21 November 2009

Wild at quarter season...

So the Wild find themselves in 14th place after defeating the Islanders last night. This is a season for growing pains for sure.

I was optimistic the Wild were good enough to make the playoffs, but I think they have probably missed based on how terrible the first part of this season has been.

Injuries have hurt, no Bouchard has been killer. However, most every team in the league is suffering more injuries than usual.

Richards has definitely had problems implementing this less defensive system. Hallmarked by the countless examples of goals "given away." But beyond that it seems Richards is having problems motivating the team. He admits to having been "protective" of the players and that's "gotten us where we have so far" in this story by Strib Wild beat writer/blogger extrordinaire Michael Russo.

I think there are a lot of problems this year that can be labeled as just being coaching related (being euphamised by "new system"), this is his first year and it's okay if he's having growing pains about being "the guy" for the first time in his career.

Richards probably deserves more criticism than he gets, on talent, the Wild are considerably better than they've shown, and the blame for that is usually the coaches. However, the Wild can throw this year away with the sole goal of just rebuilding. It is next year when the Wild will have the best chance to contend. Johnsson's contract will be off the books (what I would consider the end of Dougie's blunders) and possibly Nolan's as well if he retires (Not that I would like Nolan to leave, but his retirement at his age is very possible).

The Wild could have up to $9.3M in cap space right there in a year when the cap won't go up. They could probably negotiate Nolan down a bit if he decided not to retire, and they definitely should be able to negotiate Johnsson downward if they should want to keep him (I don't know why, he's still a defenseman that doesn't hit and rarely shoots, he's probably up to rarley from never this year knowing it's a contract year).

This will be a tough year for the Wild the rest of the way, they are 8 points out, but that's a tough road to come back from (I'll save the OT point rant for another time). But this can be looked at as a rebuilding year, next year let the expectations soar.

03 October 2009

Russo Confirms Huge SOTSOH I told you so!

Star Tribune Wild Columnist/Blogger Extrordinaire Michael Russo confirmed my opinion that Lemaire's resignation was pre-emptive as he expected to be fired by Riseborough.


"Last winter, GM Doug Risebrough came very close to firing coach Jacques Lemaire. It was told to me from an impeccable source, and if you read between the lines, confirmed by Risebrough. All he had to do was deny it. He didn’t. He just said it was “irrelevant” what he might have done last season because neither is here anymore."

SOTSO Hockey - 13 April 09

"Despite vague shows of support, I think Lemaire was going to end up the scapegoat for the Wild's underachiving this year, and I'm glad he's leaving under his own terms."


"Despite vague shows of support, I think Lemaire was going to end up the scapegoat for the Wild's underachiving this year, and I'm glad he's leaving under his own terms."

Looking Back, I think Lemaire did Leopold a favor. Had Lemaire waited for Dougie to fire him, Dougie might have been able to save his own skin with Leopold. Lemaire choosing to walk out on Riseborough may have clairified to Leopold where the problem was.

Game One of the new era tonight, in the same place where the old era ended (Columbus).

Enjoy Everyone!

01 October 2009

One Line NHL Predicitions...

The State of the State of Hockey is back!

The NHL's regular season opens tonight on Versus. Washington and Boston are just about underway, Joe Sakic will have his number retired in Denver later tonight. Real quick let me get my regular season predictions on the record.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
(C) Central, (N) Northwest, (P) Pacific

1> (P) San Jose - Heatley and Thorton make this offence very potent, though they probably overpaid. Still the Pacific division will again prove to be quite weak. Whether this tranlates into playoff victory or another early exit is the area of speculation
2> (N) Calgary - Bowemeister makes an already good D the best in the division. If Kippersieve plays better the Flames could run away with this.
3> (C) Chicago - The first team not called the Detroit Red Wings to win this division since 2001.

4> (C) Detroit - A year older and sans Hossa, this is the year they get eclipsed.
5> (C) St. Louis - They're still improving and should hang in the race a while, just not quite as many weapons as DET or CHI, yet... A good deadline deal could really make the Blues scary.
6> (N) Vancouver - Might challenge the Flames for the division.
7> (P) Anaheim - A ton of forward depth, especially with S. Koivu, but key losses on D and still a G contraversey.
8> (N) Minnesota - Perhaps a homer pick, but I think they've improved enough for a team one point out last year. But these last two playoff spots will be hotly contested until the bitter end.

9> (P) Dallas - Lot of optimism around this team post-Avery, but I say they still land out.
10> (C) Columbus - Could be in the hunt until the end.
11> (P) Los Angeles - They could be just a season away from the playoffs.
12> (C) Nashville - It's been too long since they've made the playoffs, but the Conference has passed the Preds by, and they play in the leagues toughest division.
13> (N) Edmonton - Not getting Heatly, Comrie's return, this looks to be a team destined for another season of turnover, the microscopic Canadian media won't help anything here.
14> (P) Phoenix - Uncertain summer hurt this team a bit, but they appear set to stay in the desert for a while
15> (N) Colorado - Tonight is Joe Sakic night, sadly, that will prove to be the highlight of their season.

PLAYOFFS
San Jose over Minnesota
Calgary over Anaheim
Chicago over Vancouver
Detroit over St. Louis

San Jose over Detroit
Chicago over Calgary

Chicago over San Jose

EASTERN CONFERENCE
(A) Atlantic, (N) Northeast, (S) Southeast
1> (S) Washington - This team will be great
2> (A) Pittsburgh - Remember they took 5th in the East last year
3> (N) Boston - Should still win the division, but will come a little bit back to earth (at least I'm not picking them 12th this season)

4> (A) Philadelphia - They could nip the Pens, but I'll just put them in a solid second for now.
5> (S) Carolina - Last seasons cinderella will take fewer teams by surprise this regular season
6> (A) New Jersey - I'm not as down on the Devils as most
7> (N) Montreal - Season 101 will be marginally better
8> (N) Ottawa - Ended up still getting a really good deal for Heatley

9> (A) New York Rangers- Surprise, early indications from broadway is Gabroik's already struggling to stay healthy.
10> (S) Florida - They again will be in the playoff race until the end.
11> (N) Buffalo - Another year's experience for this young team, wouldn't be shocking if they sneak in the playoffs
12> (N) Toronto - Most of the hype surrounding this team is from a xenophobic Canadian media. They're still firmly rebuilding for a while. Yet they will probably sell more tickets than most of the teams above them (except Montreal).
13> (S) Atlanta - Kovalchuk's impeding free agency is the big question, will they do well enough to try and sign him, or will the Thrash begin rebuilding. Still looking for playoff victory #1.
14> (S) Tampa Bay - Maybe they won't fire their coach after a month this year.
15> (A) New York Islanders - Still a ways from the top, but Tavares should be an exiting first building block.

PLAYOFFS
Washington over Ottawa
Pittsburgh over Montreal
New Jersey over Boston
Philadelphia over Carolina

Washington over New Jersey
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia

Washington over Pittsburgh

STANLEY CUP FINALS
Washington over Chicago

14 July 2009

Wild Prospect Camp, Schedule, Lemaire moves on...

1) Prospect Camp

I had a great time at Wild Prospect Camp this summer. I've been in the building for select-a-seat when prospect camp was going on, but I've never gone to the open to the public scrimmage event before, so I didn't really know what to expect.

It was a great time. I won't pretend I have any scouting insights. Russo wrote a decent summary of the game events. Also, there were interviews (including Fletcher and Russo, also honorary coaches Burns and Clutterbuck).

But I would estimate about 3,000 fans showed up on a nice Sunday in July to get a little taste of winter. It was fun.

2) Schedule Tomorrow

The NHL will release their schedule probably tomorrow, in conjunction with an announcment at Fenway park, where all will expect confirmation of the worst kept secret in the NHL that the Bruins will be hosting the Winter Classic this season on New Years day at Fenway. Also keep in mind that this is an Olympic year, so there will be a break in the schedule so players can represent their countries at the Vancouver Games.

3) Lemaire to the Devils

This has been speculated on for a while, but former Wild and Devils head Coach Jacques Lemaire is again the head coach of the Devils. I didn't really think Lemaire would stay retired. I think he'll be around the game until he dies, and I can't help but wish him well in New Jersey. I'm glad he quit to avoid being fired by Riseborough, but I don't think Lamarillo is the easiest GM to work for either. Still I think he did a good job here, given he didn't have a great boss to work for.

06 July 2009

Free Agency, the week after

So 48 hours of Saku-watch proved fruitless as it appears he's going to take his time before deciding on a suitor. Most of the blogosphere seemed to have this deal as imminent but apparantly the sides are a year apart on term. Saku is 36, but has apparantly been offered a 4 year deal whereas the Wild are reportedly unwilling to go beyond 3.

Saku Koivu (Mikko's elder brother by 8 years) is the best UFA Center remaining, and once it became clear it was possible for him to sign elsewhere he undoubtedly has many suitors.

So here's what I think. On the surface, Saku Koivu is easily worth $4M for the next two seasons if Owen Nolan is worth that. They both strike me as veteran guys looking who are/were looking for better situations and still have a lot left in the tank. Also this is Koivu's last contract so I understand that he would pass on us to go somewhere offering a longer deal.

The problem is the Wild are within $7M of the cap and haven't signed any RFA's yet. The Wild have plenty of D, but I think signing Saku would be easier if we didn't have to pay Johnsson $5M a year. And Saku would clearly contribute more to victory than Johnsson.

Overall I'm pleased with Fletcher, but the one bone I have to pick is his stating that we don't want to go for anyone else at Center. If we go with who we have again from an offensive standpoint, we aren't that much better than the start of last year. I don't think Bouchard is the answer at center, if he were, they wouldn'tve traded for Fritche last year. So it's Shep at #2 again (even though he probably belongs as a #3 or #4 center). Good Center's are hard to get, which is why the 36yo vet Saku Koivu is getting so much interest, but I would like Fletcher to consider Mike Comrie. He may not have great numbers, but they're better than Shep's and he has enough experience for the #2 center role. Not to mention he's certainly not due a raise from his $4M last year and about 8 years younger than Saku. This really seems like a good cheaper and younger alternative to Koivu that Fletcher was too quick to dismiss.

The big reason I'm pleased with Fletcher is how he's going about upgrading the defense. Greg Zanon was great to watch in Milwaukee and he's the guy bringing the toughness that Fletcher spoke about. With the bringing in of Zanon, and tough guy Shane Hindy he has 7 D under contract.

It remains to be seen what will become of Skoula, Bergeron and Foster. I think at most one these will be coming back, and I don't think it'll be Skoula. They might try to squeeze Foster in for about $1M, but that would make 8D, two of which will be scratched every night. Don't be surprised if all three of these players are gone.


02 July 2009

Wild Free Agency So Far...

All right I'm typing this with one eye on the Puck Daddy 2009 Free Agent Frency Chatter Box because I'm expecting news any minute on Saku Koivu....

Aside from that I'd say I'm especially pleased with where the Wild are at now.

1) Confimred Signings

D Greg Zanon (3yr/avg $1.9M)

I'm really psyched about this signing. I remember seeing him when I was still a fan of the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals (I don't want to claim to be a current fan because I no longer have family ties to Wisconsin and haven't been to an Admirals game in 3 years) seeing Greg Zanon. He's was a beast. I don't think he's made too much noise since getting to the NHL with the Preds, but he's a big physical guy willing to throw his weight around. It now seems to me when Fletcher was talking about brining toughness to this team, this is the kind of guy he had in mind. I think a need that has been underrated for the Wild is the need to have players willing to stand up for Backstrom (or Harding for that matter) after whistles. Too many liberties were taken and Burnsie and Schultz (when healthy) seemed to be the only guys willing to do anything about out (except of course for Boogaard, but it's hard to count that when he appears for 6 minutes a night, albiet those tend to be key minutes).

W Martin Havlat (6yrs/$5M per)

This one seems good on the surface, he had a career year last year with the hawks (77pts in 81 games), but beware, he's missed more games than Gaborik in the same length of a career. That said in terms of what have you done for me latley Havlat at $5M coming of a year where he missed on game v. $7.5M for Gaborik who played in 20, this seems like the better deal. I don't really have a problem with the money, but I think the term is kind of risky. But a lot of potential upside if he stays healthy (Imagine Havlat-Koivu-Bouchard?, more on lines later)

2) Who the Wild Aren't pursuing

W Marian Gaborik

Gaborik of course signed with the New York Rangers as all of you should know. I was shocked when the rumor was that Gaborik's agent was seeking a 10 year for $75M. Gaborik got the money, but not the term. Still Gaborik should be thrilled anyone gave him over 3 years at that kind of money. But if you though the Twin Cities media was rough on the former franchise player, wait until the big apple gets a hold of him.

Still I want to wish Gaborik the best, I think his leaving the State of Hockey is ultimatly best overall for both sides, but I am glad for the time he was here. I was glad to attend the game where he scored 5 goals against the Rangers (also in that game and just about as thrilling is when Burns laid out two guys that were going to hit him after a whistle).

As for the Rangers I think they definatly overpaid, but as is true with Havlat, if Gabs finally stays healthy, the upside is potnetially huge.

D Bergeron, D Skoula
I think chances are these guys are hitting the open market with Zanon being signed. I'm not going to cry too much over Skoula, Bergeron I'll miss a little more, although he only stayed the one year, and I think fell slightly short of the offensive expectaions. Foster's probably not going to be signed if the Wild manage to sign the Penguins Scuderi. Scud would make D number 8, so the Wild would probably be scratching two nightly (usually Foster and Scott) in that scenario.

C Velliux
It looks to me like he's going to be the odd man out unless all pursuits of UFA Centers fall through for the Wild.

3) Who we're still chasing

C Saku Koivu

Eight Years Mikko's elder, this Koivu brother could be the answer to the Wild's depth problems at center. Yes granted he's at the age when his game will be in decline. But his experience would be great. And as my freind Jen puts it, "We could have a grumpy old man line," meaning Nolan-Koivu, S-Brunette, that thought gets me exicted.

If we don't get Saku (he either retires or just heads elsewhere, apparantly Anaheim is still in the mix), there are other FA centers the Wild will need to look at. (I've been typing for 20 minutes, no news on Koivu).

The Wild have been rumored to be close since last night, apparantly they're still trying to come to an agreement on the length, according to the Strib's Russo.

D Rob Scuderi ("Scuds")

He was barely above a minimum wage player last year on the Stanley Cup Champs. His performace definatly warrants him a raise from his $713K. Apparantly a few teams are interested including the Pens wanting him for a return, but this would be another great addition to the blue line.

4) The ugly news (we're getting close to the cap).

Accoring to NHLnumbers.com the Wild are at about $50.7M with the cap expected to be around $56.8M. That includes 6 D (3 of which will be RFAs after next season), and 12F. This does not include any RFAs (Harding, Brodzinak, and Pouliot among those being tendered qualifying offers on June 30). So the space it tight, and probably too tight for both Scuds and Koivu (unless they both come in at under $3M each somehow). Boy how much easier this would've been if Johnsson's $4.875M contract were one year shorter?

Well this took about 20 minutes to type and nothing further on Koivu, I imagine he'll be signed once I click publish, but again follow the Y! Sports Puck Daddy Free Agent Chatter Box for the latest (The Strib's Michael Russo has been included :) ).

29 June 2009

Wild Draft Review...

Well I'll say I'm pretty happy about the Wild's draft. Of course, unlike in the NHL or NBA, the effects of the NHL draft usually aren't seen for a couple season's outside of the first few spots.

1) Trade down
The Wild picked up a the 16th pick overall, along with a 3rd and 7th Rounders for trading down 4 slots with the New York Islanders (a pick originally held by the Blue Jackets). This was huge when the Wild didn't have a 2nd or 3rd rounder going into the draft.

2) The Picks
The Wild also made a pretty good selection with D Nick Leddy in the first round. Most of the hockey media are disparging this as Fletcher caved to pressure to pick a local kid. I think Leddy could potentially be the next Brent Burns, and potentially a faster skater. He probably won't make the big club for a season or two, but the Wild are going to need good defensemen about then. Especially bbeacause Johnsson and Zidlicky are going into their final contract seasons.

Picking up that third rounder from the Isles enabled the Wild to select highly rated G Matt Hackett. One can't help but be uncertain about the current goaltending situation in Houston, which is key to the Wild deciding if they can trade Josh Harding at the next deadline (along with the health of Backstrom of course). With Backstrom locked up until 2012-3, I don't imagine it's possible to sign Harding long-term, especially without overpaying for a backup.

Rest of the picks here.

3) Trade for C Kyle Brodziak
The Wild trade a 4th and 5th round pick to Edmonton in exchange for Brodziak and a 6th rounder. This was a very good trade. The Wild were incredibly weak at center last year. The Fritche deal helped address some faceoff woes. Furthermore Brodziak had a 27 point season as Edmonton's 4th line center, the Wild have enjoyed no such production from anyone below the 2nd line in years. This helps with some center depth, if the Wild can pick up one more center in Free Agency (Mike Comrie OTW, Saku Koivu MTL, John Madden NJ, to name a few of my favorites available this summer) the center position would look much deeper than Koivu-Fritche-Belanger-?????.

4) Next for Fletch, Free Agency
So I think Fletcher handled the draft well. His next test will be when he wakes up Wednesday morning, to find Gaborik has left, and now finds himself with $7.5M in cap space. If all his UFA's walk he'll have almost $12M, but a lot of slots for Defensmen.

Wild Team Summary fron NHLNumbers.com.

Fletch has some room to play on Wednesday, it should be interesting...



26 June 2009

Wild Draft Preview...

Draft Tonight...

So should be a more exciting than usual draft tonight. There are three legitamite choices for the New York Islanders as they have the #1 choice.

(Read USA Today Draft preview here).

For our beloved Wild this is a tough draft. The Wild drew the #12 pick overall, but currently have no more picks until #99 (4th round). Given that I suspect the Wild may opt to trade down to get more picks.

Wild Trade Rumors...

As far as trade rumors go Shepard and Harding are definatly the heavist names in trade rumors right now. My suspision is if anyone gets dealt it'll be Shep. He's still young, but has been in the NHL a few years and I think teams might be willing to take a chance on him. He might be dealt for a 2nd rounder.

In a different year Harding might have been dealt, but there are a glut of Free Agent goalies this summer, which probably makes it easier to keep Harding in the fold, but at the same time makes him less valuable in the trade market this summer, and I would say less susceptable to RFA poaching that he might be otherwise. I imagine Harding would only be interested in signing a 1 year qualifying deal this summer because I'm sure he'd like to test the market next year instead of continuing behind Backstrom. Harding is probably more valuable in a trade next March at the deadline than he is this summer.

Lastly, I'll point out that the Wild seem to be creeping up in Dany Heatley Trade Rumors. Heatley requested a trade from the Ottawa Senators a few weeks ago. Heatley comes with 5 years remaining on his contract at $7.5M each. This on the surface seems like a solution to losing Gaborik, but the Wild would have to give up even more in a trade and I don't think the Wild should pay what the Sens are reportedly asking (2 prospects and a high pick). Plus this is now the second time Heatley has demanded a trade in his career (Atlanta), I think this is just replacing the injury prone with a problem of a different sort.

Personally I think the Wild Could just let Gabby walk and enjoy their newfound $7.5M in cap space. Here's a list of free agents there's a lot of ways to get two decent players for $7.5M. And the Wild really need to have more than one line's worth of scoring threats.



16 June 2009

Congrats to Pittsburgh, Congrats to Richards, No congrats for the NHL...

1) Penguins win Stanley Cup

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for their comback victory in the Stanley Cup final series. After losing 5-0 to Detroit in Game 5, the Penguins had their backs to the wall traling 3 games to 2. But they did the only thing they could do to win. They outplayed the Red Wings in both games 6 and 7. The Penguins definatly had more hustle in the final two games, and the Red Wings just plain looked tired.

I find it tough to rip on Marian Hossa for changing teams and ending up on the wrong end of the Final for two years in a row. The Penguins had no long relationship with Hossa as they rented him from Atlanta for two months last season. Hossa may end up long term with the Wings. However the one critisim of him is the fact was a non factor in the Final, 0 goals in 7 games in pretty damning.

2) Todd Richards to be named head coach at noon presser today :).

The Wild will hold a press conference to announce Todd Richards has been hired as the next head coach. My preference was honestly for the more experienced Peter Laviolette, but the truth is Richards looks like a pretty good hire for the Wild as well. There were a lot of bad retreads out there, Crawford, MacTavish, Quinn. Maybe Laviolette belongs among that group as well, but personally I think he got kind of a bum rap in Carolina one season after winning the Stanley Cup.

Considering all of the bad candidates out there the Wild were rumored to be pursuing, this decision I would rate as good news, the Wild now have a coach in place going into the draft next weekend.

3) No Congratulations to the NHL for winning a their court hearing over possible sale to Jim Balsillie.

The Coyotes have been selling less than 15K tickets a game (and apparantly that's including about 1K the owner buys every night and writes off). In a best case scenario, it's tough to imagine the Coyotes can overcome the $30M average per year the team has lost in it's 10 years in the desert.

The Judge was very critical of both sides in the hearing last Tuesday, but ultimatly decided he could justify meeting Balsillie's deadline for a judicious bankruptcy, especially if the NHL is willing to keep the team afloat for another year (which means the Wild and all other clubs will each loose $1M and change a piece if the trend continues).

The Players association supports relocating the Coyotes, especially because their salary cap is tied to revenue, and if the better market is out there obviously that's in their best interest.

Right now the three U.S. Markets worth looking at (market size rank in parenthesis) in my Opinion are Houston (9th), Seattle (12th), and Kansas City (22nd). (For the record Minneapolis-St. Paul is 13th). But all of these pale in comparison to the prospect of another team in the Greater Toronto Area (as Balsillie would've wanted) as far as prospective revenue.

Houston- Toyota Center in an NHL ready building that hosts the NBA's Rockets. However, there are already NFL, NBA, MLB and MLS Franchises nearby, perhaps the competition is too crowded for a non-traditional market. Still the Aeros are consistently among the top 5 AHL teams in attendance.

Seattle- This would seem like a prime time for the NHL to take a shot at the Pacific Northwest, especially without NBA competition for the winter sports dollar. However, the Sonics left because the public said no to building the city an arena, I imagine chances are similar of getting an NHL building.

Kansas City- Though a smaller market, it's similar to Seattle as far as the teams the NHL would have to compete with. The big advantage over Seattle is that the building (Verizon Center) has been in place for a few years without a tenant. The biggest thing they host is the Big 12 Basketball tournament right now.

There are teams losing money in the NHL and it's hurting the players and the other teams. Bettman needs to stop being so stubborn about some of these markets and get some of these teams moved, for the health of the NHL.

12 June 2009

Off Season Musings

First, I omitted my pick for the Stanley Cup Final. It would've been Detroit in 6, but I guess we're heading for a game 7 tonight.

Next, I imagine we will find out the Wild's next head coach next week (the draft is next weekend). Apparantly, the Wild are interested in some assistants from both the Penguins and Red Wings, which has been what's delaying the process. Of the candidtates that have been bantied about I like Peter Laviolette. He won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006, yet he's still rather young and I think would have a lot of upside. Sharks assistant Todd Richards is also a good choice. However, these rumors about brining fired Oilers' coach Craig MacTavish have me concerned. I liked him as a player, but he's proven pretty worthless behind the bench.

Anyway I hope we find out early next week.

Finally I wanted to give some love to my new favorite NHL blog Puck Daddy on Yahoo! Sports. The Puck headlines features are like drudge for the NHL and the commentary is offbeat, yet insightful. Give them a look and I have added their RSS feed to the right side of the blog.

Should be a great game tonight, I still think Detroit pulls it out at home, but anything can happen. Still I don't think the Wings were at their best in Game 6 until the 3rd period, if they pick up where they left off there, I think the cup goes to hockeytown.

21 May 2009

BREAKING: Strib Reports Wild to announce Penguins' assistant GM Fletcher as new GM on Friday

http://www.startribune.com/sports/wild/45746452.html?page=2&c=y

So it seems Mr. Fletcher won the job in the new era of the State of Hockey. I think clearly he's going to handle player negotiations and injuries better than Riseborough (not that's terribly difficult).

The BIG concern I have is his first duty is to hire a new head coach to replace the (at least presently) retired Jacques Lemaire. Since Firing Eddie Olcyzk all they've done in Pittsburgh is promote whoever is coaching their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton affiliate and then fire that person before the end of a season. Frankly no coaches in Pittsburgh have been impressive for many seasons now.

I know fans had a love/hate with Lemaire, but I think there's some consensus that the stability was good, and Lemaire probably left at the right time. I don't know how Wild would handle going from coaching stability if Fletcher brings a "revolving door" mentality to the coaching position here. I guess this decision will decide whether I'm getting on board with this or not.

And unfortunatly unless someone else hires McGuire, it seems we get to suffer through another year of him on NBC.

17 May 2009

Conference Finals Picks

I got two right (Detroit, Chicago), And two wrong (bye bye Boston and Washington) in the last round.  Though I did say I wouldn't be shocked if Carolina got through, I still took Boston.  Overall I'm 6-6, here are my next round selections....

Western Conference Finals
#1) Detroit v. #4) Chicago

In the last round I was more impressed with Chicago beating a very stingy Canucks team, than the Red Wings struggling with a very poor Anaheim Ducks team.  I thought the way was paved for the Red Wings, but they played nowhere near their ablility in the last round.  They need to do that to beat this flying high Hawks team.  I want to pick the Wings to win it all, but they're poor effort in the last round really says they can't be trusted...

Chicago in 6.

Eastern Conference Finals
#4) Pittsburgh v. #6) Carolina

The Hurricanes are way better than they got credit for in the regular season.  The Pens finally solved Varmalov in game 7 in their series against the Caps.  Still, I smell upset here...

Carolina in 6.


12 May 2009

Playoffs, Wild GM hunt, Balsillie...

Playoffs...

Two great game 6's last night. Two high-scoring games, one game 7 forced (Pit at Was, Wed), and one of my second round picks are through to the next round (Chicago over Vancouver, 4 to 2).

Two more good ones to night as Carolina and Detroit both seek to vanquish there opponents in game 6's. I know the Pittsburgh-Washington series has got all the hype, but every series has been great to watch, and full of passion. These 8 teams are all playing very hard.

I know I picked the Bruins, and I know many people we're mean to me for simply being a northerner when I lived in North Carolina, but I still find myself pulling for the Hurricanes tonight. And of course I'm pulling for the bouncing of the evil, unholy Ducks.

Wild GM Hunt...

http://www.twincities.com/wild/ci_12298629?nclick_check=1

Accoring to the above article the frontrunners for the Wild's GM position are Penguin's assistant GM Chuck Fletcher, and NBC Analyst Pierre McGuire.

I find myself underimpressed. The Penguins have not hired a decent coach in the last several years and I'm not confident in Fletcher's ability to pick a good candidate to replace Lemaire if he's going by his experiences with the Penguins.

I find McGuire and old school retread based on his attitudes on NBC (but if he's hired here at least I won't have to watch him on TV anymore). I think old school attitude is what really hurt the Wild under Riseborough (not to mention all the injuries that came up suddenly after the season). Maybe he's smarter in the front office than I think, but I don't really see this as a change.

I suppose either of the above most likley represent an improvement over Riseborough, and maybe Fletcher can prove me wrong on the coach thing. Ideally, I can think of better front offices from which to look for candidates. But hopefully we'll find out soon.

Balsillie's back....

With the Coyotes' seeking bankruptcy Canadian Research in Motion executive Jim Balsillie is seeking to purchase the Coyotes for $212.5M with the stipulation that he be able to move the team to Southern Ontario.

Balsille has made similar attempts at the Nashville Predators (2007) and Pittsbrugh Penguins (2005).

Here are the details: http://www.canada.com/Business/Balsillie+bids+bankrupt+Phoenix+Coyotes/1566656/story.html

The NHL is challening Coyotes' owner Jerry Moyes' ability to declare bankruptcy after accepting financing from the leauge last October to stay afloat. The league is claming that Moyes' surrendered the right to sell the team. This court case will prove very interesting. Did Moyes' surrender his position to the rest of the league? If the court rules he did the Coyote's are probably safe in Phoenix for now. If the court rules otherwise, and rules that the court can compel the league to allow the relocation of the franchise because bankruptcy requires the team be sold to the highest bidder, then it seems the team is heading north.

I speculate the plan is probably to park the team at Copps' Coliseum in Hamilton, ON (40 mi from Toronto) until Balsille can build a new arena. The problem is Hamilton lies within a 70mi radius of both Toronto and Buffalo, where they would have to waive their rights to that territory. If Balsille builds a new arena near Kitchener, ON (where Research in Motion is headquartered) he finds himself out of both trade areas, but still within 40mi of nearby Hamilton.

But for now we're waiting to hear how the judge rules on who has the right to sell the Coyotes.

From a good for the NHL standpoint I'm pretty torn on this one. The attendance in Phoenix is third worst in the league this season. Still Phoenix is the 12th largest US television markets which helps me see why the NHL wants to hold on here (as opposed to Nashville being the 33rd and pretty easy to give up in my opinion). I think it's ultimatly good for the league if the Coyotes were somewhere they could make a profit, and Southern Ontario seems to be a safe bet, however, when they negotiate TV deals in a copule years, it would probably look better if they still had Phoenix in their list of US cities.

In general the comeptition for the entertainment dollar is growing in the US. And markets the size of Phoenix, and for that matter Minneapolis/St. Paul are going to have trouble supporting franchises in all 4 major sports (Seattle is of a similar size and couldn't support 3). Maybe the NHL needs to look for more US markets that currently have only one or two teams (Seattle, Kansas City) even if their smaller. Instead of trying to take gate in mid-sized markets from 3 better established franchises.

29 April 2009

End of round 1, Round 2 Picks

Two great finishes last night in first round game 7's.

Veteran G Sergei Federov scored the game winner for the Caps with under 5 minutes to play to lead them to a 2-1 victory.

And the Carolina Hurricanes got two goals in the final 90 seconds to stun the Devils 4-3.

As for my first round picks, my correct predictions...

Detroit over Columbus in 7 (actual DET 4-0)
You may have blinked and missed the fact the Blue Jackets made their first playoff appearance. Columbus didn't put up a fight except a little in game 4. The Red Wings look like the new favorites.

Chicago over Calagary in 7 (actual CHI 4-2)
Chicago got a good road victory to close out the Flames

Boston over Montreal in 5 (actual BOS 4-0)
Good sweep, good team.

Washington over New York Rangers in 6 (actual WSH 4-3).
The Caps had to rally from down 3 games to 1 to put this in my correct column. Repalcing G Jose Theodore with Simeon Varlamov turned this series around. The Caps future looks bright if Varlamov keeps playing well.

The Wrong Picks (my excuses)...

San Jose over Anaheim (ANA 4-2)
This one dissapointed everyone. The Sharks have got to keep playing well in the playoffs or they seem doomes for early exits.

St. Louis over Vancouver (VAN 4-0)
So this one was wishful thinking. The Blues were a good second half story, but it turned out I underestimated the Canucks who have a very interesting series in the next round.

New Jersey over Carolina (CAR 4-3)
I was 90 seconds from getting this one right, but I did say Carolina was a tough team for a #6 seed. They never give up, I would be a little concerned if I were Boston.

Philadelphia over Pittsburgh (PIT 4-2)
I definatly underestimated Pittsburgh's toughness and the Flyers Just collapsed in game 6.

All right, here are my round 2 selections

Western Conference

#2 Detroit v. #8 Anaheim
Detroit looks like they found their playoff legs and they will be well rested. I didn't see anything that led me to believe the Ducks are any better than their finish, their victory was mostly the product of a Sharks collapse. A lot of people will get on the Ducks bandwagon, but I absolutly love this matchup for the Wings.

Detroit in 5

#3 Vancouver v. #4 Chicago
This is going to be the most entertaining series in this round. Both teams finished strong. Chicago has more offensive power, but they will be against Canucks G Roberto Luongo, who played stunningly well in the first round. This one is tough

Chicago in 7

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston v. #6 Carolina
The Bruins are very young but very powerful. The 'Canes never quit winning 2 of their 4 games in the final minute against New Jersey. The 'Canes are better than the standings showed (I attribute that to the 'Canes getting the fewest "extra points" in the regular season), and that was a really good Devils team they beat. Boston is young and may be overconfident after decimating a bad Montreal team. Still their getting good goaltending and lots of scoring. I wouldn't be shocked if the 'Canes pull this one out but...

Boston in 7

#2 Washington v. #4 Pittsburgh
The Matchup the NHL probably wanted. Get ready for overload on Sid v. Ovechkin marketing. I think the Caps got the ship right and can go as far as suddenly #1 goaltender Varmalov can take them. Also Federov is not looking his age. Lots to like about the caps here.

Washington in 6

My bracket from here (I lost both Finalists in the first round)
Detroit over Chicago
Washington over Boston
Detroit over Washington

16 April 2009

Doug Risebrough Fired...

In a still breaking story Minnesota Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough has not been renewed for next season with the club:

http://www.twincities.com/wild/ci_12156501

Weatherwise, it's already a beautiful day in the State of Hockey. But after hearing this news, the sun got even brighter, the birds we're singing even sweeter.

If Lemaire's resignation was the first sad news of the summer, this very much is the first good news. Risebrough started this season without adequate forwards for their roles (Sheppard, Pouliot) and failed to make the deals that would've provided depth at center. Furthermore he gutted the team, and got nothing in return to clear cap room for Gaborik, who he was never going to be able to sign anyway.

On Gaborik, I'm not sure if this is an effort to keep him as some of the early posters on twincities.com have suggested. I think, unless they can get him at a real good deal, they're better off letting him walk and using the cap space to get another center and maybe squeeze in another wing. I don't think there's going to be a massive bidding war for free agents this summer with the cap likley to stay put. The free agent vaules will be better this summer compared to the last couple of summers for sure (Johnsson at 5M, really?).

I admire Leopold's courage. I'd like to think this had something to do with my online petition I started on Saturday, but no one signed it (I should've made an active hyperlink, and at least sign it myself, details). More honestly, I'd like to think this had more to do with pressure from season ticket holders. The local media was absolutley absent on blaming Doug for any of this. They were always quick to question if Lemaire's defense first coaching was the problem, but clearly this has been a personnel issue ever since Sheppard was 2nd on the Center depth list before the season.

I don't want to dump on Sheppard, but he was too young for what Dougie expected, Koivu had the benefit of being a 3rd or 4th liner for several seasons before being the top Center last year.

So while I admire Mr. Leipold for this move, he is in a pretty tough spot. The draft is less than 2 months away and he needs a GM in place that can hire a coach before then. I'll admit I'm pretty ignorant of who's available as GM's go. I still expect next season to be a "rebuilding year," so maybe Leipold might give someone their first shot instead of an retread.

I'm not sure how much improvement this means for the team next season. It really depends on how the summer goes, but I would still guess they're around even money to make the playoffs (as most teams are). However, a few seasons down the line, hopefully the goal of making the Wild perennial contenders (which we fans were promised in the earlier) will finally be realized, instead of torn apart by Dougie's cheapness every time it seems they're close.

14 April 2009

Playoff Predictions

Okay here are my NHL Playoff Picks

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 San Jose v. #8 Anaheim

The Sharks seem to have their groove back despite an injury ravaged second half. The Ducks seem like they'll be overpowered quite easily

San Jose in 5

#2 Detroit v. #7 Columbus

This is going to be a tough one for the defending champion Red Wings. They still boast the deepest defense and a very deep offense. But as it always seems to be with the Wings, it's goaltending and age that could prove to be their heel. The Blue Jackets bring a very young and aggressive team into their first playoff appearance. But I think experience wins out here

Detroit in 7

#3 Vancouver v. #6 St. Louis

The Blues are the hottest team in the second half of the season, but thanks to a strong finish the Canucks were able to wrestle away the Northwest title from the Flames in the final weekend. This should prove to be a good series, but I'm going to take the upset here.

St. Louis in 6

#4 Chicago v. #5 Calgary

Unlike the above series both of these teams finished heading in the wrong direction. I think the Blackhawks are more solid and Kippersoff's having an average year for the Flames.

Chicago in 7

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Boston v. #8 Montreal

This series will be billed as a traditional clash between original six franchises. However, from a competitive standpoint Boston looks too tough, unless G Tim Thomas falls apart. I love the Bruins here

Boston in 5

#2 Washington v. New York Rangers

This is another series the networks will be happy to have. Lots of star power, lots of stories. This might be a chance for Caps G Jose Theodore to finally get off to a good start, as the Rangers are team that's had lots of trouble.

Washington in 6

#3 New Jersey v. #6 Carolina

The Devils are a new team since G Martin Brodeur returned from his injury. But they drew an underrated Hurricanes team that could give them some trouble. This will be a tough series.

New Jersey in 6

#4 Pittsburgh v. #5 Philadelphia.

These teams finished tied at the end of the season, but I think the Flyers are better built for the playoffs. They're tougher and more durable and capapble of slowing the Penguins attack.

Philadelphia in 6

If I have to fill out the rest of my "bracket" it would be

San Jose over St. Louis in 6
Detroit over Chicago in 6
Boston over Philadelphia in 5
New Jersey over Washington in 7

San Jose over Detroit in 7
New Jersey over Boston in 6

San Jose over New Jersey in 7

13 April 2009

Lemaire "resigns", Alternate Standings, and more...

Lemaire Resigns

The only coach the Wild has ever known, Jacques Lemaire resigned on Saturday. I'm very sorry to hear this as coaches like him are very rare. Personally, I'm very glad for him, because it seems the front office never gave him the support and never followed through on their stated mission to build this team to be perennial contenders.

Despite vague shows of support, I think Lemaire was going to end up the scapegoat for the Wild's underachiving this year, and I'm glad he's leaving under his own terms.

I'm willing to concede that it's possible his message was getting stale, and it sounds like he may have lost control of the locker room this year, still coaches as good as Lemaire are incredibly rare when you look at the mediocraty of the coaches in the rest of the league.

So whatever Lemaire moves on to (and I know that Montreal job is conspicuously open) I wish him the best. As for the Wild, I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I think this is officially the first bad news of the summer.

*Alternate Standings

This is going to become my annual railing against the NHL's current standings system, which rewards Regulation Wins and Shootout wins the same, but Regulation losses and shootout losses differently.

In the interest of not overloading the blog I put the tables on a separate website

http://www.geocities.com/justinworldonline/sotso/sotsostandings.html (click here to follow along)

Thoughts...

Not a whole lot of difference this year.

The Biggest thing to notice is that in systems I and III Florida gets in (at the expense of the New York Rangers in I and Montreal in III). In System II there is a 3 way tie for 8th in the East.

Also note that in systems I and III Bost wins the President's trophy instead of San Jose, they finished tied in system II.

Minnesota actually edges out Anaheim for 8th place in the West in system III

Carolina actually finishes 4th in the East under every alternative. Pittsburgh falls to 5th or 6th

So nothing earth shaking here this year, compared to System I each team earned an average of 9.4 extra points, you can see the adjustments in this table to see the biggest winners and losers in collecting loser points.

Tommorow...
My Playoff Predictions

11 April 2009

Wild Elimanted, what next...?

Well despite a good 8 goal showing last night, the Wild were elimanted from playoff contention later last after both St. Louis and Anaheim got victories in their games.

So the 8 playoff spots are spoken for in both conferences, while the Wild will have to watch (at least the golfers will probably get to go out this week with 60 degree days in the forecast).

The playoff chase was a dramatic since Sunday, when the Wild lost a point with 50 seconds left against Detroit on Sunday. Sadly, I don't think fans should buy in to the idea that making the playoffs would've been acceptable. The second round was a legitimate goal. Finishing in the top 5 in the West was a legitimate goal. Repeating as division champions was a legitimate goal, and the Wild weren't frankly close.

I still say the problem was in the depth of our forwards. We had very few scorers, we started the season with one legitimate center. This was true before this team became injury ravaged. Dougie's going to try to blame the injuries on Bouchard, Burns, and Gaborik being absent, but don't be fooled, the Wild's offense was anemic before that. The defense, and goaltending stepped up late to keep the Wild in many games when they were outshot 2-1.

I'm calling for the removal of the General Manager in this online petition, please consider signing.

http://www.petitiononline.com/sotsofdr/petition.html

On Monday...
*NHL Playoff Picks
*Final Standings under the 2W-1T-0L system (1998-99)

10 April 2009

Wild Playoff Chance (what to pray for Friday update)

Well Nashville rallied to upset the Red Wings last this means...

ANA (88, 41): (2) Fr v. DAL, Sa @PHX
STL (88, 39): (2) Fr CBJ, Su @COL
NSH (88, 40): (1) Fr @MIN
MIN (85, 38): (2) Fr NSH, Sa @CBJ

If the Wild win in regulation tonight they need EITHER of the following.

1) STL to get one point or fewer in their final two games OR
2) ANA to get zero points in their final two games

If the Wild win in overtime tonight (allowing NSH a point) they need BOTH of the above.

Coach Lemaire announced he plans to play for a regulation win tonight.

http://www.twincities.com/wild/ci_12115907?nclick_check=1

He plans to pull the goalie to play for a regulation win should the game be tied in the final moments of the 3rd. I wholeheartedly agree with taking fate in your own hands here. The Wild's playoff chances are slim if they beat Nashville in regulation tonight, their slim chance I estimate would be cut in half if Nashville gets a point.

09 April 2009

Wild Playoff Chances (AKA what to pray for)....

Okay so the Wild got an important win on Tuesday over Dallas which keeps them alive. Also, they also got some help in the form of Nashville and Edmonton losses. However St. Louis' victory over Phoenix on Tuesday still puts the Wild in a tough spot.

So with two games remaining, there are 4 teams left fighting for the final 2 playoff spots (Edmonton's loss coupled with St. Louis' victory eliminated the Oilers on Tuesday). Each of the 4 teams has two games remaining. So here is my look for the race for 7th through 10th in the Western Conference...

Team (Pts, Wins): (Games left) Remaining Schedule
ANA (88, 41): (2) Fr v. DAL, Sa @PHX
STL (88, 39): (2) Fr CBJ, Su @COL
NSH (86, 39): (2) Th @DET, Fr @MIN
MIN (85, 38): (2) Fr NSH, Sa @CBJ

So the Wild make the playoffs if...

If the Wild win both* of their games AND either of the following.
1) ANA gets held to 0 points in their final two games OR
2) STL gets held to 1 point or fewer in their final two games.+

*Note should NSH beat DET tonight, the Wild would have to beat Nashville in Regulation tommorow to deny the Preds any points in the above scenario.

Otherwise should NSH beat DET and lose to MIN in OT the Wild would then need ALL of the following...
1) MIN beat CBJ on Saturday
2) ANA to get held to 0 points in their final two games AND
3) STL to get held to 1 point or fewer in their final two games+

+There was a omission on Tuesday's post concerning St. Louis and Nashville. The Wild could've make the playoffs if either of these teams "get held to 3 points or fewer in their final 3 games" provided Anaheim got held to 0 under the first scenario. This is because the Wild would advance to the playoffs if they finish in a tie at 89 points against either/or both St. Louis and Nashville and Anaheim gets stuck at 88, the Wild would advance by having 40 wins (Nashville would also advance in this scenario with them picking up their 40th win at Detroit).

However, there are now no scenarios in which the Wild can get in with fewer than 4 points in their final two games and advance to the playoffs (Mainly because the Wild lost the season series against St. Louis and will at best tie the season series against Nashville).

Analysis...
The Wild are probably favorites at home against Nashville tommorow night, especially since the Preds are travelling from playing in Detroit tonight.

The Wild are probably even to a slight underdog at Columbus on Saturday. It does help that the Jackets have already clinched a spot in the playoffs so Saturday's game won't mean as much to them. Both teams also will be playing their second game in two nights on Saturday so fatigue should effect them both.

The bad news is Anaheim is very unlikley to be held without at least one point with two very lowly opponents left.

St. Louis is a tough call. Again Columbus doesn't have much to play for but they are probably even to a slight favorite over the Blues on Friday. However at Colorado on Sunday I imagine the Blues are a distinct favorite because it seems their in the playoffs in every scenario in which they beat the lowly Avs, so they will have everything to play for there.

I still think my picks from Tuesday are the most likley outcome (7) ANA, 8) STL, 9) MIN, 10) NSH), however 3 good results for the Wild on Friday change everything (Teams for Wild fans to cheer for in Italics)

Nashville at Minnesota
Columbus at St. Louis
Dallas at Anaheim

The other important games are...
Thu, Nashville at Detroit

Sat, Minnesota at Columbus
Sat, Anaheim at Phoenix
Su, St. Louis at Colorado

There is a more league-wide playoff breakdown on nhl.com today.

06 April 2009

Wild Playoff Chances...

So after yesterday's heartbreaking last-minute loss to Detroit the Wild find themselves 3 points out of a playoff spot with 3 games remaining. Here is my look at the race from 7th-11th in the Western Conference...

Team (Points, Wins): (Games left) Remaining Schedule
ANA (88, 41): (2) Fr v. DAL, Sa @PHX
NSH (86, 39): (3) Tu v. CHI, Th @DET, Fr @MIN
STL (86, 38): (3) Tu @PHX, Fr CBJ, Su @COL
MIN (83, 37): (3) Tu DAL, Fr NSH, Sa @CBJ
EDM (83, 37): (3) Tu LA, Fr CGY, Sa @CGY

So the Wild make the playoffs if...

I. If the Wild go 3-0-0 and earn 6 points THEN they also need TWO of the following
*STL get held to a total of 2 points or fewer in their final 3 games
*NSH get held to a total of 2 points or fewer in their final 3 games
*ANA get 0 points in their final 2 games

OR
II. If the Wild go 2-0-1 and earn 5 points THEN they need ALL of the following
*STL get held to a total of 1 points or fewer in their final 3 games (2 points if STL doesn't win either game, "both euphorian points"+)
*NSH get held to a total of 1 point or fewer in their final 3 games (this does necessitate the Wild beat NSH on Friday)
*EDM gets 5 points or fewer in their final 3 games

+euphorian points a term coined by KSTP-AM's Joe Soucheray referring to overtime points. You get this if you understand what "euphorians" or "the mystery" mean (click here for the official "Garage Logic" glossary).

OR
III. If the Wild go 2-1-0 for 4 points in their last 3 games THEN they need all of the following
*STL get held to a total of 1 points or fewer in their final 3 games
*NSH gets 0 points in their final 3 games (this does necessitate the Wild beat NSH in regulation on Friday)
*EDM gets 4 points or fewer in their final 3 games

OR
IV. If the Wild go 1-0-2 for 4 points in their last 3 games THEN they need all of the following
*STL gets 0 points in their final 3 games
*NSH gets 0 points in their final 3 games (this does necessitate the Wild beat NSH in regulation on Friday)
*EDM gets 3 points or fewer in their final 3 games or if EDM also goes 1-0-2)

All the above factor in the first two tiebreakers (wins and season series) in two team scenarios. There may be other ways the Wild get in if there's a 3 way tie for 8th.

My Predictions...
Anaheim's schedule is too easy, so I would say it's unlikley they lose out.
St. Louis's schedule also looks pretty easy, but they do have two road games and their toughest opponent is at home (Columbus).

The Wild could easily win out their their schedule. as their toughest game is their last one @Columbus and if the Wild are still alive, undoubtedtly they'd have more to play for than Columbus who will have probably already clinched their spot. Otherwise I like the Wild at Home against both Dallas and Nashville.

Edmonton has Calgary twice, the are included in this because if all goes right for the Wild with St. Louis and Columbus, hypothetically the Oliers could still snipe the Wild if they have a better finish, but two games against division leading Calgary seem to make that a long shot for the Oil.

In short I predict
7) Anaheim
8) St. Louis
9) Minnesota
10) Nashville
11) Edmonton

Tommorow nights schedule will be telling
Chicago at Nashville
St. Louis at Phoenix
Dallas at Minnesota

If all goes well tommorow for Minnesota (win over DAL and losses by STL and NSH) they will look in better shape and the area sportswriters may wish they haven't jumped off the ledge over this team for the 5th time this month. But if the Wild lose and either STL or NSH wins the Wild could be eliminated.

Next Monday...
When the regular season's over I will collect all the data and calculate the stadings under the old format (2W-1T-0L) systems to see who got the most help from "euphorian points" this year.

05 March 2009

No Deal at the Deadline for the wild, and other musings

I guess I'm dissapointed the Wild didn't do anything to shore up their offense for the stretch run. But it truth, it turns out there just weren't that many sellers, especially when it seems Josh Harding was the only thing we had to offer. I imagine the Wild are going to hang on to Harding and take the compensatory picks when another team signs him to an offer sheet.

There are rumors Gaborik may be ready to go in the next couple of weeks, that will help their offense. There's rumors the Wild may even bid for Gaborik (presumably at considerably less than the 10yr@8M he was reportedly offered last fall). I like this idea only if it's possible to do so without unloading salary like Dougie did last year (see Brian Rolston).

The Wild's Other UFA's are: Foster, Bergeron, Skoula, and Vellieux, all of which earn under $2M.

The Flames did a lot at the deadline, and with San Jose suddenly ravaged by injuries perhaps the West is a 3 team race instead of Detroit and San Jose just running away from the pack.

The Devils look poised to take the hotly contested Atlantic with the return of Marty Brodeur. Still Boston's dominance is astounding to me. I had them in 12th in the East in my preseason predictions, even though I thought if things fell right they could be a playoff team. They are getting way more offense than we could've expected, and they ahve two goaltenders playing great this year after very iffy seasons last year.

If this is Coach Lemaire's last season I imagine the job would have to go to current Houston Aeros (and former San Jose Sharks) head coach Kevin Constantine. He has turned around what was one of the AHL's worst teams and has done good for the Wild system. He has NHL experience and he's a screamer.

03 March 2009

Backstrom Signs, Implications, Boogaard's suspension

Today Doug Riseborough demonstrated something he hasn't in quite some time.... competence!

He signed All-Star Goaltender Niklas Backstrom to a 4 year $24 dollar deal today. He did this without trying to lowball him (see Brian Rolston).

I don't think the Wild got much of a "hometown discount," but Backstrom is important to this team.

So now all that's left is for Riseborough is...
*Get ANYTHING for Gaborik (even a 3rd or 4th rounder)
*Make one more deal to shore up the middle line depth (Dan Fritche's acquisition helped this, but Dougie clearly gutted the 2nd and 3rd line capabilities losing Rolston and expecting Pouliot and Shepard to both be read to be 2nd line Centers)

If he accomplishes these things I might have to stop hating him like I love to do.

Other possible implications of this signing
*I believe this puts to rest once and for all any speculation of Gaborik signing here. There is simply no cap room left, therefore Dougie should try and trade him, but even the straight salary dump wouldn't be terrible.

*This probably makes Josh Harding expendable. Harding is an restricted free agent after this season, meaning the Wild would have the right to match any offer sheet he's tendered by another club. However I imagine a team would probably offer him enough that the wild couldn't fit him under the cap (in which case the Wild would get some compensatory draft picks). However, Harding might have a lot of trade value now to a team willing to roll the dice on him as a starter for the stretch run. I don't think it's a done deal that Harding's gone, but it seems likley if someone brings a deal the Wild can't refuse.

*A SOTSOH fan pointed out that the Wild have waived a few of their lower earning players. The Wild were within 500K of their cap according to nhlnumbers.com, so maybe they're just trying to squeak out what room they can to make one more deal.

But today, the state of the state of hockey is.... pleasantly competent.

Boogaard.

I can't really argue with the suspension. That was the most violent thing I've seen Boogaard do (outsite of a fight of course) leading with an elbow to the head. Still the State of Hockey should be angry over the fact Souray got nothing for giving Weller a concussion throwing a punch with a brace. The NHL Front office hates the Wild and it's time Doug Riseborough show another flash of competence and start calling out Bettman for his inconsistency. (I wish Boogaard elbowed Bertuzzi, I wouldn't cry any tears over that).

03 February 2009

Cal Clutterbuck and the post All-Star Wild

I'm glad Cal Clutterbuck torched Alex Burrows on Saturday. Maybe he didn't deserve to be kicked out, but anyone in a Vancouver sweater deserves to be wacked (Mathias Ohlund deserves to have his foot sawed off for that filthy hack he put on Koivu last year, but I digress). Burrows turned his back to Cal and embelished to make sure he got the call. Quite disgraceful

I honsetly have some respect for Don Cherry for trying to support the old time hockey toughness, but I'm afraid he's using only the part of this Cal Clutterbuck fight against Toronto to make his point.

http://www.twincities.com/ci_11606010?source=most_viewed

Cherry is clearly omitting the fact that people don't take their helmets off to fight Clutterbuck either. So to defend his beliefs he kind of leaves this truth out. I'm glad Cal is calling him on it.

Since the all star break, I've been happy with the harder hitting Wild. This year we really have only been able to count on Brent Burns and Clutterbuck to be consistently tough. Everyone else has looked weak (I guess Schultz still puts a good hit on once in a while). Since the all star break more people are trying to throw their bodies around and actually fight to get to the net. Hopefully this will result in more goals.

I'm happy with what I see, but I still the think the Wild find themselves on the outside this season unless this toughness is permanent.

24 January 2009

Where are my predictions at...

Well comparing my pre-season predictions with the actual results, here's where I stand.

Team - Points/gms

Western Conference (Divisions: C-Central, P-Pacific, N-Northwest)
<2> (P) San Jose 73/45 - Amazing start, hopefully they won't fade in the playoffs
<1> (C) Detroit 68/46 - I imagine it's possible they still catch SJ if they have a February like last year's
<4> (N) Calgary 60/46 - Had them second in the northwest, they're a good club

<8> (C) Chicago 58/45 - Changing coaches after week one seems to have paid off
<6> (P) Phoenix 53/48 - Definatly a good team this year I was close on this one
<14> (N) Edmonton 51/46 - I was a little off on this one
<12> (N) Vancouver 51/48 - This one too
<5> (P) Anaheim 51/49 - Suprised they're only a bubble team

<3> (N) Minnesota 49/46 - Need goals quick
<11> (C) Columbus 49/47 - Close on this one
<7> (P) Dallas 47/45 - I didn't have high hopes for this team, amazed they're doing worse than I thought
<9> (N) Colorado 47/47 - Rebuilding
<15> (P) Los Angeles 45/46- still a season from the playoffs
<10> (C) Nashville 43/46 - underachiving
<13> (C) St. Louis 42/46 - injuries have been killer

Eastern Conference (Divisions: A-Atlantic, N-Northeast, S-Southeast)

<12> (N) Boston 73/47 - Way off on this one, grossly underestimated how good their goaltending would be and how much offense they were going to get
<2> (S) Washington 63/48 - Right on this one
<4> (A) New Jersey 61/47 - Right in this tight race

<1> (N) Montreal 60/46 - Very dissapointing they're this far out going into the break
<5> (A) New York Rangers 60/48 - this division changes leads every day
<6> (A) Philadelphia 59/46- Also in this tight race
<10> (N) Buffalo 53/47 - little surprise
<11> (S) Carolina 51/48 - also a little surprise, but will be tough to hang on

<13> (S) Florida 50/46 - overachieving
<3> (A) Pittsburgh 50/48 - Biggest dissapointment of the year. I figured a little drop off, not miss the playoffs, but Michel Therrien is an overrated coach
<8> (N) Toronto 42/47- Hate Brian Burke
<7> (S) Tampa Bay 42/47 - Melrose got mercy fired, this is a bad front office here folks
<9> (N) Ottawa 39/44 - Dissapointing
<15> (S) Atlanta 39/48 - so I got the last two flip flopped
<14> (A) New York Islanders 31/47 - so I got the last two flip flopped

Overall I think I'm looking closer in the West. But there are a lot of average and below average teams in the playoff hunt. It seems Detroit and San Jose seem on a collision course unless either chokes in the playoffs. The East is wide open and very top heavy. I would argue there are 5, maybe 6 legitamate teams that could go to the finals (suprisingly the Penguins aren't one of them)

Enjoy the skills contest tonight, and the all star game tommorow, both on Versus.

SOSTO Hockey would like to congratulate G Niklas Backstrom on his selection and he's sure to make the Wild faithful proud :).

21 January 2009

At the all star break or that other free agent the media isn't talking about...

So the Wild find themselves at the all star break a below average team. They find themselves 9th in west, but just two ponits behind the Oilers, Canucks, and Ducks that are in a 3 way tie for 6ths (the Wild have two games in hand on the Ducks and Canucks also).

The Wild have shown some brilliant games against good teams. Monday is a good example beating Chicago (though they needed a monster 40 of 41 performance from Nicky Backstrom). However, then they play games like last night where they look two steps slower than a really bad team for most of the night.

The fact is I have seen more games like the latter than the former this year, and I see no way the Wild get to the playoffs unless they get a lot better. Even if they should sneak in, I think chances are they are primed to be swept by either Detroit or San Jose.

Our 2nd and 3rd lines seem to be getting absolutly run over, and I think it's just because of the lack of depth the Wild have. Part of it due to injury, most of it due to Doug's unwillingness to invest in anyone other than top liners (yes I'm talking about how well lowballing Brian Rolston has worked out for you Dougie!)

I know Rolston's been hurt in New Jersey, that may or may not have happened here. But when he's been playing he's scoring goals. Doug also lowballed Andrew Brunette after the '03 season and he had 4 monster years in Colorado. Now that he's back he's still getting to the net and has been one of the few offensive bright spots (though I think Brian Rolston would be even better than Brunette and possibly Koivu).

I am sick of this pattern Doug Riseborough has shown of hoping his key players hit slumps at contract time so he can sign them cheap. In other words, the Wild's General Manager is actually rooting for key players to fail so he can save money. It's pretty perverse when you think about it. At the very least, it seems to be the wrong approach if this franchise is serious about ever winning a Stanley Cup.

If I must talk about Gaborik...

I don't think I really care what happens to Marian Gaborik now. I think Doug Riseborough completly mis-handled this situation anyway. It was forseeable that Gaborik wanted more that Dougie was going to pay, even after Doug sent Rolston and Demitra away (though Owen Nolan makes me miss Demitra less), in an effort to clear cap space. Now he's done that for no reason and we're getting run over because players like that would help this huge depth issue the Wild have. Now that Gabs is hurt, DR is redced to hoping someone is willing to send a 3rd or 4th rounder for the off chance Gabs can go in Mid-March.

The Free agent I really want to talk about...

But Gaborik is not who I want to talk about, what's atrocious is that Goaltender Niklas Backstrom hasn't been tendered an extention. Backstrom is the Wild's only all star (and probably deservedly so) and the fact is without Nicky this is probably a last place team. Backup Josh Harding has shown some brilliance but I don't think he's ready to take the reins just yet. Backstrom needs a two year extension at $5M per NOW! Since It is incredibly unlikley that we see Gaborik again that instantly frees up $7.5M. The Wild have only commit $37M to next year (leaving about $20M in total). Some of that needs to go to Backstrom, and they need to get some more $3-4M type forwards to shore up the 2nd line.

But no motion has been made toward signing Backstrom, which I think ought to be the litmus test to whether Doug stays or goes. If Backs gets offered $6M somewhere and doesn't come back maybe that's okay, but if he leaves somewhere cheap, I want Dougie's head to finally roll.