When the Wild traded former first round pick Nick Leddy and aging puck mover Kim Johnsson to Chicago for Cam Barker, the flags immediately went up. Trading a first round pick is always seen as selling a piece of the future, and Wild fans have seen enough of that.
"This Barker kid better be good," was a common reaction. An even more common, and highly disappointing reaction was, "They traded away a Minnesotan? For who?"
You see, here in Minnesota we have to deal with what are kindly referred to as "provincial" Minnesota Wild fans. They believe that if the Wild would just bring in a multitude of Minnesota born players, that the Stanley Cup is just around the corner. The argument has many angles. Minnesota born players would put people in the seats, they are clearly better players than Canadians, this is Minnesota's team it should be all Minnesotans, the insanity goes on and on.
When Nick Leddy was traded, it was not Chuck Fletcher trading a prospect for an NHLer, it was Chuck Fletcher trading away Minnesota's savior, our hope, and the only player on the planet that can improve this team and sell tickets.
Make the jump for discussion.
Nick Leddy: The Lost Hope
Who is Nick Leddy?
Nick Leddy is a defenseman, formerly of the University of Minnesota, and formerly of Eden Prairie High School, near Minneapolis. He also won the coveted "Mr. Hockey" award as Minnesota's best male high school hockey player. It is a big honor for the player who wins it, but it has translated into little when it comes to predicting NHL success.
Former winners of note include Darby Hendrikson and Paul Martin. Also, Brian Bonin, Gino Guyer, Dave Spehar, and Jeff Taffe. Yeah. Who? Anyone outside of Minnesota has never heard of all but a handful of names on the list of winners. It's a high school award, given to the best player among children.
The main point you need to know about Leddy is he was the first major risk move that Chuck Fletcher ever made. He traded a piece of the future for a current NHL player. This means Nick Leddy will be constantly watched and compared to Barker. Leddy will be slotted into "what if" scenarios for the next three decades. What if Leddy were with Burns? What if Leddy were paired with Schultz? I'm thirsty, what if Leddy turned water into wine?
Who is Nick Leddy Not?
Nick Leddy is not Nicklas Lidstrom. Nick Leddy is not Zdeno Chara, and he is not Mike Green. He also is not Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith. At least, not yet.
To say Nick Leddy will never be a star is as foolish as it is to say he already is. Leddy could be a very good NHL defenseman. He could become a super star. He could fall flat on his face and become absolutely nothing. The odds of any one of the multitude of possibilities happening are equal.
You want to know something else Nick Leddy isn't? A popular draft pick. No one in Minnesota wanted the Wild to draft another defenseman. The consensus was fellow Minnesota Jordan Schoeder, a smallish, quick forward who could have helped the ailing forward ranks, and is currently doing well in the Canucks organization. The Leddy pick was a shock, and a disappointment to a fan base wanting something to be excited about. Yet once he was traded, he started being treated as the lost hope.
One more thing Nick Leddy is not? A savior.
After a discussion about Nick Leddy on Twitter last night, it is clear that the "Leddy is a god amongst men" movement is still in full swing. The argument goes that if Leddy were still in the organization, he could be up with the Wild, on pace to win the Calder, and packing the arena with people there just to watch the phenom skate and be in his holy presence.
This just isn't the case.
Let's go back in time, to a point when Nick Leddy was still in the organization. At this point in time, Leddy is still skating with his teammates at the University of Minnesota, who are struggling to win, and struggling to fill a much smaller arena than the Xcel Energy Center, despite a roster chalk full of Minnesotans. It must be the coach, clearly that many Minnesotans in one place couldn't fail with the right leadership. Where are you Doug Woog?
There is no talk of pulling Leddy out of school early to come and be with the Wild, nor to send him to Houston. Fletcher would have been hard pressed to explain to a Minnesota fan base that has loyalties to both squads why he was pulling Leddy from the program if not to skate with the Wild. If I can recall correctly, the plan was for Leddy to be at the U at least two years, and allowed to develop slowly.
This administration does not rush prospects through the system, and Leddy is not NHL ready. He got a strong look with the Blackhawks because of their cap situation, and his willingness to sign a very cap friendly deal. He made it six games before being sent to the AHL affiliate to, wait for it, further develop. Had he stayed a part of the Wild franchise, he would have been at the U again this year, and depending on his development, may have been signed and sent to Houston.
How long does it take defensemen to develop into NHL caliber players? Save for a rare exception, it takes years. It is not an over night process, and if the Hawks had more cap space, Leddy would never have sniffed the NHL as soon as he did.
Butts in the Seats
Let's pretend for a moment that Chuck Fletcher had a stroke and suffered from a complete memory loss. Suddenly, he is the type of GM who no longer values the development of his prospects. He is injected with a serum that turns him into HWSRN, and he rushes Leddy onto the Wild roster, forcing him to sink or swim.
The argument is that with Leddy's presence, the sellout streak is suddenly back intact, since they have a local born player to draw in people from Eden Prairie. As we all know, all it takes to get everyone from Eden Prairie to come to a Wild game is to put a local boy on the roster. Just like Green Bay shuts down on Sundays, Eden Prairie would simply close up shop and drive en mass to Saint Paul for every game.
Hey, it could happen. Or, the more likely scenario is that the presence of Leddy would have brought his parents and closest friends to games, and maybe a dozen people would show up for one game, see the on-ice product, and never come back.
The selling of those five or so extra seats, I was told, "builds a fan base." Apparently, the 18,000+ that bought tickets for nine years straight are not a fan base. The youth hockey programs, being supported by the Wild, are not enough of a fan base. The integration of the Wild into the fabric of Minnesota hockey is simply not enough to build the fan base. A fan base, mind you that was rabid and fully built before the Wild ever arrived on the scene.
Nope. Nick Leddy, his Minnesota citizenship, and those extra five paying customers per game... that is what it takes to build a fan base. A winning team, solid marketing, and community involvement be damned. Get Nick back here! Stat!
To be fair, this is one of Barker's better moments.
The Real World
This isn't about Nick Leddy. It's about Cam Barker, and it is about the dismal season the Wild are having. When things go south, the fans go into "what if" mode, looking for something, anything to cling to. They know better than the GM, they just know that if that trade were never made, Leddy would be here, and everything would be better.
The Wild's sellout streak would still be in place due to the "Eden Prairie Red Wave" coming to the X every night. Leddy would be leading the league in scoring, all from the blue line, would play 47 minutes a night (he would play all 60, but he wants the "little people" to have a chance), and the Wild's goal differential would be a +28 instead of the current -9.Oh, and the Wild would have an extra $3 million to go spend on a goal scorer.
Right? Well, since Fletcher budgeted that money to a defenseman, you have to figure he would have done so on the free agent market, too. Speculation, sure, but what basis do we have to think he would have done something else?
I was told that Leddy is doing well in Rockford. Indeed, he is having a decent season. Decent? Nine points for a defenseman is only decent? He's rip[ping it up you moron.
Want to know who else has nine points in the AHL as a defenseman? Marco Scandella. Want to know who leads the Aeros in scoring? Defenseman Maxim Noreau, with 14 points. Leddy would be tied for second amongst defensemen in scoring on the Aeros. Not exactly barn burning stuff.
What it All Boils Down To
Fans are grasping at straws. Sometimes, folks, there is no solution. Sometimes, a team is just bad. There is no savior to be found, and if there were, it wouldn't be Nick Leddy. I like the kid, he has a bright future, and I hope he does well in his career. He just isn't Bobby Orr.
Cam Barker was a bad trade to make. Is that what you want to read? He was. Fletcher got taken a bit on the deal. Chicago offloaded a Titanic contract, and got a solid prospect in the deal. The Wild got taken. Live and learn, complain about it, debate it. However, don't turn Leddy into some sort of superhero simply because Cam Barker didn't pan out.
Nick Leddy would be a Gopher right now if he hadn't been traded, and he would be a minimum of three years from any extended NHL time with the Wild. His presence in the organization or on the team would not result in a surge of ticket sales, and the Wild have a pretty big, and ever growing, fan base without him.
If you want to pray to someone for hockey heaven, pray that the Wild make the choice to pack it up and go for some high draft picks. That is where the saviors are found, not in Rockford.