Category Archives: NHL Hockey

The 2017-18 Minnesota Wild – Expansion Clutter

Who will the Minnesota Wild protect in the 2017 Expansion Drafat?

To protect or not to protect? That is the question.

For the Minnesota Wild, the expansion draft offers a bit of a dilemma as they have to leave some good players available when the expansion draft begins for the NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, on Sunday morning.

Every NHL team has to submit a protected list of either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie or any 8 players regardless of position & 1 goaltender.* The Minnesota Wild are likely choosing the former of protecting 7 Fs, 3 D-men and 1 G. This allows them to protect more forwards but only 3 defensemen. This is where the dilemma begins.
*To see all the expansion key times, dates and rules, click 
HERE

Any player with no-movement clauses must be protected unless they agreed to waive that right by Friday at 4:00 pm CST. That means the Wild have to protect Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Suter taking up 3 forward spots and 1 defenseman spot. Jason Pominville would be an obvious choice to leave unprotected so they could protect another forward but, as of Friday night, we had not heard yet if Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had asked Mr. Pominville if he would waive his no-move clause. We may not find out until the lists are released to the teams on Sunday morning at 9:00 am CST.

Minnesota Wild Forwards from CapFriendly.com

Minnesota Wild Forwards from CapFriendly.com

They can only protect 4 more forwards from the above list excluding Martin Hanzal and Ryan White as they are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents as of July 1st.* There are no-brainers like Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter who are all just 24-25 years old. Of the rest, the players you’d think the Wild would want to protect are Erik Staal and Jason Zucker. *Players with 2 or fewer years of NHL/AHL experience are exempt so they don’t have to protect Joel Eriksson-Ek.

So they either have to expose rising star Jason Zucker or their #1 center Eric Staal. Jason Zucker had a career year last season scoring 22 goals while dishing 25 assists in 79 games. He also took a big step defensively, leading the league in plus/minus (in a tie with teammate Ryan Suter) with a +34. So, he’s now a responsible player who Bruce Boudreau can count on in all situations.

Eric Staal could easily be the comeback player of the year as he helped the Minnesota Wild solidify the center position while scoring 65 points (28 goals, 37 assists.) He regained his love for the game in the State of Hockey after winning the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in his 2nd NHL season in 2006 then making the playoffs in only 1 of the next 10 seasons before being traded to the New York Rangers near the trade deadline in 2016.

So, do the Wild protect the up-and-coming sniper who is a threat with his speed any time he’s on the ice in Jason Zucker or the steely veteran who was a big reason why they were the 2nd-best team in the Western Conference last season? It’s a tough decision. It sounds like they are leaning toward protecting Jason Zucker.

It all may be a moot point since the Wild can only protect 3 of their defenseman and, one would think, the Vegas Golden Knights would want to build from the net out and be able to defend well right out of the gate.

Minnesota Wild Defensemen and Goalies from CapFriendly.com

Minnesota Wild Defensemen and Goalies from CapFriendly.com

They have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon is a no-brainer so they’re left with the impossible decision of which one defenseman to protect from Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, and Matt Dumba. That’s 2 up-and-coming young defensemen in Brodin & Dumba and Marco Scandella, who was their best defenseman in the playoffs and plays with some physicality, has great skating ability to be a shutdown defenseman and has a rocket for a shot. He is 27 but that’s not old for a defenseman by any means.

Jonas Brodin is the hot name in trade rumors but the Wild have had teams call about the availability of Matt Dumba & Marco Scandella as well. If the Wild were only choosing for right now, Marco Scandella might very well be the guy but they have to look at the future and they have two players that could fit very well together as a 2nd defensive pair. Jonas Brodin is better defensively and Matt Dumba is better offensively. They are opposite-handed shots with Brodin shooting left & Dumba shooting right.

A lot of fans are frustrated with Dumba as he makes some bad decisions defensively. That being said, he’s just 22 and can certainly get better in that area and he put up 34 points (11 goals & 23 assists) with 6 goals (and 6 assists) coming on the power play. Jonas Brodin probably should have more points over the last 3 seasons, especially since he jumped from 2 goals in his rookie season to 8 in his 2nd season. Some of that can be from the Wild struggling to score goals for most of their existence and from the coaches taking him off the power play in favor of Jared Spurgeon, Scandella, and even Dumba.

The good news is no matter who they lose from their defense, they should be able to fill that spot with a current player and/or a prospect who looks ready to take the next step to a full-time role on the big club. If they lose Jonas Brodin, they have Gustav Olofsson, who patterns his game after his fellow Swede and got a chance to show what he can do for the Wild last season, impressing his coach along the way. If they lose Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly might very well be able to step in as an offensive defenseman who’s finding his defensive game after 2 seasons going back and forth between the AHL to the NHL. If they lose Marco Scandella, Christian Folin could step in as he plays physical and is a good defensive defenseman. They also have Nick Seeler, who Chuck Fletcher said was the “most improved player” in the organization last year. They still have Carson Soucy, who just turned pro after 4 years playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, too.

Chuck Fletcher is listening to any and all offers he’s getting for his players and had a lot of interest in recently traded F Jonathan Drouin. He was supposedly their #1 target:

Unfortunately, Fletch was handcuffed since he really couldn’t deal one of his 3 defensemen to get Drouin and then still risk losing another one of those 3 defensemen and also find a way to protect Jonathan Drouin.* Now, we wait to see if the Wild make a move to try to solve their Expansion Clutter.
*Remember when Tampa Bay was supposedly asking for Matt Dumba to get Jonathan Drouin when he wanted to be traded last season? They might have the same problem trying to figure out who to protect right now, though, not to mention how to fit Drouin in with their other current restricted free agents.

All teams have to submit their protected lists by 4:00 pm CST on Saturday afternoon. There will be a trade, waiver and signing freeze beginning at 2:00 pm CST on Saturday as well. This will leave Vegas as the only team allowed to make trades, place players on waivers, or sign players to contracts.

Starting on Sunday at 9:00 am CST, every team’s protected list will be approved and distributed to teams and the NHL Players’ Association (& supposedly made public, too.) At the same time of 9:00 am CST, an exclusive window for free agent negotiation will begin for the Knights.

As always, THANKS for reading. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ if you want to chirp us about this or anything else. We welcome it and want to hear your thoughts so….

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

2017 Playoff Preview – Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues

It’s Playoff Season! It’s time for the intensity to go through the roof!

The Minnesota Wild have waited 6 months for the playoffs to arrive. That’s what it’s all about, right? Nobody cares about the regular season. There aren’t any big statements about who wins the regular season other than only 8 of the 28 teams who’ve received the President’s Trophy for the best regular-season record have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. That’s a pretty big statement, huh?

Really, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. The regular season can be fun and obviously, there’s an importance to the regular season but there’s just nothing like the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’re biased, of course, because we love hockey but we still believe there’s nothing like it. The physical toll it takes on teams and players to win 16 games over four 7-game series of hockey is just extraordinary. The quest for 16 wins starts tonight for the Minnesota Wild as they play the St. Louis Blues in the first round.

The Wild upset the Blues in 2015 when the Blues won the Central Division and the Wild were a Wild Card team. That series went Wild (Away), Blues (Home) Wild (H), Blues (A), Wild (A), and Wild (H). The tables have now kind of been turned yet Mike Yeo is still the underdog. He’s been on the winning side of an upset in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has that experience. He also knows the majority of the players on the Wild roster.

Some might look at Bruce Boudreau and question his playoff (& Game 7) results. He’s only made it to the 3rd round once, in 2014-15, losing to eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. For some reason, he hasn’t fared well in Game 7s (1-7), either. Every one of those was at home, too.

So, is it his coaching philosophy? Does it work in the playoffs? Coaches can have a huge impact on a team, in the system they run, in the lines they put on the ice, in the way they treat the players, in the adjustments they make during a game and a series, and in the game plans they set up for each game or series. All that being said, it’s up to the players to execute the system and the game plans. You win with players. A coach can’t score, block a shot or make a save from the bench.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild scored the 2nd most goals in the entire league and had 12 players score more than 10 goals for a total of 218 goals. They have more players that can score goals spread across all 4 lines. They also were very good defensively with a very mobile defense that prioritizes getting the puck out of the zone. Until March, Devan Dubnyk was considered one of the top choices to win the Vezina Trophy given to the best goalie in the league. He and the Wild did struggle during the month of March but they appeared to have gotten their game back in April. They’ll need a good series from Dubnyk to win.

The Wild were also the best team in the Western Conference (Pittsburgh was the only team ahead of them) in even strength 5-on-5 situations so staying out of the box will be a big part of taking control and winning this series. They have a good penalty kill but, of course, you’d rather not test it.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues had 10 players score more than 10 goals for a total of 179 goals, with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring 39 of those 179 goals. Tarasenko is, of course, that superstar player that can make or break a series. He knows how to find time and space and he has one of the best shots in the league. The Blues were 5th in 5-on-5 scoring but only had a +9 differential when even strength.

The Blues are a hard team to judge because of the coaching change. They looked like a team that wouldn’t make the playoffs under Ken Hitchcock. They even traded away one of their top defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk. Fortunately, they caught fire under Mike Yeo, which Wild fans can associate with as they were very excited a couple years ago with their team under Mr. Yeo. Their defense and goaltending were great down the stretch, making them a tough opponent in the playoffs.

#TheX Factor

The Minnesota Wild have home ice advantage for only the second time in franchise history. Home ice should be an advantage. Every team would take playing at home over playing on the road but once the puck drops, it might not matter that much other than the Wild getting the last change so they can get the matchups they want against the Blues top lines. The crazy State of Hockey fans may have something to say about that, though.

The X-Factor for Each Team

Which player for each team can be the game changer, the player that can change the series for their team? For the Minnesota Wild, it’s Charlie Coyle. He’s built for the playoffs. He needs to play his game, be physical and shoot the puck. If he does that, he’ll make this series easier for the Wild to win. For the St. Louis Blues, it’s Ivan Barbashev. He’s centering the top line as a rookie in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the stage isn’t too big for him, he can make a huge impact in this series. He had to do better in the faceoff circle to start off with. 40% isn’t going to cut it in the Playoffs.

ClutterPuck Dropped

This should be a fun series but we’re going with the Minnesota Wild in 6 games. They just appear to have more depth offensively and have played very well defensively against the Blues, and Vladimir Tarasenko, this season.

Enjoy the series and all of the first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and remember….

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

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!

Dennis Wideman, The NHL and the Definition of Deliberate

Dennis Wideman suspended 20 games for hitting linesman Don Henderson

Apparently, the NHL needs a dictionary

The National Hockey League suspended Dennis Wideman for 20 games without pay yesterday for his alleged hit on linesman Don Henderson in a game against the Nashville Predators on January 27th, 2016. At first glance, it looks very bad but, you don’t make a decision on your first glance or the hit alone. Watch what happened before and after the play to make a sound decision on if Dennis Wideman should’ve been suspended.

Here’s the play in question:

Gotta See It: Wideman plows into referee after scary hit

If you haven’t seen the play, your first impression could easily be shock and thoughts of it being a dirty hit but you may also think why would he just hit a linesman? Now watch the replay or watch it again.

On the replay:

Dennis Wideman Suspended 20 games for violating Rule 40.2

Nashville RW, #20 Miikka Salomaki checks Dennis Wideman, spinning him into the boards and Wideman’s head hits the glass. Wideman falls to one knee then gets up, puts his left hand to his head then starts heading for the bench. He calls for a change raising his stick. Don Henderson, the linesman, is skating backwards following the play on the ice. Wideman has his head down and sees the linesman at the last second, tries to veer to his right and puts up his hands to defend himself, collides with Henderson and keeps going to the bench.

You know he’s trying to avoid the hit because he starts to stop and tries to move out of the way but it’s too late. He also puts his hands up which is a natural reaction to being surprised when something or someone is coming at you. Also, Wideman never looks back. He just keeps going to the bench, sits down and hangs his head.

If he meant to hit the linesman because he was angry about a call, he would have hit him harder and talked some trash to him after the hit. He doesn’t do that. He goes to the bench and it’s obvious he doesn’t feel right. Also, if he was in his right mind, he would’ve hit or defended the Nashville player coming at him with the puck right after he collided with Henderson.

Here’s the transcribed call from the game’s announcers:

“…and then…linesman down at center ice. There was a collision there between one of the Flames…and Don Henderson is down, getting slowly back up…to his feet so…looks like he is going to be okay. Dennis Wideman looks a little shaken up as well, Kelly.”

“Yeah, he wo…yeah, Salomaki and then he is banged up and he’s going to try to make his way to the bench and there’s the collision with Don Henderson. He doesn’t even see the…uh…linesman.

I think Peter Laviolette is calling for a call. He’s talking to…the linesman…right now. No.”

“So Wideman was clearly woozy after that hit in the corner.”

“Yes he was. Absolutely!”

Now, the NHL is saying he violated Rule 40.2 – Physical Abuse of Officials. Here’s how the Rule reads from the NHL Rulebook.

Rule 40.2 - Physical Abuse of Officials

The key word is “deliberately” which means he intended to hit the linesman. If he didn’t know the linesman was coming and accidentally collided with him, then it wasn’t deliberate.

We can say it was wrong and that the NHL has to protect their officials but none of those reasons make it deliberate and they can’t prove it was deliberate. Wideman’s statement after the game said he didn’t see him and he apologized to him after the hit.

The National Hockey League is making an example out of Dennis Wideman to protect their officials but they’re not even reading their rules correctly, rules written by lawyers and agreed upon by both the league and the player’s association.

This isn’t something that happened on a playground with the NHL being the biggest kid there and punishing Mr. Wideman for hitting their little brother too hard in a game. They really showed him. Dennis Wideman will never accidentally hit an official again. Wait. How can he know he’ll never do anything accidentally again? It’s an accident!

Is that how it works in the NHL? They apparently think so. The NHLPA doesn’t agree and has filed an appeal on Dennis Wideman’s behalf. The first stage of the appeal process is commissioner Gary Bettman. He will look at the play and decide to to leave the suspension at 20 games, reduce it or overrule it to no suspension at all. If he leaves it at 20 games or reduces it, the appeal will go to an independent arbitrator. That will be interesting. It’d be a big surprise if the commissioner changes anything.

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!

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!