As the 2012/2013 NHL season draws nearer, it seems that the Wild will have "one of them good problems" when it comes to selecting 16 forwards:
With all the talent that's around, it will become difficult to fit everyone in without compromising the balance of the lines. One player who could be the odd-one-out is, Minnesota native, Matt Cullen.
Last season, Cullen seemed to always be around, without making any huge impact. Just when you were beginning to doubt him, he would pop up with a goal. He definitely wasn't a guy who you could blame when things started to go pear-shaped because he worked hard and set a good example to the others. Overall, he had a decent year for a veteran centre, playing on the 2nd line, when his natural role is probably on the 3rd.
In the end of year player reviews here on Hockey Wilderness, JS summed-up Cullen's season best:
Cullen had an up and down season. When he was at his best, he was very good, but when he wasn't, he was trying to do too much and it ended up hurting the team more often than not. He would try to break into the offensive zone alone against 2-3 guys, he'd lose his temper, and he'd disappear for long stretches of games (goal-less in his last 12 games). This season, it became obvious that Cullen's age is starting to catch up, despite him still displaying plenty of speed. Maybe next year, he'd be better suited in a reduced role. He does have leadership, a good veteran presence, great hands in the shootout and faceoff circle and you see it in his game that he cares, even when there's barely anything left to care about. He's still valuable, but we can't expect him to produce as much as we did when the Wild acquired him.
Cullen has almost no chance of playing as the 2C this year because our top-6 overflow will mean that Granlund should take that spot, or if not, last year's MVP Kyle Brodziak is primed to take the next step in his career.
This means that finding a spot for him without upsetting the balance of the line-up is tricky. Here are some possible solutions:
- This is the line-up from Russo's latest depth-chart. The only issue I have with it is that I'm unsure of how Cullen will fare on the wing. Maybe some of you can provide some info on how he has performed in that role for the Wild and/or throughout his career.
- If he is effective as a winger, then this line-up is fine and the lines will have a good balance.
- If Cullen playing on the wing is going to be detrimental to the team, then maybe the team could try to deal Bouchard. This could prove difficult though due to his recent injury problems, but there's surely some team who would take a gamble on him. I can't see Chuck asking for much for a player who will be a UFA at the end of the season.
- It would be a shame to see PMB go, but maybe this is necessary to benefit the team. Also this line-up could be altered to include Zucker as the LW on the 3rd line, with Kassian dropping out, and Mitchell moving down.
- This is a bit experimental, but could be effective. Cullen's got the defensive skill to be an effective 4th line centre, and his energetic game would definitely compliment Darroll Powe well.
- The key point here is Zenon Konopka being scratched.When he signed, I kind of assumed he was a lock as 4C for the year. But after reading the review that Peter Raymaakers from 'Silver Seven' gave him (which Bryan posted here) I have my doubts.
- According to Mr.Raymaakers, he only played 55 games and 2 unamazing AHLers were often selected ahead of him, he fights frequently but often just settles for tying his opponent up and his face-off numbers are slightly inflated. I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up (depending on how he performs) a healthy scratch a lot this year.
- Obviously Cullen doesn't bring the fighting element that Konopka has, but with Kassian around, he wouldn't need to. Also we have other people in the team (Stoner, Powe, Falk) ready to drop the mitts if no one will fight Kass.
A fine career indeed
Now there's also a possibility that the Wild try and move Cullen, but I don't see it happening. The guy has 1 year left on his current deal, so the chances are that he decides to retire as a Wild player in his home state and wrap-up a good NHL career. It would be pretty harsh if the Wild tried to move him now, and besides, I think he has a NTC.
Anyway, this is just my 2 cents on the whole situation. What are your thoughts on Cullen, Konopka, the lines for next year etc.
Have it out in the comment section, Wilderness.
Over & Out,