Lockout Patience Will Pay Off For Wild

I just want my hockey.

We all just want our hockey.

It’s incredibly frustrating to see that, for the second time in eight years, we have to put up with this bullshit. The NHL is abusing the players and abusing the fans by exploiting every loophole to spend as much money as possible on contracts, only to cry poor and take that money away from the players, and hockey away from us. Fuck Gary Bettman. He’s the worst. If he spends eternity having his liver eaten daily by an eagle that constantly sings Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, I will consider it a light punishment. At least Prometheus did something to benefit the Greek version of the 99%, while Bettman puts the manic, irrational whims of the gods above any benefit the hockey community might receive.

But, alas, wiser, better people than I have said “Fuck Gary Bettman, I’d like to put him in a giant paper shredder.” better than I. This isn’t really about that. This is about enduring. Patience. Concerning our prospect development, this lockout might end up being a blessing in disguise.

So, make the jump, fans, and endure.

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Wild Defense Needs More “Bacon”

One of the hallmarks of Doug Risebrough’s not-so-illustrious tenure as GM of the Minnesota Wild was bring first round prospects directly to the NHL, with diminishing returns as this process went on. Things worked out well early with Marian Gaborik making an impact right away, and Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Brent Burns managing to develop at the NHL level. However, most Minnesota Wild fans are understandably cautious about this process due to the spectacular failure of James Sheppard, and the disappointment of watching the already-limited Colton Gilles having his development completely stunted on the bench.

In fact, perhaps the biggest difference between DR and Chuck Fletcher’s philosophies rests in how they progress their prospects to the NHL. In the three years since Chuck Fletcher became GM, only one of the players drafted have played in more than 9 NHL games. And with 12 games to his name, Matt Hackett is hardly a seasoned veteran. Fletcher has committed to a patient approach to prospect development.

But you knew that.

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May 2012 Prospect Rankings 4 – 1

So, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The top prospects in the Minnesota Wild system. Don’t let me stop you from these rankings, check em out after the jump.

4. Johan Larsson- Center/Left Winger- Brynas (Elitserien- SWE)

2012 WJC: 6 Games; 0 Goals; 6 Assists

2011-2012 Elitserien: 49 Games; 12 Goals; 24 Assists

2012 Elitserien Playoffs: 16 Games; 2 Goals; 8 Assists

2012 World Championsips: 7 Games; 0 Goals; 2 Assists

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Mikko Returns, Wild Still Lose; Whose Leg You Gotta Hump?: Spurgeon Edition; WJC update

Here I was going into tonight planning on talking about the importance of Mikko Koivu.

Not that he’s not. He set up the second goal of the game, logged 23 1/2 minutes of ice time, was a +1, and won 64% of his 22 faceoffs. It’s great to have him back, but it doesn’t mean the same after the result tonight. They lost. They’ve canceled out the good getting 14 points in 7 games has done.

The silver lining to this is the cushion that the Wild have built has prevented the Wild from dropping out of the race. In fact, after a 7 game losing streak, the Wild’s 6th in the conference, and only one point behind the division-leading Canucks. That’s actually really awesome. While it certainly would be nice to still have that leeway in the standings, that’s exactly what a team builds that leeway for. For when their team gets bitten by the injury bug, when their goaltending regresses from superhuman to merely very good, when the team gets tired and frustrated. Even after a 7 game losing streak, the Wild are closer to the top of the standings to the outside of the playoff bubble. Continue reading

Previewing the Wild Junior Championships

NHL Prospect rankings are hard. Maybe harder than any other sport.

Obviously that’s might not be entirely true, there is a lot of trial and error when it comes to evaluating minor league talent, a lot of hits and misses with any sport, except maybe top two picks in the NBA. The difficulty in hockey talent evaluations is that you’re dealing with 17 year old kids when they’re drafted- the youngest of any sport. But even the NFL, which waits until the age of 20 to draft prospects, has a lot of trouble evaluating talent.

A huge reason for this is because you’re dealing with human beings, and with the slight exception of hockey experts calling the Wild boring, you can never really predict what human beings are going to do.

But that’s just drafting. At least baseball prospects are in the same minor leagues as everyone else, and football and basketball players make the leap to the highest levels right away. Hockey prospects are all over the world, playing all kinds of different talent levels. We can all figure out that Mikael Granlund’s 38 points in 32 SM-Liiga games are pretty damn valuable. But what’s more impressive? Zack Phillips’ 54 points in 32 games playing against kids his own age in Juniors, or Johan Larsson’s 23 points in 31 games in the Sweedish Elite League? It’s kind of hard to say.

And therein lies the beauty of the World Junior Championships. For a magical two weeks, all the top prospects are on a level playing field. Even in a small sample size, we can still glean quite a bit of information from this tournament. With the Wild sending six prospects to the WJCs next week, let’s break down the prospects participating, and what to expect from them. Continue reading

Why The Wild Should Trade Josh Harding

No one expected this.

Josh Harding was signed to a 1 year, $750K deal after Jose Theodore left this summer. Everyone thought it was a fine move. Harding got a year to showcase himself him after losing a contract year to injury, and the Wild got a solid backup who they had thought at one point could be their starter.

And then Harding blew up. Harding has been dominating at backup duty, putting up a .932 SV% over 13 games and 11 starts, and would likely be the starting goaltender right now if the current starter, Niklas Backstrom, wasn’t putting up Vezina numbers too. Together, they’ve become arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league (only Boston can claim they’re better), propelling the Wild to the top of the NHL.

So why trade this guy? Continue reading