Minnesota Wild Prospects Update: Lucia Advances To RBC Cup, Saint John Moves On, Tyler Graovac Eliminated

The playoffs ride on extreme high and lows regardless of the level and this weekend is no different for four Minnesota Wild prospects.

F Mario Lucia (photo from BCHL.ca/Fraser Rodgers)

Each of the three active playoff series featuring Wild prospects ended Friday and Saturday. While Mario Lucia sees himself playing for the RBC Cup and Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips led Saint John past Chicoutimi in five games, everything crashed down on Tyler Graovac's Ottawa 67's.

More on each of the series after the jump...

Matt Hackett Added To Team Canada For 2012 World Championships

Minnesota Wild goalie Matt Hackett (photo Ezra Shaw/Getty)

It looks like Minnesota Wild goalie Matt Hackett is going to go play on an international stage. Per TSN:
Alexandre Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks and Matt Hackett of the Minnesota Wild have been added to the Canadian team for the upcoming World Championship.

Both players will playing for Team Canada for the first time.

Burrows is the 13th forward to accept an invitation to play, while Hackett is the third goalie, alongside Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk and Carolina's Cam Ward. Canada is also carrying seven defencemen.
Hackett, Minnesota's 3rd round pick in 2009, played 12 games for the Wild this season and split his year between Minnesota and Houston. This is the first time he's playing for Canada - despite winning junior honors, Hackett never represented Canada in the WJC - and the third consecutive year Minnesota has a player on Canada's World Championship roster (Brent Burns in 2010, Burns and Cal Clutterbuck in 2011)

He joins fellow Minnesota player Mikko Koivu (Finland) and Wild prospects Mikael Granlund (Finland) and possibly Jonas Brodin (who is playing for Sweden in pre-tournament games).

Despite the fact that Hackett is Canada's third goalie, it's hard to see him playing because the last time the Wild goalie played a game he left the ice injured and bent over in Game 2 of the Aeros' first-round playoff series. Regardless, it's still a great opportunity and experience for Matt Hackett that he can take with him next season.

Charlie Coyle Scores OT Winner, Gives Saint John 3-1 Lead

There are few things better than scoring a game-winning overtime goal in the playoffs. For Charlie Coyle, that's exactly what he did Thursday night.

Charlie Coyle (photo by T.J. Colello/Cape Breton Post)

Coyle, First Round Bust's #2 Minnesota Wild prospect, scored twice last night, including the overtime winner, and assisted on the other goal as Saint John rebounded from their first QMJHL playoff loss to beat Chicoutimi 3-2. They now lead the Sagueneens 3-1 in their best-of-seven semifinal series and can clinch with a win Saturday.

Colton Gillies Now On Twitter

For the second time in a month, a former Minnesota Wild first round...pick (there's a reason for the name of this blog) has joined Twitter.

Colton Gillies (photo from Wild.com)

Colton Gillies, Minnesota's first round pick in 2007, is now on the social networking site according to Columbus PR. This comes following 2009 Wild first round pick Nick Leddy. Gillies was placed on waivers in January by the Wild and after two points (both assists) in 38 NHL games this season and picked up by the Blue Jackets where he had 6 points (2G-4A) in 38 games.

Mikko Koivu - Wild Defenseman?

As an important hockey market that's not an important NHL market we're used to seeing the Minnesota Wild get overlooked but not like this from TSN (Canada's ESPN except they cover hockey).

In a Sportscentre special counting down the 10 oddest plays in hockey, the Wild show up on the receiving end twice. That's not the problem - it happens. At #6, there's Dion Phaneuf breaking two separate panes of glass in a period against Minnesota in a 2008 game. And Mikko Koivu, Wild Defenceman.

Yep Canada's Worldwide Leader has the Minnesota captain and 3 time 60 point scorer listed as a defenseman. And it's not a goof by someone in graphics either because the same thing shows up again at #1 when Bobby Ryan scored a goal using Koivu's stick in 2010.

With stats like those, the lack of Norris attention for Koivu - Wild trap and all - is unacceptable. After all, it's not like they play in a division with 3 Canadian teams.

(h/t HF Boards User mikko1995)

Minnesota Wild Social Media Survey

Quick post but if you have 5 minutes, please take this survey on the Minnesota Wild's social media activity. We didn't make the survey - a MBA student in Oregon did - but if you read this blog, odds are the Minnesota Wild's social media affects you one way or another. It doesn't have First Round Bust in there so if you can want to fill that in as a source of news and opinion, please do. We're petty people (plus we appreciate our readers...yes plural).

Personally how brands use social media is a subject that I find interesting. For a team who is still trying to establish a fanbase, every bit matters and the Wild, who rank in the bottom third of NHL teams in followers on both Facebook and Twitter, do have room to improve.

p.s. If you're asking yourself why this sounds familiar it's because about six months ago the Minnesota Wild did their own Twitter survey that we linked to. I don't know whatever happened to those results but hopefully the team learned something from it.

Penticton Loses 4-3 But Mario Lucia Gets A Goal

With their home crowd behind them, the Penticton Vees and 2011 second round pick Mario Lucia could not take of business against the Brooks Bandits in Game 3 of the Doyle Cup Tuesday night.

F Mario Lucia (photo BCHL.ca/Fraser Rodgers)

The Vees, who won the Fred Page Cup as BCHL champions, lost 4-3 to the AJHL champs Brooks Bandits after Colton Semenok scored with 1:49 left in the game. Before that Lucia scored his eighth goal (and 21st point) of the playoffs on a Travis St. Denis pass 1:51 into the third period to give Penticton a 3-2 lead. It was one of two different leads (including a 2-0 margin that was wiped out in a 95 second span) the Vees blew as penalties (Brooks going 2 for 4 with the man advantage) proved to be the difference

Minnesota Wild Prospects CHL Playoffs Update: Saint John Loses In OT, Tyler Graovac Scores In 5-2 Loss

The Saint John Sea Dogs are the defending Memorial Cup champions and feature a roster that make all-star teams jealous. But even they can't win every game.

F Zack Phillips (photo from Zimbio)

For the first time in 11 playoff games, Saint John and Minnesota Wild prospects Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips tasted defeat in a 5-4 overtime loss to Chicoutimi. They now lead the best-of-seven QMJHL semifinal 2 games to 1.

More on Coyle, Phillips and Tyler Graovac after the jump...

Houston Aeros Season Ends With 5-2 Loss To Oklahoma City

The Houston Aeros came back once down 2-0 but unfortunately, they are one and done in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

D Nate Prosser (photo by Dave Sandford/Getty)

Minnesota's AHL affiliate lost 5-2 Tuesday night to the top-seed Oklahoma City Barons in Game 4 of their first round series. The loss gave the Barons a 3-1 series win and ends Houston's season a year after being the Western Conference champion and advancing all the way to the Calder Cup Final.

Wild Prospects Playoff Update: Brett Bulmer Scores In 1-0 Aeros Victory; Everyone Else Wins Too

With their backs to the wall, Houston lives to fight another day.

Brett Bulmer (photo from Getty/Yahoo)

2010 second round pick (39th overall) Brett Bulmer scored his first career AHL goal 11:26 into the second as the Minnesota Wild's AHL affiliate Houston Aeros beat top-seed Oklahoma City 1-0 in Game 3 of their first round series.  The Barons, meanwhile, lead the best-of-five series 2-1 with Game 4 being Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

More on the Aeros and the rest of the Wild prospect's winning playoffs after the jump...

Wild Prospects Playoff Update: Mario Lucia Gets 4 points, Matt Hackett Hurt As Houston Faces Elimination

The future of the Minnesota Wild were spread across four games in two countries Friday night. While a few players shined, the nearing end of the Houston Aeros' season and another injury overshadows everything.

Goalie Matt Hackett (photo Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Matt Hackett, who has been one of the bright spots for Houston down the stretch, left early for the second straight game as the Aeros lost 4-1 to Oklahoma City. The Barons lead the best-of-five series 2-0 and will have three chances to win at home beginning Sunday at 7 p.m.

More on the Aeros and a pair of wins for Saint John and Penticton after the jump.

Dan Terhaar Out As Minnesota Wild VOX

We couldn't let this tidbit slip through the Friday at 4 p.m. news dump - the great Michael Russo reports that Minnesota Wild play-by-play announcer (and the inspiration for FSN Bingo) Dan Terhaar won't be back. Here's the press release from the article:
The contracts of each of the Minnesota Wild television and radio announcers expired with the end of the 2011-2012 season. The team is in discussions to retain radio broadcasters Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid and television analyst Mike Greenlay and expects to make a final announcement regarding its broadcast teams later this spring. The Minnesota Wild will hire a new television play-by-play announcer for the 2012-13 season. The Wild thanks Dan Terhaar for the seven seasons he devoted to the organization and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.
 Terhaar replaced Matt McConnell (who replaced current UFC play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg) as the voice of the Wild 7 years ago and while he's been over the top and had a tendency to mispronounce players' names, we do wish Dan the best of luck in whatever he decides to do next.

Erik Haula Returning To Gophers & Not Turning Pro

Erik Haula will be once again going Beast Mode in Dinkytown.

Gophers F Erik Haula (photo by Craig Cotner)

According to Bruce Brothers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Haula will be returning to the University of Minnesota for his junior season rather than signing a professional contract with the Minnesota Wild. The decision came after Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher, Gophers head coach Don Lucia and Haula met and agreed that the 2009 7th round pick would be better off with another year in college.

Johan Larsson's Brynas IF Wins Elitserien Championship

For the second time in four months, Johan Larsson has something to celebrate.

Johan Larsson (photo from Wild.com)

The 19 year-old Swedish Rookie of the Year and Minnesota Wild prospect ended his Elitserien career on top after his team, Brynas IF, defeated Skelleftea 2-0 Thursday to take the 2011-2012 SEL championship best-of-seven series 4 games to 2. Prior to that, Brynas defeated defending champion Farjestad (2011 first round pick Jonas Brodin's team) in the semifinals.

The title is the team's 13th championship since 1964.

Reading Between The Lines: Craig Leipold Interviews

As part of their year-end coverage, both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press released interviews with Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold last Wednesday. They're great reads that tap into the mindset of the team's owner and Leipold, who bought the team midway through the 2007-2008 season but has missed the playoffs four years in a row, is not afraid to step in front of the limelight.

Although there's a lot of posturing and double-speak, the best part of these interviews might be that with a fanbase that continues to ask questions, the franchise's owner is always good for a quote. If you dig deep enough through those quotes, however, it paints a picture of the owner's mindset and future of the organization.

So that's what I'm going to try to do. After the jump are 7 thoughts that come out of reading between the lines.

Prospect Playoffs Update: Tyler Graovac Wins Game 7 & Saint John Finds Out Opponent

The road to the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan continues for Tyler Graovac and the Ottawa 67's.

Charlie Coyle (photo by T.J. Colello/Cape Breton Post)

After being named the #1 star in Ottawa's 3-2 Game 6 win, Graovac did it again as the 67's completed a comeback from 3 games to 1 with a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday night. He had an assist - his fifth in 13 games - and the Wild's 7th round pick in 2011 was the only player on the ice to finish +2 in Game 7. A crazy third period saw Ottawa come back to take a 3-2 lead, their first of the game, with 24.1 seconds left before Barrie's Marc Scheifele (the 7th overall pick by Winnipeg last year) tied the game once again with 8.7 seconds remaining. However, it was all for nothing because Brett Gustavsen scored the series-winner for the 67's 2:09 in overtime.

Ottawa now plays the Niagara IceDogs in a best-of-seven series beginning Friday night (April 20) for the OHL Eastern Conference championship. The IceDogs have been resting since Thursday after sweeping Brampton.

More playoff updates on Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Mario Lucia after the jump...

NHL Playoffs: "We Used To Be Friends" Edition

First, I can't start off this post without mentioning that yesterday was the third anniversary of the Godfather Doug Risebrough being shown the door by Craig Leipold. Hopefully everyone celebrated what Hockey Wilderness decreed "No More Doug" day by avoiding "The 90s Are All That" and not eating their Flutie Flakes.

Of course Risebrough is off in New York enjoying the postseason while the State of Hockey hops on and off bandwagons. He's not alone.

Montreal Granted Permission To Talk To Blair MacKasey

The rites of Spring; the magnolias bloom, golf courses open, scrums and fights after each whistle in playoff hockey games, and the turnover in hockey operations departments across the National Hockey League. Montreal is one of those clubs going through sea change; former General Manager Pierre Gauthier was unceremoniously canned roughly three weeks ago in a season that was essentially an unmitigated disaster. Between him and the outrage of a hiring a non-French speaking Head Coach in Randy Cunneyworth, Montreal is basically a hot mess.

So the speculation began as to who could be possible candidates; and funny enough, they were handicapped as well. A name remained constant in both instances- Blair Mackasey, The Director of Player Personnel for your Minnesota Wild. Mackasey joined Minnesota in January of 2006, after spending a number of years as a Head Cheese for Hockey Canada, as a Head Scout then as its Director.

Well today Montreal was granted permission from Minnesota to interview Mackasey about the vacant GM spot.

Its too early to read much into it- there's no guarantee that Mackasey will get the job or even decide to take it; as Michael Farber mentioned in the handicapping link up above, he would be considered more "Anglo" despite being fluently bilingual (and I thought us Minnesotans were a tad crazy in our insatiable need to have provincial ties in everything,) and that he'd essentially be living and working in a fish bowl, with the fan and media attention surrounding a storied franchise.

Houston Aeros Back Into AHL Postseason; Rewarded By Facing Top-Seed Oklahoma City

Like The Beatles, the Houston Aeros are back in the USSR...errr AHL postseason.

Houston Aeros D Chay Genoway (photo from Wild.com)

Minnesota's minor league affiliate has a chance to repeat their Calder Cup Final performance this season after sneaking in the back door with a pair of weekend wins and help from Milwaukee and San Antonio. They will have a much tougher road this time because the Aeros are the 8th seed in the Western Conference and face top-seed Oklahoma City (the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers) in the first round.

The postseason schedule and more after the jump...

Tyler Graovac Named #1 Star In 67s Game 6 Win Over Barrie

In a CHL postseason that has seen two top Minnesota Wild prospects among their league leaders, you can't forget about Tyler Graovac

Ottawa 67's F Tyler Graovac (photo from icelevel.com)

Graovac, the 191st pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, was named the #1 star Sunday night as the Ottawa 67's defeated the Barrie Colts 3-2 in Game 6 of their second round OHL series. He scored early in the second period to give the 67's a 3-0 lead on the road after crashing the net on a two-on-one. The Colts made it a game with two goals in a 5 minute stretch covering the end of the second and beginning of the third period but Ottawa held on for their second straight victory after going down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

The win forces a Game 7 Tuesday night in Ottawa with the winner facing the Niagara IceDogs for the OHL Eastern Conference championship.

Tyler's postseason run - the 6'4", 194 lbs center has 7 points (3 goals - 4 assists) in 12 games - is an improvement on a regular season where Graovac only had 27 points (8 goals - 19 assists). While it was an improvement over his draft year, the 7th round pick finished the year 9th on his team in scoring.

But that didn't matter Sunday because Graovac was #1.

You can see Graovac's goal here in almost standard definition from the Ontario Hockey League's website. It starts at around the 45 second mark.

Zack Phillips On The Pipeline Show Saturday (UPDATED 4/14 With Quotes & Thoughts)

Minnesota Wild prospect and Saint John Sea Dogs forward Zack Phillips will be a guest on Edmonton's The Pipeline Show tomorrow (Saturday April 14). The show airs from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. CT and is streamed online.

Phillips, the 28th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, was named the CHL Player of the Week for his performance last week in the Sea Dogs' first two wins over Baie-Cormeau. He currently leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in playoff scoring with 23 points (6 goals - 17 assists) - 2 ahead of teammate and fellow Wild prospect Charlie Coyle - in eight games.

Saint John is presently waiting to find out their next opponent after sweeping Baie-Cormeau in four games. The defending Memorial Cup champions are 8-0 in two playoff series this season and looking to be the first repeat winner since Windsor in 2009-2010.

Thoughts on Phillips' appearance is after the jump...

Jack Connolly Signs With Jonas Brodin's Farjestad Team

While the Minnesota-Sweden hockey exchange program normally sees Swedish players head to North America, Minnesota Duluth senior Jack Connolly is heading to Europe and a familiar face.

UMD Bulldogs F Jack Connolly (photo from WCHA.com)

Connolly, the 2012 Hobey Baker Award winner, has signed with 2011 first round pick Jonas Brodin's Swedish Elite League team Farjestad BK per a press release from the team (heads up,the Swedish-English translation is interesting).

Chuck Fletcher’s Failed Season

The other day, I was listening to local sports radio station KFAN, and drive-time host Dan Barreiro made a good point that got me thinking.  Minnesota Twins’ GM Terry Ryan did an absolute crap job of putting together a starting rotation.  He was counting on everyone playing above their abilities and now with Scott Baker out for the year, Francisco Liriano struggling like he always does, and Carl Pavano getting older, it's become even more of a joke than it was last year.

What really bugged him was the outright deception by Twins’ ownership (the Pohlad family).  We (sports fans and Minnesota taxpayers) were told that a new stadium was necessary to compete financially with the big market teams.  But after spending money for the first time last year and a terrible record, they now use that one season as “proof” that money is not an answer, and they scaled payroll back again.

Nevermind that last year they had a mediocre rotation full of "maybes" and a terrible closer in Matt Capps.  No, it had to be money.  It couldn't be the GM (Billy Smith, who was fired).  Everything from the Pohlads is in shades of green.

The State of Minnesota Sports

Barreiro takes the team to task for going against their word and not putting together a team with decent depth.  He doesn't buy the argument that they shouldn't spend money because they’re rebuilding.  In his mind, that's a cop out for not spending money, and if the team wants to be taken seriously, especially after the promise of upping payroll, they need to get competitive in free agency.  Yes they need to hit on draft picks, but they can't just give up after one year of spending money.  That would not be acceptable to Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, or any other good baseball market.  Yet it’s perfectly acceptable in Minnesota.


The “rebuilding” excuse is the exact same cop out a lot of people are perfectly willing to use with the Wild.  They got "devastated by injuries" just like the Twins did last year.  Sure they did.  BUT, they did not have enough depth to overcome those issues because of inadequate planning by the GM, Chuck Fletcher.

For the Wild, that meant they came into the season with these top six forwards:

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Guillaume Latendresse - Matt Cullen - Pierre-Marc Bouchard

On paper it looks great.  But the reality is there were red flags everywhere.  Heatley had dropped off dramatically the past few seasons.  Koivu had late-season injuries to crush the team two years in a row.  Setoguchi hadn’t been able to stay healthy and match point totals from three years ago.  Latendresse was coming off missing nearly an entire season with injuries.  Bouchard had just come back from missing 18 months of hockey with a concussion.  Cullen was barely a top six forward the previous year.

So on paper it looks great...but who was there to step up if and when guys got hurt?  Casey Wellman was there...and that’s about it.  And what happened to the team?  Half the top six got injured, they sunk from FIRST in the NHL to 29th of 30 teams (until a late season run), became the first team to miss the playoffs after leading the NHL in points on December 1st, and finished with the fewest goals scored of any NHL team in over ten years.

You could argue that the depth was a prospect base that was not yet in the minor leagues and couldn’t contribute.  But Fletcher put together an NHL team that was only good enough if everything went well, and as far as I can tell no team has ever had zero man games lost to injury.

You could also argue that it's not worthwhile to overspend on free agents while the team is waiting for prospects, but there's a world of difference between dropping $50M on a top tier free agent and getting some table scraps.

This past summer, Fletcher managed to sign:

Mike Lundin, $1.0M
Josh Harding, $750K

Those two guys.  That's it.  On a team that was nowhere near the salary cap ceiling.  He knew the team was paper thin on depth and did nothing about it.

That's why, in my opinion, he screwed up big time this year.  He didn't prepare for success, and when it came and left, he got ZERO CRITICISM for it from the fans and the media.  Everyone gave him a complete pass because of the prospects while maybe two people I’m aware of (including myself) called him out on it.

Three Years, Three Early Summers

And now he’s currently negotiating a job extension.  Of course, that’s the Minnesota way...give a contract extension to a manager or coach who has a track record of mediocrity.  See Ron Gardenhire, Don Lucia (during the down years), Tubby Smith, Rick Spielman, etc.

This summer, Fletcher has to sign some depth.  He can't just get by with the bare minimum and hope for the kids to step up.  He needs to create some REAL competition in training camp, have some DEPTH in the lineup on offense AND defense, and be willing to spend some damn money at least on a mid-tier free agent or two.

Otherwise, this team is going to have the same problems as they have every other year Fletch has been in charge...no scoring, no depth to overcome injuries, and an early offseason.

Fletcher Close To An Extension, and Rightfully So

So the word on the streets is that The Wild and Chuck Fletcher are close to a one year extension on his contract, keeping his services in St. Paul for the next two seasons. In a sense you could consider it curious, since Minnesota will be entering the fourth straight offseason watching eight other teams in the Western Conference participate in the post season bonanza, and three of them have been on Fletcher's watch.

You know what though? He is deserving of it.

Let's get some perspective here- when Craig Leipold bought the franchise (or at least the majority of it), the previous regime was in place; after a season of well, the same doldrums of mediocrity we are currently experiencing- he wiped the slate clean in an effort to begin a new era of Wild hockey. He brought in Fletcher (after courting Steve Yzerman) to...basically start from scratch.

There was close to nothing to build with; few core players on roster, next to nothing in the prospect pipeline, bad contracts; imagine having to build Shangri-la on top of scorched Earth. Literally dusty, sun-baked and cracked clay with maybe some pockets of green space scattered throughout. That's the landscape Chuck Fletcher had to work with.
In a sense we went through a rebuild but it never was identified as such- fat was trimmed, players waived/traded/bought out/deported, prospects (assets) added through The Draft and free agent signings, hockey operations overhauled. It's not that there was the proverbial lump of clay to work with- the organization itself essentially had to make the lump of clay before they could start to mold it.

The kicker was that this GM, Fletcher, was willing to make deals to improve the team; something that his predecessor Doug Risebrough was often chided for not doing, and when he did, it was usually panned for the cost, or the return, or both. By now we know the risk/reward when it comes to Fletcher's history of deals- some really good, some ok, some that went so upside down that it will always serve as a pock mark on the legacy that is being etched as I type this. However, you can never say that he hasn't avoided the opportunity to do things to make the team better; you can usually bank on at least one trade a season that has the "this will make our team better now" tagline to it.

So herein lies the delicate balance of building a franchise for the future, all the while tinkering and tailoring a team to win on the ice in the present. And considering what he's had to deal with; essentially adding a couple of years to his plan just to get to the point where he can lay out his vision, he's done a really good job.

Patronizing and detached media types and disgruntled provincials aside, Fletcher has this franchise in a really good position, with a universally-lauded prospect pipeline and a ton of cap space. No doubt, the future looks bright.

That being said, there will come a point when the romantic notion of what could happen will turn into the immediacy of now- that all the shiny and flashy symbols of hope will have to be put under the microscope of the ice sheet surrounded by plexi-glass and fans tired of watching this team prepare to tee off while Opening Night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs commences. Then we'll know if it's all been worth it- but until then Chuck Fletcher is deserving of more time at the helm.

Mario Lucia Wins BCHL Title With Penticton Vees

For the second time this season, someone in the Minnesota Wild system is a champion.

Penticton F Mario Lucia (photo from BCHL/Fraser Rodgers)

Three months after Johan Larsson, Jonas Brodin and Johan Gustafsson won gold at the World Junior Championships, 2011 second round pick Mario Lucia's Penticton Vees team won (score) Wednesday night to complete a four-game sweep over Powell River in the BCHL finals. The championship caps a remarkable season for the Vees, who feature 8 Minnesotans including Lucia, as they went 54-4-0-2 in the regular season (with a Canadian junior record 42-game unbeaten streak) en route to winning the Fred Page Cup.

4/11 Wild News & Notes From Around The Internet

Editor's note: It's been a while since we've done a post filled with links so between that guilt and knowing a couple of these subjects won't get their proper due, here are the best Wild and prospect links throughout the mainstream media and blogosphere

The big news coming out today is that Team USA announced 17 members of their World Championships squad. Despite going all-in on Minnesotans and Americans this year, zero members of the Wild were selected although with Matt Cullen's injury, only Tom Gilbert had a legitimate chance of being selected. Then again, Ryan Lasch (former St. Cloud State Husky now playing in Europe) was chosen so maybe Chad Rau would have had a chance if he wasn't trying to get the Houston Aeros in the AHL Playoffs.

-Speaking of the Aeros, they're bombing at the wrong time, having lost eight of nine (Houston Press). Also Marco Scandella tweaked something in his return to the Aeros which is more than fitting given the turnover and injuries the Wild system has dealt with on the blue line (3rd Intermission).

-Wild owner Craig Leipold sat down and talked with both Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Both fishwraps bring up good points on the season and we'll explore these articles tomorrow (so apparently this is homework).

-The biggest newsworthy piece from the interviews is that Minnesota is working on a contract extension for General Manager Chuck Fletcher (ESPN).

-Team of 18,001 unveiled their awards for the 2011-2012 Wild regular season

-Mario Lucia and the Penticton Vees are one game away from winning the Fred Page Cup (BCHL championship). Our friend Fraser Rodgers has a preview of tonight's Game 4.

-Zack Phillips and Charlie Coyle are trying to recover from an awkward 5-2 Game 3 win that included a power outage and a crab thrown on the ice to sweep Baie-Comeau and continue their quest for Saint John's second consecutive Memorial Cup. Station Nation has the preview for Game 4.

-No one at Hockey Wilderness was a fan of Devin Setoguchi's season. They are, however, Mikko Koivu backers.

-If you don't read my (hopefully) excellent college hockey coverage over at SB Nation Minnesota and SB Nation, Erik Haula's sophomore season ended with a 6-1 loss to Boston College in the Frozen Four semifinals. Hockey's Future had an interview with the Wild prospect from Tampa and USCHO's Brian Halverson did an excellent feature on Haula a week or so back.

Scratching A Winning Ticket & Fixing the NHL Draft Lottery Show

If you were like me last night, watching the NHL Draft Lottery show was at times like going to the dentist. You know that the lottery is a necessity to watch for news (or as a fan of a team in the cellar, one last hope) but not something to look forward to sitting down to watch. Honestly, the constant drilling throughout the half-hour led to one thought.

Holy **** this is boring.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly unveiling the #1 pick

The Draft Lottery, as the official kick off to the 2012 NHL Draft, should be treated as such and it's great to see TSN in Canada and NBC Sports Network (which simulcasted TSN's coverage) in the United States cover the event. Although the coverage wasn't all bad, it left a lot to be desired. There was a representative from each of the five teams who had a chance at the number one pick (Minnesota, who finished with the seventh-worst record, wasn't represented because at best they could only move up to third), some analysis from the great Bob McKenzie, the unveiling of the draft order and a quick top-ten mock draft from Craig Button.

All of these segments are interesting on their own. However, if TSN and the NHL are going to make a spectacle out of finding out which team who gets the number one pick, that's exactly what it should be - a spectacle.

2012 NHL Draft Lottery: Minnesota Picks At 7th

It's official - the Minnesota Wild will have the 7th pick at the 2012 NHL Draft.

2011 Wild First Round Pick Jonas Brodin
Minnesota's slim 4.7% chance of winning the NHL Draft Lottery came and went Tuesday as General Manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant GM Brent Flahr and company now focus on the June 22-23 draft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

It's Award Season! Minnesota Prospects Johan Larsson, Zack Phillips Get Honored

With a regular season where the only league-wide award any Minnesota Wild player is getting is for this piece of shootout excellence - Devin's already been honored by Puck Daddy - the awards are piling up for the youngsters.

Johan Larsson (Photo from Wild.com)
Two Wild prospects, Johan Larsson and Zack Phillips, were honored today for their play this season by their respective leagues, adding to a list that includes Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund's runner-up finish as best player in Finland by his fellow players.

More after the jump...

Flushing The Goldfish: Eulogizing the 2011-12 Minnesota Wild

Last night was like a funeral; the non-intense atmosphere and apathetic ambiance only served to support that yes, Virginia, it is going to be another short season, and the beginning of a long, hot Summer. Talking casually with some people after the game at a local bar, it seemed that the motif was more of "well, its the last game" than of being an ardent supporter of the team; whilst there shouldn't be any doubt about the latter, we shouldn't be mistaken that there is the incentive of being in the informal lottery known as "Win The Jerseys Off Their Backs."
And an apropos finale it was; a team riddled with injuries and minor leaguers went quietly to a team, Phoenix, who had their playoff spot secured. Not a fighting roar, but more of a whimper. Par for the course, as Marco Scandella looked like he battled a wonky groin as he struggled to climb over the boards late in the game, and Niklas Backstrom let it slip that he needed ankle surgery.

So, here we are- friends, fans, haters, whomever stops by this bathroom stall in the corner of the hockey blogosphere- to lament, seek explanation, ponder, prognosticate, and lay to rest a season that couldn't have taken a greater 180 degree turn, a series of events which has firmly lodged this team, coaching staff, and hockey operations in the annals of dubious history.
 This team, once atop the mountain, has rewritten history; the never before matched feat of failing to make the playoffs after being in playoff position in Mid-December did such a thing. A precipitous fall from grace; The Church of Yeo was built upon a foundation of gritty wins, a seemingly unwillingness to bend or break while down a goal or two, and a team-wise concept. Mike Yeo, who will probably take this season harder than anyone, served as a beacon of hope as this team simply refused to lose. The wins revitalized a fanbase, drew the nationwide attention of the hockey world, and subsequently a civil war erupted from the sabermetricians; We aren't that good, they exclaimed- the firefight between this fanbase (and I trolled hard, did my best to debunk the argument) and the Metrics community has forever seared the term "regress to the mean" into our vernaculars.
Being older and wiser, and a bit more read up on Advanced Metrics, they had a point- a save percentage in the mid-90's just wasn't sustainable (buzz word) and the fact of the matter it isn't- I still contend shot quality needs to be a point of contention, but the truth of the matter was that yes, at some point, it will dip. We got spoiled by Matt Hackett's record-setting shutout streak for a rookie. However I think that for the Corsi crew to hang their hats on an (inevitable) regression on Save% and the subsequent downward spiral of Minnesota is missing the point- the main narrative- the bottom line is that this team struggled to score goals, and when there isn't any offensive depth to rely on (a byproduct of the woeful Risebrough era, something Chuck Fletcher shouldn't be savaged for because he's done yeoman's work to correct that) because there were injuries to the most vital players, the team suffered. Greatly.

Lets look at the Winnipeg game on December 13th, largely pointed to as the high-water mark of the season; they lost 2-1, but lost Pierre-Marc Bouchard because of a questionable hit (one of many on the season) by Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian. Bouchard, for all the grief he gets for vanishing in physical contests, or not using his speed more effectively, or whatever you want, was an offensively vital player- not to get all Metric on you, but his underlying offensive stats were among the best on the team. Or, to put it best, when you take out a top-6 player out of the lineup and don't really have anyone to replace him with, then the team will struggle. The same goes with Devin Setoguchi, and Mikko Koivu, and Guillaume Latendresse...
Back to the point at hand, PMB goes down, and that's when the slide started, and while the lack of scoring depth became evident, it really came down to a matter of goals scored. By my count, Minnesota lost 14 one goal games, including 8 shootout losses from that point til now. That doesn't include the games where the opponent got an empty-net goal late- but the point remains that that's 20 points lost because of at least 14 goals that Minnesota couldn't and didn't score.

14 goals, in regulation and shootout play.

We didn't collapse because our goaltending regressed, its because we couldn't put the puck in the net. One is left to wonder what could have been, had this team not needed 47 players, most in the NHL, because the team became ravaged with injuries.

During the course of the year we dumped Brad Staubitz and Colton Gillies, and then jettisoning Casey Wellman and the malcontent Marek Zidlicky in deals that were made in effort to improve the team on-ice and in the locker room. Nick Schultz, an institution of the franchise, was sent north to a Division Rival, and in return we got a local kid, "Bloomington Native" Tom Gilbert, whose skill set benefits this team moreso than one is lead to believe. Old faces like Kurtis Foster and Stephane Veilleux came back in the Zidlicky salary dump, and we got a glimpse of the youth movement when Jason Zucker slipped on the #16 after his NCAA career at Denver University ended. All in all nine rookies made their NHL debuts this year; part reward, and part necessity. Kris Fredheim, for instance, was a tenured Houston Aero whose AHL contract went to the shredder and signed an Entry-Level deal enabling him to patrol the blueline in St. Paul.

 Marco Scandella is now tenured as a cornerstone on the back-end; he played strong for the last 3 weeks or so, culminating in a 35 minute effort Tuesday night. Kyle Brodziak may have taken the lead in "best trade Fletcher has made" contest, and it looks as if the 8.5 million dollar extension he signed this year may be as a shrewd deal. Dany Heatley really impressed me from a professional standpoint, as he gave honest efforts night in and night out on a sinking ship and emerging as a dressing room leader. Devin Setoguchi's rollercoaster ride started with getting hit by a car, getting hurt, blowing a shootout attempt but at the end of the day nearly had 20 goals and buzzed up and down the ice wrecking havoc.

We watched the "hope" spring eternal; Zucker in a Wild Sweater, three Swedish prospects win the World Junior Championships, hear stories of Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips (who along with Setoguchi is battling for the "best trade" award winner) throttle opponents in Saint John of the Quebec Junior League.

 Now we go on Mikael Granlund watch, the yet unsigned savior, Helsinki Jesus, the surest thing to a star-quality forward we've had since Marian Gaborik, waiting for him to cross the I's and dot the T's and make his way over the pond to St. Paul. Then after that we'll start up the Zach Parise Watch, since many have convinced themselves that the impending Unrestricted Free Agent is destined to come home and be apart of Minnesota's revival.

Surely things will be different this time next year, as we've been conditioned to believe; and for we hope that's true because this year couldn't have gotten any worse.

So farewell 2011-12 Minnesota Wild season, what once had people filing into the pews of The Church of Yeo in the end had people clamoring for the team to tank for a better Draft position. Its not that we hardly knew ye, its that we knew ye too well. Now excuse me while I grab the handle and flush, as it appears there's some Minnesota Twins fans who are ready to use the same commode for the same purpose.

Chay Genoway & Kris Fredheim Called Up - How Much Turnover Has The Wild Defense Had In 2011-2012?

Nate Prosser's loss is apparently Chay Genoway's gain.

The Elk River native and Minnesota Wild defenseman was suspended for the final game of this season after channeling his inner Zinedine Zidane and headbutting Chicago's Jamal Mayers. In his place is former University of North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway, making the first time a UND player is rewarded for someone being a goon.

Chay has spent the entire season in Houston putting up 32 points (7 goals - 25 assists) in 68 games.

In addition, Prosser's Colorado College teammate Kris Fredheim has been called up, replacing 2008 first round pick Tyler Cuma. He's pointless in a previous call-up to Minnesota, playing two games for the Wild and has 12 points (3 goals - 9 assists) in 69 games for the Aeros.

More on Genoway and the defensive turnover after the jump.

30 Minutes or More: Revisiting the Gilbert/Schultz Trade

Tuesday night Tom Gilbert played his fifth straight game with over 30 minutes on ice. Part of it is necessity; there always seems to be some sort of event occuring during the game forcing Mike Yeo and Rick Wilson's hands in terms of playing time; A Nate Prosser major penalty, a Clayton Stoner injury, an unhealthy Kurtis Foster trying to gut out a few shifts. Typically the last few Wild games have ended with five healthy (well, healthier than hurt) defenseman standing.

But there's also a side to the conversation in that Tom Gilbert is good, and that after the slow start- which is understandable considering he went from a sheep dip situation to a slightly better-than-sheep dip situation in Minnesota and there are schematic and systemic differences- the proverbial wonky transmission has "clunked" into gear. So far he's played 19 games in the vaunted Minnesota sweater, and seven of those he's eclipsed the half-game mark. You see him skate the puck out of the zone, thread passes through traffic, quarterback the PP; hell, just think about the outlet pass he hit Mikko Koivu which lead to the overtime winner against Florida.

The reality is that he's exactly what this team needed on the back end, and that is why we traded Nick Schultz for him.

Talk about an uproar; Minnesota trades Schultz, who had become not just a cult figure but an institution here in Minnesota (full disclosure- I bought a Schultz jersey his rookie year and have been a long time fan of his) and he gets TRADED to a division rival for a local guy who we know better by Dan Terhaar's insistence of making his full name "Bloomington Native Tom Gilbert." We knew him by his struggles in the many games where The Wild wipe the Oil up and down the ice; really our view of him as a player came in limited viewings.
We knew Schultz like the back of our hands; entered the School of Lemaire as a rookie and graduated as one of the most underrated defensemen in the game; blocked shots, faced major minutes against the other team's best players, just a rock on the backend with an ever changing cast around him.

Like proud parents we watched him grow up from a baby faced kid into one of the most beloved members of the Metro area Community.

Therein lies the rub- our perception of Schultz made this a bit of a controversy, especially considering who Schultz is now as a player; a few concussions and injury problems had taken some of the luster from his game. He, simply put, just isn't what he used to be despite what we thought he still was. Even moreso, Schultz wasn't what we needed to help the team's new schematic philosophy; he was, however, the price that it would take to get Gilbert, whom Chuck Fletcher had long coveted.

Such is business in the NHL; you have to give to get, and sometimes it is someone who is long adored by the fanbase. The reality is that Tom Gilbert's skillset is a better fit for a team who struggles to get out of its own zone at times- and amazingly, what each brought to their teams is fascinatingly similar. Really, the differences are pretty superficial; which hand they use to shoot and their ability to start transitional play.

Undoubtedly there will be some who point to the score sheets and say that "for an offensive guy he's only got 5 assists since he got here! How is that offensive?" Well, we never pointed to a score sheet to measure Schultz' effectiveness on the ice either.

Photo Courtesy of Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune

Tyler Cuma Making NHL Debut..For Real

About a month ago, Tyler Cuma was in line to make his NHL Debut for the Minnesota Wild before the airlines cost him a chance. This time is for real.

With injuries to Jared Suprgeon, Clayton Stoner and surprisingly not Justin Falk, the 2008 first round draft pick is getting a late-season emergency call-up against the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday. Cuma has spent the majority of the year trying to recover and get his game back from an ACL tear in February 2011 in Houston.

This season has seen him bounce back on the road to the NHL, scoring 7 assists in 57 games for the Aeros, while other defensemen like Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, Kris Freidham and the player drafted after him - Marco Scandella - got a chance to play with Minnesota. While it takes a year to fully recover from an ACL injury, tonight will be a good opportunity to chart Tyler's progress and see where his future with the organization lies.

Cuma is the 15th rookie and 46th player to make his NHL debut for the Wild this year.

What A Wicked Gang Are We

Quite the furor over the course of the last few weeks- the course of the ship turned from cheering on the Wild to win changed 180 degrees for an open call of "tanking" and that watching the team, mathematically eliminated from any postseason play (again), lose is actually quite alright.

Man, fandom is a funny thing.

Strangely, its become quite the provocative talker; everyone of repute has held court and chimed in; Mike Russo, Mike Yeo, various hosts on KFAN, Lou Nanne, and even Glen Andresen, editor of Wild.Com got involved in a discussion about it on Twitter. The concensus more or less being that while a high draft pick would be great (possibly #1 overall if the team stayed in the Bottom Five for lottery contention) but the reality is that there are ramifications down the line if the team basically quits- people lose their jobs. Potential free agents take note as they begin to assess their potential destinations. Things just get ugly, and the season is besmirched with some sort of stain that just won't be able to removed.

So why is it that we as fans radically changed our positions? Frustration? Likely. Disappointment at another Spring watching other teams duke it out for Lord Stanley's Cup? Definitely. Is it the desire to want to have a silver lining to this nightmarish season, the proverbial Lighthouse shining its beacon during stormy seas?


We inherently want something to look forward to, some sort of symbol that gives us hope and anticipation for a better day. A top-3 pick in June sounds sexier than drafting at #8. In our minds the Nail Yakupovs, the Mikhail Grigorenkos, the Alex Galchenyuks are already off the board at picks 1-5, so comparatively speaking the rest just aren't as sexy. Even though there shouldn't be, there is somewhat of a let down. The notion that we're gonna get someone who is just "ok."

How do you buy hope when you're not drafting that "game changing goal scorer"? Surely tanking is necessary for that asset.

I agree that this team could always benefit from a high Draft position; after all, this team has had just two Top 5 picks (Marian Gaborik and Benoit Pouliot, neither of whom currently play for Minnesota or Minnesota's Injured Reserve.) You don't think Alex Galchenyuk wouldn't look good slipping on a Wild sweater? That being said, I think there is a logical correlation between how teams got good and high Draft picks; look at Pittsburgh, look at Chicago, look at St. Louis, and you could even make the argument that Boston is in dandy shape thanks to the generosity of Toronto (not that The Leafs got jobbed totally in that deal.)

Then you look at Columbus. All that is glittering isn't gold.

A good scouting staff should be able to get a good player no matter where they draft; a high-level source told Nate Wells the other day that it isn't uncommon to get a player whom a team ranked highly (remember that Team Draft Boards are way different than the rankings we see from TSN, Future Considerations, Redline, etc.) fall to them. Boston, for instance, had Dougie Hamilton ranked much much higher than where they got him at #9. Just because the team's draft slot isn't in the Top 5 doesn't mean that they won't get one of their top 5 ranked players. Maybe a bad example here (although I'll always contend his development was bungled severely) but James Sheppard was 7th on Minnesota's board, and they got him at 9. They got Ondrej Fiala (jesus just reliving that nightmare of a Draft is making me cringe) at #40, and they had him in the first round. Brent Flahr got Mario Lucia at 60 last year, when they had him ranked in the low 30's (32 I think) and I believe they had Nick Seeler higher than he was taken as well.
Teams can get the guys they want. Last Summer people were going "Who the F*** is Joe-Nis Bro-din" and now you'd be hard pressed to find someone not excited for his presence in the lineup.

Hey I get it, I'm just as disgusted at how this season, one that will live in infamy, has ended up- again there is a bad taste left in our collective mouths as we don't watch Minnesota in the playoffs. The desire to alleviate it by having something sexy on the horizon is understandable as well; we all want to be distracted and enamored by shiny things like high draft picks or romantic notions of getting the next Crosby or Stamkos, but the there are costs attached to those as well. We, as a fanbase, may not take those into consideration, nor do we particularly care about considering the level of detachment that separates the inside from the outside. Sometimes the myopic focus just doesn't allow for the acknowledgement of collateral damage when the eyes are on the prize, or in this case, potentially a franchise savior on the horizon.

The advantages of being a fan, yeah?

Brand New Minnesota Wild 2012 Playoff Ad

Courtesy of FRB IT/Diabolical Photoshop Mastermind Tommy.

Nick Leddy Joins Twitter

No, we're not paying for the therapy needed after reading this article. Deal with it.

Nick Leddy...in happier times (photo Bruce Bennett/Getty)
Nick Leddy, the 2009 first round draft pick (16th overall) by Minnesota has joined Twitter. Traded to Chicago with Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker less than a year later, Leddy has become the most successful Wild first round pick for another team while Barker was bought out in July and subsequently signed with Edmonton. 

The Eden Prairie native joins Blackhawks like Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Viktor Stalberg on the social media site.

Now in his second NHL season following a one season stop at the University of Minnesota, Leddy set up Chicago's first goal last night in the Blackhawks' 5-4 shootout loss to the Wild. Leddy has 3 goals and 34 assists (37 points) in 80 games this season. In comparison, Jared Spurgeon leads Minnesota's defensemen with 23 points.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @ledpipe08.

Don't forget (once the depression which is sure to come after reading this article), there are plenty of players who remain on the Minnesota Wild here along with their prospects.

Looking At The Difference Between Drafting 3rd & 7th

Much like the $640 Mega Millions drawing that happened this past week, it seems that everyone in the State of Hockey is fixated on the results of the final half-dozen games for another lottery.

From the Carolina game (thanks to Felix Levasque)
Minnesota has already made history (and not in a good way) by becoming the first team to miss the postseason after being in first place on December 1st. Right now the Wild sit in 24th place with 3 games remaining and can finish anywhere between 20th and 29th. While that's still embarrassing, the recent three-game winning streak - including tonight's 5-4 shootout win over Chicago - has fans more up in arms than actually following the Ricky Bobby philosophy.

But what's the difference between drafting 3rd and 7th?