Friday, August 30, 2013

Wild Players In NHL 14's Top 50

Today, EA Sports released its Top 50 players on NHL 14, via

To no one's surprise, Penguins C Sidney Crosby came in as the top ranked player with a 94 overall rating. Bruins D Zdeno Chara (94 overall) and Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist (91) were ranked as the top defenseman and goaltender respectively.

Meanwhile, a couple of local boys were able to crack the top 50. Ryan Suter came in at number nine on the top 50 list, getting the same rating as his former defensive partner Shea Weber, (I bet that really ticked off Barry Trotz) with a 92 overall rating. Suter's rating is better than the likes of Flyers F Claude Giroux, Red Wings RW Henrik Zetterberg, and Rangers LW Rick Nash (all receiving 90 ratings).

Suter rates as the third best defenseman in the game

Also cracking the Top 50 list was Zach Parise, who received an 89 overall rating. He was 22nd on the list, getting the edge over Blackhawks F Patrick Kane, Senators D Erik Karlsson, the Canadiens Norris Trophy winner PK Subban, and Maple Leafs F Phil Kessel (all received 88 ratings).

Parise's 89 rating is a bit interesting given who he is ranked over

It is unclear how the rest of the Wild roster stacks up. You can find out the rest of the team's ratings when the game is released on September 10th.

(Photos courtesy of

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Matt Cooke

Matt Cooke
Left Wing
205 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: September 7, 1978
Birthplace: Belleville, Ontario
Acquired: Signed a 3 year $7.5 million deal on July 5th.

To be honest folks, this is a subject I refuse to poke at. You drop the name Matt Cooke around these parts and everyone seems to find a ridiculous level of rage.

Since I have made my feelings on Matt Cooke quite clear, please consult this post from early July to see where I stand (I really did not want to write the same post twice).

For those who don't want to follow the link, I'll sum it up for you: Calm down about Matt Cooke. His past IS INDEED IN THE PAST. He makes this team better.

Substitute "Mayor dying" for "Matt Cooke signs with the Wild"

Everyone needs to get over it.

Welcome to the State of Grudges Hockey Matt Cooke!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

End Of The Summer

Colder days are ahead now.

Stay tuned to The Team of 18,001 as we countdown the days until the season begins.

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A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Keith Ballard

Keith Ballard
208 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: November 26, 1982
Birthplace: Baudette, Minnesota
Acquired: Signed a 2 year, $3 million deal on July 5

The first move the Wild made when free agency started was signing Baudette native Keith Ballard to a two year deal. We all remember Ballard from his playing days with the University of Minnesota, helping them to two national championships (2002, 2003) in his three years at the school.

Ballard scores the first goal in the 2002 National Championship

Ballard was a first round (11th overall) selection of the Buffalo Sabres back in 2002. Before he even signed a pro contract he found himself traded twice (Buffalo to Colorado, Colorado to Phoenix), and was the main prospect being moved in both deals. Over the course of his career, Ballard ended up in two more trades, being moved to Florida and then Vancouver.

As a defenseman with Phoenix and Florida, Ballard was a solid top 4 defenseman. He was an asset at both ends of the ice, and added some physicality to his game as well. But it all seemingly went away in Vancouver as he found himself on Alain Vigneault's bad side, seeing his production and role with the team diminish to almost nothing. Ballard was bought out at the end of the 2012-13 season because the team thought so little of him.

Ballard was making $4.2 million per year (as both salary and cap hit to the team), which obviously made him an easy candidate to buy out. His contract with the club is another example of a low risk, high reward type of situation. He adds depth to a blueline that, besides the top pairing, struggled for a majority of the 2012-13 season.

Ballard got the great Sidney Crosby to drop the gloves

He brings good veteran presence to a roster that seemingly gets younger by the day, and still has a good physical presence to his game. The key for him will be finding that overall greatness he once had with Phoenix and Florida. If he can even get halfway back to that level, the Wild already got a huge bargain from this deal.

For those counting at home, Ballard becomes the third Minnesota born player (Zach Parise, Nate Prosser) on the Wild's roster heading into the 2013-14 season. And I'm guessing that number is still not enough for some of you...

Welcome back to the Team of 18,001 Keith Ballard!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Nino Niederreiter

Nino Niederreiter
Right Wing
208 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: September 8, 1992
Birthplace: Chur, Switzerland
Acquired: Via trade from the New York Islanders on June 30

As if Chuck Fletcher wasn't already investing a lot in young kids to lead this team for the next decade, he decided to add another to the fold. On draft day, Fletcher sent the popular Cal Clutterbuck and the 70th overall pick to the Islanders for Nino Niederreiter.

Nino was the Islanders 5th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft (we later discovered that Fletcher coveted Nino very much and would of taken him with the 9th overall pick). They drafted a kid who they were hoping to form a great 1-2 punch with John Tavares. Nino was a force offensively, and the Islanders signed him following the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) season. He played the final nine games with the Islanders.

The next year, the Islanders kept him on the roster but due to lack of performance was pushed down to the fourth line where he played a majority of the season. Yeah, the Islanders valued him so much they kept him on the team to play fourth line minutes.

Nino had requested a trade from the Islanders to begin the 2012-13 season, because of the way he had been handled. The Islanders thought it best to keep him at Bridgeport (AHL) for the whole season, something they should have done in the first place.

Bottomline here is that Nino still has the great offensive talents from when he was drafted. He can still score goals, he still has great hands, and he can make something happen out of nothing. It just didn't show up right away for the Islanders. Rushing him to the NHL did not help his cause either. Now he has a new start and will have a chance to compete for a spot on the NHL roster. And should he not make it, he will get top line minutes in Iowa and will be a call up should the Wild suffer injuries.

The kid needs a second chance. He will get a good one here in Minnesota. Lets hope this trade pays off.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 Nino Niederreiter!

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Monday, August 26, 2013

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Jonathon Blum

Jonathon Blum
186 lbs
Shoots: Right
Born: January 30, 1989
Birthplace: Long Beach, California
Acquired: Signed a 1 year, $650,000 deal on July 12th

We kick off the New Face series this summer with the Wild's least talked about move. They signed Jonathon Blum to a two way contract (numbers listed above), as he was coming off another disappointing season with Nashville and was not re-signed in the Music City.

Blum was the Preds first round pick (23rd overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft. He was outstanding while playing for the Vancouver Giants (WHL), putting up great point totals (see above insert) while manning the blue line. He projected to be a solid offensive blue liner in the NHL, but once he signed his entry level contract things did not go as planned.

Whether it was the AHL or NHL, Blum struggled to put up points and his inefficiency in the defensive zone stuck out much more. In just 33 games for Nashville in 2011-12 , he was a -14 while only putting up seven points. In the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, he notched another seven point campaign while playing in 35 games. Not exactly what you want from a guy like Blum.

The signing of Blum was plain and simple, a depth signing. Blum took a two way contract and should be spending most of, if not all, of his 2013-14 season with the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa. He should project to be on their top defense pairing and should get significant power play time. The only way he makes it up to the NHL this year is if a Wild defenseman goes down with injury.

His deal is a low risk high reward type of deal, so it is virtually harmless for the Wild to give him a shot. Maybe he just needed a change of scenery to turn it around.

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 Jonathon Blum!

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Accurate NHL Uniform Power Ranking

Today, Paul Lukas of uni-watch did his annual power rankings of NHL jerseys for

While typically I see eye to eye with him on most things related to jerseys/uniforms in sports, this list he published today is more awful than good.

The ranking has the Columbus Blue Jackets and their cannon crested third jersey checking in one spot ahead of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild came in at number 10 behind the more traditional jerseys in the league (Montreal, Detroit, Toronto, etc.), and keep in mind they have a new road jersey on the way.

Other atrocities on this list include the Dallas Stars and their god awful new jerseys checking in at number 12. Florida and their very plain jerseys getting a spot at 13. San Jose gave their jerseys a face lift and deserved a much better ranking than the 19 they got (their black armor jersey is one of my favorites jerseys in the league). And the Los Angeles Kings came in dead last, despite going back to the black and silver that they previously wore during the Gretzky era.

Since I have several disagreements with the list, I will go out of my way to give you a more accurate list here:

1. Montreal Canadiens-24 Cups with this jersey. Never change this look.
2. Detroit Red Wings-Their crest is so big, that the 'C' and 'A' have to be on the left side of the uniform.
3. New York Rangers-Their third jersey gets better and better as the years go by.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs-The old school socks are a perfect accent to these jerseys.
5. Chicago Blackhawks-Lukas was awfully harsh on the Hawks home unis. It is still a great set.
6. Boston Bruins-The third jersey lowers their ranking. I'm not big on the bear going on the front.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins-Bring back the baby blues from the first Winter Classic.
8. Minnesota Wild-I gave my two cents on their jersey history on Tuesday.
9. San Jose Sharks-Modified uniforms = modified playoff results?
10. Los Angeles Kings-Never get rid of the black and silver look. 
11. Philadelphia Flyers-I like the retro look, but I cringe at the name on the back of the jerseys.
12. Edmonton Oilers-At least they went back to the jerseys from the 80s. 
13. New Jersey Devils-Devils have kept their look the same since 92. But who will score their goals?
14. Buffalo Sabres-The waiting for their new gold alternate jersey has gone on too long.
15. New York Islanders-If that alternate jersey did not exist, they would be a top 10 team.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets-I still dont get the cannon logo.
17. Carolina Hurricanes-They simplified their look. A nice change from what they previously wore.
18. Calgary Flames-Remember when they had the flaming horse crest?
19. Ottawa Senators-Throwback alternate is a nice touch.
20. Florida Panthers-These jerseys just dont do much. Seems a bit too plain.
21. Winnipeg Jets-Jets can do better. Take a page from the Selanne days.
22. Anaheim Ducks-The logo stinks. Main jerseys stink. The alternate has too much orange.
23. Vancouver Canucks-At least its not the worst jerseys in their history.
24. Phoenix Coyotes-Bring back the robot coyote!
25. Tampa Bay Lightning-I like what they tried to do here, but lots of unnecessary stuff going on.
26. Washington Capitals-Switch to something similar to the alternates please!
27. St. Louis Blues-Alternate is great, mains have too much RBK in them.
28. Nashville Predators-Ryan Suter's reason for leaving Nashville was he secretly hated the yellow.
29. Colorado Avalanche-RBK makeover took a nice jersey and made it bad. Alternate is a woof.
30. Dallas Stars-Mike Modano should of never put this awful thing on.

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Don't Worry About Mikael Granlund

Last year, Mikael Granlund made his long awaited debut for the Minnesota Wild. He scored a goal in the season opener, but after that it was far from pretty for the 21 year old. He went 24 games in between goals and saw himself get sent back down to Houston during that stretch. For the 2012-13 season, Granlund posted a line of 2-6-8 with a -4 rating in 27 games for the Wild.

Meanwhile, Granlund was quite the opposite while playing for Houston (now Iowa) in the AHL last year. In 29 games in the AHL (most coming during the NHL lockout), Granlund averaged nearly a point per game (10-18-18) while helping Houston secure a playoff berth.

Some have already taken to the forums by calling Granlund "a project", and saying that if he can not get it turned around this season then he is a lost cause. This is plain and simple, a poor assessment of Granlund's future with this team.

During his time in Finland, Granlund showed he was an elite player. He possesses great puck handling skills and has outstanding vision to see a play develop. He tends to set up a goal rather than score one, but he can score a highlight reel goal from time to time.

Mikko Koivu did not get off to a great start with the Wild either. In fact, his had worse PPG numbers in the AHL than Granlund did (although, Mikko had a full season in the AHL whereas Granlund only had a quarter of a season). Here is Mikko's stats through his first NHL season:

Now compare them to Granlund's stats:

As you can see, Granlund did about the same or better than Koivu, while taking the same path to the NHL.

Koivu went on to score 54 points (20G-34A) in his second season in the NHL, as he took on a bigger role, and we all know what he went on to do with the club.

Granlund enters his second season looking to lock down a roster spot (only two spots open between star prospects Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Nino Neiderreiter), and could see a bigger role with the club now that established players like Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Cal Clutterbuck have departed. With his skill set, he could make a huge impact like Koivu did in his sophomore year.

The point here, is don't worry about Mikael Granlund. He just needs a little bit more time. You can't solely pass judgement on a player based off their rookie seasons. If we did, then we would call Steve Mason a great goalie in this league (but good news is, we dont).

So don't pass judgement on him very quickly. Give him the chance he deserves...

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Timeline of Minnesota Wild Jerseys

Yesterday, the Wild announced that on September 1st at the Minnesota State Fair, they are unveiling their new road jersey for the 2013-14 season. This is not the first time the Wild have unveiled a jersey at the State Fair, as they unveiled their current Forest Green Alternate jersey (see photo below) back in 2009.

The late Derek Boogaard unveils the Wild's alternate jersey in 2009

So as we get ready to see the new road jersey, lets take a look back at the jerseys in Wild history.

Home Jersey: 2000-2003, Away Jersey: 2003-2013
This was the first jersey in the history of the franchise. It was unveiled in the summer of 2000 and served as both the team's home and road jersey. It was the only remaining jersey to have the "razor blade" numbers on the back after the team dumped the matching green jersey following the 06-07 season. 

Away Jersey: 2000-2003, Home Jersey: 2003-2007
This simply is an exact replica of the white jersey, the only difference being that it is all green (with the exception of the red and gold stripes). The color of the numbers on the back of the sweater was not the greatest, but still looked fine. The jersey was a casualty of the NHL switching to the RBK Edge Jerseys after the 2006-07 season, as all NHL teams went down to just a home and an away jersey (Alternates were slowly introduced over the next few years). The Wild stuck with the red uniforms, cutting all ties with a primary green uniform.

Alternate Home Jersey: 2003-2007
Entering the team's fourth season, the Wild unveiled their new red alternate jersey to be worn at home games, as the NHL switched up how home and away teams dress (colors for the home team and white for the road team). The red jersey was met with overwhelming support and the demand for the it was at the top of the NHL jersey charts. The best feature was the laces below the neck, giving the jersey a old school touch. The jersey remained as the team's alternate through the 2006-07 season, but was modified before the 2007-08 season where it would take over as the team's main and only home jersey.

Home Jersey: 2007-Present
When the RBK Edge jerseys took over the NHL, the Wild decided to modify the red jerseys to accommodate the new brand. As you can see between the first and second red jersey, there is now a stripe around the shoulder area and the absence of the green at the bottom. Other than that, everything remained the same.

Alternate Home Jersey: 2009-Present
Again, the Wild unveiled a new third jersey and it was a smashing success. The cursive crest was a very nice touch along with the laces under the neck. The jersey has become more popular than the red jerseys, and was the home uniform of the Wild during their Stanley Cup Playoff appearance last year. This jersey should serve as the main home uniform, with reds switching to alternates but we are not likely to see that switch take place (When this jersey is the only one you wear at home during the postseason, what does that say about what the team thinks of it?).

Personally, I am a big fan of the current green alternates. It should be recorded as the best jersey in the brief history of the franchise (But I'm sure there are others out there who disagree). I would hope that the new road jersey would be modeled after the green alternate much like the Iowa Wild have done, but it does not sound like that will be the case.

But its up to you. State your case for the best Wild jersey in the team's history...

(All jersey photos in this post are courtesy of

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Programming Notes

Sorry for the lack of posts on here in the past month. Its been crazy for me and the lack of Wild news has not helped my cause to get back on here.

But starting next week, I will be more active on here bringing you some player breakdowns of the Wild's fresh acquisitions, a prospect list, and other fun things.

Its time to get the dog days of August behind us and get ready for the hockey season next month (pre-season is a month away)!

Check back next week!

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