exit after two straight years of making the conference finals.The Sharks have good balance all around their lineup. They really dont have any flashy players, they just have guys who get the job done. What makes the Sharks better this year, is that they had 11 players playing overseas during the lockout, and for the first time in a few years, they are no longer considered the favorites in this division. So look for Joe Thornton and company to make one last push before age finally catches up with them. The Sharks get off to a fast start, and it helps carry them to a division title.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

NHL 2013 Preview: Atlantic Division

5. New York Islanders-In a division that is very top heavy, the New York Islanders won't offer much of anything in 2013. They have a young star in John Tavares, and a 30 goal scorer in Matt Moulson, but after them, this team is very weak. They have no real depth at forward and they are pretty weak defensively. Evgeni Nabokov will be the #1 goalie this year, but with his age (37), how much longer can he produce solid numbers. Give the Islanders a few more years to rebuild, and maybe they will pull out of the cellar. But it for this year, you can write their last place finish in pen.

4. New Jersey Devils-The Devils are returning virtually the same team that took them to the Stanley Cup Finals a year ago. The one exception to that roster is Zach Parise, their leader and top scorer. Now that Parise is gone, New Jersey will rely heavily on Ilya Kovalchuk to put points on the board. Martin Brodeur, the ageless wonder, is returning for another year and will give them a solid presence in net, but you have to wonder about how well he can do now that he is entering his 20th NHL season. The Devils have a team that can still sneak in the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed. But, can they get the points necessary to do so, while playing in this division?

3. Philadelphia Flyers-All eyes are on Ilya Bryzgalov this year. He was horribly inconsistent in 2011-12, and if he can't right the ship this year, the Flyers will be better off using one of their buyouts on him this summer since he still will have 7 years left on his deal ($5.66M per year). The Flyers lost Matt Carle, their best blueliner, and now have a real weak defense to go with the inconsistent Bryzgalov. Philly does have a good offense (2nd in the NHL in goals scored), lead by one of the game's best players, Claude Giroux. They have 4 solid forward lines, which gives them great ability to score frequently. But, unless Philly can fix the defense and goaltending, they will have to settle for 3rd in the division, but make the playoffs once again.

2. New York Rangers-Last year, we saw the Rangers become the best team in the East. They did it while riding the backs of their stars (Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Henrik Lundqvist), and that took them to the conference finals. But since it did not take them to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers brought in another star to help push them there, Rick Nash. Nash will give the Rangers another elite goal scorer, and will help take some heat off of Gaborik (41 goals in 2011-12). The Rangers have a young, but quietly solid blue line, and they have the Vezina trophy winner Lundqvist between the pipes. This will be one of the top teams in the East again, but, they will be looking up at one team in the division standings.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins-For once, Sidney Crosby will open the season on the roster, not the injured list. So as long as everyone in Pittsburgh can be healthy to open the year, this team should get off to a fast start, which will help propel them to the top. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should have big years, once again. They have solid depth at forward, despite trading Jordan Staal in the offseason. Kris Letang leads a core of solid veteran blue liners. And Marc-Andre Fleury looks to rebound in 2013, after his performance in the playoffs last year. Pittsburgh is clearly a preseason favorite for the Stanley Cup. In a close race, they win this division, and will lock up the #1 seed in the East. But can they play good hockey to even get out of the first round this year? Bet on it.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Sunday, January 13, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Northeast Division

5. Montreal Canadiens-Those who think Montreal has a chance to make the playoffs this year can quit reading this now. The Canadiens retooled their hockey operations staff (New GM, New head coach), but the on ice talent remains the same from last year's cellar dwellers in the Northeast. The only solid addition this team made in the offseason, was drafting Alex Galchenyuk #3 overall. The team has too many overrated and overpaid players on this roster (Plekanec, Gionta, Cole, Kaberle, Markov). They do have Carey Price, who is pretty solid betweeen the pipes, but when your offense can't score, its hard to win games. Montreal will be painful to watch in 2013, so please don't expect them to do anything but come in last in this division.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs-If Toronto had a halfway defense in 2011-12, they would of made the playoffs. But when you boast the second worst defense in the league (259 Goals Allowed), you won't be going anywhere. The Leafs brought in F James van Riemsdyk in a trade with Philly (Giving up D-man Luke Schenn in return), but did virtually nothing to help their suffering defensive core. Their top defenseman (Phaneuf, Liles) take more chances offensively, and find themselves finishing games with -1 and -2 next to their names. James Reimer will open the season as the #1 goalie again for Toronto, but he could very well be a backup by the end of the season (*cough* Luongo!). Barring any major moves, Toronto misses the playoffs again.

3. Ottawa Senators-Ottawa was picked to finish dead last in the East on this blog last year. And all they did was make the playoffs and took the #1 seeded Rangers to a 7th game in the East Quarterfinals. They were lead by ridiculous scoring on their top line (Michalek-Spezza-Alfredsson), they saw Erik Karlsson become the best defenseman in the league, and they got surprisingly stellar goaltending from Craig Anderson. But behind their top line, Ottawa did not have much to offer, so they brought in former Wild player Guillaume Latendresse to give some depth to their scoring lines. Ottawa brings back the same core of players from last year, so they should contend for a playoff spot, but will they have enough to make the playoffs?

2. Buffalo Sabres-Last year, Buffalo probably learned more about themselves, than any other team in the league. Problem was, it took them a while to figure that out. Because they were a very hot team from February on, and  they just narrowly missed a playoff spot (Finished 3 points behind Ottawa for the 8th seed). Buffalo addressed a huge issue this offseason, by adding some tough guys to their lineup (Steve Ott, John Scott). Perhaps the biggest need for the Sabres heading into the season is at center, after trading away Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy in 2012. And in addition to Ryan Miller, the Sabres have Jhonas Enroth (After his breakout year, filling in for the injured Miller) as a back up, between the pipes, giving them one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Buffalo has potential to be a playoff team. But they too like Ottawa are on the bubble, and will leave us questioning whether they can get in the playoffs.

1. Boston Bruins-Please, just hand this division to Boston. They are essentially returning the same roster from their Stanley Cup team of 2 years ago, minus the outspoken goaltender Tim Thomas. Now that Thomas is gone, Tuukka Rask gets the #1 job, after being a stellar back to Thomas over the past few years. Boston is incredibly deep on their forward lines, and defensively too. They will be graced by the presence of star prospect Dougie Hamilton (Kessel trade strikes again), on the blue line this year, adding to an already solid core. Boston will win the division, and will once again be competing for the Stanley Cup. They just have to avoid getting upset in the first round of the playoffs again.

NHL 2013 Preview: Southeast Division

5. Winnipeg Jets-Last year, the Jets were a surprise team in the East. They didnt make the playoffs, but they were in the race until mid-March. The Jets return in 2013, as virtually the same team from last year. Their biggest offseason acquisition was F Olli Jokinen (Woof!), and they saw two of their biggest stars (Ondrej Pavelec and Evander Kane) have some off ice issues. With the other teams in this division making bigger moves in the offseason, the standing pat Jets will suffer greatly in 2013, coming in last in the division and out of the playoffs.

4. Florida Panthers-Another surprise in this division last year, found the Florida Panthers winning the Southeast division. They were a replica of what the 02-03 Wild were like. Not a flashy goal scoring team, won games with defense and goaltending, and had no huge star on the roster. But unlike the 02-03 Wild, Florida was unable to get past the first round of the playoffs. They lost their best defenseman in the offseason (Jason Garrison-Vancouver), and added no one of great consequence (Unless you are high on Peter Mueller or Filip Kuba). Florida has some regression in 2013, and will ultimately miss the playoffs as well.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning-2011, Tampa made it all the way to the Eastern Finals. 2012, Tampa made it all the way to the golf course when the playoffs began. Why? One reason: Goaltending. Tampa had the worst goaltending in the league last year (Allowed a league high 282 goals). So of course, it was addressed this offseason, when the team got Anders Lindback from Nashville. They also added Matt Carle to help bolster their blue line and solidify their play in the defensive zone. Tampa is lead on offense by 60 goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vinny Lecavalier. This team rebounds quite nicely from the bad 2011-12 campaign and finds its way into a playoff spot.

2. Carolina Hurricanes-It was the Carolina Hurricanes who made the biggest splash of the offseason, on draft night, when they pulled the trigger on a trade that sent two players and the #8 overall pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for C Jordan Staal. Staal had put good numbers for Pittsburgh as a third line center, but his numbers should increase now that he is playing first line next to his brother Eric. The Canes also added Alex Semin to a one year deal, and he is slotted to play top line with the Staals. This team is decently assembled defensively, and they have former playoff MVP Cam Ward between the pipes. Carolina doesn't take the division, but they are a sure bet for a playoff spot.

1. Washington Capitals-This division is wide open. And yet, it will be the Capitals who come out of it with the title. They let Alex Semin leave, and they now have former Cap Adam Oates behind the bench now. Despite the loss of Semin, the team still has good depth. Again, a big concern for Washington will come from between the pipes. Braden Holtby stepped up for them during their playoff run last year, and is slated to start the season as the team's #1. The Caps will need to get big production from their leader Alex Ovechkin, who is averaging 35 goals over the last 2 seasons after frequently scoring 50 in his first 5 seasons in the league. The Caps figure it out, and win the division over Carolina and Tampa by a narrow margin.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

2013 Top 10 Wild Prospects: 4-1

4. Jason Zucker-Forward Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 5
Since making the jump to the AHL from the WCHA, Zucker has produced very similar numbers (22-24-46 for CC last year in 38 games, 15-17-32 in 31 games for Houston this year). He got a cup of coffee with the Wild at the end of last year, after signing with the team but only produced 2 assists in 8 games. Zucker has good offensive skills, and put the right players on a line with him (As we have seen in Houston), he can be a top 6 forward with the Wild. Good chance Zucker spends the rest of the year with Houston, but look for him to compete for a roster spot on the Wild next fall.

3. Jonas Brodin-Defenseman Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 4
Like many others on this list, Brodin came over from Europe this year to play with Houston. And then 8 games into the season, Brodin broke his clavicle on a hit by Taylor Hall. Brodin had tallied 2 goals and 2 assists with Houston before going down, which was a big improvement from his stats with Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League last year (0-8-8 in 49 games). But, Brodin wasnt drafted for his offensive ability. He is a great defensive defenseman, and does tremendous work in the defensive zone. He has great vision and great presence of mind, which gives him an advantage over anyone trying to attack when he is on the ice. Brodin had a decent chance to make the team, had he not fallen injured. But now look for him to return and finish out the year with Houston, unless the Wild suffer injuries to the blue line.

2. Charlie Coyle-Forward Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 3
At 6'2" and 210, Charlie Coyle projects to be a top 6 guy, who will make his living out in front of NHL netminders. And so far, Coyle has done that, posting 12 goals so far on the year with Houston, while being a big presence on the power play. Coyle put up big numbers with St. John's last year (15 goals, 38 points in 23 regular season games; 17 goals, 32 points in 17 playoff games), while leading them to the QMJHL championship. Coyle doesnt project to make the Wild roster this year, but with a few spots opening up next year, look for him to compete for one of those spots.

1. Mikael Granlund-Forward Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 1
At long last, the Wild got Mikael Granlund to come over from Finland. Then a 113 day lockout, spoiled our hopes of seeing him play in a Wild sweater in 2012. But now that its 2013, Granlund is slated to open the year as the Wild's #2 center, after playing with Houston during the lockout. Granlund comes in as one of the top prospects in all of hockey. If you need to see why he is so highly regarded, please go do a YouTube search on Mikael Granlund right now. He has all the offensive skills you could ask for. Skates well. Tremendous vision up ice. Hands that are second to none. And can put the puck behind the goalie when the situation calls for it. So far this year, Granlund has put up a line of 8-13-21 in 21 games (ankle injury shortened his year). Last Friday, Granlund was pulled from the Aeros lineup and returned to St. Paul to begin practicing with his Wild teammates. Look for his debut to come on the opener, which will be on Saturday.

Minnesota Wild 2012-13 Top 10 Prospects List
10. Mario Lucia
9. Brett Bulmer
8. Zack Phillips
7. Matt Dumba
6. Matt Hackett
5. Johan Larsson
4. Jason Zucker
3. Jonas Brodin
2. Charlie Coyle
1. Mikael Granlund

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Top 10 Wild Prospects: 7-5

7. Matt Dumba-Defenseman Red Deer (CHL). Previous Rank: NR
Matt Dumba, was the 7th overall pick in the 2012 draft by Minnesota. He is not overly big (6'0", 182 lbs), but is very mobile, and is a very good offensive defenseman. Prior to being drafted, Dumba scored 20 goals and added 37 assists in 69 games for Red Deer. And in 42 games this year, Dumba has scored 10 goals and 13 assists. He is set to partake in the Wild's training camp beginning on Sunday, and could get a cup of coffee with the big club before being sent back to Red Deer. Dumba will have to do a lot in the camp to just get that cup of coffee, but he does possess better offensive skills than most d-men on the Wild roster. Dumba is only 18, so there is no rush by the Wild to get him up with the big club. Look for him to play a full season with the team in a few years.

6. Matt Hackett-Goaltender Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 6
If not for the great talent above him on this list, Hackett would come in higher. But, for the second year in a row, he will settle for #6. Hackett enters his 3rd full season with the Aeros, and as you may recall, has seen sometime with the Wild while either Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding has dealt with injury. He started his NHL career by shutting out the opposition for 102:48, which is now an NHL record. This year, Hackett has played in 28 games for Houston and has a record of 13-11-0-3 with a 2.63 GAA and a .904 save percentage. With the expiring contract of Niklas Backstrom, its possible Hackett could be with the Wild full time starting next season. But it all depends on if Backstrom wants to return to the Wild for another year or two. If he does leave, a tandem of Hackett/Harding should do just fine.

5. Johan Larsson-Forward Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 8
Admittedly, Larsson was ranked far too low on this blog last year. But after further study on him, he is up where he belongs now. Larsson, like many others on this list, is in his first year with Houston, after coming over from Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. He is turning into a tremendous two way forward, after honing up his offensive skills over the past few years. So far this year with Houston, Larsson has scored 9 goals and 11 assists in 35 games played. With the depth of forwards the Wild has this year, its unlikely we see Larsson up in the NHL this year. So look for him to get his chance next year to make the team.

Minnesota Wild 2012-13 Top 10 Prospects List
10. Mario Lucia
9. Brett Bulmer
8. Zack Phillips
7.Matt Dumba
6.Matt Hackett
5.Johan Larsson

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Top 10 Wild Prospects: 10-8

Ive promised this for many months now, but that lockout thing, had me lacking motivation to get this done. But, the lockout is over, and the motivation to blog is back. So today, we kick off the top 10 Wild prospects list, by looking at 10-8.

10. Mario Lucia-Forward Notre Dame (CCHA). Previous Rank: 6
Lucia was drafted in 2011 by the Wild, and showed a pretty good offensive skill set while playing for Penticton last year (Posted a 42-52-94 line). Now he has moved on to play for the Fighting Irish, and was sidelined early in the year due to a broken leg. But since his return, he has scored 5 goals and 5 assists in 10 games. Lucia is still a ways away from playing professionally, but if he can develop nicely at ND, he has the potential to jump back up the list as time goes on.

9. Brett Bulmer-Forward Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 9
Last year, we saw Bulmer have his cup of coffee with the Wild before being sent back to Kelowna of the WHL. While here, Bulmer displayed that gritty type of play that head coach Mike Yeo loves to see. Bulmer only notched 3 assists in his time here, but scored 34 goals and added 28 assists (2nd on Kelowna in scoring). But being the gritty player he is, he also notched 93 penalty minutes. Don't expect Bulmer to get anytime with the Wild in 2013, but look for him down the road as a 3rd-4th line type of guy.

8. Zack Phillips-Forward Houston (AHL). Previous Rank: 2
Coming out of St. John's, it appeared that sky was the limit for Zack Phillips. But, he has moved to Houston, and the transition to pro hockey has been anything but good. After posting 95 (38-57-95) and 80 (30-50-80) points in back to back seasons with St. John's, Phillips has just scored 12 points (2-10-12) in 33 games played with Houston. A big reason for his lack of success in the AHL, is Phillips skating ability. It was not overly sharp while he was with St. John's, and it has not improved while playing with Houston. This will clearly have to improve if he wishes to move up in the organization. He has a pretty decent offensive skill set (Minus the skating), and is a great setup guy. Look for him to spend a few years in Houston before we utter the words "call up".

Minnesota Wild 2012-13 Top 10 Prospects List
10. Mario Lucia
9. Brett Bulmer
8. Zack Phillips
7. Tomorrow
6. Tomorrow
5. Tomorrow
4. Sunday
3. Sunday
2. Sunday
1. Sunday

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lockout Ends

After 113 days, the NHL lockout has finally reached its conclusion.

Just after 4 AM, word got out that a tentative agreement had been reached, and that hockey will begin within two weeks.

Russo has the full details of the deal on his blog this morning.

He also mentioned that once the Wild release their schedule, they will begin distributing tickets and that single game tickets will go on sale later this week.

It will take a while to get back in the swing of things, but, now that this lockout has ended, there can be regular posts on this blog again.

Lets start counting down the days until Opening Night!