Archive for the ‘Minnesota Wild’ 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).

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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.

Management
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.

Blogger GM vs. Real-life GM: Northwest division

March 12, 2009

To wrap up our Trade Deadline coverage, we’ll take a look at the big moves (and non-moves) in each division one-by-one. Did our contributors and their respective GMs see eye-to-eye? Would those guest posts provide a better reality than what really came about? Let’s take a look at the Northwest Division.

Real Life: Vancouver Canucks do nothing.

Zanstorm from Nucks Misconduct said:

“Something is going to go down by Wednesday. We officially have too many defencemen. I think Gillis may flog Shane O’Brien, Wellwood, or even Mason Raymond with a pick included to acquire either a top 6 forward or a 3rd line player.”

The ‘Nucks didn’t do anything. It looks like that could have been the right (non)move.

Real Life: Colorado Avalanche trade Jordan Leopold to Calgary Flames for two prospect D and a 2nd round pick in 2009.

Tapeleg from Jerseys and Hockey Love said:

“Ryan Smyth is going nowhere, let’s just get that out of the way. He has a no-trade, and doesn’t seem like he wants to leave. And frankly, I would have a long talk with him about how I felt he was performing and what his position would be if he didn’t have that clause, and try to get a better dollar to performance ratio going from him for next season.

After that, the list is extremely short. Maybe Ruslan Salei, or Jordan Leopold. For these guys, you need back what you are letting go, only a better incarnation, defensemen who can move the puck (the holy grail). Then you start getting into bag of pucks guys (I’m looking at you, Tyler Arnason) or guys no one really wants (Tucker, Hannan). And finally, the youth and picks, and I wouldn’t let those guys go. What are you going to do, dangle a Chris Stewart or a David Jones for a few picks? It won’t happen, and it shouldn’t.”

Tapeleg got Smyth and Leopold right, so that’s an emphatic Correct.

Real Life: Minnesota does nothing

Wild View from Section 216 said:

“The problem is Gaborik has no trade value right now. I’ve got to let him come back from his injury this season and hope that I can sign him to a one-year deal, then get something for him next year. The move I make is with Backstrom. I have an anemic offense and I’ve got to get some scoring.

I make a move on Backstrom because I have a good goalie in Josh Harding waiting for his chance and a defensive coach (understatement of the year). I also know there are teams looking to shore up their goaltending heading into the playoffs, and if I can get someone with slightly above-average scoring prowess, and if Gaborik comes back with some fire, suddenly I’ve got more offense to make this playoff push.

And that will make Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, and Owen Nolan better instead of relying on them for all my scoring. And instead of making the playoffs as the 8th seed and losing to Detroit in the 1st round, maybe there’s a bit of run in this team after all.

Unfortunately, I’m not real Wild GM, and none of this will happen.”

Some bold stuff from Wild View. Both right and wrong (with the qualifying last sentence).

Real Life: Calgary Flames become the biggest factor in the trade deadline, acquiring Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold for 1st and 2nd round draft picks with prospects plus Matthew Lombardi.
Kent from Five Hole Fanatics pleaded for the Flames to move Todd Bertuzzi, but also:

“In addition, I would make a play for Jordan Leopold. The former Flame was slowed by injuries in Colorado, but was probably the best ever partner for shut-down man Robyn Regehr here in Calgary.

The Avs are out of the running and Leopold is under the radar thanks to his poor luck during his time there. He could probably be had for a prospect/pick and would instantly step into the divide left by the down-for-the-count Mark Giordano. Then, you can try to re-sign Leopold to take over for the departing Adrian Aucoin, who is UFA in July.”

Well done, Kent.

Real Life: Edmonton acquires Ales Kotalik, Patrick O’Sullivan and a second round pick for Erik Cole, a second round pick and a fifth round pick.

Wasn’t able to get an Oilers blogger, but Edmonton did a great job during the deadline.

If you were the GM (Northwest division)

March 4, 2009

(With the trade deadline upon us, Cycle like the Sedins decided to ask about 30 or so friends in the blogosphere to represent his or her team and answer the question: “What would you do if you were the GM during the trade deadline?

Since things change in a heartbeat, the date of each person’s submission is listed next to each entry. So before you start screaming “BUT THEY TRADED HIM!” while food spills out of your mouth, we’re showing what they thought at the time.

Don’t like it? Psh.)

Vancouver
Zanstorm from Nucks Misconduct
(March 1)

Given the failure of Kyle Wellwood to emerge as a top 6 forward and now a 3rd line center, I’m thinking he’s either going to get traded or waived. In that case, a 3rd line center needs to be acquired. I don’t know about a certain center that is available that we should go after to fill that role.

Has Mark Recchi ever played center? He is the one guy that I would love to see in the 3rd line role and maybe even on one of the 2 power play units. He’d fit in well with the Sedins there.

And speaking of the Sedins, I don’t know how long Alex Burrows will be given a shot on the top line with them.

Personally, I’d rather see Burrows back on the 3rd line. Maybe Recchi could fill in a permanent spot with the Twins 5-on-5 and on the power play. He has a great presence around the net. (And he is a BC boy after all!)

Something is going to go down by Wednesday. We officially have too many defencemen. I think Gillis may flog Shane O’Brien, Wellwood, or even Mason Raymond with a pick included to acquire either a top 6 forward or a 3rd line player.

Some people say we need a puck-moving defenceman. I disagree. I think Bieksa, Ohlund, Salo and Edler fill that role already.

Is Gillis going to go big on a name like Keith Tkachuk? I really don’t know. He has mentioned that Mats Sundin was his big catch and that he doesn’t want to disrupt the team’s chemistry at the deadline. So that’s why I’m thinking a Recchi-type will be acquired. He’s a leader, a winner, and he won’t cost us too much, as we don’t have too much to offer.

Just my 2 cents.

Yankee Canuck from Nucks Misconduct
(March 1)

It feels like each NHL deadline brings with it the media suggesting everyone in the damn league, playoff bound or not, needs a “puck moving defensemen”. I say screw that; even though Vancouver is tied to Bouwmeester in recent rumors, their defense is more or less fine as is
and they don’t need top tier talent who they’d most certainly have to cough up a first round pick (which, if you’ve seen their farm system lately, you’d know damn well they need). In anything, with Vaananen now on board it suggests a D-man like Salo or O’Brien could be on the
move (or Ohlund assuming he’d waive his NTC).

Also with Vigneault’s man-child Rypien appearing near a return, a bottom six winger could be on the move too. And honestly that’s where Vancouver needs the most help: reinforcements on the wings, preferably a known scorer, a veteran or someone that inspires a bit more offensive confidence than the likes of Pyatt, Bernier or wherever the hell Wellwood is these days. Right now the Canucks are playing well enough to promote Kesler and Burrows, but if those two slow down or need to return to the third line in more of a shutdown mode, what their top six becomes gets mighty depressing without some deadline help.

If Mike Gillis can swing for a winger or two in exchange for a mid round pick, some of the aforementioned dead weight or a prospect not named Hodgson, Schneider or Grabner I’d call the deadline a win.

Chris Kontos:Tkachuk and Wellwood on the same team would be an amazing pairing… those guys should totally room together on the road. The room service bill would totally cut into the salary cap. I don’t think Tkachuk is going anywhere, but picking up Recchi would be a perfect fit and help continue Recchi’s quest to play for every NHL team.

James O’Brien: Some teams have a grind-it-out fate. The Vancouver Canucks seem to be one of those teams. Their lineup seems pretty solid, if unspectacular. Cannot offer much more than a “shrug” on the Canucks.

***

Colorado Avalanche

Mile High Hockey
(March 1)

Mired in last place and playing awful, awful hockey, the Colorado Avalanche are going to be sellers at the deadline. However, most of their bigger assets – guys like Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk – have no-trade clauses and a serious case of…well, whatever the opposite of wanderlust
is. In other words, they ain’t moving. How active the Avs are at the deadline will depend on Francois Giguere’s ability to convince someone that our useless dreck – guys like Darcy Tucker and Tyler Arnason – are the perfect pieces for a Stanley Cup run.

The Avalanche really need a goalie – hey, that “Lalongo” guy Don Cherry keeps raving about isn’t available, is he? Yeah, didn’t thinks so. In light of that, I will use the GM power vested in me to swing the following trade with the Boston Bruins: Ian Laperriere and Jordan Leopold for Manny Fernandez. All three players are unrestricted free agents this summer and have been mentioned in trade talks. The Bruins would get a puck moving defensemen they reportedly are coveting as well as terrific do-whatever-it-takes-to-win forward to improve the team both on the ice and in the locker room. Both players would help any team in the playoffs, and the B’s seem to be as good a fit as any. The Avalanche get that number one goalie they so desperately need. At 33, he’s no spring chicken, but beggars can’t be choosers. Oh, and my GM magic wand will force Fernandez to agree to an extension before the trigger is pulled on the deal.

That’s my GM for a day trade. It kills me to trade “Lappy” and the fans are going to hate me for letting him go, but contract talks have broken down and I need to be able to get something for him. Plus, he’ll get a chance to do a reverse Bourque, moving from Colorado to Boston to win a
Cup. Leopold is walking this summer no matter what, so his inclusion in a deal is a no-brainer. And Manny? I know about the knee and the age. I don’t care – he’ll be the best goalie we’ve had since the retirement of St Patrick.
Tapeleg from Jerseys and Hockey Love
(2/28)

It’s a strange position for the Colorado Avalanche, since this is the first time as a franchise that they have been sellers. But the question is, do they have anything to sell anyone wants?

When the biggest name on the list is Ian Laperriere, you know you have a problem. Lappy has been the heart and soul of the franchise for the last year, ever since Joe Sakic got hurt (aka: Super Joe vs Super Snow). He becomes a UFA at the end of the season, but if you could resign him, maybe trade him away and convince him to come back so you pick up a draft pick, then I would consider it.

Ryan Smyth is going nowhere, let’s just get that out of the way. He has a no-trade, and doesn’t seem like he wants to leave. And frankly, I would have a long talk with him about how I felt he was performing and what his position would be if he didn’t have that clause, and try to get a better dollar to performance ratio going from him for next season.

After that, the list is extremely short. Maybe Ruslan Salei, or Jordan Leopold. For these guys, you need back what you are letting go, only a better incarnation, defensemen who can move the puck (the holy grail). Then you start getting into bag of pucks guys (I’m looking at you, Tyler Arnason) or guys no one really wants (Tucker, Hannan). And finally, the youth and picks, and I wouldn’t let those guys go. What are you going to do, dangle a Chris Stewart or a David Jones for a few picks? It won’t happen, and it shouldn’t.

If I were making a long story short, you have to have a dance partner for a trade, and looking at this list, there would be very few dance partners out there. Hell, there may be very few dancers at all. The phone in GM Francois Gigurere’s office must have squeeze marks embedded in it, or have been thrown against the wall. Even being sellers, I think the Avs team we see now will be the same team we see for the last game of the season.

Chris Kontos:As a Kings fan, never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d see the day when the hated AV’s would be in last place. It’s been a long time coming for this team and only Joe Sakic can remember what it felt like to be a Quebec Nordique. This team needs a goalie. And Manny would be a great fit, but if I’m Boston, I’m not letting him go. If the Av’s are selling, a goalie, especially a young one must be coming the other way.

James O’Brien: While I agree that the Avalanche are quite poor in net, at least they are employing poor men in net. Their goaltending spending is quite Detroit Red Wings like – which is about the only similarity any longer between those two diverging rivals.

To me, the Avalanche employ quite a few middle-of-the-road defensemen for $3 million a pop. Ugh, this team is built on a Jenga-like foundation. To extend the childhood toy analogy, this team just needs to shake that etch-a-sketch and start all over with Paul Stastny and … I’m sure there’s SOMEONE else worth keeping on that roster. Right? Maybe?

***

Minnesota Wild

Wild View from Section 216
(2/27)

If I’m Wild GM in a world where the fans are about to revolt if my team doesn’t make the playoffs, I’m a lot more bold than real Wild GM Doug Reisbrogh (who lives in some kind of fantasy world where he thinks he is untouchable). I have two big decisions to make…what to do with UFAs F Marian Gaborik and G Niklas Backstrom. Gaborik has been injured for long periods of time in each of his nine seasons except one, and he has shown me no desire to stay in Minnesota long term. Backstrom is a goalie that emerged out of nowhere to be one of the top goalies in the league.

The problem is Gaborik has no trade value right now. I’ve got to let him come back from his injury this season and hope that I can sign him to a one-year deal, then get something for him next year. The move I make is with Backstrom. I have an anemic offense and I’ve got to get some scoring. I make a move on Backstrom because I have a good goalie in Josh Harding waiting for his chance and a defensive coach (understatement of the year). I also know there are teams looking to shore up their goaltending heading into the playoffs, and if I can get someone with slightly above-average scoring prowess, and if Gaborik comes back with some fire, suddenly I’ve got more offense to make this playoff push. And that will make Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, and Owen Nolan better instead of relying on them for all my scoring. And instead of making the playoffs as the 8th seed and losing to Detroit in the 1st round, maybe there’s a bit of run in this team after all.

Unfortunately, I’m not real Wild GM, and none of this will happen.

Elise from18,568 Reasons Why (2/27)

Minnesota fans are used to not expecting much at the trade deadline – the biggest trades have included names like Dominic Moore, Adam Hall, and Chris Simon. But this year there are big decisions that have to be made about important players like Marian Gaborik and Niklas Backstrom and the team’s future as a whole.

There’s uncertainty about whether the team will even make the playoffs this season, leading to questions about whether the Wild should bother trying to get a rental player or should start rebuilding for next year. A lot of this will not even be determined by the trade deadline – the rest of Minnesota’s schedule is tough and 14 of 17 in March are on the road.

The best trade for the Wild would probably be to get rid of a member of the clogged defensive corps (most likely stay-at-home Kim Johnsson or powerplay expert Marc-Andre Bergeron) for some offense. Another option would be to trade Gaborik for anything they could. After the injuries and bad relations between the team and Gaby’s agent, there’s no chance the sniper will be staying with Minnesota long-term.

Backstrom also has the potential to be moved, but his chance of moving is much lower than the others. His contract goes through this season, but there have been talks between the team and Backy (whose agent gets along very well with the Wild.) Any trade the Wild makes, it will be for offense, there’s no doubt about that. This team has too much defense and will never win unless they can score more.

Chris Kontos: With Backstrom getting signed today, Gaborik remains the mystery. As a GM, can you really allow this guy to walk away for nothing. There is no way he is coming back to a Jacques Lemaire coached Wild team (can you believe Gaborik played all these years in that defensive system!) so they should get what they can for a damaged Gaborik. Maybe they could continue their short history of bonehead trades with the Kings (really, Patrick O’Sullivan and a 10th overall pick for Demitra) and give the Kings Gaborik for Kyle Calder.

James O’Brien: It seems like the Wild are going to have to tough it out with Marian Gaborik. I really wonder how Wild fans feel about the guy. He was their best player in their long ago run to the Western Conference Finals, then turned into an even less lucky version of Martin Havlat. Why not just dump him for next to nothing and move on? I know I’d want to get him out of site if I was in that spot.

***

Calgary Flames

March 2

Kent from Five Hole Fanatics

If I was Sutter at the deadline, I’d look for a way to flip ToddBertuzzi for whatever I could get. Bert’s stats look alright (3rd highest scorer on the Flames), but it has almost everything to do with lots of ice time with excellent players, rather than any inherent value he brings. In fact, Bert’s been something of lead weight in the Flames top 6 this year – partially because he makes terrible decisions in his own and neutral zones and partially because Keenan refuses to see Bertuzzi for what he is: a marginal player who’s good at the highlight reel stuff but lousy at everything else.

Bertuzzi has a thoroughly mediocre ESP/60 rate (1.94), that’s good for 7th on the team (behind such guys as David Moss and Curtis Glencross).He also has the second worst corsi rate of any regular skating forward(4.4) ahead of only Dustin Boyd (who is 22 and has spent most of the year on the 4th line). Oh, and Bertuzzi’s quality of teammates as ranked by behindthenet.ca? A 2nd best 0.17 (Conroy is first with 0.18). Bert doesn’t play against the toughest competition either (-0.01). In short, he’s getting mediocre results in very favorable circumstances.

So deal him at the deadline to a contender in the East who wants to upgrade their forward depth. Get some lesser roster player and a draft pick and you win the trade, hands down.

In addition, I would make a play for Jordan Leopold. The former Flame was slowed by injuries in Colorado, but was probably the best ever partner for shut-down man Robyn Regehr here in Calgary.

The Avs are out of the running and Leopold is under the radar thanks to his poor luck during his time there. He could probably be had for a prospect/pick and would instantly step into the divide left by the down-for-the-count Mark Giordano. Then, you can try to re-sign Leopold to take over for the departing Adrian Aucoin, who is UFA in July.

Chris Kontos: Wow! This is the most out there one yet. But trading Bertuzzi kinda makes sense. Too bad that Cammalleri is off to the races next season because he has seemed to be a nice fit in Calgary with Iginla.

James O’Brien: If there was an easy way to quantify hate (Kent would know it), I wonder who would win a Bertuzzi hate-off between Kent and I. We both seem to agree that getting rid of Bertuzzi is addition by subtraction. That’s good enough for me.

EDMONTON: (No guest post … maybe tomorrow)

Crosby hate or How I learned to stop worrying and love the stats (Morning cycle)

February 23, 2009

But c’mon guys, the Crosby hate is starting to be excessive. Look, we all understand that Sid the Kid gets media coverage that is not quite proportionate to his standing in the league. That doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best forwards, just that he’s not the only fish in the sea. Here’s the analogy that makes the most sense to me:

Consider NHL marketing a pizza. There’s eight slices and four dudes who want that stuffed crust. Let’s say we have Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla/whichever fourth forward strikes your fancy at the dinner table. It’s not unreasonable to give each guy two slices, but really, Crosby gets about 5 slices and the rest are lucky to even get one.

It would be like Lebron James receving all the attention unless Kobe Bryant found a way to score 30 points blindfolded. I get that.

Still, let’s not forget how lucky we are as NHL fans. The under-30 talent in this league is almost obscene. Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin are joined by Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ales Hemsky, Anze Kopitar and the list goes on and on.

It’s fine to dislike Crosby, but there may come a time when you regret frowning every time he touches the puck.

  • For the longest time, it seemed, stats filled my head with a rage only matched by Rush Limbaugh’s anger after a Donovan McNabb touchdown pass.

Perhaps, though, my deep hatred was for the statistics highlighted by ESPN and other networks when they cover sports rather than stats themselves. How many times per year do you roll your eyes at an obscure contextual statistic … one that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of anything?

After spending the last year getting more deeply involved in the hockey blogosphere than expected, my viewpoint of Moneyball/Bill James inspired statistics changed profoundly. It is painfully obvious that judging a player by studying superficial stats like plus/minus simply cannot cut it any longer.

Last week featured some fantastic examples of the best in stat-crunching and the last month shows my rapidly increased interest in “looker deeper.” You can find some great examples of good stat use in a footnote at the bottom of this post.* (And for not as great examples, there are a few I wrote in that footnote too.)

  • Here’s an open challenge: find a way to convince me that the Minnesota Wild can actually make the playoffs. Before you scream “they’re the eight (blanking) seed!” take a look at their positively homicidal schedule.

After they host the Kings tomorrow, they must go through this road trip: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, LA Kings and Anaheim. That’s a six game run against borderline to ironclad playoff teams. And to be honest, their schedule isn’t much easier from there.

  • And, finally, from the Be Careful What You Wish For department: in this high tech era in which people can take a photo of you with a phone, is it finally time to admit that being a public figure might just suck? At least a little bit?

Obviously, the Montreal Canadiens might not be the wisest decision makers when it comes to public intoxication, but this stuff keeps happening in sports and beyond. Sure, it would be great to sleep with gorgeous women, play a child’s sport for a living and rake in millions of dollars. No doubt about it, if I was a pro hockey player no one would be allowed to bring electronics into my home or parties and everything – banana peels, veal cutlets, everything – that goes into my trash would be shredded. Perhaps there are advantages to anonymity.

(Seriously, whoever snapped that photo of Michael Phelps might get the Wayne Gretzky/Mario Lemieux “skip the grace period” treatment. Just rush that douche into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame.)

* – It’s non-hockey, but Moneyball author Michael Lewis took a fascinating look into the way the Houston Rockets measure Shane Battier’s under-the-radar contributions.

Matt from Battle of Alberta’s breakdown of Alex Kovalev’s struggles will leave you snickering at the surface-level “body language” type commentaries of talking heads.

Our pal Earl Sleek found some stark examples of how the Ducks currently handle tie game situations versus better time’s for the Quack attack.

Your fearful author also published some stories that crunch stats in the last month. Most recently, there was my team-by-team breakdown of goaltending tandems. Also, while moonlighting at Battle of California I took a look at the Western Conference: (bubble bursting part I, part II and part III).