Everyone still with us? Have you been studying for the quiz at the end of all this? Remember, anyone who fails has to cheer for the Canucks next year. You don't want that, do you? As a refresher, here are our grades for the left wings, defensemen and goalies.
Today's summer school class looks at the Right Wings. If you want to know how hard it is to find a good right wing, try and name the top ten right wings in the league. How far did you get before you had to go to NHL.com?
Make the jump, and let's review the Right Wings.
He could not have started out slower. Bringing up the rear of the NHL in +/- for most of the first-half of the season, Havlat was clearly not earning his contract. Sure, he picked it up huge in the middle of the year but faded away at the end. Also, for that kind of money, we should be expecting 70+ points, not 54 and a -19. Sure, he had to get used to the pressure of being a #1 guy, but he simply didn't ever perform like a #1. Next season, if he's not playing on the top line, this C grade will be even worse.
Buddha: D - I'm going to be a bit harsh on this one. 54 points for $5 million is way out of whack. You know what $5 million buys other teams on the right side? Correy Perry or Marian Hossa. Chew on that for a minute. Havlat was -19 on the season, and did literally nothing until Latendresse was brought in. He could not find a way to gel with Koivu, which is the whole reason he was signed. What kind of $5 million man gets pushed of the team's top line by Antti Miettinen? That, right there, should explain the D all on it's own.
JS: C+ Once he got his scorer to play with (G-Lat), he stepped up his game, but he still had a very disappointing season by his standards and considering the contract he signed. Needs to step it up BIG TIME next season.
On any other team in the NHL, Mittens is a third liner. He's the kind of guy who can get hot and put up the numbers, but even playing with the best center on the team, he wasn't able to maintain that high level of play on a regular basis. Just look at his numbers. He's not in the top 10, 20 or even 30 in NHL right wings. He comes in at #40, well behind where a top line right wing should be. Is that Mittens' fault, or is he just not top line quality? Of course he's not. However, he should still be scoring more given his TOI and level of his linemates.
Buddha: D Sorry to break to everyone, but Mittens lost me somewhere this season. Playing on Koivu's wing should be an honor, something someone works their tail off to earn. Miettinen seems to be there just because he puts on his jersey. A respectable 42 points this season, but 42 points from a top line forward is a joke. Remember from above that the second line guy had 54 points. 42 points puts Miettinen in the #40 spot for RWs in the NHL. Let me get this straight, the 40th best RW in the league deserves a spot on the top line of a team, skating with Mikko Koivu? Mind boggling. Miettinen is streaky at best, and a Koivu hanger-on at worst. My bet? He's both. He is signed through next season, and hopefully he spends that final season on a checking line.
JS: C Had a career high in goals, which is good, but he never would’ve done it had he not been on the 1st line with Koivu. In fact, if he was capable of around 15 goals as a 3rd-4th liner in Dallas, he should’ve been more than capable of around 30-35 with first line minutes and a premier playmaker. Not good enough for a first liner.
Unfortunately the Wild's most consistent right winger is a 38 year old. Again, he played the role of a third line winger to perfection and did everything asked of him. He picks up garbage goals, plays tough in front of the net and gives his all every single night. Is he as good a backchecker as he was 10 years ago? No, but that's not his game anymore. He's a guy who takes advantage of his opportunities, gives you a solid effort night in and night out and plays the physical game well. He's the best power forward not named Guillaume Latendresse. It's too bad that he's likely not going to get another shot at a ring here. He deserves it.
Buddha: A I would be afraid to give Cowboy anything but an A. You want him coming to you for an explanation? Of course, I am kidding, but he earned his A. The man scored 33 points (or exactly 9 fewer than the top line RW), all while playing most of the season skating with James Sheppard. Nolan is not the player he used to be, but he has accepted his diminished role and still finds ways to score. 33 points from a third line RW is pretty good. If I were the coach, he would have pushed Miettinen for the top line spot. The only reason I can think that he didn't move up is because that puts Koivu out with two guys in their mid to late 30s and makes the line a defensive liability. Still, he deserved it more than Mittens did.
JS: B Cowboy's still got grit and determination and cared enough about this team to give up a chance at the cup and stay here. Had another good year, even if his goal total declined, he only missed 9 games. Plays with a much needed edge.
He's an energy guy, hits everything in sight, plays smart hockey, pesters the opposition and is developing his offensive game. He's still a couple years from being a 50 point guy, but he led the NHL in hits and amassed more goals than he did last year. Clutterbuck should be the third line RW for the next 10 years on this team.
Buddha: B+ C-Buck did his job, and he did it well. He is an energy guy, sent out on the ice to hit people and wear them down. He draws more penalties than he takes, and his trash talk is among the best in the league. That said, he needs to tone down to head jerks and allow the refs to make the call. No one likes a diver, and no one wants Clutterbuck to get that reputation. His offensive contributions are gaining as well, and who wouldn't want to see that increase? Cal earned himself a three year extension, something every Wild fan liked to see, and it was well deserved. His game isn't perfect, but it gets the job done.
JS: B- New career high goal total, lead the NHL in hits again, despite missing 8 games and was an ever better version of his own self from last year. What's not to love about this guy?
The only reason this isn't higher is because of the injury. It really screwed his season. The Brad Pitt lookalike came over for a high-level prospect (Alexander Fallstrom) and was expected to be the second line wing, and was on pace right out of the gate, but couldn't get healthy after taking the knock and only put up 14 points. The biggest downside is that he never looked to get that step back and was a bit hesitant in contact. He was too easy to knock off the puck after returning and couldn't get into his game. If he doesn't come out hot next season, look for him to be a healthy scratch often and likely on the trading block.
Buddha: C- This grade may be a bit harsh, but I had bigger expectations for Kobasew. Sure, he missed half the season due to injury, and I will cut him some slack for that, but 14 points in 42 games? That's brutal, especially considering what the Wild gave up to get him. Kobasew is a high 30, low 40 point per season guy. He is not the next coming of Jarome Iginla, but is sue would be nice to see him make some progress. Had he been healthy, maybe things change. Maybe he takes Miettinen's spot on the top line and gives Koivu a shooter to skate with. Maybe. Too many maybes. He played well in his first few games with the Wild, and suffered an injury that makes it tough to play. Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe.
JS: B- Chuck Kobasew: I liked what I saw in him, too bad he missed so many games. Got hot between two injuries, should be good for about 20 goals in a healthy season.
He could not have been a bigger disappointment. I had massive hopes for Sykora coming into the season. He was supposed to be the guy who came in, got the garbage goals and was a sniper down low. Instead, he looks to have "played" himself right out of the NHL after clashing with Todd Richards, having his agent do his whining on Twitter and never performing on the ice. Nobody else saw anything positive either, why else wouldn't he have been picked up?
Buddha: F- Free Petr never brought the level of compete that everyone expected to see. He struggled with the coach, which as we all know, is the best way to earn playing time. After being a healthy scratch for most of his time in Minnesota, Sykora was eventually placed on waivers, and guess what? No one claimed him. No one. He was put on re-entry waivers, meaning a team could claim him for half of his salary. Nothing. That should speak volumes about what the NHL teams place on his value. After the debacle was cleared, it came out that he would have surgery that likely would have ended his season anyway. It makes you wonder if the Wild and other teams were privy to that information before making a decision.
Nice to see the kid back in the US, but he didn't seem to be able to take advantage of his time filling in as an injury replacement, unlike Robbie Earl. It'll be shocking if he doesn't move back to the KHL.
Buddha: F Called up only twice, despite a rash of injuries in the forward ranks. Kalus magically overcame his attitude problem when Chuck Fletcher took over. The fact that he got his two games and did little or nothing to make an impression leads to the conclusion that Fletcher and Richards have no desire to move him into the NHL. It also leads one to wonder if the KHL doesn't beckon to Kalus this offseason.
JS: I missed the two games he played in...
This team has a gluttony of less than mediocre journeymen, one young checking line talent a grizzled vet who is outperforming his age and a guy who severely underplayed his contract. If the depth chart doesn't go Havlat - Kobasew - Clutterbuck - Mittens next season, we're all in trouble, or they made some fantastic off-season moves.
Buddha: F When the top line guy should be a third line guy, and the guy who should be on the first line struggles on the second line, things are bad. When the best grades go to the team's energy guy, and the oldest guy on the team, things are really bad. The Wild have never had a bona fide top flight Right Wing. Never. Gaborik is as close as they have ever come, and we all know how that went. Havlat needs to find a way to work with Koivu. I mean, come on. Imagine a line of Latendresse - Koivu - Havlat, all clicking together. Sickening. Koivu has shown an ability to skate with anyone, so the fault falls to Havlat, in my mind. Despite strong showings from Nolan and Clutterbuck, the RWs were a failure to the team, and a disgrace to the position.
JS: B- We might've been a little weaker on right wing this year, but if Havlat can play like Havlat the entire year, it should be alright. We absolutely need a true 1st line winger for Koivu though.