Category Archives: Hockey In Minnesota

Team Guy Eulogy – Is the Magic Crusade Over?

Team Guy Eulogy - Is the Magic Crusade Over?

If it’s over, I enjoyed every second of it!

Exactly 4 years ago today, I received a call from Scott Meyer asking if I had time to write up a press release announcing Shane Wagner as the new head coach of a struggling Minnesota Junior Hockey League franchise, the Hudson Crusaders. Scott had just taken over ownership of the Crusaders and my junior hockey career was about to begin.

At the time, I didn’t even know what junior hockey was or that it even existed. Junior hockey was never really a big deal in Minnesota or, at least, big enough for me to notice up until that point. I’d heard of the St. Paul Vulcans but never took an interest in them or what they were about. Minnesota was known for it’s high school, college and pro hockey because, first, there’s a lot of it, and second, because it gets the most coverage.

Once I had seen junior hockey, it made perfect sense as a way for players to continue their careers after high school, develop into better players and advance to college hockey. If you think about it, the majority of players need junior hockey to keep playing competitively so, it’s sad that junior hockey doesn’t get more coverage in Minnesota. It can be very good hockey with very good players who can go on to play at the highest level of college hockey and even go on to have careers in the pros.

I was asked what I wanted my title to be, Director of Media Relations? Equipment Manager? I was willing to take those jobs but wanted to know what those jobs entailed before saying yes. So, not worrying about a title, I would just start helping the Hudson Crusaders wherever they needed.

I was soon given the name of Team Guy since I would end up doing a lot of different jobs for The CRU – game presentation, helping on the bench making sure the players had water, backup sticks & various supplies for the game, driving to away games (sometimes quite the adventure), keeping score online, updating the social media sites, writing articles for the website, updating player stats (players LOVED that), going to league meetings & conference calls as The President (El Prezidente), etc… I was almost the announcer for one game but he showed up just in time. Who knows where I might be if that happened? Haha. Did you think it was a “legal hit?”

The next season, the Minnesota Magicians would embark on their inaugural season and once again, I would get the call to see if I was interested in being the Team Guy for the newest NAHL team. This was a different animal, though. After spending a season with a Tier III Junior Hockey team, I would find out quickly that Tier II hockey is a much more serious deal.* This was big time to me. We’re talking about a league with players that regularly go on to some of the top teams of the Division I college level.
*That is not to say Tier III hockey isn’t serious. A lot of those players are working just as hard to make something out of their hockey careers. I just don’t think it is every player on every team, though.

I would learn a lot that first year with the Magicians, mostly about laundry but also about what it takes to be an equipment manager. There’s a lot of things you need to know how to do and how to do fast to do the job right. The players are there to perform and their equipment needs to be ready for them by and during practice and game time.

I was the Team Guy for both teams in that second year and that made it pretty tough since the majority of junior hockey games are on Friday & Saturday nights. It was difficult to be there for one team while at the same time knowing I couldn’t help the other team and the players as much as I wanted to. They knew I’d be there if I could but in my opinion, it still wasn’t enough.

For four seasons I was the Team Guy/Equipment Manager for the Hudson Crusaders and/or the Minnesota Magicians and I always did it for the players. I did the best I could to make sure when it was game time, they could concentrate on playing the game. They shouldn’t have to worry about any of their equipment. Their mind should be on the task at hand, playing the game and winning. I hope I succeeded in showing every player how much I cared about helping them achieve success.

The end of every season is difficult because you most likely won’t see a lot of those guys ever again and you spend more time with them than anyone else in your life. That’s why they say it’s a family because that is truly how team sports are and, I believe, how they need to be to do something special. Every player has to care about every other player and they have to play for each other.

“We’re a family, Herb!” – Miracle

So you can imagine how difficult it is if this is the end of my career in junior hockey. I had the best seat in the house (standing room only, though) and I enjoyed every second of it. It was very fun to be a part of a team again. I made some friendships that I hope will last the rest of my life. It’s cool to be able to see players currently playing college hockey that I know and had the pleasure of doing just a small part in helping them get there.

Thank you to everyone I’ve met along the way and, always….

Bring The Clutter!!!

Every Day In Every Way!!!

P.S. – I still work at the Richfield Ice Arena so if you are there, look for me and say hello!

Team Guy Eulogy - Is the Magic Crusade Over?

This says all you need to know about the importance of helping out the team!
Thanks, CJ!
“But, Robb, the light’s still green…”

Yeo Fired – Minnesota Wild Fire Head Coach Mike Yeo

Minnesota Wild Fire Head Coach Mike Yeo

Minnesota Wild Fire Head Coach Mike Yeo

The Minnesota Wild have told Mike Yeo he’s no longer their head coach. After losing their 8th consecutive game and their 8th consecutive home game Saturday afternoon, General Manager Chuck Fletcher had very little choice to make a change now. Firing the head coach is the easiest change an organization can make to put a little fire into the players, no pun intended.

Players not performing or playing “the right way” can only go on so long before a move has to be made. Mike Yeo seemed to be trying anything and everything to motivate his players. The Wild gave the impression it was working as they showed signs of breaking out against the top teams in the league in their last few games, the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals. They would always find a way to lose though, which is what happens when teams and players lack confidence in their game.

It’s surprising the Minnesota Wild are in this situation after ending the first half with 52 points in 41 games, on pace for a franchise record season. At first glance, that’s very good but a deeper look reveals this team has been anything but consistent this season. Their monthly records are 7-2-2, 4-5-2, 9-3-2, 3-7-3 and 0-5-1 so far in February. Remarkably, their longest win streak is only 3 games. They’ve won 3 straight 4 times.

What does it mean when a team has their worst stretch of hockey after their best stretch of hockey? It could be many things and coaching might not even be on the list. Is it the team leadership? Is there a problem in the room? Do they not like the system? Do they not like each other? Is it possible they didn’t like the coach? Did bringing in Adam Oates rub the coaching staff & the organization the wrong way? Was it ever talked about and buried? Whatever it is, they need to figure it out, talk about it, fix it and bury it and move on. With 27 games remaining and 5 points out of the last playoff spot, literally The Time Is NOW!!!

The 2015-16 Minnesota Wild has enough talent to be in the upper echelon of the NHL. They’ve shown how good a team they can be many times this season. They’ve dominated some of the best teams in the league for stretches but they always find a way to lose in the end. They’re a very fragile team. Players are now trying to do too much individually thinking they have to do more to get out of this slump.

The greatest hockey player ever wouldn’t be the greatest player ever without the rest of his team. It is a team game, not an individual game. Players have to trust their teammates to make the plays that are best for the team. Play as a team! Play for your team! Play for each other! Start small! Win battles! Win shifts! Win 5 minute stretches! Win Periods! Win Games! WIN NOW!!!

We’d love to hear your thoughts so Bring The Clutter in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

AND….always…

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day!!! In Every Way!!!

If you don’t know what that means, go HERE to find out!

Minnesota Wild – Broken at the Break? What do they do now?

The Minnesota Wild will try to get out of a scoring and winning drought as the NHL All-Star break ends.

Are the Minnesota Wild broken? If so, can they be fixed?

The Minnesota Wild have 6 points in their last 10 games (2-6-2), 9 points since the calendar turned to 2016 (3-7-3) and have scored only 23 goals in those 13 games (16 in the last 10). The lack of scoring (and winning) has them out of a playoff spot with 33 games left in the 2015-16 NHL season.

A scoring slump or a slump of any kind always gets fans asking for a coaching change. Minnesota Wild fans are very familiar with a slump in the middle of the season as it’s happened pretty much every season since Mike Yeo has been here. Does that mean he should get fired? Is it the system? Is he putting the players in situations where they can have success? Or is it the players squeezing the sticks too hard and letting their minds screw with their confidence, making them think twice about how they play the game?

I subscribe to the latter. We’ve seen this team go on a tear before so we know what they are capable of doing against any team. It’s amazing that players who get paid millions of dollars can still have the confidence in their game swayed by a lack of success. The big question is how does the coach get them out of this mental funk they are in?

Almost every team & every player goes through a slump at some point during a season. Look at the Montreal Canadiens, who were dominant at the beginning of the season. They won their first 9 games and 18 of their first 22 games. Now they are 24-22-4, 3 points out of a playoff spot. The Dallas Stars are currently struggling a bit, 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.

The only teams that seem to have avoided a slump are the teams at the top of each conference, the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks, or maybe only the Capitals? The Blackhawks had a somewhat rocky start to the season adjusting to some new teammates but have righted the ship with great leadership and the league’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane. A 12-game winning streak will solve a lot of problems but…that streak was followed by 3 losses in 4 games so…what should we take from that?

Even one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hockey players in the last 10 years, one Sidney Crosby, has struggled this season. In his first 9 games of the season,  Sidney Crosby had only 3 points on 1 goal & 2 assists and those points came from one game so in 8 of his first 9 games he didn’t register a point. This is a player who has averaged 1.33 points per game for his career. He didn’t even make the All-Star game which seems unfathomable. The Sid also appears to have gotten his game back with 41 points in 47 games or since those first 9 games, 38 points (16G, 22A) in 38 games and on a current 7-game scoring streak.

I’ve been around hockey for a long time and usually a team and/or a player in a slump needs to go back to basics and simplify their game. They need to free their mind so they just play the game, not thinking about it too much. In my opinion, you never want a player thinking twice about what they are doing during a game. No “Should I go? Should I pass? shoot?” or any question in what they’re doing. That causes hesitation and then the play is past you or the shooting/passing lane is gone.

This is why I don’t think it’s a coaching problem with the Minnesota Wild. They just need to get back to their game and trust what they are doing, trusting their game as a team and as individual players. Shoot the puck! Be the Wild team you know you can be! The Time is Now!!!

One thing that might need to happen is breaking up that top line. Mike Yeo seems to have the utmost confidence in Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Nobody can really complain about #11 as he brings his game every night but the lack of scoring from his two linemates is affecting his production. If they, the line or just 64 & 29, don’t start producing, Mr. Yeo will have to make some changes. There’s just no way around it.

Pominville, Granland used to sound like an exciting place to visit, where goals were achieved and apples were available for free. Now, Bring It On Down to Pominville sounds like some sort of punishment and Welcome To Granland doesn’t sound as welcoming of a greeting as it used to.

One player who seems to be Going Wild is #3 Charlie Coyle. Did you think Charlie would Go Wild this season? I did!

No matter what, it should be an interesting 33 games for the Minnesota Wild.

Will the Wild get back to winning or will this slump continue to the point where we may see the end of the Mike Yeo Era in Minnesota?

We’d love to hear your thoughts so Bring The Clutter in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

AND….always…

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day!!! In Every Way!!!

If you don’t know what that means, go HERE and find out!

2015-16 Minnesota Wild Preview – The Time is NOW!

2015-16 Minnesota Wild Preview - The Time Is NOW!

For the Minnesota Wild, The Time Is NOW!!!

The most anticipated season in Minnesota Wild franchise history is about to begin. They have a bunch of pieces in place to be a contender for the Stanley Cup. They just have to put all those pieces together consistently night after night, get home ice advantage and take it from there. Sounds easy enough, right? Yeah, easier said than done.

There’s a lot of pieces to put together for this Wild team. The good news is most of those pieces haven’t changed from last season. Usually teams get better as they play together more often and this team was the top team in the National Hockey League from January 15th to the end of the regular season last year with a record of 28-9-3. Can they be put it all together and be one of the top teams in the league for an entire season? That’s the big question.

A foundation of leadership was set when the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year/$98 million contracts on July 4th, 2012. Most people expected those signings to provide immediate results but it was the beginning of a team developing into a contender with that leadership combining with the depth the organization was building through the draft and trades. The time is now for that combination to become a Stanley Cup contending team.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter had tough seasons last year, both losing their fathers during the season. Zach still put up decent numbers with 33 goals. Suter said himself after the season that it was “just a bad year.

Mikko Koivu had his worst season since his rookie year but he got it going in February & March. Thomas Vanek’s 52 points (21 Gs, 31 As) was his lowest point total since his rookie season back in 2006. Jason Pominville only scored 18 goals and missed on a lot of great chances.

There was a few young players like Nino Niederreiter, Jason, Zucker, Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba that had good seasons. For the most part though, there wasn’t any great performances by Minnesota Wild players last season and they still took this team to the postseason and to an upset of the St. Louis Blues in the first round. Getting swept in the 2nd round by the Chicago Blackhawks gave us a bad feeling on the season but it was another step just because of the way they performed in the second half and what they overcame. They aren’t looking to take any more steps.

The Minnesota Wild are ready to win this season. They have their number one goalie in Devan Dubnyk and capable backups in Darcy Kuemper & Niklas Backstrom. They have the leadership in the room and on the ice in Parise, Koivu and Suter and they have a bunch of young players ready to breakout and provide scoring and the depth a contending team needs to hoist the Cup.

Almost everyone on the team can be better this season, save for maybe Devan Dubnyk. We know Parise will bring 30+ goals and 60+ points. Pominville is good for 20+ and 60+, Suter had a bad season with 2 goals and 38 points when his career highs are 8 goals and 46 points. Vanek had a disappointing season and still had 21 goals. Is it completely out of the question that those players could all have better seasons in 2015-16?

Now pair that with better seasons from Mikael Granlund (8 Gs, 39 pts), Nino Niederreiter (24 Gs), Jason, Zucker (21 Gs), Charlie Coyle (11 Gs, 35 pts, +13), Marco Scandella (11 Gs, 23 points, 4 GWGs, +8), Matt Dumba (8 Gs, 16 points, 2 PPGs, 2 GWGs +13), Jonas Brodin (3 Gs, 17 pts, +21) and there’s still Justin Fontaine, Erik Haula and up and coming prospect Tyler Graovac.

This team was already one of the best defensive teams giving up the 4th least amount of goals, 4th least amount of shots against while having the best penalty kill in the league. The 27th ranked Power Play will change in scheme and in personnel. This team is ready to Go Wild in 2015-16!

Fun Fact:

Mike Yeo has coached the Minnesota Wild to a better record in each of his first 4 seasons.

Avoiding the streaks of bad, inconsistent play will go a long way into making this season the best in Minnesota Wild franchise history!

Do you believe The Time Is Now for the Minnesota Wild? Will they contend for the Stanley Cup in 2015-16?

You’ve…Been….CLUTTERPUCKED!!!

As always, THANKS for reading! Please let us know your thoughts by commenting or interacting with us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

Don’t forget to…..

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day!!! In Every Way!!!

Will Charlie Coyle Go Wild this season?

Will Charlie Coyle Go Wild this season?

Will we see this reaction a lot this season from Minnesota Wild fans?

Charlie Coyle was the main acquisition back in 2011 when the Minnesota Wild traded defenseman and fan favorite Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks. The trade never would’ve happened if Charlie Coyle was not included as part of the first big blockbuster trade made by Chuck Fletcher. The trade also included Devin Setoguchi and the Sharks 2011 1st round pick (28th overall, the Wild chose F Zack Phillips.)

Devin Setoguchi was the big name when the trade went down, having come off three straight seasons of 20+ goals (31, 20, 22 from 2008-2011) and being a factor in the playoffs for the San Jose Sharks. Devin looked ready to be a top 6 player on a growing Minnesota Wild team. Turns out Mr. Setoguchi may have been a product of the players around him in San Jose as he couldn’t live up to that top 6 role for the Wild. He scored 32 goals & 31 assists over 2 seasons & 117 regular season games for the Wild and ended up being traded to Winnipeg for a 2014 4th round pick after the 2012-13 season. Maybe it just wasn’t a good match of player and team.

Setoguchi never realizing his potential with the Wild just reaffirmed Charlie Coyle being the main player in the trade. When the Wild acquired him, Charlie had just finished his freshman season of college hockey with the Boston University Terriers of Hockey East. He won New England & Hockey East Freshman of the Year* scoring 26 points on 7 goals and 19 assists in 37 games. He also played for Team USA in the 2011 World Junior Championships, helping them win a Bronze Medal and tying for the team lead in points with 6 on 2 goals and 4 assists.
*In his 1st collegiate game, Charlie scored a goal and had an assist in a 4-3 win over Wisconsin. Us Minnesotans like that! Yeah, CHARLIE!

In his sophomore season at BU, Charlie would only play in 16 games for the Terriers before making a decision to leave Boston University to join the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

“Yes, I have made my decision to leave BU because I’m done being a student-athlete and I want to focus on just hockey,” Coyle said via text. “I was not failing out.”

“It was definitely a hard decision to make and I will miss my teammates and coaches. BU was a great place to be and I enjoyed my time there.”

Once he joined St. John, Charlie went on a tear, collecting 38 points (15 Gs, 23 As) in only 23 games. In the playoffs, he lead the Sea Dogs to the QMJHL President’s Cup and became only the 2nd American-born player to be named Playoff MVP scoring 15 goals & adding 19 assists in only 17 games.

Charlie played for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in 2012 as well but this time, they wouldn’t fare well, failing to make it to the medal round. I remember watching Charlie Coyle though and loving the way he played both ends of the ice, backchecking hard no matter what the score or how much time was remaining in the game.

The 2012-13 NHL season didn’t start on time due to a lockout so Charlie Coyle started the season in the AHL with the Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s minor league affiliate at the time. Head coach of the Aeros, John Torchetti felt Charlie Coyle was going to “make an impact on the Wild for two reasons: He’s no-maintenance, high-character and he’s so good, so willing defensively.”

Charlie Coyle - Poised to make an impact

Torchetti loved Coyle’s terrific skating, eagerness to go to the dirty areas, great release and, of course, the fact that he looked like a future top scorer but he didn’t think you could play in today’s NHL without the defensive component, and Coyle was his “most consistent, complete forward night in and night out since the start of the year.”

The NHL season began in January with a shortened 48-game season. The Wild called up Charlie Coyle for the 9th game of the season and put him on the 2nd line and moved him to the top line soon afterwards. He’d play in 37 games that first season and have only 14 points (8 goals & 6 assists) but would show flashes of being the power forward most of us expect him to be. He’d have several Beast Mode* shifts in the offensive zone where he’d possess the puck for 20 seconds or so and the opponent couldn’t muscle him off the puck or get it off his stick.
*I now refer to this as Coyle Mode as it seems to be something only he can do.

Since that first season, he’s been moved around to different lines playing center or wing. He’d have a better 2nd season in terms of points with 30 (12G, 18A) but his +/- suffered as he was no longer on the top line and was still adapting to the NHL game and Mike Yeo’s system.

In late January last season, Charlie Coyle scored an amazing goal on a breakaway in Edmonton. You have to see it to believe it. Words don’t do it justice but I’ll try. He forced a turnover in the neutral zone, getting a breakaway coming up the left side of the ice but he has two Oiler players chasing him down forcing him to keep going to the left of goalie Viktor Fasth so he just around Fasth behind the net and somehow moves the puck back towards the net with his backhand and has just enough room to get the puck in front and tap it in all while still moving.

Charlie Coyle Amazing Goal from behind net vs Oilers - 1-27-2015

You’d probably think shoot here but you’re not Charlie Coyle.

Here’s the goal and replays!

Mike Yeo was putting Coyle (& Nino) on the fourth line trying to teach them to play a complete game saying he did this to give them a “chance to reset their game,” take pressure off and give them the mindset to get in on the forecheck, play in the offensive zone and simplify things in order to start feeling confident in their games again.

It worked pretty well. Charlie Coyle was playing his best hockey after the All-Star break. In 36 games, he had 16 points (6G, 10A) and was a +17 for plus/minus. Compare that to 19 points (5G, 14A) and a -4 in 46 games before the All-Star break.

There’s several reasons why Charlie Coyle is poised to Go Wild and have a breakout season for the Minnesota Wild:
He is 6’ 3” tall and weighs 221 pounds so he can be physical in on the forecheck. We’ve already seen him use that size to protect the puck and be a physical force in the offensive zone. He knows what to expect from a full season now, especially after going through two full seasons. He’s learned how to use that big frame to his advantage.

He’s improved defensively so he won’t be a liability when he’s out on the ice and coach Mike Yeo can rely on him to do the right things on the ice. That should get him more time on the ice.

He’s versatile. He can play center or right wing so he can fill different roles on different lines. He has been used on the power play and on the penalty kill in the preseason. He could replace Kyle Brodziak’s minutes in PK situations.

He’s improved his faceoff skills making him an option to be used in some situations where the Wild need a faceoff win in either zone.

He’s only 23 years old and his new contract kicks in this season. Last season he took the All-Star break to get his confidence back and he finished the season very well.

He led the Wild in preseason scoring with 8 points on 1 goal & 7 assists in 4 games played. Yes, it’s the preseason. I know but it shows progress.

What would a Charlie Coyle breakout season look like? How many points, goals & assists does he need to be considered Going Wild? I would say he should have 15+ goals & 35+ assists for 50+ points. That would definitely help the Wild take the next step for this franchise.  

So, do you think Charlie Coyle will Go Wild this season? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter or Google+!

You’ve been….CLUTTERPUCKED!!!

Thanks for reading and always….

Bring the Clutter! Every Day! In Every Way!