NHL.com is doing it's annual 30-in-30 series, and while I was away, they previewed the Minnesota Wild. Today, we take a look at that preview, point out our disagreements, and try to settle up a handful of misconceptions listed in the post.
Before I go any further, I just want to say something to NHL.com. I say this with all due respect to the site, and to the people that run it. I have talked to a few of you, and interact with even more of you on Twitter. Most of you are excellent at what you do. Beyond reproach. Even if I disagree with your opinion, it is difficult to go after your writing and ability to put forth an argument. With that said, the gentleman who wrote this piece is a hack. Completely unworthy of a place on the flagship site of the league, certainly not is what is likely a popular series.
Keep in mind, those of you with clout at NHL.com... I am available, and I work cheap.
Make the jump and let's take a look at this preview, shall we?
A warning: this is one of those posts where I quote the post and then chime in with my two cents. A couple of readers have suggested they do not enjoy such posts. For those two people... stop reading now. I'll give you something else to read later. Or... go read the Aeros posts at T3I. Here we go.
First off, you can find the original post by Sergei J. Feldman over on NHL.com.
We start with this:
Often times, three out of five isn't so bad.
But when it means missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs three out of the past five seasons, as is the case with the Minnesota Wild, suddenly the statistic looks a bit more disturbing.
Three out of five is 60%. On a basic grading scale, it is a D-. It is 1% away from an F. It is unacceptable to pull 60% in anything worth measuring. When is 3 out of five not so bad? Perhaps in a five game playoff series, but the NHL uses 7 games series, so no one really cares about a five game series.
He then goes on about how the Wild are in the middle of changing from Jacques Lemaire's defensive system to Todd Richards' more offensive system. Good points, if not a bit boring in it's presentation. That's a matter of style, not substance, so I'll let it go. However, we then find this gem:
Fortunately, the 2010-11 season represents a clean slate, where Wild management, coaches, players and fans can forget the past -- including last year's 84-point effort that was good for fourth in the Northwest Division and 13th in the West -- and move on with the promise of a better day under the leadership of the franchise's first permanent captain, Mikko Koivu.
If you would, please re-read that final part of the sentence. Put it in your pocket, if you would. You'll need it a bit later.
Under the "Departures" heading, he writes this:
On the whole, the Wild did not fall victim to the consequences that often come with an offseason.
Depth, lineup flexibility and toughness were among the ingredients that left Minnesota. Leading the departed four was tough-guy Derek Boogaard, who signed with the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent.
While his offensive contributions won't be sadly missed, every team needs a physical presence and a guy who can monitor certain conduct on the ice as it pertains to the team's key players. The 6-foot-8, 257-pound giant did just that in his five seasons with the Wild.
Others who left include forward Andrew Ebbett and defensemen John Scott and Jaime Sifers. The three combined for a total of 9 goals and 7 assists for the Wild last season, so their departures shouldn't have a lasting impact.
The Wild did not re-sign a single NHL level UFA from the roster. Not one. That is the key bit of information, and it is completely missed here. That's not to say they should have, or that they could not have, but that they did not. It's great that we are at least informed that Derek Boogaard left, but that is a significant change in team make-up, and it is completely glossed over. Coming from a post that is based on the idea that the team has an identity issue, this is a missed opportunity to make your point.
No mention of Owen Nolan. None. One of the biggest non-signings of the off-season thus far. No mention.
A matter of style, perhaps. Nit-picking for sure. Sorry about that.
Under "Arrivals" we start with this:
The big move of free agency was the signing of veteran center Matt Cullen. The 33-year-old model of consistency agreed to a three-year contract worth $10.5 million. Cullen has registered at least 40 points in each of his past five seasons. More importantly, he has played for three teams in those five years, so acquainting himself with new surroundings -- although Cullen is a Minnesota native -- shouldn't be an issue.
Agreed that Cullen was the big move. However, when we get to the last sentence, we run into a wall. Cullen played for three teams in the last five years. Correct. However, how does that make him acquainting himself with Minnesota any easier? He played on Long Island, in Carolina, and for 21 games in Ottawa. None of these places are much like Minnesota.
Throwing in the fact that Cullen is from Minnesota in this context is mind boggling. While he is, indeed, from Minnesota, he is from the Iron Range. There is a big difference between Virginia, Minnesota and Saint Paul. Not that Cullen is going to be overwhelmed by the big lights, big city, but he is not from Saint Paul. There will be an adjustment. Also, is the fact that he is from Minnesota being used here to tell me he will make the adjustment easier or that he will not make it easier?
The Wild hope a change of scenery will bring out some of Nystrom's offensive talents and that his two-way play will have an immediate and noticeable impact.
Hmm... I disagree. I do not believe for a second that Nystrom was brought in for his offense in any way. While I do believe the Wild are hopeful he can put a handful in, I do not believe they are counting on him being a regular contributor on the offensive side of the puck. Energy and grit, that's what they want from him. Maybe a goal or two every now and again.
We finish up the "Arrivals" topic with this:
While Cullen and Nystrom bring NHL experience to the table, Fletcher relied equally as heavily on ensuring a solid draft. Enter Mikael Granlund, a Finnish-born center who has as much creativity as potential. Granlund was the highest-rated European player in the 2010 Entry Draft and was selected ninth by the Wild.
So, Granlund is an arrival, but people like Palmer and Zucker aren't? How about Casey Wellman? Does he count as an arrival? Using a first round pick as an arrival would be all well and good... if he was going to play for the team this coming season. He isn't, so don't include him.
The "Outlook" area is where the train derailment gets really bad. Remember the bit about Koivu that I asked you to remember from up above? Pull it out and re-read it. Could be interpreted that he understood Koivu was the captain last season, too, right? Wrong:
As mentioned, the upcoming season marks the first time the Wild will have a permanent captain as Koivu shoulders the responsibility.
"The upcoming season..." Upcoming? Really? I believe he was the captain last season as well, but I could be wrong. Let me check with the "Book of Things Anyone Who Has Watched a Wild Game Would Already Know." Nope, looks like I'm not wrong on this one.It's painful to even read that after the thousands of articles written and comments made by both home announcers and away last season. Painful that someone who represents the NHL could blow such a simple piece of information about the team he was assigned to write about.
On to Havlat. Among the big question marks for the Wild is whether or not Havlat will bring to the ice the kind of game his six-year, $30 million contract merits. If he can approach the 30-goal mark -- which he has done in the past -- the roster will look that much more dangerous, especially when you take into account potential scoring from other candidates.
Guillaume Latendresse, for instance, re-signed with the Wild in the offseason after registering 25 goals in 55 games after being traded from the Montreal Canadiens. His emergence as a potential 25-30 goal scorer will help to solidify Minnesota's attack, as will the production of veteran Andrew Brunette, who is coming off a 61-point season and Antti Miettinen, who posted 20 goals and 42 points.
If Havlat puts in 30 goals, the entire roster looks more dangerous? Would only he look more dangerous? Perhaps we could stretch that to be the second line looks more dangerous, but the entire roster? Nah. And, does the second paragraph here suggest that Anti Miettinen helps solidify the Wild attack? Miettinen does? Perhaps if the NHL used soccer nets, but right now, he is a third line right wing playing on the top line for reasons that are as yet unexplained.
The potential offensive firepower, as impressive as it could be, will be superseded by a solid defensive unit. Marek Zidlicky, Cam Barker, Brett Burns, Greg Zanon, Nick Shultz and Shane Hnidy control play from behind the blue line, and have done so effectively on a consistent basis.
As pointed out by our own SpaethCo... Shane Hnidy? Maybe you should go back to where I remind you that the Wild did not sign a single NHL UFA from their roster. Shane Hnidy is not around this coming season. Sorry to be the one to inform everyone of that point, but he isn't. Nothing about Clayton Stoner? Oh, wait... that would have been in the "Arrivals" heading, right? Maybe a I missed it. I'll go back and re-read it, wait here for me.
On the goaltender front, we get this:
Also, with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, the play between the pipes figures to be as strong as it was in 2006-07, when Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez won the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) that played for the team with the fewest goals allowed.
Why does the combination of Backstrom and Harding suddenly compare to the play of Backstrom and Fernandez in 2006-07? They were on the roster together last season, weren't they? Let me again check the "Book of Things Anyone Who Has Watched a Wild Game Would Already Know." Yep, they sure were on the roster last season. Wasn't a great season for either one of them, so what makes you think it suddenly becomes Jennings trophy worthy?
I think the goaltending certainly rebounds, but would you care to offer something to back-up your argument on this?
We close with this:
Couple a solid defense with strong goaltending and a potentially potent offense, and the Wild may have the recipe for starting a more positive streak of playoff success.
A more positive streak of playoff success? Such as... making the playoffs?
To sum up:
Mikko Koivu is entering his first season as the Wild captain, Shane Hnidy is on the team, Owen Nolan has not left the roster yet, Clayton Stoner is not on the team, Mikael Granlund is, Havlat scoring goals makes even James Sheppard more dangerous, Miettinen is an offensive leader, Nystrom looks to be a major offensive piece, Cullen will have no issue adapting to a new team (despite the fact that he is from Minnesota) because is so well traveled, Backstrom and Harding are magically the best goalies in the league, and doing just enough not to fail is "not bad."
Everyone got all that?