With the announcement earlier that Drew Bagnall and Matt Kassian were both placed on waivers, the Wild "final" roster is fairly well spelled out. With three goalies still on the roster, as well as James Sheppard, things are not complete, thus the quotes around the word final. This will not be the roster that plays on Thursday, so take the entire thing with a grain of salt.
Make the jump for the final roster, and some discussion.
In Numeric order:
One of these days, we'll get you a better picture, Zids, I promise. As of right now, Zidlicky is the top offensive defenseman on the roster. He will certainly be good for 40+ points, and will be a top PP d-man, as well as taking more than his fair share on the PK. His game is more geared to the offensive side than the defensive side of the position, causing more heart attacks and threats to jump of bridges, but Zidlicky is clearly the top d-man, and until someone decides to challenge for that, it isn't likely to change.
Welcome to this season's scapegoat. James Sheppard is hurt, Martin Skoula is gone, and Filip Kuba is in Ottawa. Stoner had a a solid showing in his short stint with the Wild to end last season, signed a strange one way, then two way deal in the off-season, and followed it all up with one of the most disappointing pre-seasons in recent memory. On the ice for 10 goals against, and looking completely out of place, Stoner has reserved his spot in the fan dog house. For the sake of the team, and for Stoner, we hope he can pull himself out of the funk.
Ah, Zuperman. Despite being told that Zanon was once an offensive superstar, we all know that he would sooner drop and block a shot than put one on net. Zanon did put up a personal record 15 points last season, most likely due to extended time with Marek Zidlicky. His real value is as the defensive stalwart, sacrificing life and limb to ensure Backstrom only has to face 35 shots a game, rather than 50.
Ah, our resident vampire. I mean, resident savior. Clearly, the signing of Matt Cullen was meant to bring the Stanley Cup down Kellogg, right? Wrong. The signing of Cullen was meant to take pressure off of Mikko Koivu, and to boost the line of Latendresse and Havlat. Nothing more, nothing less. From the comments on Twitter and around the web, people have found their hockey messiah and his name is Matt Cullen. While I believe he has a huge season in store, he is not the difference between 13th and the Cup.
Inglewood Jack is back. After suffering two concussions in less than a calendar year, and having his development interrupted by a wonderful experiment with him at forward, Brent Burns is healthy, and likely has something to prove. We have seen his physical side, we have seen his offensive side, and we have seen his defensive side. This is the season he needs to put it altogether.
Kaptian Koivu. What more can be said about him that hasn't already been said in Minnesota? The core of the team, the single most important building block of any success this franchise may have, and yet somehow still underrated by everyone outside of the State of Hockey. We all know what you can expect from Koivu. Nothing more needs to be said here.
Good for a turducken joke, for a BOOM! reference, and for a solid penalty kill. John Madden was a surprise signing, but a welcome one. The thinking had to be to take the pressure of defending against the opposition's top line off of Koivu. He brings a veteran presence to the locker room, and an ability to be exactly where he needs to be to break up a play. He is also good for 10 or so goals a season, and is a real threat for the rare short-handed goal.
The Wild's resident Brad Pitt look alike. We still have yet to see what exactly Chuck Kobasew brings to the table. Is he a third line checker, or a top line scoring threat? The answer is yes. Whatever role he is put in, he will excel and leave an impression. Plagued by injuries last season, Wild fans should be excited to see Kobasew healthy and settled. Certainly 40+ points is not out of the question, just so long as his linemates can keep up with him.
The ageless wonder, Andrew Brunette skated for the final part of the season on a blown knee and still outscored most of the squad. Not known for his speed, Brunette is the crafty goal scorer, always finding a way to be where the puck is going to be. He is a lock for the top line, even at 37 years old. Once Bouchard takes Miettinen's spot on that line, Brunette may actually be able to increase production, which would be ridiculous. However, if the Wild struggle this season, Brunette would certainly be a prime candidate to be traded at the deadline.
Staubitz may have the most unfair comparison to overcome. He will never be Derek Boogaard, so don't even dream that he will be. He is in Minnesota because he has the set of skills necessary to play mean, tough hockey and to keep himself out of the penalty box. He will simply fill a fourth line checking role, but he makes it possible for all four lines to skate a regular shift.
"He does not look out of place." Eventually someone is going to have to find something else to say about the kid, right? Casey Wellman out performed expectations after being signed as a college free agent last season, and continues to impress with his scoring touch, his defensive play, and his work ethic. I would call him the "Anti-Sheppard." Overlooked by everyone, never drafted, and playing his rear off to prove he belongs. He had added 14 or so pounds of lean muscle to the numbers above, making him stronger and more able to protect himself and the puck. He has a long career ahead of him, just so long as expectations stay tempered, and he continues to "not look out of place."
The fall back scapegoat should Clayton Stoner find his game. Despite racking up a career year in points, Antti Miettinen still ranked as only the 40th best RW in the league. He is almost certain to lose his top line billing when Bouchard returns, and hopefully he can accept a role on checking line. Miettinen would make prime trade rumor fodder around the deadline, regardless of how the team is doing in the standings.
Brodziak has admitted that he was playing just a a bit above his pay grade last year while centering Havlat and Latendresse. He filled the role admirably, but his place on the depth chart is much more in line with his talents now. A superb checker with just a touch of offensive talent, Brodziak can now center a crushing line with Clutterbuck and Nystrom, making the opposition think about them rather than the game.
Speaking of Cal Clutterbuck, oh he of the Finnish hat trick, there has been all kinds of talk surrounding him. Some want him on the top line RW. The thinking being he could be the next Alex Burrows. After all of you get the vomit taste out of your mouths, know one thing. Russo is now reporting that Cal may have secured himself a spot on the Havlat - Cullen line. An interesting move, to say the least. Does he continue to hit? Or does he have to focus on the offense first? More importantly, does anyone know where I can buy an edible hat?
It still amazes me how little we know about this guy. Sure, he had his strip tease, but what else is there to him? A former first round pick that has settled nicely into his role as a checker. Word out of Calgary is they were not happy to see him leave, and that the Flames misused his offensive talents. Whether or not that is true is yet to be seen, but he has clicked well, and has created havoc on the forecheck. That fits Todd Richards' system pretty well, so maybe he and Clutterbuck can add some offense from the third line.
The biggest "if" rides squarely on the shoulders of the most expensive free agent acquisition in Wild history. If Martin Havlat can regain his form. If he can have another healthy year. If he can help make Latendresse into the player he was last season. If he can maintain real chemistry with Cullen. If, if, if. Time for Havlat to prove he is worth the money. It's that simple.
Cam Barker has yet to get a fair shake in Minnesota. When Chuck Fletcher traded for Barker, he gave up the Wild's top puck moving d-man in Kim Johnsson, and the first round pick Nick Leddy. No one has stepped up to fill Johnsson's shoes in the breakout, and Leddy has all but made the team in Chicago. Barker has his knocks on him, such as footwork and speed, but he has yet to make any glaring mistakes, save for being the unfortunate defensive partner of Stoner for the beginning of the pre-season. As much as it is going to annoy the readers of the Wilderness, I still have yet to render judgment on this trade.
Funny how ranking players by number results in some odd coincidences. If Havlat is the biggest "if," then Backstrom is a very close second. If he, too can regain his form of the past, the Wild have a real chance. If the writing on the wall is the truth, and Backstrom was a product of a bygone system, then either the Wild will struggle mightily, or Jose Theodore may get more starts than anyone thought.
Poor Borat. He has been a loyal soldier, and done everything expected of an NHL prospect. He re-signed with the Wild this summer, most likely because he saw the depth chart and saw his chance to be Backstrom's back up one trade away. Then Harding goes down in a heap, and it is Anton's time to shine. Then comes news that Theodore has signed, and Khudobin is now headed back to Houston to at best share starts with Matthew Hackett. Why is Anton included in the "final" roster? He is on it. Simple as that. He has to be, as he is Backstrom's backup while in Finland. Likely before they leave, he will be re-assigned, and Theodore will meet the team in Saint Paul.
The surprise of the preseason. Falk played probably the best set of games of any of the Wild defensemen, not just the rookies. He played physical, kept up with every match up, and impressed enough to make the team as the seventh d-man. Although, he has likely surpassed Stoner on the depth chart as well.
Best. Trade. Ever? It still fits, and it is still amazing just how much of a steal Lats was. Fighting a hip injury right now, he has not had the greatest pre-season. He has not played much, and when he has, has been a non-factor.With this news in mind, it appears Lats may have lost his spot on the scoring line to Cal Clutterbuck. This does not bode well for my multiple predictions of a breakout year for Latendresse.
The anchorman of the Wild defensive corps. It seems to have been made clear that Schultz is a defense first type of player, which should benefit his game greatly. The talk of some serious trade rumors, Schultz mat be here for a long time, and he may be gone tomorrow. Right now, he is one of the safest bets to send over the boards in a clutch defensive situation.
Ladies and gentlemen, your back-up goal tender. How in the world a guy who goes 30-7-7 in the NHL ends up a back-up is beyond me, but the benefit seems to be for the Wild. The departure from the depth chart still confuses me, but it is what it is. Theodore is certainly a solid goalie, and will push Backstrom to be at his best. If Backs cannot bring his A game, Theodore has a proven track record, and could fill the starting role nicely.
Don't be fooled by the number listed above. Theodore has always worn #60, and should wear that same number in Minnesota.
James Sheppard - Shep has not been placed on IR, nor LTIR. This has to be a sign that the team may be debating suspending him to save the $800K in salary. Regardless of how it is done on paper, Sheppard will not be on the team to start this this season. Since he is a UFA at the end of the year, he is likely done with the organization as well.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - The story here is well known. Butch is skating in practice, but has yet to take contact. His return timetable is unknown, but he will certainly need to be a top line winger once he returns.
Josh Harding - Currently on IR, the Wild will eventually need to place him on LTIR to open up his cap space. The same as with Sheppard, regardless of how it looks on paper, Harding is not with the team, and will not be with the team.
There you have it. Your 2010-11 Minnesota Wild. As bad as they have looked on the ice, they still don't look outrageously bad on paper... or in pixels as it were. Please, let us know in the comments. How do you feel about the roster? Who is here that shouldn't be? Who should be here that isn't?