Who Do You Play For?



What a way to kick off the home stretch, the 2012 part of the 2011-12 season- Marek Zidlicky is mad as hell and ain't gonna take it no more, and Mike Yeo wasn't too tickled that Zidlicky went to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune to air out his grievances. In a way it's easy to sympathize with Zidlicky; anyone with an iota of pride doesn't ever want to feel like they aren't getting their fair shake. Having been in a past career where I felt that as well, the empathy is there. You know you can contribute, especially when as an "offensive defenseman" and "power play specialist" you see your team go on a horrendous skid that they may or may not be pulling out of.

But.

I thought Yeo made a point in his dialogue with the media jackals that is worth mention:

"As a team, we knew three years in a row we haven’t made the playoffs, so we knew we had to change the culture here. We knew we had to change the environment either. So in order for that to happen, the players No. 1 had to know what was expected of them and No. 2 everybody has to be held accountable."


Its not about my way or the highway; its about getting everyone on board and when someone isn't pulling their weight, they are held accountable. It is a collective unit, but the cogs in that unit are all different; but the end result is that everyone works in lockstep in order to win a Stanley Cup.

Zidlicky, on Yeo:

“It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my style. I tried to explain it to him couple times, but he wants something different. I don’t think I can change something when you are like 34 years old.”


Remember when the gauntlet was thrown down about the team having a high fitness acumen when Training Camp started? It was one of the new changes in culture in the Yeo era- sure Guillaume Latendresse was singled out since he was a surgical mess last year, but Zidlicky was one of the guilty parties too. Or as Mike Russo put it in a radio interview, Zidlicky actually gained weight as the season went on.

The bottom line is this- with Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo, their jobs are to win hockey games. Period. Sign or trade for guys who will fit in the concept. Ride the hot goalie. Go with the lineup that is winning. Or you get fired.

At a certain point, you have to throw senority or contract status or age out the window because you have to win games; injuries create opportunities to for others, and when you're oft-injured and ineffective like Zidlicky has been this season, you're bound to sit and eat pressbox popcorn night in and night out. You look at a guy like Nate Prosser, who because he isn't waiver-eligible (on his 4th callup this year,) gets the shaft because even though when he plays the team wins, he'll get sent back to Houston when say, a Zidlicky returns from Injured Reserve and the team stumbles.

It reaches a point where it gets to nut-cuttin' time, and you just play Prosser, at the expense of whoever. Don't like it? Do something to get back into the good graces of the people responsible for putting you in the lineup. Worked for Greg Zanon- he's playing regularly now.

The most concerning thing about Zidlicky is not just that he feels he's entitled to play, but that he's convinced that he can't (or won't) change his game in order for it to work under Yeo's team concept, even though Yeo isn't asking him to change his game. To me that means we've passed the point of no return with Marek Zidlicky.

No Homers Allowed

Between thinking Doug Risebrough's laughing at Wild fans right now and actually agreeing with Patrick Reusse for once, it's hard to know what's going on with my sanity.

Hopefully it's not going faster than Minnesota's playoff chances but apparently that's not the proper thing to say.

Reusse, a columnist in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and curmudgeon of the nth degree, wrote an article the other day ripping Fox Sports North's coverage of Minnesota sports, including the Wild. His main point is that in years where things don't go right, asking questions and not being a homer can get you replaced (as was the case with Frank Mazzocco with Gopher hockey).

Photo from (appropriately) nohomers.net
More on FSN, homerism and managing expectations after the jump...

Did You Ever Get A Feeling Of Dread?



I read the news today, oh boy...

If there's one thing about how the roster had been constructed that had become evident in the last few years, it was that Mikko Koivu has become the engine that drives the vehicle, the straw that stirs the drink, the *insert cliche here*.

Basically, he's the spine, the backbone. And as we've seen when he's on the shelf with injury, well...



Yeah...you get the point.

So here we are, at the newest, most pucker-inducing section of the season; The Wild cling (maybe an understatement) to the last playoff spot in the West, having participated in what could be one of the most unbelievable collapses in NHL history- I believe, according to Elias Sports Bureau (I wonder if they are the same guys who own some of the Big Boy Franchises) no team that was in first place in the league at December 17th had missed the playoffs. Yet, here we are- in 8th place, a team struggling to find their identity again, and looking at a stretch of time without their proverbial spine.

This can't end well, can it?

Did Guillaume Latendresse Join Twitter Without Anyone Knowing??

I posted this (appropriately) on Twitter earlier but since not everyone is on there the news bears (pun intended) repeating. There's an account @thetender48 that appears to be Minnesota Wild forward Guillaume Latendresse.



Neither the Wild PR staff nor St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune beat writers have confirmed  it but Wild head equipment manager Tony LaCosta (@styleswild - a must follow for any Wild fan) believes it is Latendresse. He's been out since December 15 with an onset of concussion symptoms after returning for two games from an earlier concussion.

If confirmed, Latendresse would be the fifth current Minnesota Wild player with a public Twitter following Devin Setoguchi (@dsetoguchi10), Justin Falk (@juicerfalk), Matt Hackett (@matthackett31) and first-time goal scorer David McIntyre (@davejmcintyre).  Either way, I'll update if there is confirmation on the "Big Bear" one way or another.

Prospect Viewing: Sean Lorenz




Sean Lorenz, Defense
6'1", 207 Pounds 3/10/1990 Littleton, CO
Notre Dame

Lorenz, the Captain of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, was in town on The 7th to play the University of Minnesota in the Hall of Fame Game. A former member of the US National Team Development Program, Lorenz was voted the CCHA's Top Defensive Defenseman last year. He was selected in the 4th Round, 115th overall, by Minnesota in the 2008 Entry Draft.

Talent Analysis: Lorenz has good size to him, and has good mobility, which makes him a solid prospect. He uses the mobility to force puck carriers wide, and eliminating them from the play or using the center of the ice. Willing to engage physically, but he showed a tendency to roam a bit; it wasn't uncommon to find him along the walls by the faceoff circles in engagement despite the puck being elsewhere in the defensive zone. Not as stay at home as one would like to see, but he wasn't a complete defensive liability because seemingly there was always a forward who covered for Lorenz when he left position. Is mobile laterally, and willing to rush the puck up the ice; almost seems to relish it. Can make a good first pass. Lacks the natural intuition that a true offensive defenseman has- Lorenz is kind of stuck in the middle where he wants to play like that but is better suited toward being more of a shutdown type, where his mobility and physicality is best utilized. Doesn't have another gear when he has to skate flat out. Sees ice time in all important situations, including Power Play and Special Teams. The running joke was that he is "The King of The Secondary Assist", but it also speaks to the fact that he does things that lead to goals, like keeping the puck in the offensive zone, gets a shot in on goal creating a rebound, etc.

Lorenz has some potential to him, and frankly I would be shocked if he wasn't signed by The Fletcher Regime so that potential could be explored. Like I said, Lorenz is seemingly stuck in-between two roles, and maybe like a Greg Zanon, who put up points at the NCAA level, just needs to be coached up and put into a role that is more defense/shutdown oriented. For a cupboard that is suddenly forward heavy, a prospect like Sean Lorenz would be a welcome addition to Houston, where Head Coach John Torchetti, who relishes the teaching aspect of Coaching, can mold him into an NHL-caliber player.






photo courtesy of Dave Reginek

Colton Gillies claimed by Columbus (or) Another Riser First Rounder Bites The Dust

And Tyler Cuma dances alone....

After being placed on waivers yesterday, Colton Gillies has been claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets where he now gets to play for former Wild head coach Todd Richards. Per Michael Russo of the Star Tribune:

Gillies, a big part of the Houston Aeros’ run to the Calder Cup Finals last year, was placed on waivers yesterday with the intention of reassigning him to Houston so he could get his game and confidence back. 
It didn’t work. 
Waivers was risky because most teams look through scout’s eyes and Gillies is a physical, fast, young, former first-round pick and he could be had for absolutely free on waivers. So that appealed to at least one of the other 29 teams. 
“There’s a chance somebody could claim him, and that’s the risk we’re taking,” Fletcher said yesterday. “But the status quo wasn’t accomplishing what anybody needed to get accomplished. We needed to change it up for him and give him a chance to get his game going.”  
Gillies, the 16th overall pick in 2007 (in which former Minnesota General Manager Doug Risebrough traded a second round pick [42nd overall] to move up 3 spots; that pick became Eric Tangradi) joins the long line of first round picks that did not work out with the Wild (hence the name of the website, First Round Bust). From 2004-2009, only 2008 first round pick Tyler Cuma is left with the organization. In order:

2004: 12th overall -  AJ Thelen. Complete flameout, never signed with the Wild and his compensation pick was the one traded to Anaheim for Gillies
2005: 4th overall - Benoit Pouliot. Never was able to do anything with Minnesota despite being a top-five pick, traded for Guillaume Latendresse and now with Boston
2006: 9th overall - James Sheppard. Touted as the future, he's the only top-ten pick of 2006 to not amount to anything, traded to San Jose for a 2013 3rd rounder and hasn't played in a season and a half after an ATV accident.
2007: 16th overall - Colton Gillies.
2008: 23rd overall - Tyler Cuma. Still with the organization but multiple knee injuries have pushed him down the depth chart and make the decision to draft him (and move up one pick at the expense of a 3rd rounder when other defensemen like John Carlson were still on the board) questionable.
2009: 16th overall - Nick Leddy. Traded with Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker, his presence lives on in the organization with Matt Hackett and (in theory) Erik Haula

Hopefully the streak ends with 2010 (In FBJ we trust....) but for now it's a sad and painful reminder of what could have been for Minnesota.

Colton Gillies Placed On Waivers

One of the downsides of naming this blog "First Round Bust" is that while the prospect pool has improved, there's always the chance of another Minnesota Wild pick fitting the mold of A.J. Thelen, James Sheppard or Benoit Pouliot.

This isn't Sheppardian (which is so bad I just made up a word to describe it) but there is a cause for concern with Colton Gillies.

Colton Gillies (photo from wild.com)

#JP23

It is worrisome that we are penning another post like this- but on the heels of the Jack Jablonski injury, St. Croix Lutheran player Jenna Privette suffered an injury similar to Jablonski last Friday night (1/6). To make the situation even more tragic, Privette dedicated that game to Jablonski before she took the ice.

We've all seen the outpouring of support for Jack Jablonski and his family, but it would be completely unacceptable to let Jenna and the Privette family go unnoticed despite their situations being akin. A fund has been set up to help offset medical costs, and you can donate to them here:

Jenna Privette Fund
66 E. Thompson Ave.
West St. Paul, MN 55118.

Donations can be dropped off at any Anchor Bank location, or at St. Croix Lutheran High School, 1200 Oakdale Ave., West St. Paul


Privette has started physical therapy, but the extent of her injuries are still unknown.

So please donate to Jenna's fund, just as we all did for Jack Jablonski. We here at First Round Bust all wish Jenna and Jack speedy and full recoveries.

Prospect Viewing: Erik Haula



Erik Haula, Center
5'10", 184 Pounds 3/23/1991 Pori, Finland
University of Minnesota (NCAA)

I got to watch Haula live each of the last two Saturdays; New Year's Eve against Northeastern, and then against Notre Dame in the Hall of Fame Game. He's in his second year at Minnesota, having spent a year in the USHL with Omaha after playing at Shattuck St. Mary's in his Draft Year, which was 2009. He was in the 7th Round, 182nd overall.

Talent Analysis: While Haula is smallish, he plays with a decent amount of grit as most Finns do; while he isn't a prolific physical presence, he has sandpaper to his game. His game though is his hands; has excellent vision and hands, which allows him to make tape to tape passes from just about anywhere with any touch. Plays the point on the Gophers PP unit; shows a good intuition in terms of puck movement creating opportunities. Made an concerted effort to shoot more this season- I saw a number of one timers come off his stick from the point. Can overpass, foregoing scoring chances. His skating is good, but his stride and top end speed can be Jekyll and Hyde; one shift he'll really fly up the ice, then the next he'll look like his legs are jelly- almost like he was squatting down too low as he drove his legs. With Bjugstad and Rau at the WJC, Haula should have been the focal point of the Gophers team and didn't play well at all; leads me to believe that he's purely a secondary guy. Took some bad/selfish penalties; one of which was away from the play on a power play that negating nearly a full two minute man advantage. Intensity is questionable; makes things happen when he's fully engaged, yet there are the bad penalties and ineffectiveness- he was at his best when he plays with passion and urgency, like at the World Juniors last year.

The reality is that if we can get ANYTHING out of a 7th round pick, its all gravy for the Organization. Haula, while he is showing signs of progression, still has a way to go, not just in terms of elevating his skills, but also in terms of knowing how he has to play night in and night out.


photo courtesy of Normandale Sports Wrap.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard Out With Concussion Symptoms (Again)

Well that sucks.

A month after Guillaume Latendresse lasted all of two games in his return from a concussion, another Minnesota Wild player with a history of head injuries is sidelined.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard (photo from NHL Snipers)

Charlie Coyle Making Saint John Debut Thursday

One of the biggest question regarding Minnesota Wild prospects over the last week has been answered.

According to the Saint John Sea Dogs blog Station Nation, Charlie Coyle will be joining the Sea Dogs in time for Thursday's (January 12) QMJHL game against Shawington. Saint John head coach Gerald Gallant made the announcement to the Saint John Telegraph-Journal (which unfortunately is behind a paywall).

Charlie Coyle (photo by Michael Cummo)

If Full Realignment Is Off, Let The Wild Move To The Southeast Division

If you missed the news Friday - and if you did the NHLPA accomplished their goal when putting out a press release on a late Friday afternoon - the NHL Players Association blocked the league's plan for realignment in 2012-2013. The move, which has been mostly panned by fans and media, comes as the Players Association look to re-negotiate the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement. There's no guarantee this will stick over the next few months but for now the Minnesota Wild will spend next season in the Northwest Division.

Hurra...no I can't even fake any excitement. It's the worst thing about the Wild this week and they've lost 12 of 13 games.

With Minnesota being one of the big winners in realignment, getting up hope that the end of 9:30 PM divisional starts and hearing Fox Sports North try to sell the bad blood between Calgary and the Wild were nearly over before being crushed qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. Of course I'm used to this type of heartbreak as  a Vikings fan (just thought of the 1999 NFC Championship Game - DAMN! *grabs a beer*) but it doesn't make things any easier.

Just look at how happy First Round Bust was when we heard the news. There were 70s TV theme songs, talk of rekindling real rivalries and more happy thoughts. Those were the days....



Whoops....


Mikael Gingerbread; Edible Filthiness




Gigantic stick tap to friend of the blog Scotty Wazz of the Faceoff Hockey Show for this. Personally I'm waiting for the Butter Sculpture of this at the Minnesota State Fair this Fall when Granlund finally arrives.

Waiting For The Reset


I'm sure there is a vast quantity of us here who have, will, or are currently playing video games. No matter the genre of game, inevitably frustration will set in with a particular challenge, level, opponent (Nazi pass mode in some of the hockey games,) scene, whatever- it happens. And eventually you reach the point where you're so pissed off at the situation, you reach over to the console, or go to the pause screen, and reset the damn thing.

Let's just start this all over.

Minnesota had a fortunate pause screen in their schedule recently; they last played Wednesday night in Vancouver, dropping that contest 3-0 to a particularly resurgent Canuck team which had stumbled a bit early in the season. The Wild, on the other hand, had come back to Earth following a blazing stretch where they won 17 of 21 games. During this tumble back from the stratosphere, The Wild had lost key players to injury- including four top-6 forwards, and had essentially played itself right out of the system which had created so much success early on.
The Vancouver game marked the returns of Devin Setoguchi and Casey Wellman from the Injured Reserve; for the first time since Early December, Minnesota was healthy again- Guillaume Latendresse not-withstanding.

So, the team packed up, went to Banff, and hit "reset."

Think of it as a mini-camp or an Organized Training Activity, akin to the NFL; Minnesota, now with a healthy (healthier?) lineup, had to learn how to play together again- which line does what role, how to support linemates in certain situations, etc. I guess grievances were aired, everybody hugged, sang "kumbayah", and now they're in Calgary tonight preparing to play a Flames team that not only got their asses beat by the Bruins, but they had their lunch money taken too. This tilt against the Flames marks only the beginning of the Murderer's Row- every team Minnesota faces in January is in playoff contention, and six of those games are on the road.

What a way to kick off the second half of the season for a team that had to go back to square one. So the question is, how long does it take for this team to recapture the thrilling glory of yesteryear?

Simply put, it better be sooner than later, now that the once comfy cushion in the playoff race has evaporated to just two; and those in the rear have games in hand.

Playoff hockey begins now.

#Jabs



By now we are all aware of the story of Jack Jablonski, the 16 year old Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey player who suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a game. Today a fund was set up to support the Jablonski Family by way of Wells Fargo.

Here is the scoop:

Jack Jablonski Fund
Wells Fargo
8200 Golden Valley Road, Golden Valley, MN 55427

You can go to any Wells Fargo branch, and make a deposit to this fund. Show your support, as many have, extending beyond the hockey community. Its really a tragic story, and I can't imagine what Jack is going through, realizing the gravity of his situation.

All of us here at First Round Bust will continue to offer our thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes to Jack and his family.



*EDIT* You can donate directly by way of the new Jack Jablonski Fund website.

2012 WJC: Finland-Sweden Thoughts

Where do I start?

Today's World Junior Hockey Championship game between Finland and Sweden had everything one would want in a game. There were highlight-reel goals, solid defense, drama, boneheaded plays and best of all the referees let the players decide the game. These two teams (and countries) hate each other and that was obvious from the opening face-off until Sweden celebrated their 3-2 shootout victory.

With Sweden's win, three Minnesota Wild prospects - captain Johan Larsson, 2011 first round pick Jonas Brodin and Johan Gustafsson - advance to the WJC Gold Medal game and face the winner of Canada and Russia (which is being played as this article is written). It is a game they and Finnish 2010 first round pick Mikael Granlund will remember for the rest of their lives, although for completely different reasons.

Finland F/Wild Savior Mikael Granlund (photo from Zimbio)

2012 WJC: Finland-Sweden Today At 4 PM CST

First of all, apologies to anyone who has wanted daily updates for the past couple days. I haven't had the chance to watch many of the recent games live between other duties and this isn't the type of blog to go off of stats or secondhand opinion. So there will be things on here soon about the US collapse, Mikael Granlund's playmaking abilities and the defensive legend of Jonas Brodin because I've caught up on the games but just didn't get a chance to see them live and comment on the good, bad and ugly.

However, there is one thing today that every Wild fan needs to watch. Finland and Sweden, European rivals who feature four Minnesota prospects, face off today in the World Junior Hockey Championships semifinals. The game is at 4 PM and will be aired on NHL Network.

If you get a chance to watch the game, one battle to watch is whether or not Sweden's defense led by Jonas Brodin can stop Mikael Granlund's line. It's been a key as the teams which have the most success against Finland have focused upon stopping Granlund, but regardless it gives a chance to watch a solid defensive defenseman like Jonas Brodin play defense (did the "D" word get overused? Yes).