Archive for the ‘Elise from 18000 reasons why’ Category

Elise from 18568 Reasons Why talks Gaborik and the Minnesota Wild’s Free Agent situation

June 30, 2009

We’ve been critical of Marian Gaborik (“Can’t spell Gaborik without IR“) before but there is one fan base that must face a lot of mixed emotions about the talented Slovak who is in a constant state of repair. That would be Minnesota Wild fans.

To take the temperature of those fine funny accented folks, we asked our pal Elise from 18568 Reasons Why to share her thoughts on what might happen for the Wild on Wednesday. Make sure to follow her blog as the rumors turn to reality or lies.

1. Which player, for the love of God, do you NOT want to see in your team’s sweater in the 09-10 season?

Benoit Pouliot (Wild RFA). Unless he starts getting his act together and putting in the effort to become the very skilled scorer he was expected to be when the Wild drafted him fourth overall in 2005.

2. Conversely, pick a potential move by another team that would just crush your soul/favorite team’s chances.

Marian Gaborik to the Vancouver Canucks. Last year it was Pavol Demitra to the division rival Nucks (of course getting a tour from the team captain, a prior relationship with the GM, and agreeing to a contract way before free agency isn’t tampering!) and this year, with the rumor of a purchased house, it’s supposedly Gaby and his newly repaired hip/groin (maybe he just really, really likes the scenery in BC? wanted to be comfortable up there since Minnesota plays Vancouver so often? or maybe he just can’t stand being separated from his bff Pavol). Anyway, after everything the Wild has done and given up for Gaby through his entire career (all with the Wild), for him to go to Vancouver would, to put it bluntly, suck.

Especially after spending quite a bit of his tenure in Minnesota complaining about the style of play and lack of offensive freedom. Minnesota may have been one of the more boring teams with the trap (pre-recent front office explosion, of course), but Vancouver wasn’t much better. If Gaby would like a change of scenery, I would suggest a more drastic one; like an Eastern Conference team (hey Gabs, I hear Jacques might be coaching the Devils, fun times in NJ eh).

Elise from 18,568 Reasons Why reasons with us regarding the Wild’s upcoming draft

June 22, 2009

Elise from 18568 Reasons Why has frequently contributed Minnesota Wild views to CLS. While the formerly Lemaire-lead Wild might be dull, Elise’s blog is far from it. Make sure to follow her coverage of the team as it goes in what could be a very different direction next season.

1. After all those years of (some might even say bland) same-ness, the Wild made some big front office changes. Do you see the franchise going in a different direction, particularly in the way they draft? Talk about a few prospects you’d like to see playing in ‘Soter.

There have already been talks of how different things will be since basically the entire front office and half the coaching staff is gone. In the span of the thus far short off-season, the Wild have lost a GM, Assistant GM, Head Coach, and Assistant Coach (with the fate of the rest of the staff unsure). Tommy Thompson, the Wild’s retained Assistant GM, told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune {LINK} that the team will be looking for a player with “pizzazz” in this year’s draft. One thing that’s likely to be different is the amount of picks.

In the past, ex-GM Doug Risebrough used often used picks in trades, leading to a dearth of quality prospects, particularly in recent years. For instance, the Wild draft 12th this year and currently have no second or third round picks because they were traded away last year (one in the Nashville deal to acquire Marek Zidlicky, the other to move up in last year’s draft) and have had no third round picks in three years. Another thing of the past that should change is the reluctance to make big-name trades.

At the draft and trade deadline, names would float and trade talks were rumored, but the Wild never really made any big moves. With new GM Chuck Fletcher not afraid to shake things up, something exciting could happen to acquire more picks or a player. Names that were being thrown around as possible trade bait included Zidlicky, Derek Boogaard, Josh Harding, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, among others.

2. With the Marian Gaborik situation still unresolved, how likely do you think it could be that Gabby could turn into another high draft pick or something of that nature? Do you think the Wild could make waves at the draft by moving Gabby’s negotiating rights?

The Gaborik situation is one of the big uncertainties right now. Fletcher’s reached out to Gaby and his agent, Ron Salcer, since taking the job and they are talking, but it would be hard to close a deal this close to free agency. But Fletcher does have a lot of experience negotiating contracts and firing two of the guys Salcer had the biggest problems with – Risebrough and ex-Assistant GM Tom Lynn – certainly could send a message to Gaby. One thing the organization had problems with in the past is letting free agents walk for nothing (see: Rolston, Brian). Hopefully that trend won’t continue, and I don’t believe it will.

If Fletcher chooses to trade Gaborik’s negotiating rights, he obviously has to get that done soon and the draft would be an ideal place to do that. But even if no one signs him before July 1 and he enters the summer with no strings attached, Fletcher will still contact Gaborik to talk about the possibility of a new contract with Minnesota. Despite the difficulties of the Wild-Gaborik relationship, this is still the team that drafted him and who helped shape him into the player he is today; a team he has a eight year relationship with. And after spending most of the season on IR, teams still might be reluctant to sign him long-term, even after his surgery which supposedly fixed everything forever.

3. Looking back now, it seems like the Wild are one of the NHL franchises that lean on the draft most heavily. Describe some of the team’s most shrewd draft moves. Are there any “steals” that stand out to you?

A lot of the Wild’s core players have come from the draft – Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns, Marian Gaborik, etc. But most of their draft success came in the early years of the organization. Lately, less draft picks have advanced to the NHL and, as many have stated, the prospect cupboard is bare. Sure, a couple of young drafts have made it up (James Sheppard, Colton Gillies) but that’s mainly been due to need and age (too young to send to the AHL, too good for their junior team). And these young guys simply aren’t ready for the NHL quite yet. But there have also been some good moves that might have gone overlooked.

The team had a good year in 2001, drafting Stephane Veilleux 93rd overall and Derek Boogaard 202nd overall. They also snagged Cal Clutterbuck 72nd in 2006, and he had a fantastic year this year, breaking the single season hits record and spawning a fan push for Calder recognition. Harding was drafted 38th overall in 2002 and he’s developed into a very solid goaltender.

4. On the flip side, every team makes mistakes in the draft. What are some of those moves that look quite boneheaded to you. Are there any mistake picks that really cause Wild fans to ask “What if?” type questions?

One thing Minnesotans are always pushing for and craving more of on this team is homegrown talent – good ol’ Minnesota boys who grew up playing on the outdoor rinks in the State of Hockey and craving the trip to Xcel to play in the High School State Tournament. That hasn’t seemed to work out too well for the Wild, case in point being the drafting of AJ Thelen. Thelen was a defenseman who grew up in Savage, MN and was drafted by the Wild in 2004, 12th overall. He never made it very far, struggling after being booted from the Michigan State hockey team as a sophomore for rule infractions. He wasn’t re-signed by the Wild after his contract was up and currently is playing in the ECHL.

Another now questionable draft pick was Benoit Pouliot, drafted fourth overall in 2005. Pouliot hasn’t developed like everyone wanted to, and although there’s still a chance, Wild fans seem to be losing hope on him. He’s shone flashes, but has never been consistent or put enough effort in. Some players that were drafted behind him? Carey Price, Devin Setoguchi, Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, TJ Oshie, Kris Letang, and Mason Raymond, among others. One of the more “What if?” moves was when the Wild chose to trade top prospect Patrick O’Sullivan to the LA Kings for Pavol Demitra (who conveniently happened to be bffs with Gaby who conveniently happened to be in a contract holdout with the Wild at the time). Demitra struggled in Minnesota and with Jacques Lemaire’s system while O’Sullivan turned into a very, very good player. I always wonder what would have happened had we kept Sully…

Soapbox Time If you’d like, feel free to bring up some topics/issues we didn’t touch on. What’s your feeling about the new management and the general direction of the team?

I always get excited for a new season. It’s sad to see players go, but there are new ones to learn about who come and take their place. But for the first time in awhile, I’m more excited than usual. And I think I can safely call that a blanket statement for most of the fans. So many changes have already been made and seeing how this organization will change into the up-tempo team promised excites me. After so many seasons of the same thing, change is coming in huge waves for Minnesota. We might not be a great team right away, but the organization is going in a very different, and invigorating, direction.

Hockey Orphan: Elise from 18,568 Reasons Why on the Minnesota Wild

April 4, 2009
(Click on the logo above for the master post)

(Elise from 18,568 Reasons Why provided this great Hockey Orphan entry. Make sure to follow her Wild coverage and Microsoft Paint wizardry for all your Wild needs. Thanks, Elise!)

So you want to be a Wild fan, eh? Oh, you just happened to be reading this blog and were informed that you had amnesia and are a hockey orphan for the next five minutes? Ok then, we can work with that too.

The Wild is based out of Minnesota, lovingly dubbed The State of Hockey, and is, to put it bluntly, a second try for pro hockey in the state. We used to have the North Stars until they ditched in 1993 for better weather down south in Texas. The team changed Minnesota to Dallas and dropped the “North” and *poof* you have the current Dallas Stars.

Minnesota hockey fans spent the next 7 years mourning, lamenting, and soaking up as much hockey as possible at the junior, high school, and college levels. Until 2000, when the Wild were born…

Why to avoid the Wild – let’s start with the bad

The Trap
Let’s just get this out of the way first, shall we? It’s the first thing that comes to mind when non-Wild fans think of this team. Many times, these thoughts are accompanied with unpleasant ones, usually along the theme of sleep, boredom, or numbness. But it’s really not that bad. Yes, the Wild play the trap system and yes, that can be boring. They do know how to play real hockey though, too. Sometimes.

The Wild has had basically the same management since their inception in 2000. Jacques Lemaire is the coach, Doug Risebrough is the GM. The ownership recently changed, but new owner Craig Leipold (yes, the ex-Preds owner) has said he has no intention of shaking up anything managerial-wise. Which could be bad for the team’s future. Lemaire will most likely retire this summer, but Risebrough hasn’t said anything about going anywhere anytime soon. And the Wild are stuck in a rut. They never get the big free agents, they never make big trade deadline moves, and they’ve failed again and again to re-sign key players and fill obvious needs. The team has seemed to be stagnant the past seasons, stuck in a state of constant mediocrity. Because of this, the Wild either miss the playoffs or are bumped in the first round, and then get alright but not super prospects instead of top tier draft picks.

Marian Gaborik
Gaborik is a great talent, there’s no denying that, but he brings tons of baggage along with him. There are the days he doesn’t want to try. The seemingly never ending contract disputes. The groin explosions. The complaints about not being given enough offensive freedom. Not thinking before opening his mouth and making comments to the media. It can quickly turn into a massive headache for fans, especially when he’s not playing well or injured.

Team Appearance
The official names of the Wild’s colors just sound Minnesotan: Iron Range Red, Forest Green, Minnesota Wheat, and Harvest Gold. But basically the main two colors are red and green and the Wild end up looking like Christmas sometimes. There’s also the mascot…what type of animal is the logo? what does it represent? what does the name “Wild” even really mean? what sort of animal is Nordy the mascot? why does Nordy the mascot have a mullet and weird forehead markings?

Why to love the Wild – I recommend this route

Marian Gaborik
He can be a pain, but he’s super speedy, has a lethal wrist shot, and is a superb talent as an elite NHL sniper. Just watching him (when he’s trying) is fun and he can change the game if he feels like it.

The Developing Core

The Wild have some great young players who are the face of the franchise – captain and center Mikko Koivu, forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and James Sheppard, and defensemen Brent Burns and Nick Schultz. All are young, all are talented, and all are still developing. Koivu is the can-do-anything forward and MVP of the team. He’s emerged recently and this team is now his. Bouchard and Sheppard are still developing their games, especially Shep, but both have shown flashes of their skills and just need to become more consistent. Burns could have been named to the All-Star team last year and is one of the nicest guys off the ice, always interacting with fans and kids. Schultz is the stay-at-home, always there, always dependable defenseman. This core should be there for the Wild for years to come and will hopefully lead the team to future successes.

The Old Guys
There are the young guys, there is the core, there’s the superstar, but the old guys on the Wild who add character and grit to the team. Owen Nolan and Andrew Brunette both give so much heart to this team that fans never want to see them retire. Brunette was a Wild favorite until the team screwed up and didn’t re-sign him, quickly learning their mistake when he played for the Colorado Avalanche. Brunette, the NHL’s reigning Iron Man for most of this season, returned to the Wild this summer and is currently playing with either a partially or fully torn ACL requiring surgery. Nolan has played through many injuries, including a knee injury, a broken toe, the flu, and sometimes multiple at once. The Wild were going through a terrible, terrible month in December when Nolan was out with an injury and the trainers and coaches didn’t want to let him play. But he walked into Lemaire’s office and demanded to be put back in the lineup; the Wild were instantly better. These two have set examples for younger players and contributed more than expected, taking the responsibility of being the heart and soul of the team.

The Fans and Atmosphere
The Greatest Hockey Fans in the World and the Team of 18,000 are just two of the nicknames given to Wild fans. The Xcel Energy Center (one of the nicest hockey facilities) has sold out every single pre-season, regular season, and post-season game in team history, packing 18,568 people in for every game and upwards of 19,000 for playoff games. The team knows the fans are some of the best and appreciates them – the team will give away 19 signed sticks, a couple signed jerseys, all the jerseys off of players backs, mugs, magnets, and more in Fan Celebration Week alone. The X and downtown St. Paul during playoff time is one of my favorite places to be.

I hope you enjoyed that little journey through the Minnesota Wild. I certainly did. If you’re ever in Minnesota during hockey season, I recommend that you take in a hockey game – pro, college, high school, squirts, whatever – and see what it’s like. It always makes for a fun time and a great experience.