As July 1st approached last summer, Wild fans set their sights on a handful of free agent centers deemed to be worthy of the second spot behind Mikko Koivu. When Matt Cullen was announced as that free agent center, there was much rejoicing in Mudville. He offered something for everyone. A bone fide second line center, with offensive ability, and for the provincials, he is Minnesotan.
Certainly, with the long standing hole in the roster filled, and a Minnesotan on the roster, the Wild were now favorites for the Stanley Cup, right? Not really, no.
So how did he do? Did he score highly in his first season, or did he come up with Fs? Make the jump for the Hockey Wilderness staff grades for Matt Cullen.
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JS- GRADE: C He started off beautifully, leading the league in powerplay points for a little while, helping the Wild to a league-best powerplay, but then for some reason, he got relegated to the third line and just wasn't the same anymore. He ended up having a very limited impact on the team in the last few months and it was rather disappointing. He's still the best thing to have happened to the Wild's Special Teams though, so his signing was still worth it IMO. However, we'll need him to step up next season and play like he did in the beginning of the season.
Elise- Grade: B Had his ups and downs and production was lower than last season, but overall thought he helped out the lineup.
Dan- Grade: B- Great start but scored only 8 points since the All-Star (32 games). For a team that is relying on you to be their #2 centerman, that just isn't enough. And it was obvious he did not find his place as the #2 centerman, being juggled between players, 5.27% of even strength time with Kyle Brodziak and Martin Havlat, being his most frequent line combination. However, it would have been nice to see what he could have done with Latendresse in the line-up.
Monica- GRADE: C Coming in fifth on the team for points with 39 but having the second worst +/- on the team with a -14 leaves the center in the middle of the road with a C. While an offensive threat with his 27 assist and 12 goals in 78 games played, the lack of defensive skill leaves much to be desired for a center in today's game.
Bryan- Grade: C Cullen may have been given some unfair expectations coming in, and not given much of a chance to make the numbers happen, but fair shake or not, he was somewhat disappointing. Could this be the fault of the coach? Most likely, but he barely met the minimum expectations, so he gets an average, yet passing grade.
Nathan- Grade: C-. One of us, Cullen again underachieved both his contract and the expectations of being a Minnesotan coming home to fill a void. Now, was that because of the revolving door of linemates Todd Richards seemed to place with Cullen? Was it because he's getting older and slower and isn't able to finish like he once was? Was it an issue of decreased minutes, especially with top-six talent? I think it was a bit of everything. Cullen seemed to grip the stick a bit too tightly, and pair that with not being able to find chemistry and have a spot on the real second line and Cullen didn't stand a chance to fill the role of the veteran scorer coming home. Next season, Cullen needs a set of linemates with scoring potential with whom he can get comfortable and work all year.
Cumulative GPA: 2.28 C+
Would have loved to see way more of this: