Alex Stalock Can’t Save Everything Wild Lose 3-1 at Capitals


Alex Stalock stood on his head but the Caps wanted this one after 2 bad losses & facing their old coach

Very rarely is it a good thing to face a good team after they’ve lost 2 consecutive games, especially if those losses were bad losses where they gave up a lot of goals. When that happens, a good team will fix the problems and come out ready to play the next game. Washington lost 6-3 in Nashville and 6-2 in Colorado before facing the Minnesota Wild. The were also sure to be pumped up to play against their former coach in Bruce Boudreau and their former teammate in F Daniel Winnik and, of course, they’re at home so you knew they were going to play a lot better defense and they always shoot the puck, A LOT!!!

The Wild went with the same lines that were a key part of the great 6-4 comeback win against Nashville on Thursday night. This game wasn’t as fun but it had it’s moments. Most of those moments happened on the Wild’s end of the ice. Backup goalie Alex Stalock got the start since the Wild are beginning a stretch of 5 games in 8 days alternating between being on the road and at home and Alex hadn’t played since November 6th at Boston and hadn’t started a game since October 31st vs Winnipeg.

Alex has played great all season. There isn’t any step back when the Wild go to him to give Devan Dubnyk a breather or to keep giving the backup a start to keep him ready. The team doesn’t have to play any different when he’s in goal where in year’s past, that may not have been the case. Strangely enough, former Wild backup goaltender pitched a shutout for his new team, the Los Angeles Kings, tonight.

Washington took the lead a little over halfway into the 1st period when they received a power play due to a boarding penalty committed by Kyle Quincey on T.J. Oshie. The Washington Capitals power play is one of the most fearful in the league. Alex Ovechkin is the main reason for that but they also have Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson on their 1st Power Play unit. That’s a lot of firepower and playmaking to defend against.

On the Caps first power play, they set up with Ovechkin in his familiar spot on the left faceoff circle with D John Carlson playing the point, Backstrom at the right half-wall, Kuznetsov to the right of the net and Oshie in the right slot (from the point-of-view as if you’re looking at Wild goalie, Alex Stalock):

The Wild have this defended pretty well with a diamond setup with Daniel Winnik up high, Ryan Suter defending the right side, Eric Staal in position to defend the left side and Jared Spurgeon in front of the net.

Looking at the next shot with Backstrom having the puck at the half-wall, it’s basically pick your poison once they get set up. What do you want to take away depending on the location of the puck?

Backstrom only has two options. He can only really pass to Kuznetsov by the net or Oshie in the slot but he has time and space. There’s no pass available to the point or a good angle to get the puck to Ovechkin. He could shoot but there’s really nothing to shoot at with Kuznetsov and Stalock covering the entire net.

Ryan Suter is too far away to effect either pass and if he passes to Kuznetsov (which ends up being the play), Suter will likely follow the puck and turn towards Kuznetsov and turn his back on Oshie. The Wild have been great on the Penalty Kill this season and had killed 17 straight before this power play so they are confident and it’s very easy to second-guess a play after looking at the replay multiple times from multiple angles.

On this play they had really eliminated all but the two options of Kuznetsov by the net and Oshie in the slot. The easy choice is to give them the pass to Kuznetsov but they left a slight opening for him to make a one-time pass to Oshie who then made a one-time shot to the upper left corner that Stalock really had no chance to save.

What could they have done different? Again, this is second-guessing, not actually covering a play with two passes and a one-time shot that happen in less than a second. Pass, pass, shot, GOAL! That’s really fast. That being said, I believe it comes down to trusting your teammates and talking during the play. Suter should trust that Stalock and/or Spurgeon have Kuznetsov and instead of turning towards Kuznetsov, back up and take away Oshie as an option, taking away the most dangerous shot available. Spurgeon could have trusted Stalock to cover Kuznetsov and instead of going in front of his own goalie and maybe screening him, he could’ve taken away the far side of the net. All of them can talk during the play, too.

Stalock could save he’s got Kuznetsov or tell Suter to cover Oshie and tell Spurgeon to take away the cross-ice pass to Ovechkin. Staal could say he’s got Oshie and tell Suter to take away the pass down low and tell Spurgeon to take away the pass to Ovechkin. Winnik could move down and say he’ll get Oshie and cover the pass to the point, too. Again, this is all easy to say and I’m sure they are talking on the ice and have a plan on what they want to do. Reacting to a play instead of reading it doesn’t usually work very well.

Sorry. I may have rambled on that one and that goal happened very quickly.

The Wild would come back to tie the game at one with a power play goal of their own on a Nino Niederreiter goal off a rebound. Mikko Koivu throws the puck at the net with Mikael Granlund in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Granlund tips the shot and gets another shot on a rebound then another rebound goes to Nino and he puts in the back of the net while falling to the ice in a battle for position. A goal is a goal. Dirty or pretty, they all count the same.

Unfortunately, the Capitals would take another 1-goal lead only 44 seconds later on a one-time blast from the point from Dmitry Orlov. Niklas Backstrom skated right in front of Alex Stalock as the shot was being launched and it went upper left. That shot needs to be blocked or the D-to-D pass needs to be taken away. Chris Stewart really did nothing on that play. He allowed the pass to the left defenseman that he’s supposed to be covering and he also allowed the pass over to the right defenseman for the one-time. Tyler Ennis could probably have been higher and closer to his defenseman, too. He could help take the D-to-D pass away, too. Neither of them really affected the play in a positive way.

Shots were 43 to 31 in favor of the Capitals and 22-10 in the 3rd period, also in favor of the Capitals. The Wild had their chances to tie it up, a point-blank shot from Kyle Quincey headed to the upper right corner is barely stopped by the catching glove of Braden Holtby,

So close….

and a Suter had a shot that went off Holtby’s shoulder and hit the crossbar but they couldn’t tie it up and Washington would score another Power Play Goal to give them a 3-1 lead late in the 3rd period. That goal was another crazy goal that seem to happen to the Wild way too often for some reason. Call it Puck-Luck or whatever but it’s crazy how many goals the Wild have scored against them that go off their skates or sticks into the net or to the opponent for an easy shot in the wide open net.

This one was a shot from Ovechkin from the left point that may have been a pass. Anyways, to goes off of Jonas Brodin’s stick then hits Kuznetsov’s right skate up to his stick and in.

They were, as always, some questionable calls by the officials. There was a play in the 2nd period where Nino was hit from behind and seconds late Staal looked like he was hooked while battling for the puck along the boards and there was no-call on either of them. Then, the Capitals were given a 4-minute power play when Ryan Suter was called for a double-minor for high-sticking Lars Eller in the face.

Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was telling the official that it was a follow-through from Suter trying to clear the puck and it shouldn’t be a penalty. Boudreau backed off his initial thoughts in his postgame interview but I think he has a good case. A shot went through to Stalock. He stopped it but left a small rebound and Suter was going to clear the puck away as Lars Eller was coming in to jab at the loose puck. Eller’s stick gets under Suter’s stick and Suter sticks rides up Eller’s stick into his face. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a replay of it. Here’s the rule from the 2017-18 NHL Rulebook:

NHL Rule 60 - High-Sticking Penalty from the 2017-18 NHL Rulebook

He was, in my opinion, clearly trying to clear the puck. He doesn’t even know Lars Eller is coming for the rebound. He can assume that, yes, but he doesn’t know where he’s coming from to get at the rebound. Ryan Suter only knows he doesn’t want a puck loose in front of his own net and his own goalie. Is he supposed to anticipate and read the mind of his goalie and know he’s going to cover it up? That’s almost impossible and nobody really wants to be in the mind of a goaltender anyways.

In the end, the Wild played well but could’ve probably played better in front of their goaltender who saved 40 of 43 shots and kept them in the game. They need to shoot the puck more, especially on the power play. Shoot the vulcanized rubber at the net. That’s where it wants to be. When you shoot, hit the net and be ready for rebounds and deflections so you are the first player there and you can keep the puck in the offensive zone.

Alright, that’s it. The Wild face the New Jersey Devils tonight at home at 7pm at the Xcel Energy center so…

#BeWild &…

Bring The Clutter….
EVERY DAY in EVERY WAY!!!

A Wild Recap – Holy Comeback!!! Wild Attack Predators in 3rd period, win 6-4.

The Predators were the prey in a 4-goal 3rd period from the Minnesota Wild.

I watched last night’s game on DVR starting around midnight. It was difficult to watch for most of the game as the Minnesota Wild they were reacting to the Nashville Predators were instead of reading, anticipating and playing their game.

Devan Dubnyk’s shutout streak ended in the first minute of the game when Ryan Johansen scored his 1st goal of the season when he shot from a very bad angle. It went just past Dubnyk’s stick, through the five-hole and off his right leg pad into the net. Dubnyk didn’t let that stop him from having a good game in the cage, although, he would allow 3 more goals in the game.

The Predators would go up 2-0 when a shot from the left point was deflected/blocked in front and eventually went back to Roman Josi at the left half-wall and with no hesitation, he shot it again and it got past Devan Dubnyk. There was a lot of bodies in front of Dubnyk and when the initial point shot came, he may have been interfered with or he just overslid to his left, then had to flip over on his belly and get up and try to see the next shot coming. It was actually Ryan Suter trying to clear the puck but it went right to Josi. Wild Head Coach, Bruce Boudreau, challenged the call asking the officials to look for Goalie Interference but the call would stand* as a good goal. 2-0, Nashville.
*More proof that nobody knows what Goalie Interference is. Boudreau in the postgame interview: “All I kept thinking was Stewart’s goal at the beginning of the year. The guy had 6 seconds and they called it back….I didn’t think he got a chance to get settled…You just never know how that thing’s going to go…”

The Predators went up 3-0 when they scored shorthanded after a Jason Zucker turnover at the offensive blue line gave Mattias Eckholm a breakaway and he put one past Duubs with a snapshot through the hole between his blocker arm and his right side with just over 7 minutes left in the 2nd period. My question is why isn’t a penalty called when Jason Zucker is tripped at the blue line? (1:18 mark of highlight video)

No-call when Jason Zucker is tripped at the offensive blue line vs Nashville

No call when Zucker is tripped? Is it because the Wild were already on a Power Play & coming off a 5-on-3, too? If yes, that’s wrong! A penalty is a penalty.

Down 3-0, the Wild really had to start bringing it. Coming back on any team is difficult but, the reigning Western Conference champion Nashville Predators on a 5-game winning streak, is much more difficult. The Wild were going to have to change how they were playing. They had to start being the aggressors and attack the Predators. That happened once Matt Dumba scored his 1st goal of the season on a slapper to the upper left corner off a faceoff win with 3:44 left in the 2nd period.

It’s amazing how much scoring goal can change the game and get a team going. It was a different #Wild team from that point on. Nino Niederreiter would score 42 seconds later but it was called off due to the puck going in the net off of Nino’s glove. No worries, though. Nino would score on the Power Play with 39 seconds left in the 2nd period to set up a huge 3rd period.

That huge 3rd period would start with Predators F Viktor Arvidsson scored 57 seconds in to give his team another 2-goal lead at 4-2. I’ll admit, at this point, my attention went to fantasy hockey and while I was looking at stats, trying not to see a final score, I saw a Nashville Predators player’s name and it said “@ MN, L 4-6” under it. I didn’t believe it but then I saw Eric Staal’s name and it said “vs NSH, W 6-4” so I knew the Wild had won but I kept trying to figure out how they were going to score 3 goals as the time kept trickling down.

The home team Wild kept the pressure on but, with the clock ticking, their chances of coming back seemed to be ticking away as well. This team, despite their rocky start to the season, has never shown any sense of giving up in any game and they weren’t about to give up in a game against a Central Division foe at home. They kept battling and were all over the Predators for the majority of the 3rd period.

Finally, they hit paydirt when Eric Staal hit Jared Spurgeon in the slot for a one-timer to get the Wild within 1 at 4-3 (the goal was changed to Ryan Suter after the game.) Apparently, Spurgeon’s shot went off of Ryan Suter and, more specifically, his butt. Ass Goal! Haha! Roughly 2 minutes after that (1:57), Eric Staal tied the game on THE POWER PLAY after Marcus Foligno tried to make a move in front of the net but appeared to mishandle the puck and #12 was Eric on the Spot and he put the puck into the empty net.

Again, roughly 2 minutes later (2:04), you can see (& hear) the crowd start to go wild as Mikko Koivu took the puck from the left half-wall into the corner and passed to Jason Zucker, who was surrounded by 3 defenders in front of the net and, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get a forehand shot off, he turned to his backhand and fired it past Pekka Rinne for a 5-4 Wild lead with 2:55 left in the 3rd period.

Jared Spurgeon added an empty-net goal with a 150-foot chip shot to seal the W, extend the Wild’s winning streak to 4 and snap Nashville’s winning streak at 5.

Just look at the Shot Summary Chart. The Wild only allowed 3 shots from the Predators after they scored in the first minute of the 3rd period. That’s 3 shots in 19 minutes and 3 seconds:
Wild vs Nashville - 11-16-2017 Shot Summary Chart

Hopefully, the Wild learned a lesson about playing their game instead of reacting to the opponent. Maybe they weren’t sure what to expect from the Preds and it took scoring 1 goal to get them going. They have to figure out how good they are as a team and do the right things from the first puck-drop. Get the puck deep, establish that forecheck and SHOOT THE PUCK!!! IT BELONGS IN THE NET!!! THAT’S IT’S HOME!!! IT’S NOT TOO GOOD FOR IT’S HOME!!!

NEVER TOUCH MY PUCK!!!! I’m sorry. I may have gotten a little carried away but, hey, don’t blame me! Blame that Wild Comeback!!!

THANKS for reading!!! #BeWild &…

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

 

Minnesota Wild 2017 Season Preview – No Excuses

Minnesota Wild 2017 Season Preview - No Excuses

Will this be the greatest season in the history of the Minnesota Wild?

The Minnesota Wild had their greatest season in 2016-17 with 49 wins and 106 points. That was the regular season, though. You can always tell if a team had a good or a great season if they are talking about how good of a “regular” season they had. Being upset by the St. Louis Blues in 5 games left a lasting memory of failure on the Wild fans and even more on the Wild players. They have a chance to erase that memory this season.

A big reason why they had such a great regular season in 2016-17 was the guy standing behind them on the bench, Bruce Boudreau. He’s a head coach that is also known for having great success in the regular season but not so much in the playoffs. Pessimistic fans will say they are a match made in heaven. Optimistic fans will say the greatest season in Minnesota Wild history is a pretty nice way to begin what is hopefully a long, successful tenure in the State of Hockey for Mr. Boudreau.

Realistic fans will say they the Minnesota Wild’s window of opportunity will only stay open so long so they better do something this season. Analytical fans might say they played very well against the St. Louis Blues but faced a hot goalie and a hot team playing with confidence after having to battle their way into the playoffs. They also might say history has shown Bruce Boudreau doesn’t win in the playoffs. So far, that’s been very true.

The regular season has turned into a play-in game for the National Hockey League Playoffs. Get in and see what happens. Sure, the regular season is important for every team so they can learn, form and perfect their system, their roles, their lines, their chemistry and to earn home-ice advantage. Those results matter and the points may quantify those results but they are thrown out the window once the 2nd season begins. Nobody cares about the President’s Trophy! It’s in the garage somewhere.

It’s about being a champion and Raising the Cup and nothing else. How will this season be different for the Minnesota Wild?

See Ya, Old! Hello, New!

After a postseason that lasted all of 5 games, the Minnesota Wild, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Chuck Fletcher and the rest of management had plenty of time to analyze their team and find out how to get over the hump to playoff disappointment. They traded one of their top prospects, F Alex Tuch, to the Vegas Golden Knights to encourage them to take F Erik Haula instead of one of their defensemen. They then used that depth on defense to acquire big power forward Marcus Foligno and skilled smaller F Tyler Ennis from the Buffalo Sabres for F Jason Pominville and D Marco Scandella.

26-year-old Marcus Foligno is 6’3, 228lbs and was 5th in the league with 279 hits last season. He also scored 13 goals and added 10 assists. His size and physicality should help replace what the Wild lost in D Marco Scandella. It will be nice to have a physical presence and someone who wants to use his body to punish the opponent every night. Tyler Ennis is only 5’9 and 175lbs but he’s a gritty player who missed 90 games over the last two season due to a concussion and a sports hernia but he also has three 20-goal seasons between 2010 and 2015. Oh, and he happens to be D Jared Spurgeon’s best friend. They played together since Mites growing up in Edmonton, were cut from the same Bantam team because they were too small, won WHL junior hockey championships with different teams and both made the NHL. WOW!

In free agency, C Martin Hanzal, F Ryan White, G Darcy Kuemper & D Christian Folin were lost (F Jordan Schroeder was traded to Columbus for F Dante Salituro) and the Wild mostly added younger depth players who are very close to becoming NHL players to increase competition for the last spots on the roster, two forward spots and two defense spots.

The goal was to strengthen the depth on the team so there was less inexperience on the roster and if there were some young players, they had to earn those spots. It also means, that depth will be in the minors and another player will be able to step into that role right away. No more revolving door from the minors. Veteran F Daniel Winnik (joined training camp on a Player Tryout(PTO)), F Joel Eriksson-Ek, D Kyle Quincey, D Gustav Olofsson & D Mike Reilly won those spots.

The other big “Hello, New” acquisition came late in the offseason when former Wild player and winner of 2 straight Stanley Cups (3 total), C Matt Cullen, agreed to come back and play another year of hockey and do it in his home state. This is a huge pickup as it solidifies the 4th line with a veteran player who has been in that role and succeeded in that role.

Also, G Alex Stalock will be the new backup goalie to starter Devan Dubnyk. Bruce Boudreau now has a veteran player as his backup option so he won’t have to ride Dubnyk game in & game out. He can go to Stalock and have confidence that he’ll do a good job and the team doesn’t take a step back when Devan Dubnyk needs a breather in back-to-back situations. Mr. Stalock should also push Dubnyk so he knows he has to keep playing well or he might be watching from the bench more often.

SHOOT MORE!!!

The Wild still have a bunch of players in that 25 to 28-year-old range who are close to hitting their prime but can still improve their game, have stellar seasons and change their careers. Mikael Granlund is 25 and just had a breakout season and led the team with 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists). Nino Niederreiter is also 25 and continues to put up more points every season and has three straight 20-goal seasons. Charlie Coyle, also 25, has come close to his potential in terms of goals or points. Jason Zucker, yes, also 25-years-old doubled his point total from 2015-16 (23 points) to 47 last season and Jared Spurgeon at 27 is already one of the best defenseman in the league. That’s not even mentioning younger players like D Matt Dumba (24), D Jonas Brodin (24), D Mike Reilly (24), D Gustav Olofsson (22) and F Joel Eriksson-Ek (20).

Not one of those players has peaked, yet. They’re still learning the NHL game. One big reason you can see that is in there shot attempts. It takes awhile for younger players to realize they should take advantage of every opportunity they get to shoot the puck. It could be because they are young and feel they should pass the puck to the vets or the more established players on the team or just a lack of confidence in their shots at the highest level of professional hockey but shooting changes the game. You can’t score if you don’t shoot the puck. If you aren’t scoring, the best thing to do is SHOOT MORE not shoot less. Shooting more will increase your chances of scoring. You should expect more production from Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Marcus Foligno because they will and should shoot the puck more often this season.

Stuck In The Central With You

The Central Division will most likely be the toughest division in the NHL this season. The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off a disappointing playoff performance so they’ll be determined to change that. The Dallas Stars went out and signed a ton of free agents so they can get back to where they were a couple seasons ago when they won the Central division. The Nashville Predators just made the Stanley Cup Finals. The St. Louis Blues aren’t going anywhere and the Winnipeg Jets certainly have the talent to make the playoffs this season. The Colorado Avalanche were pretty bad last season but they’ve always played well against the Wild.

That’s just the Central Division. There’s still the Edmonton Oilers, the San Jose Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks, the Calgary Flames and that’s just the Western Conference. The East is no pushover, either. Pittsburgh, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Washington, etc… It’s going to be a great season of NHL Hockey and the Minnesota Wild will be right in the thick of all of it.

Deep Thoughts

The Minnesota Wild have reached a spot where they have everything they need to succeed. They have depth up front, on the blue line and in net. They have speed. They have size. They have an elite goaltender. They have veteran leadership. They have players entering the prime of their careers and they have a great coach. Injuries shouldn’t keep them from success. They may make success more difficult but that’s why they acquired the depth they have now. That’s what they’ve been doing with all the draft picks and free agent signings, building depth. Now, they have to build on what they did last season, make the playoffs and go on the run this State of Hockey has been looking for.

We expect the Minnesota Wild to build on what they started last season and be one of the best teams in the league once again. They will be in the battle to win the Central Division and take that momentum into the playoffs and finally go on that playoff run we’ve all been waiting on.

Hey! THANKS for reading! #BringTheClutter in the comments. We want to know what you think, ClutterPuckers! You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+!

As always….
Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

2017 Minnesota Wild – The 17th Wild Training Camp Begins…

The 17th Minnesota Wild Season - Another Wild Training Camp Begins...

Will this be the Minnesota Wild’s greatest season?

The Minnesota Wild took to the ice for the first time today and we’re off. The 2017-18 season is here. The players had Media Day yesterday, got to throw on the new sweaters and get all of the photographs and media stuff taken care of. Then today, they went through coach Bruce Boudreau’s dreaded skate conditioning test where they have to skate 2 ½ lengths of the ice in under 40 seconds then have 2 minutes to rest before they do it again, 2 more minutes of rest and then do it one more time. If they fail, they are penalized by doing it two more times! Hey….Welcome Back, fellas. I hope the offseason training went well.

Most of the veteran players did better than the young bucks, maybe because they’ve been through it before but it is a testament to how good of a skater you have to be to play in the best hockey league in the world. It might say something about how long your shifts should be, too. Anyways, conditioning is a must to start off training camp. They may have a great offseason workout plan and program but that doesn’t mean they are in hockey shape or, at least, NHL ready hockey shape.

2017 Minnesota Wild Preseason Schedule

Monday’s game is listed on NHL Network at 8:30 pm
(which must be joined in progress because the start time is listed as 7pm)
The full game replays at 5am Tuesday morning so set those DVRs!

They now have 20 days and 7 preseason games to look at everyone on the 58-man training camp roster, find out who plays well together and set up everything for the beginning of the regular season on Thursday, October 5th at the Detroit Red Wings at 6:30 pm on NBC Sports Network.


D  R  A  F  T
*

General Manager Chuck Fletcher had some work to do to get his team ready for the 17th Minnesota Wild season. He had to prepare for the Expansion Draft, the 2017 NHL Draft, the Frenzy of Free Agency and he also had a few restricted free agents to re-sign.
*Get it? That’s an expanded draft! What? NEVERMIND!

First on his offseason hockey-do list was to figure out who to expose in the Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft. Fletch was basically forced to deal F Erik Haula and one of his team’s top prospects in F Alex Tuch to guarantee Vegas wouldn’t take F Eric Staal, D Matt Dumba or D Marco Scandella. The good news is he also got back a 2018 3rd-round pick from Vegas. Erik Haula most likely was not going to be re-signed anyways and they still have a lot of good prospects even after losing the promising big power forward.

2O17 NHL Draft

During the NHL Draft, most Wild fans were probably watching anticipating (or hoping) for some kind of a trade since they didn’t pick until the 3rd round. No trade came but the Minnesota Wild picked 6 players (2 wings, 3 centers & 1 defenseman) we won’t likely see for awhile. 4 of them are in Canadian Junior Leagues, 1 is a big Russian center whose already playing in the KHL and 1 is a 20-yr-old forward Nick Swaney from Burnsville, MN, who played at Lakeville South HS, just finished his career in the USHL scoring 115 points & 66 goals in 120 games player with 51 of those points (26G) coming in 47 last season with the Waterloo Blackhawks AND who’s starting his college hockey career this season with the UMD Bulldogs.

We Have a Trade to Announce!*
Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella traded to Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno traded to Minnesota Wild
*BOOOO!!! GET OFF THE STAGE, BETTMAN!!!

Maybe feeling like he had to cash in on his team’s defensive depth just before free agency began, on June 30th, Fletch (the Brown Fox) made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to acquire F Tyler Ennis, F Marcus Foligno and a 2018 3rd-round draft pick for D Marco Scandella, F Jason Pominville and a 2018 4th-round draft pick. This trade freed up some salary cap room by ridding the Wild of Jason Pominville’s contract and it increased their forward depth by getting a small, speedy forward in Tyler Ennis, who just happens to be defenseman Jared Spurgeon’s best friend (Awww…), and big power forward, Marcus Foligno, who, at 6’3, will use his body physically, having ranked 5th in the NHL last season with 279 hits.* What this trade may have also done is taken away one of the few, if not only, defenseman the Wild had that would bring some physicality to the lineup.
*Ahh…some Clutter back in the Wild’s lineup. I like it!

Not So WILD Free Agency
2017 Wild Free Agency

So…with Scandella traded and all but maybe 2 forward spots filled, the Minnesota Wild set out to sign some free agents. They weren’t going to go get any of the big boys available but they did a good thing by grabbing a lot of players who are very close to taking that last step to making it in the NHL. Players like F Kyle Rau, F Landon Ferraro, D Ryan Murphy, F Cal O’Reilly, G Niklas Svedberg and D Kyle Quincey. This means whoever gets those last few available roster spots will have had to compete their butts off and earn it, and that includes Joel Eriksson-Ek or Luke Kunin. Competition makes everyone better. Even G Alex Stalock will have to compete to hold the backup goaltender spot.

Could You Sign This Again, Please?

So, one of the last things Fletch had on his offseason hockey-do list was to get his restricted free agents re-signed and, of course, keep his team under the $75M salary cap in the process. Both F Nino Niederreiter and F Mikael Granlund filed for arbitration so they knew they’d be signed before training camp started but they did not need arbitration as Fletch and the Minnesota Wild signed both Niederreiter and Granlund to contracts during the week of July 30th. Nino Niederreiter agreed to a 5-year/$26.25M ($5.25 AAV) contract on July 30th and Mikael Granlund agreed to a 3-year/$17.25M ($5.75M) contract 2 days later on August 1st.

Anyone Else?

The Wild still had some room under the salary cap and a veteran player would fit in very well, and most likely be preferred over a young player who has yet to figure out how it works in the NHL. They were talking to a bunch of free agents, trying to gauge what the best fit could be but, all along they had a player in mind they wanted to add to this team, a certain former Wild player (also, one of us Minnesotans.) The Minnesota Wild had to wait to see if he would consider coming back for another year of pro hockey after just finishing his 19th NHL season and winning his 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup.

Then, on August 16th, F Matt Cullen made the decision to come back for another season of NHL Hockey and to put the #7 Wild jersey back on* and help his home team get over the hump and show them how to get to the promised land. How ‘bout that for a feel-good story, huh? Cully’s back, baby!!!
*Chris Stewart gave Cullen the #7 back and will wear #10 this season.

The Wild also signed a couple of other veterans to player tryout (PTO) contracts in F Ryan Malone, who hasn’t played since 2014-15 and F Daniel Winnik, a 10-year vet who played with the Washington Capitals last season. He has also played for Bruce Boudreau for 2 season in Anaheim.

Yesterday, the Minnesota Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher took care of the last thing on their list and that was to get restricted free agent F Marcus Foligno re-signed. He signed a 4-year/$11.5M ($2.875 AAV) deal and he was able to take part in today’s first skate.

StoryLines

You are all caught up and ready for Wild Training Camp. What are some of the storylines for Training Camp and this season. Zach Parise missed today’s ice time because he tweaked his back the other day but it’s apparently not serious.

There aren’t a lot of big storylines other than the usual stay healthy, who’s playing together, can they come together as a team things. There are only really 4 spots available on the roster and they aren’t really that available considering players who have 1-way contracts and already have NHL experience.

Who will grab those last 2 forward and the last 2 defenseman spots available? Can F Joel Eriksson-Ek grab one of those spots and be the 3rd line center? Will either player, Ryan Malone and/or Daniel Winnik, grab one or two forward spots? What about young Luke Kunin?

Can Gustav Olofsson grab one of the available spots on defense? Will it come down picking 2 of Gustav, Mike Reilly and Kyle Quincey? Does Kyle Quincey’s experience give him the automatic lead? Will D Ryan Murphy start to realize his potential and make this team?

Can Eric Staal improve on his huge comeback season? Will Tyler Ennis have a comeback season like Eric Staal did in 2016-17? Will playing on a winning team allow Marcus Foligno to produce more?

How will the Wild’s defense be this season? Can they bring a physical element?

Will we still see increased point production from Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund? How will the lines play out? Will the Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker be together again? Who will be on the top line with Eric Staal? Zach? Nino? Ennis?

We’ll see over the next 20 days how this team evolves in training camp. We can only hope they stay healthy throughout the whole preseason but, Bruce Boudreau believes they have the depth to make up for anything.  

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Did the Minnesota Wild make a Scandellous Trade?

Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella traded to Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno traded to Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild’s Salary Cap might have been a little too tight after trading F prospect Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights so they would take Erik Haula in the expansion draft instead of any of their available defenseman. They still had to sign Restricted Free Agent forwards Nino Niederreiter & Mikael Granlund with only about $15.2M available under the cap.

34-year-old F Jason Pominville had 2 more years & $12.2M left on his contract ($5.6M Cap Hit) and Marco Scandella had 3 years & 12M left ($4M Cap Hit) so it was going to be difficult to sign both Niederreiter & Granlund and try to do anything in free agency. The Minnesota Wild have had depth at the back end for a while now and they dealt Marco Scandella from that depth in order to free up some cap room.

It was good to get rid of Jason Pominville’s contract. He’s been underperforming for a few seasons. He came to the wild in the strike shortened season of 2012 known as a goal scorer because he had scored 20+ goals for 6 consecutive season in Buffalo scoring 157 goals in 483 games (a 26.7/season average.) The majority of Minnesota Wild fans were excited to get a goal-scorer on their team. He scored 30 goals his first full season in Minnesota in 2013-14 but since then he’s only scored 42 goals in 317 games. That’s an average of only 10.8 per season.

Now, Marco Scandella is a different story and, of course, the principle player in this trade for the Buffalo Sabres. Marco probably deserved to play a larger role in Minnesota including spending more time on the power play so he could unleash that heavy slap shot more often and drive up those goal totals. He may have also been their best defensive defenseman because he would be physical along with being able to skate with most forwards in the National Hockey League. He was the Minnesota Wild’s best defenseman in the playoffs.

At the time of the expansion draft, I felt the Wild could somewhat afford to lose any of the defenseman they had to expose to the Vegas Golden Knights. If they lost Jonas Brodin, Gustav Olofsson could fill in or step into that spot. If they lost Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly could step up and if they lost Marco Scandella, I felt Christian Folin could replace the physicality that was one of the better parts of Scandella’s game. The Wild failed to re-sign Christian Folin so he ended up signing with the Los Angeles Kings as a free agent.

So, the Minnesota Wild have Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly, Gustav Olofsson, Kyle Quincey, Ryan Murphy, Carson Soucy and, maybe, Nick Seeler vying for the 6 or 7 defense spots available. The only players that can or will be someone to count on bringing some sort of a physical element on the back end are Matt Dumba, Kyle Quincey, Carson Soucy and Nick Seeler. 2 of those 4 players most likely will have a pretty difficult time making the roster out of training camp and I don’t believe Olofsson, Reilly or Murphy bring much of a physical element at all.

That exposes the Wild’s defense to a physical forecheck. They can all skate very well so they may be able to evade that kind of a forecheck but they also have to be physical to clear the front of the net and protect their goalie. Most of them have decent size but size doesn’t always matter (careful!)

They did add Marcus Foligno, though. The big power forward acquired from Buffalo, 6’3″ and 228 lbs. was 5th in hits last season with 279. They still have some big bodies up front in Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Chris Stewart. Charlie Coyle is a beast of a man but he really doesn’t play all that physical. Hopefully, he’ll start to realize how good of a player he can be if he plays physical and shoots the puck more, A LOT MORE.

So, keep an eye on the defense when Minnesota Wild players report for training camp next Thursday, September 14th.

THAT IS JUST 6 DAYS AWAY!!! SIX DAYS!!!

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