Minnesota Wild 09-10 Season Recap: The Defensemen

Hey everyone! Nathan asked me to do a season-recap article about the Wild defensemen's performances this season. Granted, this was a season of ups and downs for the Wild and admittedly, the Wild's 246 goals against (11th in the western conference) is unfamiliar territory for us. HOWEVER, I don't think it's entirely because of bad defending. Of course we can argue that our D this year often let our goaltenders to dry, but with Richards' new system, the D were taking a lot more chances than they were used to under Lemaire's regime. I don't think it's anything to get excited about, I have faith in the fact that our D will get used to the system. As a whole, I don't think our defense protected our goaltenders nearly enough either when they fell on them or pushed them. However, in my honest opinion, I don't think we've ever had such great depth on the blue line, it's just a matter of them gelling together and getting more used to the new system, but there's only so many times that this excuse will work. I will now rate each defenseman the Wild have dressed this year. It's only fitting that a grade them since I'm currently studying to become a math teacher (Coincidence?) I also play D in soccer. Curious to see how I assessed their performances?

Make the jump.

 

 We've dressed 13 defensemen this year, including Johnsson who is now with Chicago. The easiest way to grade them would be to look at their stats, but stats don't tell the whole story, especially not for defensemen. Here are the stats anyway, courtesy of www.nhl.com

Player

GP

  G

   A

   P

  +/-

  PIM

PP

SH

GW

OT

S

S%

TOI/G

Sft/G

1

Marek Zidlicky

78

6

37

43

-16

67

4

0

3

0

116

5.2

24:10

31.7

2

Brent Burns

47

3

17

20

-15

32

2

0

0

0

104

2.9

22:22

30.5

3

Nick Schultz

80

1

19

20

-8

43

1

0

0

0

83

1.2

20:58

30.4

4

Greg Zanon

81

2

13

15

-10

36

0

0

0

0

59

3.4

22:22

30.5

5

Kim Johnsson

52

6

8

14

3

26

3

0

0

0

84

7.1

23:46

31.7

6

Shane Hnidy

70

2

12

14

-6

66

0

0

0

0

49

4.1

13:32

20.5

7

Cam Barker

19

1

6

7

-2

10

1

0

0

0

31

3.2

22:01

32.2

8

John Scott

51

1

1

2

-3

90

0

0

0

0

22

4.5

8:36

14.5

9

Clayton Stoner

8

0

2

2

1

12

0

0

0

0

5

0.0

13:18

20.3

10

Nate Prosser

3

0

1

1

2

8

0

0

0

0

4

0.0

19:36

25.3

11

Jaime Sifers

14

0

0

0

1

6

0

0

0

0

9

0.0

12:59

19.6

12

Justin Falk

3

0

0

0

-2

0

0

0

0

0

1

0.0

7:32

13.0

13

Maxim Noreau

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.0

7:01

10.0

By no means does this chart mean that Marek Zidlicky was the best year defenseman this year. In my gradation of the Wild defensemen's performances this season, I will look at every aspect of their game, the intangibles if you will. I will also include Kim Johnsson since he played more than half the season with the Wild. Keep in mind also, that I haven't been able to watch all the games because the game links on atdhe.net seem to work only when they feel like it, so I ended up listening to a lot of the games on the radio this year. Regardless, I believe I have enough information to grade the players, if you don't agree with my point of view, let's talk about it! Let's get it started!


Marek Zidlicky

#3 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

5-11

190

Feb 03, 1977



 

Marek Zidlicky: Freshly resigned Marek Zidlicky ( has been a solid rock on our powerplay... when he isn't taking a penalty 20 seconds into it. I've found Zid to take the most untimely penalties and he always seemed to suffer a lull after a Wild goal, often resulting in opposition goals. Make no mistake though, he's been arguably our best offensive defenseman and that's what he's here for. We might argue that his 6 goals aren't too satisfying given he scored 12 last season, but he managed to get one more point than last year too. His -16 is also pretty disappointing, but pretty much everyone suffered in that category. The thing about that is that in the first half of the season, he led all Wild defensemen in that category, and he ended up dead last in that same group at the end of the season, indicating that he had a rough post-Olympic stretch. His 67 penalty minutes are second only to John Scott's 90 for most PIM among team defensemen and his 31 minor penalties led the team, so this is something he's going to have to work on, he's no good to us in the penalty box. He's still had a pretty solid year overall, establishing a new team record for points by a defenseman in a season, and also notching his 200th career assist, so...

Grade: B-


Kim Johnsson

#8 / Minnesota Wild

6-1

193

Mar 16, 1976



 

Kim Johnsson: Traded to Chicago along with prospect Nick Leddy for Cam Barker, many felt Kim Johnsson's play didn't justify his salary. I was always one of them. I just couldn't understand how an ‘offensive threat', as I heard him being called last year, could score a measly 2 goals and 24 points last year. This year, he's done much better, both offensively and defensively in my opinion. He was always our big minute muncher and this year was no different. I've never liked Kim Johnsson, but this season, I can honestly say that he was one of the better d-men on the team... and then they go and trade him... I still like the trade though (to those of you that say that the trade was a flop, I'll explain later why it wasn't ). In his 52 games with the Wild this season, he was a cool +3 and he scored 6 goals, which were both personal-bests in his wild days (not  his career personal bests) but the thing I didn't really like about him in his Wild career is that he had absolutely no physical edge, 31 hits in 52 games for a defenseman to me is lamentable. How are you going to take a guy off the puck if you're not willing to hit him? Only one other defenseman was lower than Johnsson for hits per game (I'll talk about him next). Like it or not, he's been our #1 d-man for a while and he still was this year. Looks like he was prospering in this new system where he had more freedom. I guess that's what was missing from his game in years past.

Grade: B


Shane Hnidy

#34 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-2

204

Nov 08, 1975



 

Shane Hnidy: Sheriff indeed! He was good at keeping things lawful on the ice, pushing and shoving when he was needed, but he had a paltry 36 hits in 70 games. That's barely half a hit per game and for a guy www.thehockeynews.com describes as ‘'physical depth defenseman'', we didn't get to see much of the physical, except for after the whistle. Hnidy, oddly enough, was as invisible as a man can get. He didn't do that bad, he didn't do that good either, he was just...there... like furniture or something. We hardly ever talked about him, we hardly heard about him, he was just plain, vanilla, ordinary. He did, however, post a new personal best in points and he won the title ‘King of the shootout' in the Wild's skills competition... REALLY? Anyone else find this bizarre? Oh well. Everything indicates that he'll be elsewhere this year, but of course we wouldn't know because no one ever talks about him, at all. Sure we all talk about if Scott and Shep are staying or going, but Hnidy? I guess it's a given. I've never seen a guy being more ‘'middle of the pack'' than this guy (in fact, he was tied for 128th among 299 defensemen in points... pretty close to the middle wouldn't you say?) He was still a nice fit for this team, but I don't think anyone would've expected him to stay here more than one year.

Grade: C-


Greg Zanon

#6 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

5-11

201

Jun 05, 1980



 

Greg Zanon: Every time Greg Zanon blocks a shot, a hair grows on his chin to increase the awesomeness of his beard. His heroics during a 2 minute 5 on 3 penalty kill (http://wild.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?tab=1 should be around page 3) spawned many ‘Zanonisms' from the Wild community and he deserved every one of them. This guy was indestructible this year, playing the last month or so on a hairline fractured foot, with which he blocked many more shots. He showed more balls than a professional juggler! He was a real warrior for the Wild, leading the team in blocked shots (4th in the league) and leading team defensemen in hits, all while missing just ONE game with a broken foot (he was even FORCED to sit out). ‘Zuperman' was probably, with little doubt, our best defenseman this year, making very little mistakes and putting his body on the line every night, and even posting career highs in assists and points, which is pretty much just a bonus, because he's not paid to be an offensive defenseman by any means. It's a shame Zanon doesn't get more recognition league-wide, but we all know how valuable he's been for this team, and at 29 years of age, he's still pretty young, so we can expect many more years of shot blocking goodness from him. One small thing though: he lost every faceoff he took this year! (0 for 1) SHAME ON HIM!  Hahaha, he's the only Wild defenseman to take a faceoff this year, that's kind of strange. It would be hard to give Zanon anything less than a...

Grade: Z (Zupermaaaaan!)

Real grade: A


Brent Burns

#8 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-5

219

Mar 09, 1985



 

Brent Burns:  Oh my, how we would've loved to have him play the whole year, especially if he played like he finished the season. Burns was pretty horrible before his concussion shelved him for 29 games, but as bad as he was then, that's how good he was when he came back! He was a brand new man, it was like Fletch had pulled off another great trade! Burnsie finished the season on fire (Burns, fire, haha) despite being a disgusting -11 in the last 10 games, but he showed great hands and finesse, like we know he can, and again, his -11 isn't very telling of how better he looked defensively compared to the beginning of the season. Before his concussion, he made some very bad decisions often leading to one of the team-record, league-leading 12 shorthanded goals, but I can hardly think of any such mistakes after his hip injury. I always wonder what could've been if this guy had stayed a winger... I wonder...Anyway, if he can finally play an entire season, watch out NHL!

Grade: B-


Nick Schultz

#55 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-1

200

Aug 25, 1982



 

Nick Schultz: Ol' reliable. Schultz has always been a staple to our defensive corps. Nowhere near as flashy as, well anyone else (but still more noticeable than Hnidy), and he's not supposed to be, Schultz just gets the job done, and he has for over 600 games now. You rarely see this guy make a mistake and it was again the case this year. This year, he started *gasp* jumping into the play! This resulted in a lower +/- score (not the only reason of course, he's never really caused breakaways while he was pinching in) and a new career high for points in a season, also breaking the 100 point mark for his career. Schultz has always been a guy you can count on in behind the blue line, and I see no reason why he wouldn't be for another 10 years, hopefully with the Wild, because his leadership and poise are great pluses for this team. Of course he suffered a career worst -8 this season, like with most of our d-men, this is an exception rather than a rule. Some might call him boring; I call him one of the best d-men we've ever drafted. I wouldn't have having 2 or 3 more guys like him on my squad.  It's been another good season from Schultzie.

Grade: B


Cam Barker

#45 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-3

215

Apr 04, 1986



Cam Barker: The scapegoat, many compared him to Martin Skoula because of his rather poor play to end the season. First of all, comparing him to Skoula is blasphemous, so stop it. Second, we've got to give this guy a chance. Sure we gave up what might've been our best d-man this year and a prospect, but let's not forget three things: 1, Leddy is not going to be in the NHL before another couple of years, and even when he does make it, I seriously doubt he'll ever be as good as Cam Barker, 2, It was Johnsson's time to leave, we were maybe going to lose him to free agency anyway and he was pretty expensive. With this trade, we're assured to have a solid young defenseman for another 2 years, for less money than Johnsson cost, and 3, Barker is still just 23, he was chosen right after OV and Malkin by Chicago, and that means something. Of course Barker may have had a rough year this year, but everyone does sooner or later (like the aforementioned Malkin), so I have no doubt we're going to have a stud on our hands next year and beyond. He had a pretty good start with the Wild, scoring on his first game and going +4 in his 9 first games with the club, but he seemed to have hit a wall at some point and became lazy and slow. Make no mistake about this guy though; he can play with an edge (another plus over Johnsson) and is a very capable powerplay player. He can only go up from here.

Grade: C


John Scott

#36 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-8

258

Sep 26, 1982



 

John Scott: This Behemoth was pretty likeable. Sure he may not have too much talent, but he can certainly throw-down and he was valuable in that sense. With his gigantic reach, he was also pretty good in keeping the puck in the offensive zone. I thought Scott had a pretty good year with the Wild, yes, that's right. He added toughness on the ice, scored his first NHL goal, almost had as many goals as Shep (which is pretty sad actually) and was a good enough 7th defenseman. That being said, he did take some pretty unnecessary penalties and wasn't very good with the puck, but he did protect our smaller guys, which is what we wanted from him. You've got to admit that you enjoyed seeing him beat the mustache off of George Parros in the 3-goal comeback against the Ducks! Too bad he's likely to lose out in the Wild d-man numbers game, but he would probably benefit from playing for a team that would give him at least a spot as a 6th or 7th defenseman.

Grade: C-


Jaime Sifers

#26 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

5-11

210

Jan 18, 1983



 

Jaime Sifers: In his 14 games this year, what I gathered from Sifers is that he's like a pesky mosquito; he flies all around you, buzzing in your ear, flailing his stick all around you. He's the kind of defenseman you'd hate to play against because he does everything he can to knock the puck away from your stick. He does play rather recklessly though and I'm surprised he only had 6 penalty minutes. Other than that, he was just another run-of-the-mill defenseman, he was O.K., did what he needed to do and he was a +1 in his 14 games so he was doing something right. He'll probably never be anything more than a call-up in Minny though.

Grade: C


Clayton Stoner

#7 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-3

225

Feb 19, 1985



 

Clayton Stoner:  If this guy can have a healthy season next time around, he should be our 6th defenseman. The guy showed a lot of promise before his groin acted up. Hope we don't have another Gabby on our hands. Stoner showed he has solid offensive and defensive skills in the few games he played, with good physicality and showed he can throw down the gloves, but that's what playing a lot of minutes in the AHL will do for ya, because he's been there a LOOOONG time. He's got a lot of pro experience and it showed in his brief stint in the NHL. I'm pretty sure he would've been up to stay if not for his season ending injury though. In 8 games, he only took one minor penalty and he fought twice while averaging 13 minutes.  Some of us may snicker at his name (hehe Stoner) but his foes are going to have to take him seriously next year, as he's well on his way in becoming an NHL regular. I really liked what I saw from him so...

Grade: B


Nate Prosser

#39 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-2

195

May 07, 1986



 

Nate Prosser:  ‘'The Stiffmeister'' was unexpectedly put into the fray for 3 games and was unexpectedly good! He showed veteran-like calmness and poise (except for the first 5 minutes), scored an assist in his first game and went +2 while averaging a whopping 19:36 minutes per game and two of those games were losses! In fact, in the 3 games he played, Prosser was on the ice for 3 of the 5 Wild goals scored and for NONE of the EIGHT goals scored against! Quite an impressive debut for Nate, wouldn't you say? I dare you to find anything wrong with the way Prosser played! That said, it would be hard for me to actually give a fair grade to his performance because a 3 game stint is much different from an 82 game season, but let's just say he gave us a reason to be excited about him, just like Wellman gave us that same excitement factor. Simply put, good job Fletch!

Grade: A-  (don't read too much into it, it would probably drop over a full season)


Maxim Noreau

#4 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-0

198

May 24, 1987



 

Maxim Noreau:  At the time of his call-up, he was leading the AHL both in goals and points among AHL defensemen, so he would be a natural call-up right? Well, he played one game, and to be honest, I didn't get a chance to watch it because atdhe.net decided I really wanted to watch the St-Louis game instead (they often screw-up like this, sigh...I didn't watch it of course). Again, it would be pretty much impossible to rate his performance because he only played 7 jittery minutes, but Prosser's first 5 were pretty jittery too, so maybe if he had been given time to get into the game, we could've seen what he was made of... or should I say YOU could've seen what he was made of... damn atdhe...I'm pretty sure he's going to be a great call-up when we need him again though, he can't be very bad if he's basically one of the top defenders in the AHL right?

Grade: N/A


Justin Falk

#41 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-5

215

Oct 11, 1988



 

Justin Falk:  In about the same vein as Noreau, we didn't get to see much of Falk, so there's virtually no way of knowing how good he did. He didn't take any penalties, which is good, but he practically didn't have time to take one. Sure he played as many games as Prosser, but Falk played in three games about the same amount of time Prosser played in his first, so I've got much more information on Prosser. Falk wore #41, which is pretty disgusting. Here's to hoping he isn't the second coming of Skoula!

Grade: N/A

Well, looks like everyone graduated (except for Noreau and Falk, but let's just say they did anyway) In a sense, you might think " Well if they were all so good, why didn't we make the playoffs? " and to that, I answer that I went a bit easy on them since it's the first year of the CF + TR era, but next year, they will all need to step up and be more coherent as a group. Hope you liked my very first assignment everyone!

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