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Wild Recaps – What Happens vs Vegas – 11-30-2017


A Golden Night against the Golden Knights.

The Minnesota Wild had lost 2 consecutive games to 2 of the best teams in the NHL and in the Western Conference. Now they had to face another very good Western Conference in expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. In years past, “expansion team” usually meant a relatively easy game and a definite opportunity to get 2 points. Those days are over. These Knights have been lights out at home at 9-2 but not nearly as good on the road, although, still very good at 6-5-1 before the game on Thursday night.

It’s usually not good to face a team coming off two bad losses, especially if that team has had a couple days off and some time to practice and adjust their game and you know with a very good opponent facing them, this Minnesota Wild team was going to do everything in their power to make those adjustments as quickly as possible so they’re ready for the next game. Points are at a premium when you’ve struggled in the first quarter of the season.

The Wild make some roster changes before the game by putting D Kyle Quincey on waivers and claiming former D Nate Prosser off waivers from the St. Louis Blues. They had previously called up D Ryan Murphy from their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, since D Jared Spurgeon was out due to a groin strain. That meant the Wild were going to go with the youth of D Mike Reilly & D Gustav Olofsson on the bottom defensive pair.

Neither player has played very well so far this season but they’ve both shown that they are ready to be NHL players. They’ve done well enough in the minors to earn identical 1-way contracts in the offseason. Defense is the toughest position in the game to learn. Development of young defenseman takes time. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s learned, “it takes approximately 300 games to become a solid NHL defenseman.” Before Thursday night’s game, Mike Reilly had played 63 games in the NHL & Gustav Olofsson had played 30 games in the NHL. They’ve both played plenty in the minors, Reilly has 103 games in the AHL while Olofsson has played 120 games in the AHL.

Reilly is the more offensive defenseman while Gustav is better defensively which means they should actually make for a pretty decent combination with the exception being they don’t have a ton of experience and learning against the best players in the world can be a bit daunting. The Wild know they have to put them in games so they can experience playing at this level to develop into NHL defensemen. There’s no, “…I’m sorry. You don’t have enough experience” in hockey. It’s more of you don’t have the right experience. They’ve played a lot of hockey but, it just gets harder as you move up.

Let’s be honest, though. The problems the Wild were having were defensively but it wasn’t just the defensemen that were the problem. It was the forwards. After waiving Kyle Quincey, GM Chuck Fletcher said, “…until the forwards start playing the right way, we will not win.” He was mostly talking about getting the puck deep when the play calls for that.

If the opponent’s defense is standing up at the blueline, trying to stickhandle through 3 players is very rarely going to work and is definitely not a play they should be trying on a consistent basis. It’s a turnover waiting to happen. Throw the puck behind the defense and get the forecheck going. Get to Work!

The first forechecker (F1) is in on the puck while F2 reads the play so they can meet the puck when it gets to the next player. F3 stays high paying attention to the breakout options to prevent odd-man rushes. Consistently doing this with speed and physicality will affect the game* because those defensemen will want to move the puck quicker and that will cause mistakes. Mistakes cause turnovers and turnovers cause scoring chances. It’s not rocket science (is it Puck-et Science?)
*There’s a great quote from Brian Burke about checking in the National Hockey League:

“…hitting is designed to separate a player from the puck, primarily, and secondarily, to discourage enthusiastic participation by that player in the later part of the game.”

This game started with both teams playing defensively, not wanting to take too many chances and feeling out how the game was going to go. The Golden Knights played that way because they were on the road and the Wild because they were coming off two bad defensive games. Both teams still had their chances but the game would be scoreless until late in the 2nd period when Mike Reilly made a great play to get the puck over to Mikael Granlund for a one-timer:


Mike Reilly threw an apple at Mikael Granlund from across the rink then a 1T & a Wild 1-0 lead!

This is a great goal set up by a great pass from #4 D Mike Reilly. It shows his vision but it also shows him taking advantage of a player out of position. #64 F Mikael Granlund shows great work ethic to battle for position and to get open while playing without the puck.

Reilly dumped the puck around the left boards behind the net to #16 Jason Zucker, who then tried to hit #9 Mikko Koivu in front of the net but he blindly threw the pass to where he thought Koivu was so the puck comes back to the point and Vegas F Brandon Leipsic (#13) lunged to try to tip the puck. This took Leipsic out of position to defend Reilly. You can see this in the screenshot below.

The play before the play - Mikael Granlund from Mike Reilly

Looking at this screenshot, you also see Granlund behind the net but he’s coming out in front of the net and getting open so he’s an option on the play. Mike Reilly isn’t even on the screen yet and still doesn’t have the puck but he knows he’ll be to able to take advantage of Leipsic being out of position by going around him to the outside and to the left half-wall.

Mikael Granlund one-timer goal off great pass from Mike Reilly

#4 Reilly has a few options here. He has speed so he can keep moving towards the goal line to see if anything opens up. He could shoot because Zucker has created a screen but he does have a player in front of him and his angle will get worse as he gets lower in the zone. He also has Granlund as an option and there’s a clear passing lane because Vegas D #5 Deryk Engelland let Granlund have some space for some reason. It’s 5-on-5 and that’s his man. You see Granlund starting to give Reilly a target and he puts the puck right on his tape so he can just catch and shoot all in one motion and the shot hit the right post up high and went in the net for the 1st goal of the game.

Vegas tied it up on a play where I thought Wild F #3 Charlie Coyle should’ve shot the puck. The play starts at 4:20 in the condensed version of the game at the top of this article. He tried to pass it to Matt Cullen but Vegas D #3 Brayden McNabb was able to poke check the pass away and start the odd-man rush. He would be the odd-man open and get the one-time slapper to go past Devan Dubnyk to the upper right corner and tie the game at 1-1. Cullen fell down, which made a pretty big difference on the play.

A little less than 2 minutes later, Vegas would take the lead on a nice play by F #71 William Karlsson (at 5:10 of the attached video.) Karlsson received a pass from F #81 Jonathan Marchessault and he had the time and space to move toward the defense and drop a pass back to Marchessault, who made one move and then shot it bardown for a 2-1 Vegas Golden Knights lead.

The key to this play is Wild D #20 Ryan Suter giving too much space to Marchessault. That happened because he stayed with Karlsson even though Matt Dumba was right there to defend Karlsson. This is where communication could’ve helped stop this goal and given Ryan Suter more time to get his stick (or himself) in front of the shot or to force Marchessault to take the play further outside and maybe look for a different option other than a shot. I also think Dubnyk could’ve come out further from the crease to cut the angle down.

The Wild respond 48 seconds later and tie the game at 2-2 when Jonas Brodin scored his 2nd goal of the season with a shot from the left point that deflected off Vegas D Brayden McNabb’s stick as he was trying to keep Nino Niederreiter from getting in front of the net to do the same thing.

Jonas Brodin scores off the stick of VGK D #3 Brayden McNabb

This Game Is TIED!!!

Tying the game up so quickly gave the Wild some life and allowed them to play their game again. Dubnyk was playing well so they could just play and not have to push or take some risks to tie the game. They did get back to their game and took the lead when their forecheck forced a turnover and the puck got back to Matt Dumba at the right point. He made a move around #92 Tomas Nosek and then took a quick half-swing slapper that got past #41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and hit #5 Deryk Engelland in the right wrist and deflected right to #12 F Eric Staal for an easy shot into the empty net. Eric Staal caused the turnover by reading the play and getting to Bellemare and forcing him to make a quick play.

You can see this on the condensed version of the game (6:53 in) as opposed to the highlights version that, more often than not, doesn’t show the entire play and everything that went into how a goal happened. The highlight of the game-winning 3rd goal from Staal edits the play down to the point where Dumba gets the puck. The first replay shows Staal coming in on the forecheck but not enough to know what happened to force the turnover.

Devan Dubnyk had to make a great save with the paddle of his goalie to stick to keep the Wild ahead with just over a minute left in the game:

Devan Dubnyk makes a sprawling save with the paddle of his goalie stick vs the Vegas Golden Knights - 11-30-2017DUUUUUUUBS!!!

Eric Staal would score an actual empty-net goal with 6 seconds left in regulation to seal the win for the Minnesota Wild. It was a pretty big win over another Western Conference team and it will hopefully give the Wild some confidence as their next opponent is the St. Louis Blues.

THANKS for reading some Clutter. We’d love to see your thoughts on this game, the Wild or anything else hockey-related so….

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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….

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Minnesota Wild Game Recap – at Blues – October 13th, 2016

Minnesota Wild Game Recap - St. Louis Blues - October 13th, 2016

Game 1 on the road vs the St. Louis Blues

As the 2016-17 season opens, the Minnesota Wild are all about the excitement of new coach Bruce Boudreau. For the most part though, this is the same team save for the additions of Erik Staal, Chris Stewart and the most recent addition of Teemu Pulkkinen off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings.

The biggest change on the ice is the first line. The only holdover from last year’s 1st line is Zach Parise. Newly acquired center Erik Staal and former linemate Charlie Coyle now join him on the top line for the Wild. They started Game 1 and in the first 30 seconds, Erik Staal made a physical play to force a turnover in the neutral zone. The puck ended up getting wrapped around to Charlie Coyle who made a nice move to get a pass to an open Marco Scandella at the middle of the blue line for a quick little slapshot producing the first “almost” of the night when he hit the crossbar with a loud PING. So close…but still just “almost.”

That would end up being the theme of the night for the Minnesota Wild, almost. They also had 3 breakaways (Zucker, Staal & Parise) and were stopped every time. Staal’s breakaway maybe should’ve given him a penalty shot, to which the official told coach Bruce Boudreau, “He had a chance.” as the reason a penalty shot wasn’t called. That “chance” wasn’t complete because of the penalty thus it should’ve been called a penalty shot.

The Goals Against

The St. Louis Blues scored the first goal and, unfortunately, the “almost” theme could be used here as well. Jason Zucker almost got the puck out of the zone but it was kept in at the blue line, creating a chance to catch the Wild scrambling to get back into a good defensive formation.

Alex Steen puts the Blues up 1-0 in the 1st period

Zac Dalpe made a good physical play to get the puck loose from Alex Steen at the right half boards but Rob Fabbri picked up that loose puck and, with speed going into the corner, he made Wild defenseman Mike Reilly go too far towards him allowing him to make a move back to front of the net. Reilly got enough of him to force the puck loose but, Dalpe failed to stay with Alex Steen and he would get to the puck for a quick shot to the upper right corner for his 1st goal of the season and a Blues 1-0 lead.

I’m not sure Devan Dubnyk should be faulted very much for this goal. Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin does a good job of taking away the pass behind the net to Paul Stastny but Stastny makes a good play to go around the net to be a threat on the backdoor. When he did that, Brodin has no choice but to cut in front of his goaltender, taking Dubnyk’s view of the puck away for a split second and not allowing him to come out towards the shooter to cut down the angle leaving more net to shoot at for Alex Steen.

Nail Yakupov gave the Blues the lead back when his slapper from just inside the blue line to Devan Dubnyk’s left went in off Duubs’ glove. Dubnyk said postgame that he didn’t see the puck come off Yakupov’s stick. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon had the blade of his stick there to deflect the shot but that either blocked Dubnyk’s view of the puck and/or deflected off Spurgeon’s stick. Dubnyk needs to stop shots from that far out a large majority of the time.

On the Blues 3rd goal, a 3-on-2 results when the third Wild forward in on the forecheck gets too low trying to get to a loose puck and the loose puck is won by the Blues. That started the odd man rush. They may have been fine but the newest Wild player, Teemu Pulkkinen backchecked down the middle but started coasting and then reached to try to break up the cross-ice pass to Magnus Paajarvi. If he keeps skating and takes that pass away, it changes the whole play.

You should never feel comfortable with your backcheck. Don’t just get within reach of the play or the player, get to the play and/or player so you can disrupt it and help your team.

The Blues executed that 3-on-2 to perfection. Patrick Berglund drove to the net forcing Matt Dumba to try to cover him and Magnus Paajarvi. He can’t leave Berglund in front of the net all alone yet he can’t cover both of them so he’s stuck between a puck and a hard place. See what I did there?

The Goals For

Even though the Wild did not play well in the 1st period, Ryan Suter erased all of that by tying the game all by himself.
Ryan Suter ties the game at one with an unassisted goal.

Ryan Suter was tasked with defending Vladimir Tarasenko all night. On this play, Kevin Shattenkirk is behind his own net and passes to Tarasenko in the neutral zone. Tarasenko comes back into his own zone expecting to be able to pass it back to Shattenkirk but Ryan Suter disrupts the play by being on Tarasenko as soon as he gets the puck. Forcing a turnover, Ryan Suter gets a mini-breakaway and makes a great play by shooting a quick backhand shot knowing Shattenkirk is right behind him so he there wasn’t time or space to move to his forehand for the shot. The quick backhand shot was saved by Blues goalie Jake Allen but the rebound came right back to Suter for his 1st goal of the season and a tie hockey game.

Awareness is a great skill. Suter’s awareness of where Shattenkirk was on the play and a quick shot helped him score. On the other side of the play, though, Tarasenko turns to go out of his own zone heading up the ice after losing the puck, instead of stopping or turning back towards his own net. That left Ryan Suter all alone against his goaltender. He gets a minus one and some film study time for his work there.

Charlie Coyle gets the Wild within one on a great play and pass from buddy, Jason Zucker.

Charlie Coyle one-times home a sweet pass from Jason Zucker

Boudreau switches up the lines in the 3rd to try to get something going for his team. He put Zac Dalpe out centering Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle and it paid off in getting the Wild within one with just over 7 minutes left in the game. Zucker won a battle in the neutral zone to try to get the puck deep and get in on the forecheck. His dump attempt hits Colton Parayko but Zucker keeps battling to get the puck loose then battles through a Nail Yakupov hit to keep the puck going into the left corner of the Blues zone. He takes a look as soon as he’s free from Yakupov and sees Charlie Coyle breaking to the net and hits him on the tape for Charlie Coyle’s 1st goal of the season.

You usually see it on every goal, the defending player is almost always late reacting to the offensive play. That’s because the offensive player is just trying to get open and knows where the puck is while the defending player is trying to cover the player or an area and they may not know exactly where the puck is at all times. That’s a big reason why defense is so hard. You can’t just watch the puck. If you do, you’ll watch the puck go into your net. On the other hand, you can’t just watch the player, either. You have to know where the puck is while also keeping a stick on the offensive player’s stick. Don’t just be within reach of the player because you won’t have enough time to react to get to their stick.

The Wild played their best hockey in the 3rd period and had chances to tie the game but couldn’t get it done. So, they lost their first game of the season. They need to learn from it and move on to the next game quickly.

“…we couldn’t get up to speed.”

Ryan Suter postgame interview - Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues - October 13th, 2016

Ryan Suter Postgame

Minus/Plus

The first loss of the season in the first game is not what the fans or the team was looking for last night. The main reason is they just seemed a step behind for most of the game. Like Ryan Suter said, they “couldn’t get up to speed” against the Blues. They looked like a team that was learning a new system and reacting to what they were seeing instead of reading the play, anticipating and reacting to their reads.

Mikael Granlund was relatively invisible out there. We didn’t really hear his name called other than when he got drilled into the stanchion by Colton Parayko.

Their power play had 5 chances and got very little out of those 10 minutes on the man advantage but…

Believe it or not, there are some positive things to take away from this game. It’s never a good thing to lose or fail but you can learn from it and get better because of it.

The Wild penalty kill did not allow a goal even if they allowed some great chances. The team got better as the game went on and played their best hockey in the 3rd period and gave themselves a chance to tie the game late. That’s all you want is a chance to get points every night. They know they will need to play better and they will play better.

They shut down Vladimir Tarasenko. Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon appeared to be the defensive pair tasked with the job of shutting down one of the premier forwards in the National Hockey League and they did it. Suter made him look silly on his goal and took him out of the play a few times.

They had a physicality to their game, too. Erik Haula getting a roughing penalty protecting his goalie in front of the net. Marco Scandella reacting to a big hit on Mikael Granlund.

They have the first game out of the way and know a little bit more of how Bruce Boudreau and the entire coaching staff goes about their business.

I expect a completely different team come tomorrow night when the Minnesota Wild hold their Home Opener at the Xcel Energy Center at 6pm on Fox Sports North.

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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.

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+!

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Minnesota Wild Roster at the Beginning of Free Agent Frenzy

 

Cap Space for the Minnesota Wild from GeneralFanager.com

Cap Space for the Minnesota Wild from GeneralFanager.com

The Minnesota Wild’s 2014-15 season ended with a sweep from the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. A lot of people reacted saying the Wild had a long way to go to become contenders in the NHL and need to make big changes to get there.

The 2014-15 Minnesota Wild was the best in the NHL in the 2nd half of the season, a team that was 18-19-5, written off by fans, critics and all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Then on January 14th, 2014, the Wild was reborn when GM Chuck Fletcher made a little trade for a goalie named Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes for a 2015 3rd-round draft pick.

Of course, pretty much nobody thought this would change much for the Wild. Devan Dubnyk wasn’t a big name goalie by any stretch of the imagination. He had never been a part of a winning team in his 6 seasons in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers (5 seasons, 171 games played(GP)), the Nashville Predators* (1 season, 2 GP) and the Arizona Coyotes (1 season, 19 GP).

*The 2013-14 Nashville Predators did end the seasons with a winning record but Dubnyk was only there for 50 days before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens. The day he was traded to NSH, they were 20-21-7 and they were 26-26-10 when he was traded away.

Interesting that the day Devan Dubnyk arrived with the Wild, they were not a winning team either at 1 game under .500. Then the Minnesota Wild A.D. (After Dubnyk) began. Devan Dubnyk would start 38 consecutive games, not getting a day off until after the Wild had clinched a playoff spot. The Wild would go 28-9-3 AD and make the playoffs, upset the St. Louis Blues in the 1st round but be eliminated by Chicago in the 2nd round.

So, do they really need to make big changes to their roster or should they keep the core group and tweak the roster and give this team a chance to see what they can do in a full season with Devan Dubnyk in the cage?

Could they even make big changes to the roster? They don’t have a lot of room under the salary cap so the only way they could make changes is via trade. That would be difficult as well with a lot of players having No Move or No Trade clauses and a lot of money left on their contracts.

Yes, there’s some young guys that could be traded like a Jared Spurgeon and maybe some prospects but that probably wouldn’t be enough to make “big” changes. I’m sure Chuck Fletcher isn’t interested in going that route anyways. He’s been pretty adamant about keeping his young prospects in the fold.

The Minnesota Wild have just under $8 million to spend on free agents according to GeneralFanager.com and that’s without the eventual signings of Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Christian Folin. The Brown Fox always leaves some under the cap for injuries and trades too so don’t get too excited about the 1st day of the Frenzy.

Here’s a look at the Minnesota Wild’s Depth Chart, who might battle for spots and who might be options in free agency.

Depth Chart for 2015-16
Left Wing – Center – Right Wing
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Jordan Schroeder? – Erik Haula – Brent Sutter?

In the battle: Tyler Graovac, Michael Keranen, Brett Bulmer, Raphael Bussieres, Grayson Downing, Jared Knight, Kurtis Gabriel, Zack Mitchell, Brady Brassart, Pavel Jenys, Christoph Bertschy

Free Agency Options: Ryan Carter, Kyle Brodziak, Chris Stewart, Curtis Glencross, Devin Setoguchi, Blair Jones, Eric Fehr

Defense
Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella – Jared Spurgeon
Christian Folin? – Matt Dumba

In the battle: Mike Reilly, Jon Blum, Gustav Olofsson, Guillaume Gelinas, Dylan Labbe, Zach Palmquist, Alex Gudbranson, Hunter Warner

Free Agent Options: Jordan Leopold, Nate Prosser, Tim Gleason, Matt Irwin…

Goalie
Dubnyk
Kuemper
Backstrom

In the battle: Brady Hoffman, Stephen Michalek

THANKS for reading some Clutter today! Let us know your thoughts on the Minnesota Wild, the current roster, what they can or will do in free agency and anything else going on in hockey!

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