Another day, another set of grades Wilderness. Enjoy!
Bryan- Best defenseman on the team. Yep, I said it. Brodin is the best defenseman on the team. May be the best player on the team. But not good enough to be a Calder nominee. That makes sense.
Emilie- I would be a-ok with another 13 year contract handed out if it went to this kid. He's unbelievable. He will be a first pairing, leading Norris candidate every season, and a multiple Stanley Cup winner throughout his career. Unbelievable. A+
JS- Well, all you need to do here is take a look at the multiple infographics and stat charts about Brodin's play if you somehow haven't seen him play. If you were treated to some live Brodin magic, you know that he has had an extremely rare kind of season for a 19 year old NHL defenseman. We can bitch and moan all day about him being snubbed for the Calder (he really should have at least been considered, if only because the kind of season he had is way more uncommon than Huberdeau-type seasons), but at the end of the day, we should just be happy the Wild have found someone to replace Brent Burns as a Minnesota-drafted star defenseman.
In terms of pure defense, Brodin was perhaps the best on the team, or at the very least gave Suter a run for his money, and if he can grow into a more offensive role without sacrificing defense, than NHL forwards are going to fear the Wild's top pairing for a very long time. Brodin is just so much fun to watch play, not necessarily because of flash, but it's the simple, subtle things that he does so brilliantly, it's nearly art. It's also pretty damn amazing to see an NHL rookie get out of some of the jams he'd be put into with such poise and intelligence. It may be safe to say that Brodin probably made the fewest mistakes of all Wild defensemen this year and he is a huge part of the reason Ryan Suter had a Norris-candidate year and the Wild had a playoff year.
Now, PLEASE, don't let there be a sophomore slump. Although, with his safe, smart and consistent type of play, there isn't that big of a chance for a slump. Mind you, a slightly worse season is possible, but so is a better one. So much to look forward to with this kid. To not give him an A+ after the amazing and, I must repeat, uncommon season he had as a 19 year old defenseman would mean someone would have to re-invent hockey to get a perfect grade, so...GRADE: A+
Bryan- A ho-hum year for Spurgeon, he has certainly been passed on the depth chart, and has at least one more guy hot on his heels. He plays bigger than he is, makes few mistakes, and is still a great free agent signing, but he is on the wrong side of a slide that will, eventually, leave him outside looking in. His offense is not as impressive as it could have been, and teams are starting to figure out that they can just go straight through him. Not a great year, not a terrible year.
Emilie- Spurgy had a bit of a rough year. Expected to make Suter fit in on his new teams defense right away, and took the blame when Suter didn't. He then went through a string of partners that made him have to over-play and make mistakes. Not a great season, but not a horrible, good for nothing season either. B
JS- Something we found out about this kid this season: He's a playoff performer. The guy blocked shots like the Zuperman of old. He also had a solid season overall as the clear-cut #3 defenseman on the Wild. He reached new highs in goals scored (despite shortened season) and points per game (0.38) and was a plus-player for the first time in his young NHL career. If Marco Scandella builds off his strong playoff performance and can become Spurgeon's partner, I think the Wild's defensive core will suddenly not look all that bad.
Granted, Spurgeon had his share of rough games, didn't seem to play with his body quite as much as we were accustomed to and never really found the right fit with any of his partners, although the Spurgeon-Stoner experiment had its moments. All-in-all, Spurgeon, a fan favorite, did nothing to hurt that status this year. He just keeps on being a pleasant surprise. Keep on truckin', small fry! GRADE: B+
Bryan- Invisible for most of the season, Gilbert found a new crop of haters after the originals (mostly me) faded into the background and just became apathetic. He is what he is, an offensive minded d-man who has defensive liabilities. He provides something the team needs, and at the same time, is a problem they need to solve. An enigma wrapped in a conundrum, topped with mystery. With the right partner, he could be good. They haven't found him yet.
Emilie- I'm not on the Gibby haters bandwagon. Get him a semi-solid partner instead of Falk/Prosser, and he'll be fine. Looks like he'll be pretty solid on the third pairing (but holy noly, can we re-work that contract? OUCH) C
JS- Tom Gilbert was brought in as one (or both) of two things: Ryan Suter-bait and badly-needed offensive support from the blueline. He did the first part of his job correctly (if he had anything to do with it), but instead of the CLEARLY FIRST PAIRING MATERIAL!!!11!1!ONE11! guy Oilers fans promised we got, we got a third pairing, non-factor who isn't even on the powerplay. To give you an idea of how horrible that last part is, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was the one manning the point where Gilbert should have been. That's disgusting. Funny thing is the Oilers are the one who got the first pairing guy in the deal. Go figure.
Really, there isn't much to say about Gilbert. He wasn't as bad as he was in his first few games with the Wild, but he's nowhere near as good as advertised. He did chip in offensively in spurts, but not enough to actually make a difference. It's been argued that he needs a good partner, but his partner in Edmonton? Ryan Whitney, when he was healthy. The same offense-only Ryan Whitney who was a healthy scratch FOR EDMONTON 11 times this season (yet still averaging over 18 minutes a game) I guess that's what happens when you put a medium fish from a small pond into a... slightly bigger pond. GRADE: C-
Bryan- Meh. Just... meh.
Emilie- I said at the beginning of the season that if Prosser didn't head-butt anyone this season it would be an improvement. Guess what? He didn't head-butt anyone! That was about all he really did or didn't do this season. D+
JS- Prosser, while not as disappointing as Casey Wellman was, has not been that big college free agent blueliner we were hoping for. Sure, he's a serviceable 6th-7th man, but he's prone to bone-headed plays, misguided and unnecessary physicality at times and has been rather bland overall. He did have a pretty long stretch this season before being on the ice for a goal against, but while some will say it was because he was solid defensively, I'd say it's because he wasn't playing an awful lot.
Don't get me wrong, I like Prosser as a supporting guy, but he is replaceable. The Prossers and the Falks and the Peters and such are the ones teams have to sacrifice to find new, young, fresh blood to try to have their teams rise in the standings. There's little to no point in keeping him around much longer. Sorry. That being said, I like what he brings to the table a lot more than Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk. Unfortunately, that's not enough to give him a good grade. No points and 5 shots in 17 games is pretty bad, limited ice-time and all. GRADE: D