Wild $#*! I Found On The Internet (11/30)

Sad news everyone, it's the last day of Movember. I know, you're as sad as I am but at least we'll be moving on to Mecember tomorrow. Anyways, I'm sure you are upset about last night's 3-0 shutout loss to Calgary but hopefully some of these articles help cheer you up. And if not, you can always follow us on Twitter (I hear we're finding out more about Nordy) or send in your own guest blog to firstroundbust (at) gmail.com.

-First of all, there's the local fishwrap coverage of last night's game: East (Pioneer Press) - West (Star Tribune).

-Also from the papers (part I): It's HS hockey time, which is unfortunate for those poor private school souls. (Star Tribune)

-Also from the papers (part II): 21st birthdays aren't as fun in Canada. I guess that's what a lower drinking age does, but making your NHL debut is a good consolation. Welcome to the Wild Jared! (Pioneer Press)

-RIP Pat Burns in your Stanley Cup urn. (Puck Daddy)

-Final Movember Update: We set a mustache record! (KSTP.com)

-Darren Elliot is not surprised by the Wild. Or East Coast bias. (SI.com)

-Farewell Brock McBride! (The Third Intermission)

-"Twitterview" with Wild PR guy Ryan Stanzel. (Joel's Views)

-Hockey Canada chooses players for their selection camp. No Wild draft picks, but UMD's Dylan Olsen was picked.(TSN.ca)

-An ESPN hockey article featuring the Wild? It's true - thanks Patrick O'Sullivan!

-Future Wild news: How to score in the Finnish SM-Liiga. (behindthenethockey.com)

-And finally, Wild draft pick (and current Minnesota Golden Gopher) Erik Haula talks with the media.

Calgary Post-Game Thoughts (Calgary Wins 3-0)

The (Someone Sponsor This) Three Stars:
1. Mikka Kiprusoff
2. Jarome Iginla
3. Jay Bouwmeester

After the last two games the second period has gone from a funny joke to the bane of every Wild fan's existence. Once again, Minnesota was not disciplined and gave up two second-period goals in eighteen seconds to badly win a 3-0 game.

I wouldn't say the Wild played bad by any means; in fact there were stretches where they controlled the play. However, once those two goals were scored it was obvious the game was over. There was just no hustle, no heart and no determination to get back into the game. Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff played well, but he didn't have to stand on his head. It appears that teams have adjusted to Minnesota's game plan and unless they can start scoring and creating even strength chances on offense it's going to be a long year. Yes, they have half their top six out of the lineup blah, blah, blah but at the same time it's not like other clubs aren't dealing with injuries.

In the end, I'm just disappointed with the Wild. Minnesota may not be the most talented team in the league, but they aren't playing to their full potential. And until that happens - hell at this point I'll take baby steps with playing a decent second period consisting of good line changes and consistent breakout passes - this same old song will continue to be written.

I know this is negative, but to end this on a positive note, Todd Richards did call a timeout after the second goal. Plus Minnesota did shoot the puck on goal more than Calgary. It's the first time that's happened in twenty games. Progress baby!

Getting To Know Your Opposition: Calgary Flames Edition

Hey look, it's that one crazy hard song from Guitar Hero!

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Today we look at the Calgary Flames through the eyes of their own fanbase. Most of these comments are taken from HF Boards while others are real facts. You decide which is which.

-Largest city in Alberta and has the same population of the Rochester, NY metro area.

-Didn't get the Earl memo. Or the Spurgeon one.

-Three Sutters are better than four.

-This is must-win game #1 of 38. So in other words, we're talking about Cowboys football.

-Canada's greatest coup.

-Like coming up with cute nicknames for goalies.

-Arena looks like a giant Pringles chip.

-Site of the Jamaican bobsled team's greatest achievement.

-Enjoy bitching and moaning about Jokinen. There's nothing funny about that, but it's half the posts there.

-Canadian team with the GDT of a sunbelt franchise. Then again, the Flames were originally one.

Tidbits: The "By Any Means Necessary" Special Edition

Based off the 100 or so games that Todd Richards has been Coach, I've gotten the sense that he prefers to let the players play so to speak; that he is hesitant to do things that can change the game plan that he and his assistants have used video and such to install. Kind of a "I'll prepare you the best I can, and its up to you guys to execute" sort of mantra. In a sense, he doesn't want to rock the boat.
But I think you can also look at it in this manner: when it comes to the in-game operations, Todd Richards doesn't want to do anything brash, not well-thought out, and he certainly doesn't want to over react to what may or may not have been occuring in front of him. Think about it: he's been hesitant to shuffle lines (and when he does, they don't stay "shuffled" for long) in order to get more production *cough Mikko Koivu *cough*, and recently admitted that he should have called a timeout earlier in Saturday's game in Colorado (before the game really got away from them) and should have pulled Niklas Backstrom after he was Dieter Kochan-like.
Call it lesson learned, because well, he is just 100 games into his foray as an NHL Head Coach. But the reality is, with history to prove it, is that most often the teams who are in playoff contention at Thanksgiving will likely be there at the end of the season, thanks to the inane three-point games. Basically, its impossible to make up ground as the season wears on.
So this brings me to this: Todd Richards has to go against his nature, in that he's got to be more proactive with in-game adjustments with his team, because it could mean making the playoffs. And if he doesn't, then it could mean his job.

- In sticking with the "by any means necessary" theme, its time to give Jose Theodore extended run as the #1 goalie. There just isn't time (or patience) for Nik Backstrom to find his game after letting in 18 goals in his past three games.
- Also, I think its time to send a message to Mikko Koivu: get your ass in gear. Mike Russo is starting to speculate that he's still recovering from offseason surgeries (he stole my take!) but this team ain't gonna go anywhere if Koivu continues to be as ineffective as he is now.
- I'd be interested to see what the reason is for Martin Havlat's resurgent play of late. Funny enough, he started to really take off right about the time his agent, Allan Walsh, lambasted the organization.
- You have to like the resiliency of the team though: 6-2-2 in games following a loss.
- I can't say that I'm a big Marek Zidlicky guy, but our blueline is different when he is in the lineup. He also looks to be less of a riverboat gambler than he was last year.
- The major issue I see with breaking up Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen: Brunette is too slow to keep up with other lines, and Miettinen (for the most part) is ineffective without Koivu. However, if you've committed the time and the money to keep Koivu here, you can't placate him by continuing to keep this line together when they have been so pedestrian.
- I think there is merit to Todd Richards' theory for the "second period sags":

"After another lousy second period destroyed yet another game, Richards questioned the Wild's pride, criticized the Wild's leaders and asked if this is a team that can't even respond properly to being praised.
"There has to be something," Richards answered when asked if it's a coincidence that it's usually the middle period that derails his up-and-down team. "As a coach, I wonder, can I praise the guys about playing a good first?
"Does that affect them? I don't know. I think they're professionals, they're playing at the highest level, they're established guys. We should be able to handle that."

The thing that immediately comes to mind was Coach Richards talking about "letting the guys enjoy a three game winning streak" as they had a few days of down time before a trip through the Southeast earlier this month. They were embarrassed in Atlanta, and lost against Florida the next night. Maybe this is just a team that needs to be constantly challenged?

What I Learned This Weekend (Thanksgiving Edition)

Sometimes real life beckons and games are missed. Not many, but it is nice to get out of my mom's basement and stretch out my 300 pound body on occasion. In order to catch up with the Wild universe, here's a list of things learned out in the real world.

-I'm thankful for the Wild being able to finally score some even-strength goals

-I'm not so thankful for games starting early on Black Friday. They just can't compete with shopping, work and doing something exciting with your children.

-Stay away from the mall on Black Friday.

-The perfect Thanksgiving food is leftovers.

-The perfect way to get over a win is to lose and lose badly.

-Today's hero can easily be tomorrow's scapegoat.

-Marty Havlat can take over.

-Ground Squirrels can defeat Birds over a Pig.

-They can also beat Wolverines in order to claim a jug and get away without a major injury.

-Being outshot 14-0 in a ten minute period has become the norm.

-That fact on its own is pathetic.

-So is the Pioneer Press' coverage of the last game.

-Hotels are fun when you spend more than $15 a night. You feel like a king.

-Just because a person wears a hockey hat and has a mustache, that doesn't mean they are growing one for Movember.

-On a related note, people with mustaches don't like when you ask about their mustache.

-Colorado is a good example of a team which the Wild might want to emulate.

-Jose Theodore has a larger fan club than even he thought.

-It's not fun to run into people you hated in high school; especially when alcohol is involved.

-Hockey is good in all of its forms. Actually, I knew that already but it is worth mentioning.

Guest Blog: In Search Of An Identity

In the true spirit of FRB, we encourage and endorse guest blogs from Wild fans near and far.

Real Name: Timothy Karsjens
Handle: Bozak911 (in use before Tyler)
I am a software professional who tries to absorb all things hockey. As a Minnesota resident who grew up in Iowa, I started following the Wild a few short years ago. The Wild are "my" team, but I also follow the Boston Bruins as my "east coast indulgence".

In Search of an Identity

In a digital age, it is not that hard to “find” an identity. If you consider the amount of identity theft and the ease of which it is to start your own blog and create your own identity, it shouldn’t be difficult for an organization to “find” an identity. Target goes through “identity re-alignment” almost on a three year cycle.

Yet, that is exactly what is plaguing the Minnesota Wild. The organization
just can’t seem to find an identity.

This is a commonly opined theme among the pundits of the hockey world. Commentators from XM NHL Home Ice such as Jim “Boomer” Gordon, Jamie Shalley, Joe Thistel and others keep this consistent theme when talking about the Wild. It matches the opinions from commentators such as Darren Dreger from TSN as well as Puck Daddy (talk about using the blogosphere to create an identity…)

“This is a team without an identity…”

Of course, there are several contributing factors to the lack of an organizational identity. The turnover in the front office from Doug Risebrough to Chuck Fletcher as well as going through a coaching change from Jacques Lemaire to Todd Richards at the same time are both contributing factors to the lost identity. Another contributing factor is a stated change of direction in how the team will be playing, but the roster remained mostly the same from between the Risebrough/Lemaire era and
now the Fletcher/Richards time.

So yes, with that much change, an organization will lose their identity for a period of time. The identity can be re-built quickly, as long as the message remains consistent with the actions. With the new management and coaching, this hasn’t been the case.

“This is a team without an identity…”

The pundits see the product on the ice. For the last 102 games, not counting exhibition games, this team has been trying to play an up-tempo system, with a slower than average roster. No offense intended to the guys in the Iron Range Red sweaters, but when Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen are some of your faster skaters… Or when the addition of John Madden makes most of your roster look slow…

The team just doesn’t have the skate speed to play an up-tempo system. Yes, they try, but it’s not translating well on the ice and it looks slightly discombobulated. The lines are not maximized to match either, although there have been attempts. Putting Cullen between Havlat and Latendresse seemed like a good idea on paper, but when you see the acceleration of the local boy, Cullen, in comparison to the other two… Disjointed play resulted as exemplified by the numerous off-sides that killed the in-game momentum at the beginning of the season.

“This is a team without an identity…”

Enter in the rumors from seasons past about the Wild not being able to attract high value free agents. Martin Havlat aside, the Wild haven’t been burning the doors down on huge names. (Remember, Havlat supposedly called us…) This organization has been spending close to the cap for several years now so it isn’t as if “big money” contracts are something that either management/owner groups are unwilling to throw down.

The following quote, however, is far more illuminating about the Minnesota Wild than anything that I have read since I’ve been a fan. It’s a quote from a Michael Russo article, where he interviewed Derek Boogaard;
"Boogaard, 28, turned down a three-year, $3.3 million contract with
the Wild for a four-year, $6.6 million deal to be a rock star in Manhattan.
He and Gaborik live a block from Central Park near Columbus Circle, and they're living the high life after laid-back Minneapolis.
"It's never boring, to say the least," Boogaard said. Next month, Boogaard will be featured in Men's Journal magazine. "The photo shoot, I'm wearing my Rangers jersey, and I'm in skates inside a meat locker punching a side of beef like Rocky," Boogaard said, laughing."

That quote should be a spot light on the biggest reason why this team has no identity. Minnesota is not New York. It is not Los Angeles. It is not a number of other places that are “more fun” like Boston, Chicago, Vancouver, Florida or even Washington DC.

NHL Hockey is a young man’s sport. A skilled player enters the league at 18 or 19 and really starts to hit their stride in their early 20s. Oddly enough, that roughly coincides with most sowing of “wild oats”. If you were a young NHL star, would you want to play in sleepy Minnesota? If you wanted to drive your car fast (*coughs*Dany Heatley*coughs*), do you want to do it on the icy roads of the great white north or down the Pacific Coast Highway?

Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota is a great hockey market. The fans know the game. We aren’t the type of fans to cheer a player rushing into the o-zone in a 1 on 3 situation to affect a line change. We’re all pretty smart about things like that. We are one of the few markets that have a majority of fans of the game that will know how to set up an outdoor, backyard rink (or at least help).

Which leads me to another pattern match; Matt Cullen. During several other times that Matt Cullen was a free agent, he chose to sign outside of his home state. This time around, however, he said that “now was the time”. Today, there was press about how after tonight (probably on Thanksgiving) he is going to have his father help set up his out door rink.

“This is a team without an identity…”

Well, I think it’s time for the management team to understand the market they are in; Minnesota. Minnesota has a great youth hockey system. It’s a good and mostly safe place to raise a family (not that I’d know). The fans know the game. We have one of the best arena experiences in the league.

See where I’m going yet?

In order to find an identity, this fan suggests that we start emphasizing what is good about Minnesota, instead of trying to be something this state is not. Yes, it’s good to develop the talent in our young guys. However, if you consider the number of veterans that had a hard time finding work this off season, this is the question that I ask;

Maybe our identity should be; “Mostly veteran squad, difficult to play

It works for Detroit, and Minneapolis/St. Paul is no Detroit… Play the family angle; bring in the wily veterans while still developing the young

It's a shift in thinking about how to build a winning team but patterns are

To The Woodshed: Carving The Turkey, a Special Thanksgiving Edition

Before I start, I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Today is a time where families and friends gather and give thanks for things, like good health, well-being, and the Detroit Lions.

I'm not gonna do that.

Admittedly I came up with this column idea to rip and savage someone with Cam Barker in mind. That was a while ago- and while I still want to take Barker to the proverbial woodshed, after being attendance for the debacle last night, I don't think its fair just to pick on #25 because there was a number of things that have the capacity for getting ripped.

Cam Barker: I was a proponent of the deal that brought Cam Barker here, preaching the fact that he was a proven NHL defenseman with upside that with steady ice time could be reached. Instead, we've gotten 10 points in 35 games, erratic and inconsistent play, injury problems, and essentially a depth role on a team. Say what you want about Nick Leddy starting the season with the Blackhawks (I'd argue that just because the Hawks thought he was NHL ready doesn't mean Chuck Fletcher and Co. would have too) but Barker's been a dud, and that salary is a bit hard to swallow for what we get.

Mikko Koivu: It's as simple as this- if you sign a hefty extension, then you need to step your game up and play like you're gonna get paid. And he hasn't. Whether its his linemates (more on that in a sec) or that he's still recovering from two offseason surgeries (my opinion) he's got to contribute, no matter how his offensive game is viewed. Now to his linemate situation...

Todd Richards: I really don't have much to rip Richards about, but he has to find a way to get his captain going, even if it means splitting up the security blanket of Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen. Look, the reality here is that Bruno and Mittens are UFA's to be, and Koivu is here long term. We can't worry about hurt feelings, its about wins baby. Put Matt Cullen and Patrick O'Sullivan on a line with him. Be creative. Do something. Richards has done a applaudable (is that a word?) job so far, but the point here is that this team cannot score goals, and no matter how good the goaltending is, you're still gonna lose games. And you're gonna lose your job. And it will be a long summer for...

Us, the fans: You probably just spit out your cranberry sauce right? How am I, a fan, worthy of being carved up, taken to the woodshed?
I'm not pointing fingers at individuals, as I am taking the nature of fandom to task here. After watching Brad Childress lose his job as Vikings Coach this week, and thinking back to the heat that Todd Richards faced earlier this year (that may or may not be getting re-applied after the past two games) and the subsequent fan reaction/outrage/uproar/general discontent. People were celebrating the dismissal of a coach who had led the team to back-to-back division titles, playoff appearances, and a near trip to a Super Bowl (I know there were other factors to the story, but I'm trying to make a point about some things never being enough)- and calling for the head of Richards, who had just complete his first season as head coach.
It struck me as bizarre; what is it about being a fan of a team that gives us a license to be irrational and impatient, make uninformed opinions, and dehumanize the coach and players, effectively relegating the organizational elements to that of a toy box? Is it because we feel entitled because we lay our allegiances down to a professional sports team?
I get the financial argument- that we pay our hard-earned cash down for apparel, live events, etc. and that in turn we want to see success, and we want to be entertained, but when does it go to far?

And is it really such a prescient matter that we need to dance on the grave of a man's career?

Wild $#*! I Found On The Internet (11/25)

Happy Turkey Day! Or for our foreign friends, happy Thursday. I can't wait to go eat some Turkey, watch some football, catch up with some old friends and get over the sting of last night's 6-1 loss to Philadelphia. There's a few videos and a few stories, but I hope that you find something interesting to read on this holiday.

-James Sheppard has a smile on his face. The title isn't really news - in fact it would be surprising if the opposite was true - but the article itself is a good update and there's a video to boot. Plus, he can grow a mustache now! (Star Tribune/Wild.com)

-The one hockey highlight (sorry Matt Kassian) of last night's game: Patrick O'Sullivan scores his first goal as a member of the Minnesota Wild:

-Todd Richards is not fuming after last night's loss. Maybe he should be. (Fox Sports North)

-When it rains, it pours. Houston loses 5-3 to Texas although JM Daoust notched three points for the Aeros in defeat. (Houston Chronicle)

-If you're wondering where Owen Nolan's spending his Christmas, the answer is Switzerland as Nolan signed a two-month extension (yes apparently you can do that in the Swiss A-League) with the ZSC Lions. (NHL.com)

-Columbus unveiled their new third jerseys, which are nice for being the culmination of four other team sweaters. (Icethetics)

-The KARE 11 sports guys dropping the puck and possibly cursing the Wild.

-The Blackhawks have been undergoing a youth movement, but this is just ridiculous (Puck Daddy)

-Movember Update: Even the British Prime Minister appreciates it.

-And lastly, hockey's unwritten code, written. (Down Goes Brown)

Philadelphia Post-Game Thoughts (Flyers win 6-1)

Thanks to HF user Up7Yours for posting this picture as a game summary.

The (Someone Sponsor This) Three Stars:
1. Any fan who watched the entire game.
2. Danny Briere
3. Ville Leino
HM: Patrick O'Sullivan (have to give credit to a Wild player given the focus of the blog)

If this game could be summed up in one play, it would be Claude Giroux breaking glass. Not only did it end the first period prematurely, but it gave the Flyers the opportunity to finish up a powerplay on fresh ice. That was just the type of game it was tonight; what could go wrong for the Wild went wrong. Whether it was a delayed whistle on the first goal, giving up turnover after turnover or missing on a breakaway, Minnesota couldn't take advantage of any opportunity. Good teams can do that and unfortunately for the Wild, Philadelphia is one of the elite teams in the league.

Despite the 6-1 score, Minnesota somehow kept themselves in the game for a long time. After a first period which was highlighted by Matt Kassian winning a staged fight over Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley (not exactly a good sign when that's your period highlight), the Wild spent most of the second period in control trying to erase an early 2-0 deficit. Patrick O'Sullivan, playing in his first game as a member of the Wild, got Minnesota on the board on a fluky pass off of Andrej Meszaros but that was the only puck past Sergei Bobrovsky all night.

The third period was one of the worst showings I've seen this season as the Wild never seemed to recover from a Danny Briere goal in the final minute of period two. After a Cam Barker turnover lead to an Andreas Nodl shorthanded goal, the entire team proceeded to quit. Two quick goals later, including one by Shelley, and the game was over.

To me, the biggest issues in the game were the first line disappearing along with the entire team in the third. A common theme throughout the year has been the team living and dying on the play of its defense and goaltenders and when Backstrom is a little off like he has been the last two games, Minnesota is in deep $#*!. A big reason for that is the lack of offense generated by the players who are being paid to score. Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen and Patrick O'Sullivan would show up occasionally, but the scoring chances were few and far between. After the second period, there were nine total shots on goal. And that holds nothing on the first line which had one great scoring chance all night. Something's not clicking with Bruno-Koivu-Miettinen right now and with Havlat being moved up there in the third period, I am hopeful Coach Richards is open to breaking it up.

On the same note, someone needs to lay into this team I don't care if it is Richards, Koivu or someone else, but it needs to happen. Yes, Philadelphia is one of the elite teams in the league but Minnesota should not be quitting on themselves under any circumstance. The Wild are not the most talented in the league and we're all aware of that, but is far more frustrating to see a team quit and give up than to watch a talentless squad at least try. Hopefully for Minnesota's sake things will change before Friday's tilt against Nashville after what has happened in the last two games. If not, the smell of blood will too strong to ignore for even the most homer fans.

Getting To Know Your Opposition: Philadelphia Flyers

It's Hockey Night Philly Style!

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers through the eyes of their own fanbase. Most of these comments are taken from HF Boards while others are real facts. You decide which is which.

-Founded in 1967 as part of the second wave of expansion

-Would rather kill than win. Whatevs, two points is two points.

-Have disproved the notion that Bullies never win.

-Are excited to watch the Minnesota fourth-string goalie record a 49-save shutout.

-Grieving the Spectrum's demise.

-Use the term Minnesotian, which is a new one even for me.

-City of Brotherly Love, which explains this picture.

-Someone wants to play Roo, which can't be good given the royalties and 2-dness.

-Obligatory Rocky reference.

-Are now aware of Minnesota's preference of taking the second period off for snacks and stories. I hear tonight's Bar-Bar!

-Eric Lindros: Greatest player for a few years in the 90s or public enemy number one in French Canada?

-There's at least two Minnesotans who are Flyers fans. I don't judge, that's for Nordy to decide.

-Where my cable bill goes every month.

-Decry Russo's non-use of commas, which now means this game is personal!

-Try to pronounce Schuylkill.

-Going old-school with Nintendo and Clerks.

-In West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and all shooting some bball outside of the school...

Wild $#*! I Found On The Internet (11/24)

That's for you Zander.

Happy Wednesday Bitches! Before your Minnesota Wild face off with the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, there's time to catch up on some past posts and some news that may have been forgotten like North and South Korea being upset with one another. Or the Wild picking up Patrick O'Sullivan off of waivers, sending down Casey Wellman to Houston and Gui Latendresse undergoing surgery today. There's probably also time to follow us on Twitter, but if not we won't be hurt. Or will we? Spoiler: We will.

-Falk and Kassian are being recalled to fight crime, kick ass and maybe play hockey. (wild.com)

-Michael Russo of the Star Tribune writes about how traffic in the defensive end bogs down offense without once using the word "trap." Give that man a Pulitzer!

-Mike Babcock gives his two cents as to why the Wild power play is successful. Two words: goooooals!(Craig Cunstase/Sporting News)

-The Mighty Ducks: An Ethical Observation. Good read on a childhood classic, although no mention of how Adam Banks was "somehow" in District 5. (Hockey Wilderness)

-Time to brush up on your Finnish (or) Mikael Granlund is out until after the World Juniors due to a concussion suffered last month according to his coach. Then again, he's going to try to train and be ready for it according to this article which comes from Granlund's lips so there's hope. (Iltalehti/Urheilulehti)

-Hockey's Future looks at the Minnesota CHL prospects, which eerily share the injured/outstanding goaltending combination of their parent organization.

-Andrew Brunette asks the tough questions...Movember style. (KARE 11)

-It's not a good time to be Phillip Falcone. Can you say Yellowknife Wild? (Ken Campbell/THN.com)

-Every Wild-Flyers game known to man. Impress your friends. Or for those lazy sould, you can always read watch a Philadelphia preview. (HFBoards/Philadelphia Inquirer)

-Oh Kaptain "MY" Captain. If you can get over the pet peeve of a Wild blog which keeps writing "Minny" rather than M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A, you'll enjoy this piece. I can relate to the author's sentinment of enjoying those late-90s Flyers teams and still own an Eric Lindros jersey somewhere. (Gone Puck Wild)

And as a bonus:

Once Again, Torn Labrums Haunt Our Dreams

Gui In Better Times...

What a difference a day makes. Going from complete silence to a plethora of news, it's been a mixed bag today for Wild fans. On one hand, Patrick O'Sullivan has come full circle and was claimed off waivers in a move which certainly will help out the Wild much more than having Casey Wellman, who was sent down to Houston, in the same spot. On the other hand, forward Guillaume Latendresse will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum (hip) and a sports hernia (well that's pretty self-explanatory). This makes Latendresse the third local athlete in the last three months to undergo hip surgery and unfortunately reminds Wild fans of another goal-scorer who underwent hip surgery after what appeared to be a groin injury. And that doesn't include the two goalies that just had it.

So what is a torn labrum and why does it haunt us? In my non-medical opinion, the labrum itself is a cartilage, which appears in ball-and-socket joints like a hip or shoulder. According to the Mayo Clinic, a hip labral tear "involves the ring of soft tissue that follows the outside rim of the socket of your hip joint." In layman's terms, the cartilage works as a buffer to make sure the hip joint doesn't catch and allows for more motion. When it is torn, that movement is restricted or lost. It makes sense that this happens to elite athletes and especially hockey players as the repetitive skating motion puts a lot of stress on the hips. A hip labral tear can also be mistaken as groin pain (as Wild fans should be well aware by now) since it is one of the symptoms. Thankfully Latendresse will be back by the end of the season as the recovery time based on looking at different athletes appears to be 2-4 months, but it could be too little, too late.

Regardless of Latendresse's early play and status in Todd Richards' doghouse, his absence strikes a major blow to a goal-starved Wild squad. Minnesota currently is 27th in the league in goals scored and while there have been a few underplaying forwards, a lack of depth up front and injuries have really stretched the team thin. Thankfully the Wild have so far been able to overcome this by playing good defense and outstanding goaltending, but once again it seems the term "torn labrum" will haunt our dreams for a very, very long time.

Full Circle

And back "home" after being plucked off the scrap heap...

The reality of the the situation is that Chuck Fletcher grabbed another young player who has NHL experience, a pedigree of success, and ultimately need a change of scenery and a place to play a ton of minutes. Your classic low-risk, high-reward transaction, especially considering how cheap his contract is at the NHL and AHL levels.
Considering how janky our top-6 is looking, O'Sullivan brings a willingness to shoot the puck (very accurately btw) which in turn should help out a power play that has a propensity to pass the puck too much as well. He's slated to skate on a line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck, so Todd Richards will give him every opportunity to succeed, and one would think that O'Sullivan would relish having (another) chance to prove and establish himself. In theory, he should be one motivated player.

I fully endorse it, and look forward to seeing PO'S in a Wild sweater.


An In-Depth Look At The Future: Jason Zucker

Hopefully a future sign of things to come...

Who is this guy: Jason Zucker is an eighteen year-old freshman forward playing for George Gwozdecky at the University of Denver. The 5'11" 180 lb Las Vegas native is also the third of three second-round picks this past season for the Minnesota Wild after GM Chuck Fletcher traded a third and fourth round pick for the 59th overall selection. A graduate from the US National Development Program in Ann Arbor where he played a part in the gold medal run at last year's Under-20 World Junior Championships (one of three gold medals last year), Zucker has his CHL rights held by Seattle. However, that's a moot point right now as his road to the NHL runs through Denver.

What he's doing: Tearing up the WCHA. While many collegiate freshman are seen and not heard as they adjust to a faster and stronger game, Zucker has been scoring early and often. His nine goals - including a hat trick in his debut - tie Zucker for second in the WCHA and sixth nationally while DU has gotten off to an 8-4-2 start. His play has been adored by Pioneer fans and despite some early reservations about trading up, Zucker's skill set and positive attributes have been nicely broken down by Denver Post beat writer Mike Chambers.

How this compares to other prospects: Hockey's Future currently has Zucker as the Wild's fifteenth-best prospect and third-best left winger. Not too many players are able to average close to a PPG their freshman year in the WCHA and the list of eighteen year-olds who have actually done it in the last ten years is even smaller (Toews, Heatley, Vanek, Stastny, Okposo, Parise and a couple other players who will lead their teams in the NHL in the future). Zucker is also no stranger to hard work and sacrifice as he's been traveling to play hockey since the age of ten. While that part of Zucker's game was already refined and expected when drafted as shown from his appearance at the WJC (despite being the youngest player on the roster), his scoring was a major question mark despite his shot and being the top USNTDP forward. This pleasant surprise is welcome given the lack of high-end forward depth in the Minnesota prospect system. If Zucker can continue his early season play, then the Wild might have something they desperately need in the system.

Why he can still be a first second round bust: It's early. Plenty of players have gone out, made a big impact and quickly regressed to the mean (see: Antii Miettinen). As Zucker hasn't previously shown his ability to score despite being the top USTNDP player drafted, it's something to keep an eye out for. This wouldn't be the first player who Coach Gwozdecky has gotten a lot out of who faded away afterwards. Another reason Jason Zucker can still be a bust is that his style of play requires him to put on some muscle before hitting the NHL. There's time for that to happen and is one reason he is sort of a boom/bust prospect (along with fellow second-round picks Brett Bulmer and Johan Larsson, but it's not good to make assumptions. Zucker is a freshman and capable of making mistakes as 26 PIM and a ten-minute misconduct against Minnesota State shows. He still has a ways to go before putting on an iron range red jersey.

And of course, there's always the fact that the Wild drafted him.

(Sources used and consulted: Denver Pioneers Athletics, Denver Post, Youtube.com, USA Hockey, McKeen's Hockey, Hockey's Future, Hockey Journal [via Let's Go DU Blog], USCHO, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Hockeydb.com and WHL.ca)

Wild $#*! I Found On The Internet (11/22)

Hello everyone. It's been over a week since the last one for reasons no one really cares about, but here's a bunch of Wild and NHL-related news from the web. Minnesota is recovering from a shellacking at the hands of the Evil Empire New York Rangers and will be until Wednesday, but in the meantime we hope to have some quality prospect and Wild news up on the site soon (like later today). And then some other types of hockey quality. So follow us on Twitter, write a guest blog, check in regularly and keep in touch y'all!

-Movember Daily Update I: Is the Mustache distracting from the cause? It would explain some of the recent second periods.

-Remember that post about Marco Scandella staying up and Justin Falk going down (or the third attempt at self=promotion today)? Well it looks like there's more than enough room in Houston for both. Got to love the salary cap world! (wild.com)

-Houston steals a victory from Texas. Looks like the young guys are already learning the Wild way. (The Third Intermission)

-Masslive is more hopeful about Casey Wellman scoring more than I am.

-NHL announcer rankings. I stand by Terhaar and Greenlay being ranked too high after continuing to discuss Ducks winger Rob Blake. (My Friend Corey)

-Apparently they still play hockey in the NHL when the Wild are off. And apparently the Red Wings were mad over losing to some unnamed team at home Friday. Those poor, poor Flames. (Hitting The Post)

-HBO 24/7 Preview for the Winter Classic, which looks compelling and in good hands unlike every other marketing plan centered around two players. (Puck Daddy)

-Also, Puck Daddy held a roundtable about Gaborik's return. I think our invitation was lost in the mail, but if Wysh reads this, we will accept this as an apology.

-Moving into stuff which has hopefully not been forgotten in the last week: Central Scouting's 2011 Prospect Rankings, Mascots raise money for epilepsy, The Islanders mess with Chris Botta and the internet, Pat Burns loses his fight with cancer, those NHL playoff ads made history by winning awards and the Bakersfield Condors sign Vyacheslav Trukhno. (nhl.com, KSAX.com, Hockey Wilderness, TSN, Puck The Media and echl.com)

-Movember Daily Update II: Posted this on Twitter a few days ago, but "have sex with a guy with a mustache day"has come and gone. Those poor, poor hockey players (note: video is probably not safe for work).

The Hunt For What Nordy Really Is: Wildcat

As a Wild fan, one of the things I am frequently asked about is what Minnesota's mascot Nordy actually is. For those who are unaware of Nordy, the animal is 6'6", full of energy and came out of the woodwork in 2008 to take the job of mascot and childhood hero to those in the State of Hockey. Looking like one of nine different animals, no one, not even the Wild themselves, knows what Nordy is supposed to be. So being the shrewd investigator I am, the hunt for what Nordy really is continues.

After proving last week that Nordy is not a bear, the focus turns this week to the other animal brought up more than any other: a cat. The wildcat, felis silvestris, is usually suggested as the Minnesota logo has been mentioned by the team in the past to be just that rather than a bear. However, a logo and a mascot are not the same even if Nordy is partially based on the Wild logo but that fact doesn't hurt. In fact, many other teams in the sports landscape like the use of a wildcat as their mascot. With the wildcat being the de facto lowest common denominator in the sports landscape and Nordy being a bit "special," it's possible that he's really a wildcat.

On the other hand, wildcats are not native to Minnesota. Sure, cats are domesticated animals and do live in North America but the felis silvestris is native to Asia, Europe and Africa. So unless Nordy is thousands and thousands of years old and the forest mullet is a sign of extreme aging, it's hard for the whole "Nordy came down from the Iron Range story" to add up.

On a third hand - wildcats do have four although then again Nordy has two - wildcats are very quiet animals and do not talk unless they are near another wildcat. Since Nordy appears to be one of a kind and animals are banned from Xcel Energy Center, that might explain why no one has ever heard Nordy talk. Unfortunately there isn't another wildcat in the Minnesota sports landscape so the only thing known is that he doesn't talk to ground squirrels who can spin their head; however most people don't unless it involves counting pushups or watching the head spin.

: With the evidence strongly leaning against Nordy being a wildcat, I have to believe that's the case. There's a good possibility that one of Nordy's ancestors was a wildcat and immigrated from Europe to work in the mines, but generations of breeding has left the Wild's mascot as something else. This mutt theory is becoming more apparent with Nordy being neither a bear nor a wildcat, but in the case of the latter I'm going out on a limb and say that with the logo and sports relationship there is some wildcat blood in Nordy.

Getting To Know Your Opposition: New York Rangers

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Today we look at the New York Rangers through the eyes of their own fanbase. Most of these comments are taken from HF Boards while others are real facts. You decide which is which.

-Largest city in the United States and almost twice the population of Minnesota.

-Hope to score a PP goal.

-Play in the fourth version of Madison Square Garden. This one's neither a square nor on Madison. There might be a Garden somewhere, I'll have to check and get back.

-Employ the Easy Button. Then again, they probably should have employed it last night.

-July 1 winners since before time began.

-Optimistically predict Burns have a five-point night.

-Were the first NHL franchise in the US to win a Stanley Cup.

-Are able to score negative points.

-Believe Potvin still sucks.

-Pull the hometown shit too. Then again, Derek Stepan is from Hastings...

-Have International Falls native and former Gopher Pat Joe Micheletti on the mike.

-Amazed at the Wild having Marian Gaborik bobblehead night. To be fair, so am I but that's a page of talking.

-Are thankful for 1994 and the Edmonton Oilers as without it, we would live in a world where the Vancouver Canucks won a Stanley Cup.

-Are winning tonight.

-Derek Boogaard scored a goal. Seriously, that's still amazing.

-Home of Shaolin and Wu Tang Clan. Also, Wu Tang ain't nothing to fuck with.

We Appreciate...The Godfather

We Appreciate is a chance to give thanks to those who make this blog possible. The first thanks goes out to former Wild GM Doug Risebrough aka "The Godfather."

With today being the day the New York Rangers and our old buddy Doug Risebrough visit town, I figure it's a good opportunity to properly thank the man who gives us the title of this blog and the team's reputation.

-We appreciate Doug Risebrough for attempting to properly manage our expectations.

-Of course those expectations were set way too high, but that's Doug for you.

-We appreciate Doug Risebrough for drafting Marian Gaborik, pissing him off and then joining his new organization.

-On another note, we also appreciate Mike Milbury and a coin for letting Gaborik slip down to third in 2000.

-We appreciate the 2003 playoff run. We really do, because other than there's not much to cheer about in the postseason and Minnesota would be like the other three expansion teams in our set.

-We appreciate the Lockout. Wait, no we don't.

-We appreciate hiring Jacques Lemaire and getting the most out of less-talented players.

-We don't appreciate being known as a trap team until the end of time.

-We appreciate you bringing the Boogeyman into the Wild fold.

-We don't appreciate the fact a guy who scored twice is the best late draft pick.

-We appreciate our non-existent prospect pool and years of trading picks like they were candy.

-We do appreciate Pavol Demitra, even if it was a Hail Mary for two years.

-We appreciate James Sheppard, but not as much as you. Remember when he was untouchable when trying to acquire Olli Joknen?

-We don't appreciate Chris Simon or doing nothing on Trade Deadline Day.

-We appreciate years of First Round Busts, only because it gives this blog a title.

-We would also appreciate four or five high-end draft picks panning out since that's what Minnesota needs. So with that...

-...We appreciate the Wild organization for finally firing Doug Risebrough.

Tidbits 11/18

Tidbits is a column where I typically get a smidgeon of an idea about something Wild related, but am usually unable or too lazy to expand it into a full fledged post. ADD friendly.

Justin Falk was sent to Houston because Marco Scandella has basically made it unavoidable that he deserves more playing time. Not that Falk is playing bad, he's rebounding from a terrible game in Atlanta, but Scandella has been real impressive. Two things come to mind for me:
- Will Falk elevate his game in Houston based off what he's seen and learned so far at the NHL level? In theory the game should be slower at the AHL level, and that this "demotion" (for a lack of a better term) should serve as incentive to play his ass off to get back with the big club.
- Now with Scandella...which is better for him? 20-25 minutes of ice time in Houston, with Darryl Sydor on the bench coaching him, or 12-18 minutes of time with the Wild, playing with and against better talent, and having a respected defensive mind like Rick Wilson coaching him up? Is it a case of six in one and a half dozen in another?

- Great first period last night. Every line was controlling the play, relentlessly forecheck, just buzzing the net. The problem I have is that it is more often than not that there's no payoff- the period ended 0-0, despite playing in Anaheim's end the majority of the period.
- That being said, I liked the response to the Anaheim goal, with Martin Havlat's fluky backhanded shot/pass from below the goal line sneaking past Curtis Notgonnatryandspellhislastname. In an odd way its like as a fan you half expect things to just snowball in the opponent's favor in that situation, where you control play and get nothing while the other team scores. It gives this year's team a bit more context in comparison to last year.
- Still the mystery is what causes that inevitable sag in the team's play- it seems like at least one period in every game the Wild go into "bend but don't break" mode.
- That was maybe Martin Havlat's best game in a Wild sweater. He was everywhere, engaged, determined, assertive with the flow of the game.
- Anaheim, despite having some serious star quality in Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selanne, etc. just seem a little more pedestrian without the constant threat of Scott Neidermayer on the back end.
- I would think that if we didn't have three forwards out already, Cal Clutterbuck would have been eating press box popcorn last night. No hits last night, as Russo said today.
- Casey Wellman looked like (to me anyways) that it took a step forward last night in the sense that the play was starting to slow down for him. Granted he's got the hustle, but when he was doing things with the puck (shooting through screens, slowing down the play, etc.) which to me says that he's starting to get comfortable.
- Speaking of comfortable, the line combinations are all looking like they're gelling pretty well.
- TV doesn't do justice to just how quick Robbie Earl is.
- The fourth line (Earl, Brodziak, Staubitz) was great last night.
- Finally...I had some thought about Antti Miettinen last night, and I thought it was actually really complimentary about how he is playing. Chalk up this brain fart to the flask of whiskey I brought into the game last night.

Marco Scandella Stays Up; Justin Falk Goes Down

As I mentioned last night, it looked like this was going to be Marco Scandella's last game for a while. With Brent Burns finishing up a two-game suspension for his actions in Sunrise and Marek Zidlicky healthy, there were eight defensemen in the lineup for seven spots. Six blue liners, including Clayton Stoner, have one-way contracts this season so the only two options for GM Chuck Fletcher was either staying with the hot hand in Scandella and sending Justin Falk down to Houston or keeping Falk and sending back down Scandella. Fletcher obviously chose the first option and is waiting to see how the former second-round pick can adjust to sticking around with the Wild.

The unfortunate part of this decision lies in the lack of development in Stoner's play. With the one-way contract, it's hard to justify sending him down to Houston but at the same time Stoner has been scratched eight times this season and is taking over the role of popcorn boy in the Press Box. It's still early in the season but with injuries and inconsistent play in the past, he might need a wakeup call.

Falk, on the other hand, has played well at times in the third-pairing role but is still green and limited so I have no problem sending him down to Houston for the time being. Sticking with the big club was unexpected at the start of training camp so it's no surprise Falk has regressed some while Scandella has prospered in his short stint, but hopefully he can regain some confidence and improve on his game down with the Aeros. If that happens, he might just be up sooner rather than later.

Anaheim Post Game Thoughts (Minnesota wins in OT 2-1)

Wow, District 5 is huge! Seriously, that's like half the state!

The (Someone Sponsor This) Three Stars:
1. Martin Havlat
2. Niklas Backstrom
3. Marco Scandella

It was a tough call for the Three Stars as both Backstrom and Havlat are deserving of it, but in the end I'm going to defer to Havlat taking over the game when the Wild needed someone to step up over Backstrom controlling the game and keeping it close. Either way, the Wild were able to pull off a W with the help of both players. Scandella gets the third star over Antii Miettinen scoring the winning goal due to the pass and Scandella's poise, defense and time on ice. But mostly because going with the game-winner is sort of the easy way out and this should be Marco Scandella's last NHL rodeo for a while.

As for the game itself, it was very apparent that home is where the heart is. Or in the Minnesota's case, the team wanted to perform for the quiet fans at the Xcel Energy Center over the quiet fans of Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay. Despite a scoreless first period, the Wild came out with energy and gusto which hasn't been seen from the team in quite some time. I mentioned jokingly on Twitter tonight (after stealing this from a post on HF) that people should play a game called Shots or Penalty Minutes and guess which the Wild will have more of, but thankfully Minnesota proved the game moot for two periods. The first period was the opposite of the Tampa game where Minnesota ended up outshooting the Ducks 11-4 (plus a Cal Clutterbuck shot off the pipe) and spent most of the period in the Anaheim zone. Even without a goal, I will take that effort any day of the week over scoring three goals on two opportunities. Hopefully the Wild can continue to play like that more often than not.

Minnesota came out and played the same type of style in the second - it was actually surreal watching the other team play like Jacque Lemaire was behind the bench - before a missed empty net on a shorthanded goal by Mikko Koivu was taken advantage of by countryman Teemu Selanne. Fortunately the Wild were able to step up and respond right away with a Martin Havlat goal on a sharp angle shot, but after that the tides turned. Minnesota started to play less and less aggressive and Anaheim started to control the puck in the Wild zone. The Shots or Penalty Minutes game also got pretty close to ending in penalty minutes' favor in the third period as Minnesota had two shots and no penalties (in fact, each team only had one power play on the night). That is never a good sign and the thirty-five minutes of good equity was nearly ruined before Marco Scandella set up Antii Miettinen's fifth goal of the season.

In the end, it's good to see the production from Backstrom, Havlat and especially Miettinen. While Miettinen has been prolific since coming back from a concussion, hopefully this stretch of play and scoring in bunches will continue for the time to be as there are other players who have been struggling (see: Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette). It will also be nice to get Brent Burns back from suspension as he's been the team's top defenseman, but it would have been nice to see someone step up more in his absence. Minnesota is a team with little depth and when people don't show up or the team is down, it's hard to rely on others being able to step up. That's something which will need to change if the Wild want to improve their standing, but for now I'm going to enjoy a 2-1 overtime victory and some quality play before a tough weekend stretch. It's t-minus 3 days until The Godfather himself returns home!

Getting To Know Your Opposition: Anaheim Ducks

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Today we look at the 2007 Stanley Cup champions Anaheim Ducks through the eyes of their own fanbase. Most of these comments are taken from HF Boards while others are real facts. You decide which is which.

-Anaheim is the tenth most-populated city in California.

-Believe tonight's game will be a snoozefest.

-Founded in 1993 after a ragtag bunch of kids won the Minnesota Peewee championship.

-There's a dancing monkey which creates an automatic victory.

-Were Mighty for thirteen years but now just boast a Stanley Cup.

-One guy is quitting his job. And no, it's not Aaron Voros.

-Wore what has to be the worst jersey in hockey history.

-Someone's computer is in the past.

-No longer play in a Pond.

-Think the Ducks will be tired after last night's game.

-Have a bronze statue of their mascot on display outside Honda Center.

-Really like Koivu to the point where it is like he's on their team.

-No longer employ Ron Jeremy.

-Do employ a goalie named McBackup.

-Finally getting last laugh for selecting Bobby Ryan over anyone not named Sidney Crosby.

-Not too happy with their play last night.

-Despite all the Disney ties, Anaheim is only twenty miles from Compton. Looks like it's a small world after all...

-Have plenty of infighting and competition within their own ranks.

On the plus side, they can all make fun of Teemu Selanne. Again.

Send Burns To The All-Star Game

Goal scorer. Defenseman. Not afraid to butt another player in the head with his stick. These phrases and many more describe Brent Burns, who for some reason was left off the all-star ballot. For that reason, we at First Round Bust believe that all Wild fans have a duty to write in Brent Burns for the All-Star Game. Nothing against Marek Zidlicky, but Burnsie has been a stalwart for the Minnesota blue line this season and is the only defenseman to lead their team in goals. Well he doesn't right now, but wait until Burns comes back from suspension to take back the mantle. So remember the fact that the man is a saint, helps out the military and is a lover of all animals and why would you not vote for him? It's not like anyone else on the Wild deserves your vote more.

You can vote here early and often, spread this around and remember to write-in Brent Burns at defenseman!

Tampa Post Game Thoughts (Minnesota wins 4-1)

The Someone Sponsor This 3 Stars:
1. Niklas Backstrom (37 Saves)
2. Martin Havlat (3 assists)
3. Cal Clutterbuck (Goal and doing more than anyone in half the game)

First of all, if you didn't get around to it, please read Deuce's Tidbits - there are a lot of good thoughts in there. As for the game itself, your Minnesota Wild ended up playing well enough to win (score) against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Whether it was crazy goals, good saves, injuries or the dozens of McRib commercials, today's game had enough action to almost make up for the previous two. That's not to say the Wild played at another level; in fact the final score does not accurately show how well the Lightning played and if anything, Minnesota was able to take advantage of its own puck luck.

After starting off relatively flat but still better than the last two games, Cal Clutterbuck was able to take advantage of a Steve Downie penalty with a goal straight out of a McDonald's commercial.

Off the defenseman, off the wall, off of Dan Ellis and nothing but net. Your turn Larry Bird.

After a brief lull, Justin Falk looking more and more like the previous #41 and Martin St. Louis eventually getting one past Niklas Backstrom on the ensuing powerplay followed Clutterbuck’s karma shot. Fortunately for Minnesota, Backstrom was a rock in tonight's game as the Lightning held a 16-6 shot lead after one period and ended the game with a twenty-one shot advantage. In fact, the Wild scored three goals on two scoring opportunities in the first: the aforementioned Clutterbuck goal, John Madden scoring even strength on a beautiful dish from Martin Havlat and Antii Miettinen went top-shelf from five feet out on the powerplay. So it wasn't a bad period per se, but not one which people would expect given the score.

After a scoreless second period which featured a much better Wild team in terms of puck movement and creating chances, Minnesota went back to the prevent defense in the third before Erik Nystrom notched his first goal as a member of the State of Hockey on the empty net after missing one earlier. Tampa Bay was able to take shot after shot and control the puck while goalie Dan Ellis sat back and wished he didn't have so many problems. Until the final two minutes, the only two shots of the period from the Wild were thirty seconds in and from Mikko Koivu on the powerplay. Although the long stretches without a shot have become the norm, Tampa Bay did have their own stretch in the second period without testing Niklas Backstrom.

One common theme of tonight's game was injuries. Cal Clutterbuck, who was one of the best players on the ice, left the game after the first period before returning five minutes into the second with a nifty shorthanded attempt. He then left the ice once again and did not return which left a second line of Casey Wellman, Matt Cullen and recent call-up Robbie Earl. That's not exactly a line that puts fear into their opponent's soul. In addition, Nick Schultz ended a stint in the penalty box by running into teammate John Madden and the former Raiders coach ended up worse for the wear with a hurt hand. Throw in Marek Zidlicky not being 100% and everyone else out and the Wild's lack of depth has been badly exposed. If I wrote serious articles, this might be a good subject to write about, but since that's not the case it's just something to think about.

In the end, I was very happy to see the Wild pull off a victory over the Lightning as they continue to beat top teams in the league. Minnesota got great play out of Martin Havlat, who finally appears to be in sync, Marco Scandella, who has been a breath of fresh air as Justin Falk starts to hit a wall, Cal Clutterbuck and of course Backstrom, but at the same time it's hard to be confident in the team as the same problems arise every game. Minnesota still relies way too much on Niklas Backstrom and the powerplay - it is tops in the league at 29.9% and it's hard to see where they would be without that - and the lack of depth in the top-six means things are dicey when injuries eventually happen. The Wild are right now without Latendresse, Bouchard, Kobasew, Burns and possibly Clutterbuck versus Anaheim and they're going to need more puck luck and hard work than what was shown in this week's road trip if Minnesota wants to win more consistently.

Getting To Know Your Opposition: Tampa Bay Lightning Edition

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Today we continue our trip through the Florida teams with the Tampa Bay Lightning; now if only the Orlando Solar Bears still existed this beautiful trip would still be able to continue.

Tampa: A "History"

The Tampa Bay Lightning began lying to the hockey population from day 1 as the team does not actually play in Tampa Bay. No team in Tampa-St. Petersburg does because frankly it would result in the greatest waste of taxpayer money known to mankind. With that, the Lightning ended up in 1993 moving into the second-largest waste of taxpayer money, the Thunderdome, and ended up playing in front of tens of thousands of empty seats (more on this later). The Lightning initially struggled like every expansion team, but played well enough to qualify for the playoffs in their fourth year by edging out another team known for having empty seats.

Unfortunately after this high, the St. Petersburg Lightning began to come back to earth. Things just started to change. The days of 28,000 crowds were over as the Lightning moved into Ice Palace in Tampa (no that's not a misnomer). An older Dino Ciccareli was not the player he was for the North Stars and John Cullen didn't have Mario Lemieux. Even the Buccaneers decided to get rid of that awesome mascot with the sword in his mouth. You know the one. Anyways, the Lightning began to bottom out both on and off the ice and in the first of multiple tanks were able to steal Vincent Lecavalier from the Montreal Canadiens. At the same time, Tampa was also able to draft Lecavalier's BFF Brad Richards and a midget from Vermont to form a Big Three.

Despite having a Big Three and Fredrik Modin playing the role of Rajon Rondo, the Lightning quickly found out this wasn't the NBA and a Big Three does not equate an instant championship. That's reserved for the Phil Kessels of the world. After some early struggles, a new arena sponsor and a Bucs Super Bowl victory, Ybor City was able to once again come to life behind the coaching of John Tortella, captain Dave Andreychuk and of course the Big Three. In an event which angered Alberta so much it shut down the league for an entire season, Tampa defeated the Calgary Flames in seven games to win the 2004 Stanley Cup. Floridians were happy, Torts was happy and half the team was thankful Jay Feaster signed them to contracts which were frowned upon in the new NHL.

After the lockout was resolved and fans were able to erase the Tampa Bay Devils Rays from their mind for another three years, the Lightning quickly realized the new NHL was out to get them. The NHL may be the toughest league to repeat in, but that doesn't mean it's any easier when Nikolai Khabibulin leaves to spend three years doing nothing in Chicago, Brad Richards eventually gets traded to Dallas and Kyle Wanvig of all people gets a job. At this point, the Lightning saw Steven Stamkos for the first time and fell in love with him so much they finished 30th. At the same time, Tampa also fell in love with a mullet and eccentric ownership (maybe they were drunk) and hired Barry Melrose. After realizing that last part was really a dream and after about seven stupid personnel moves, the rest of the league has awoken to see Stamkos, a revitalized Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis form their own Big Three behind the genius of former Red Wings great (and current GM) Steve Yzerman.

What does this mean for the Lightning besides a larger ratio of crowd:seats? I don't know, but goalies better hug their wives before playing Tampa and the rest of the league better get their guard up.

Tidbits 11/14

Tidbits is a column I will write roughly 1-7 times a week with little nuggets of opinion/rant/commentary that I am unable to expound upon into full columns.

- Despite being a point per game, Mikko Koivu has been underwhelming so far. At his best he's powerful, and he's been pedestrian. This is just conjecture, but I think there may be a chance that he is still suffering the effects of the two surgeries he had in the offseason.
- Marco Scandella, our top Defensive prospect, made his debut in Florida. He looked tentative, and was caught running around, which led to the Panthers' first goal. I hope he gets another chance to play this afternoon, because I'm curious to see if that it was a case of "first NHL game" nerves, or that he is generally overwhelmed.
- Until the Panthers game, I thought that Casey Wellman would be better suited being back in Houston. Arguably he was the best forward for the Wild, creating chances and using his speed with Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen. I still don't think he's found that comfort zone yet where he isn't thinking about the game and is just reacting. He does need to shoot the puck more, he has a wonderful shot.
- If anyone deserves to sit in the press box, its Cam Barker. By now the dead horse has been beaten about how disappointing his play is, but its also hard to stomach a three million dollar healthy scratch. However, for me, I can't justify taking Clayton Stoner out because of how solid he's been, and I'd want to see how Justin Falk rebounds off of a bad game and the subsequent healthy scratch.
- Antti Miettinen looks like a lost puppy when he isn't on Mikko Koivu's line.
- Whatever happened to Martin Havlat playing with Mikko Koivu? Or the general line shuffling that Todd Richards had been doing?
- So with Brent Burns enjoying press box popcorn, who is gonna join Nick Schultz with the envious task of containing (notice how I didn't say shut down?) Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis?
- Its old news now, but Steve Yzerman was a front runner for the open Wild General Manager position, but ultimately it didn't work because of his Team Canada GM duties. This isn't to say that Chuck Fletcher hasn't done a good job, but considering what Stevie Y has done with Tampa Bay Tampa Bay, there is curiousity in the sense that I wonder what this team would be like.

Since We Last Spoke

...I was extolling the virtue of the win in Columbus, which was on the rear end of a back-to-back series of games. There was praise heaped upon the team, the coach, etc. for showing resiliency and playing in a professional manner, and how I felt that this was a sign of progress from what was clearly a year of growing pains last season, and that it is a sign of hope to come.

Well, I was wrong.

Big time.

After watching the steaming turds that were the games against Atlanta and Florida, I've now become more skeptical than before about whatever moxie this team has. There was nothing there- no "compete" (the hot buzzword around Wild circles these days), no crispness, and definitely no even strength prowess. I was having flashbacks to last year! Complete with Nick Schultz getting power play time!
Maybe it was that this team got a big head about the way they had played against who they had played, and that they got the chance "to enjoy a three game winning streak" but it had obviously had a detrimental effect, considering how this team had played on this road trip, which could essentially negate what this team had done so far already, from a morale and record standpoint.
- Quickly on the Brent Burns/Steve Bernier kerfuffle: as a player you have to be responsible for the stick. No one wants to see an opposing player injured, and from all accounts Burns is extremely remorseful for it, but the bottom line is that the punishment fits the crime. I guess the immediate hot button issue is just how bad is our blueline gonna play now without our stud horse?

Getting to Know Your Opposition: Florida Panthers

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Tonight's opponent, the Florida Panthers, come from the bright lights of South Beach Broward County and we will be focusing on the changes in the world since the Panthers' last playoff appearance in 2000.

-The United States has had three Presidents since.

-The Wild were six months away from playing their inaugural game.

-Pavel Bure was still the shit.

-Facebook was actually a book.

-Olli Jokinen was a New York Islander.

-LeBron was just taking his talents to High School.

-Chuck Fletcher worked for the Panthers.

-No one had heard of American Idol.

-Wayne Gretzky had just retired the previous season.

-Dexter killed hundreds of Miami citizens.

-The Devils and Red Wings have won two Stanley Cups in this period.

-Thousands of people have clamored for the team to be moved.

-The Simpsons were funny and Family Guy had yet to be canceled.

-Keith Ballard was knocking down goalies with the USNTDP.

-Players who entered the league after 2000 have become unrestricted free agents.

-Brett Favre was loved by Packer fans and Jeff George started for the Vikings.

-Not a single Panthers player was on the roster or in the system.

-Elian Gonzalez was in the news.

-James Sheppard was skating as he was only 12.

-Golden Gopher football was the laughingstock of the league.

Wild $#*! I Found On The Internet (11/12)

Good afternoon. Hope the world is safe after that loss to Atlanta, but thankfully there is another game tonight to save us all from the tyranny of poorly played hockey. There's not too much today, but what is there is gold. Take the time to follow us on Twitter or write up your own thoughts and send them to us at firstroundbust (at) gmail.com.

-Strib and PioPress' thoughts which share a common theme. Apparently that happens when you lose 5-1.

-More Veterans Day love for our troops as Florida also plans to honor our military before tonight's game. (panthers.com)

-Movember Daily Update: Looks like the Wild have a photo contest on their website. Now if only my non-existent three-year old could grow his/her own handlebar 'stache.

-This isn't Wild related, but still funny nonetheless. Well maybe not if you're a Leaf fan. (HF Boards)

-Friday night also means college hockey night. My Gophers go up to the UP and face off with Michigan Tech, the SCSU Huskies go up against Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Wisconsin battle each other, Mankato faces off against Denver and Bemidji hosts Alaska-Anchorage.

11/11 Atlanta Post Game (5-1 Thrashers)

Minnesota 0 0 1 1
Atlanta 2 1 2 5

The (Someone Sponsor This) Three Stars:
1. Dustin Byfuglien
2. Freddy Modin
3. Andrew Ladd

The Wild Sucked. There's just no way around it; the team came out flat to start the game and never showed up. Passes weren't there, turnovers were rampant and normally-reliable Niklas Backstrom gave up some soft goals. There were multiple stretches where Minnesota couldn't get a shot off and the top-six looked as apathetic and disinterested as I've ever seen them. Things were so bad that neither fanbase really cared about the game and yours truly changed the channel over to MMA with five minutes left. If the Wild aren't going to show up, then why should I?

I'm sure Deuce has his own tidbits on the game and everything later on, but for me it would be nice to see the Wild not wallow in their own pity and take out their anger on the Florida Panthers. Minnesota has played great sixty-minute games this season but until there is some sort of consistency the Wild will be stuck in mediocrity. Injuries or not, it's a horrible sign when a defenseman is the top goal scorer fourteen games into the season. One can make excuses but that's just something every team has to deal with.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate the Atlanta Thrashers on playing well and making a statement; especially on the Modin shorthanded goal. If they can keep playing with a chip on their shoulder, there's no reason to believe the fans won't be behind them.

Getting to know your opposition: Atlanta by the numbers

As a public service, we here at First Round Bust would like to spotlight some of the other twenty-nine NHL clubs from time to time. Or mostly when they play the Wild. Tonight's opponent, the Atlanta Thrashers, comes from the land of Dixie, Crunk and MARTA. However, here's a look at the Thrashers through the language everyone understands, numbers.

1: Playoff appearances for the Thrashers.

1: Times the city has been burned to the ground.

0: Playoff victories for the Thrashers.

2: Number of capital cities represented in tonight's game.

2: Number of pro games in the Atlanta area tonight.

1: Number of pro games which people will pay attention to.

9: Atlanta's rank in terms of media market.

9: Number of times I've been to Atlanta.

0: Number of times I've stepped foot outside the airport.

1847: Year Atlanta was incorporated.

1865: Year Atlanta was re-incorporated into the Union.

2010: Year Turneranada was incorporated.

6: Top-five draft picks for the Thrashers.

5: Thrashers coaches.

4: Thrashers success stories.

2: Number of NHL teams in Atlanta.

2: Number of NHL teams in Minnesota.

0: Number of NHL teams that are cared about in Atlanta.

1: Minnesotans in the Thrashers' lineup (Dustin Byfuglien)

5: Americans in the Thrashers' lineup.

4: Former Blackhawks in the Thrashers' lineup.

0: Captains in the Thrashers' lineup.

1: Number of teams in the NHL without a captain.

3: Times this has been the case in eleven years.

1: Official nickname for Phillips Arena and fans (Blueland)

18: Number of ladies in the Blue Crew.

49: Number of fans in Blueland. Hey they said it, not me.