Monday, September 30, 2013

The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild: 5 Must See Games

With the NHL season one day away, and the Wild season three days away, lets take a look at the five must see games on the Wild calendar this season.

The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild: Defense

Coming out of the 2011-12 season, the Minnesota Wild defense was just abysmal. They had traded away blueliners Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, and Greg Zanon mid-season and brought in Tom Gilbert to help get a spark going offensively from the blueline (Gilbert had five assists while playing the role of top defenseman).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild: Goaltending

“Goaltending beats top notch scoring anytime!” – Eddie Giacomin

This will be the sixth season that the Wild will open the season with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding tag teaming in between the pipes. Together, they have been solid and have continuously given the Wild every chance possible to win games. But entering this season, both have question marks and appear to look not as strong to the casual fan as they used to. And now it seems both are not at 100 percent entering the season.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Postseason and Award Predictions

This season, the NHL is ushering in new divisions and a new way to get in the playoffs. The top three teams in each division make the playoffs, with a "wild card" team (meaning a team from either division with the best point total in the conference can take those spots) taking the seventh and eighth spots in both conferences. With all that in mind the matchups in the first round would be the division winner versus the wild card team and the number two team against the number three team.

Meet The New Divisions: Central Division

7. Winnipeg Jets-The Jets were a team who just missed the playoffs in a bad division. Now, they move into a much stronger division and will learn that they need to play more consistently to win. They have a few good players on this team, but they lack the depth that is necessary to help them win. The Jets fly right into the basement of the Central.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Meet The Central Division: Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets
Head Coach: Claude Noel (3rd Season in WPG)
Arena: MTS Centre (Capacity: 15,004)
2012-13 Record: 24-21-3 (2nd in Southeast Division)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: Did Not Play
Leading Scorer: Andrew Ladd-46 points (18 G, 28 A)
Leading Goaltender: Ondrej Pavelec-44 G, 21-20-3, 2.80 GAA, .905 SV%

Jonas Brodin and Mike Yeo Join NHL Live

Yesterday Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and head coach Mike Yeo joined NHL Live after practice at Xcel Energy Center. ICYMI, here are the videos:

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Preseason Thoughts: New Fourth Line?

Last night the Wild, with what would appear to be their opening night roster, took down the St. Louis Blues 4-1 in the final home exhibition game. The Wild are now 4-1 on the preseason, the only loss being the 3-1 defeat to Columbus in the opener.

Meet The Central Division: St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues
Head Coach: Ken Hitchcock (3rd season in STL)
Arena: Scottrade Center (Capacity: 19,150)
2012-13 Record: 29-17-2 (2nd in Central)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 3-0-0
Leading Scorer: Chris Stewart-36 points (18 G, 18 A)
Leading Goaltender: Brian Elliott-24 G, 14-8-1, 2.28 GAA, .907 SV%

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Meet The Central Division: Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators
Head Coach: Barry Trotz (15th season in NSH)
Arena: Bridgestone Arena (Capacity: 17,113)
2012-13 Record: 16-23-9 (last in Central Division)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 1-0-2
Leading Scorer: Shea Weber-28 points (9 G, 19 A)
Leading Goaltender: Pekka Rinne-43 G, 15-16-8, 2.43 GAA, .910 SV%

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Notable Tough Guys In Wild History

The past few days, fighting has become front and center in the NHL news stream. And to be honest here, fighting has become more staged than anything, making it a joke to the game now (this rant will be saved for a different day).

But for fun today, we take a trip down memory lane and look back at the notable "goons" in Wild history.

Meet The Central Division: Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars
Head Coach: Lindy Ruff (1st season with DAL)
Arena: American Airlines Center (Capacity: 18,532)
2012-13 Record: 22-22-4 (Last in Pacific Division)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 1-2-0
Leading Scorer-Jamie Benn: 33 pts (12 G, 21 A)
Leading Goaltender-Kari Lehtonen: 36 G, 15-14-3, 2.66 GAA, .916 SV%

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meet The Central Division: Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche
Head Coach: Patrick Roy (1st season with COL)
Arena: Pepsi Center (Capacity: 18,007)
2012-13 Record: 16-25-7 (Last in Western Conference)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 1-4-0
Leading Scorer: PA Parenteau/Matt Duchene-43 points
Leading Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov-35 G, 11-21-3, 3.02 GAA, .903 SV%

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Meet The Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks
2013 Stanley Cup Champions
Head Coach: Joel Quenneville (6th season with CHI)
Arena: United Center (Capacity: 19,717)
2012-13 Record: 36-7-5 (Presidents Trophy Winner)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 2-0-1
Leading Scorer: Patrick Kane-55 Pts (23 G, 32 A)
Leading Goaltender: Corey Crawford-30 G, 19-5-5, 1.94 GAA, .926 SV%

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wild Lose Out on 2015 Winter Classic

In the past 24 hours, multiple sources have confirmed that the 2015 NHL Winter Classic will be hosted by the Washington Capitals. The announcement is expected to be made official tomorrow at 9 AM at the Capitals fan convention by Washington owner Ted Leonsis.

Meet The New Divisions: Metropolitan Division

Get a look at the new Metropolitan (really?) Division:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Meet The New Divisions: Atlantic Division

Today, we kick off our countdown to the beginning of the new NHL season by taking a look at each of the new divisions. The divisions are Atlantic, Metropolitan, Pacific, and Central. In these posts, we will predict the order of finish from the teams within the division while giving you a little rundown of each squad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Preseason Thoughts/Disclaimers

Last night, I was able to attend the Wild's first preseason game against Columbus. The Wild lost 3-1, and did not look their best but keep in mind several top players were not on the ice (Koivu, Parise, Suter, etc.). Here are a few thoughts I had from last night's EXHIBITION game:

Top 10 Prospects: #1 Mikael Granlund

Mikael Granlund
Born: February 26, 1992
Height: 5'10" Weight: 180 lbs
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Houston (AHL)/Minnesota (NHL)
Acquired: 1st round pick (9th overall) in 2010 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: 1

Every year this blog has existed, Mikael Granlund has checked in at number one on the top prospects list (the blog was created in August 2011). Its all the blog has come to know from "Finnish Baby Jesus". But this will be the final year FBJ makes the list and takes home the top spot.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #2 Jason Zucker

Jason Zucker
Born: January 16, 1992
Height: 5'11" Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Houston (AHL)/Minnesota (NHL)
Acquired: 2nd round pick (59th overall) in 2010 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: 4

Jason Zucker really had an up and down season with the Wild last year. He scored 19 goals with Houston before getting the call up from the Wild in mid February. Zucker scored three goals in his first five games with the Wild, and made a serious case to be on the team for the remainder of the year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #3 Nino Niederreiter

Nino Niederreiter
Born: September 8, 1992
Height: 6'2" Weight: 209
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Acquired: Traded from NYI on 6/30/13
Previous Rank: NR

Yes, Nino is considered a prospect and yes, he is the third best prospect in the system.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Training Camp Thoughts

The last few days, the Wild opened their doors to the fans for practice and scrimmage during the team's training camp. I was able to get down to Xcel Energy Center yesterday for the practice session, and was able to catch today's scrimmage via the team's website (although the video quality was no help). Here are a few thoughts from the past few days:

Top 10 Prospects: #4 Matt Dumba

Matt Dumba
Born: July 25, 1994
Height: 6'0" Weight: 181 lbs
Shoots: Right
2012-13 Team: Red Deer (CHL)/Houston (AHL)
Acquired: 1st round pick (7th overall) in 2012 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: 7

When the Wild drafted Matt Dumba, it was a bit of a stretch to draft him over notable d-men Jacob Trouba, Derrick Pouliot and forward Filip Forsberg. But Chuck Fletcher liked what he saw from Dumba and took the Red Deer star with the 7th overall pick.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #5 Darcy Kuemper

Darcy Kuemper
Born: May 5th, 1990
Height: 6'4" Weight: 196 lbs
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Houston (AHL)/Minnesota (NHL)
Acquired: 6th Round Pick (161st overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: NR

Entering last season, Darcy Kuemper was the 4th goalie on the Wild's depth chart behind Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Matt Hackett. After Harding went down and Matt Hackett was traded at the deadline (Kuemper was standing at the airport on deadline day not knowing whether he was traded or being called up), it was Kuemper who found himself suddenly in the second slot on that depth chart.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #6 Erik Haula

Erik Haula
Born: March 23, 1991
Height: 5'11" Weight: 192
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: University of Minnesota (WCHA)/Houston (AHL)
Acquired: 7th round pick (182nd overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: NR

Erik Haula needs no introduction to this state. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #7 Raphael Bussieres

Raphael Bussieres
Born: November 5th, 1993
Height: 6'1" Weight: 194 lbs
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Acquired: 2nd round pick (46th overall) in 2012 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: NR

With all the bigger name prospects the Wild have had the past few years, one name that has slipped under the radar is Raphael Bussieres. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #8 Zack Phillips

Zack Phillips
Born: October 28, 1992
Height: 6'1" Weight: 196
Shoots: Right
2012-13 Team: Houston (AHL)
Acquired: 1st Round Pick (28th Overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: 8

After tearing up the QMJHL, Zack Phillips finally made the jump to professional hockey with Houston last year. But it was not the best season for Phillips as he struggled heavily in his first season in the AHL, only putting up 27 points with the Aeros.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #9 Mario Lucia

Mario Lucia
Born: 08-25-1993
Height: 6'2" Weight: 183 lbs
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Notre Dame (CCHA)
Acquired: 2nd Round (60th overall) selection in 2011 Draft
Previous Rank: 10

Wild fans may not know much about the #10 ranked prospect Gustav Olofsson, but they know plenty about Mario Lucia. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: #10 Gustav Olofsson

Gustav Olofsson
Born: December 1st, 1994
Height: 6'2" Weight: 190 lbs
Shoots: Left
2012-13 Team: Green Bay (USHL)
Acquired: 2nd Round (46th Overall) Pick in 2013 NHL Draft
Previous Rank: NR

When the Wild drafted Gustav Olofsson with the team's first pick in this summer's draft, the entire fanbase let out a collective "WHO?!". Olofsson came onto the scene last year playing for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL as a defenseman. Before that he had been playing in Colorado for some U16 and U18 teams, after coming over from Sweden with his family.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Top 10 Prospects: Honorable Mentions

Today we kick off our countdown of the 10 best prospects the Wild have. But since the Wild have several "prospects" who could get serious NHL ice time this season, it was decided that a couple could no longer be a part of this list. 

Jonas Brodin and Charlie Coyle are locks for the NHL roster this season, and therefore, have been removed from consideration. Other than that, everyone else is fair game here because they are not for sure going to be on the NHL team this season.

With all that said, we kick off the Top 10 list with those who just missed the cut as honorable mentions:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Remembering Pavol Demitra

On a more serious note, today is the two year anniversary of the tragic plane crash of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. One of the players on Lokomotiv was former Wild player Pavol Demitra. Demitra, 36, was set to begin his second season with the team after his NHL career ended with the Vancouver Canucks early in the 2009-10 season.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Countdown Hits 27

There are 27 days left until the regular season opener between the Los Angeles Kings and the Minnesota Wild. So for your enjoyment, here is a rare highlight from the Wild's #27, Mike Rupp

The speed demon Mike Rupp blows past Shea Weber for a breakaway

Oh, by the way, Mike Rupp's health is a bit of a concern now. 

Happy Friday!

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vanek Watch: The Pilot

Well here we are. It has finally come to this. Thomas Vanek gets his own watch with this site, like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter did last summer.

For those who don't understand why it has come to this, here is the story: Thomas Vanek (that guy who played for the Gophers in 2003, then was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and has played there ever since), is an impending unrestricted free agent next summer. The Wild have been rumored for a while to be a serious player for Vanek, since they will have adequate cap room (Dany Heatley's contract coming off the books is a huge contributor to this). So basically everyone wants to see Vanek, and all other former Gophers, return to the North Star state.

Last night, Josh Rimer stirred the Vanek to Minnesota pot with this tweet:
Rimer definitely uses the caps lock in the correct place here. The key word is "IF". So please remember that before you start celebrating Vanek's impending return to Minnesota.

The ransom to fetch Vanek at any point in the 2013-14 season would be greater than the return the Wild gave up for Jason Pominville last winter. The Wild would have to deal AT LEAST two of their top prospects and draft picks (one would be the team's 2014 first round pick and I'm guessing the Sabres would want another first too). Sorry folks, but that price is too steep. The Wild need to sit this one out.

Even if the Wild dont go after Vanek in the season, he will still be there when free agency opens on July 1st. Its becoming more and more clear that Vanek wants out of Buffalo, but wants to politely leave the bad situation that the team has become (meaning: he is not demanding a trade but he is not going to want a contract extension either). So should the Wild land Vanek on the open market, the only thing that is taking a hit is Craig Leipold's wallet (again) and not the farm system.

Gear up Wild fans, its going to be a long 10 months, but stay tuned for lots of coverage on Vanek Watch.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wild Unveil New Road Jerseys

Today at the Minnesota State Fair (I really dislike the phrase "The Great Minnesota Get Together") and on the team's website, the Minnesota Wild finally unveiled their new road jerseys for the 2013-14 season. The jerseys came after a week of teaser photos from the website and Twitter account.

The jersey was leaked for a brief period of time on the team's website last night, but it did not get past icethetics, who managed to get a post in about it.

Here is Zach Parise and Josh Harding modeling the new uniforms:

Overall, this is another great jersey from the Wild. I love the green on the shoulder, the bold red numbers, and the bars on the bottom give it an old school feel. The only complaint here is why go with the shoulder patches? The team's other two jerseys do not have shoulder patches, so one would of assumed that they would of been done away with with this jersey.

Expect this to be another hot selling jersey from the Wild. Whenever they release a new jersey, it has always been met with overwhelming demand.

Thoughts on the new jersey, Team of 18,001?

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell