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.