Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Cuts

According to Russo, the Wild have sent Benoit Pouliot, Pete Kalus, John Scott and Shawn Belle to Houston. Sheppard is very close to getting signed (instead of returning to junior, he's not old enough to play in the AHL yet), and Foy has made the team. Reitz remains on the team, even though he would require waivers to be sent down, because of some bumps and bruises to the likes of Foster and Nummelin.

I will have a VERY short leash with guys like Foy, Radio and Veilleux this season.

Part of the realization of DR's much-vaunted "Five Year Plan" was that we wouldn't take steps back after we legitimately reached a new level. I believe we reached that level last season, and I do not feel that having five forwards who should not play on anything other than the fourth line is the way to maintain or improve on that level.

And, more to the point, that if we're going to ice some players who aren't going to produce very much right now, that we'd be better served by icing the players who, though they don't produce right now, might one day grow into a more prominent role on the team. Foy, Radio, Veilleux, Moore and Walz all fall into the former category right now. Boogaard is also probably there as well, though he has additional value. That's six guys who most likely aren't on the team of a true Cup contender. Meanwhile, some of the guys who are the future of the team - and probably wouldn't put up WORSE numbers than any of the other group this season - are toiling in Houston.

PS: The season is underway! Fowl and Kings are skating in London as we speak.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Downie Sits for 20

As reported by here. It's the 5th-longest suspension in NHL history.

I think (read: hope) the NHL is finally taking a stand against head shots/egregiously dirty or disrespectful play.

In thinking about this, I really am very happy with what the NHL did. The caveat here is that they MUST use this suspension as the benchmark for all future incidents of egregiously-dangerous acts that result in injury to another player.

Tim Panaccio of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a conversation with Campbell after the decision was announced and included parts of their conversation on his blog on hockeybuzz:

Had another chat with Colin Campbell on Steve Downie’s 20-game suspension

He told me, “This boy left his feet, targeted the head and stalked the
player. [McAmmond] had no expectation of this hit and [Downie] drilled him. We
felt we saw retribution in the cards once [Downie] was hit himself.

“We’re not saying shoulder hits to the head are illegal. Only if all
the other criteria come into play. We don’t want to take shoulder hits to the
head out of the game.”

I argued a point with Colin. As long as shots to the head are not
outlawed, there is always going to be a “gray” area in hockey as to what is a
legal hit and illegal hit. And there is going to be concussions.

“Tim, if we take out hits to the head, do we ban fighting then?”
Campbell asked me. “I don’t want to eliminate hitting from hockey. Shoulder hits
to the head are still a legal body check. What we don’t want to do is having
players skating around with their heads down and looking for the league or
referees to protect them.”

Before Campbell made his ruling, he canvassed opinion from the NHL’s
competition committee. He said the consensus from the committee was that the
Downie hit represented the “exact” hit the NHL wants to eliminate from the game.

Flyers took the high road here. Here’s general manager Paul Holmgren’s

“My reaction is that it seems like a lot of games, but Colin Campbell
is in a very difficult position and we respect his position and his judgment in
this case. We will live with it. I was with Steve during the hearing and was
with him after the verdict. He is very upset and understandably so. He
understands the ramifications and he is prepared to live with this

Obviously Holmgren doesn't have a lot of room to tap dance on this one, but I think he's one of the most respectable GMs in the league right now, and I obviously think he's done a great job of building his team (see Eastern Conference predictions).

And finally, apparently Downie called to apologize to McAmmond but ended up leaving a voicemail. McAmmond was man enough to return the call, hear Downie out and he told the press that he was going to choose to believe Downie when he said he was sorry and didn't mean to hurt him. That, ladies and gentlemen, is class.

Way to be a credit to yourself, your team and your sport, Deano. I wish you a speedy and full recovery.


Wild Lineup for Game P6 @ St. Louis


(thanks to Russo)

HTP Predicts! (Western Conference)

Western Conference

Central Division

One-Liner: More intrigue than you might think, but still only one Cup contender here.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Detroit* The more things change...out goes Schneider, in comes Rafalski. Wings just keep on truckin'.
2. St. Louis* Nice mix of kids (Erik Johnson) and grown-ups (Kariya, Tkachuk). Legace adequate in goal. Full season under Andy Murray. It all adds up to a return to the playoffs for Blues.
3. Nashville It's not just that their future in Nashville is so uncertain, it's that so much of their high end talent high-tailed it out of town. Not even solid tandem of Poile-Trotz can put enough lipstick on this pig.
4. Chicago Stocked with great, young talent, brighter days are here for the 'Hawks. Now, if only they can get new ownership to show any interest in actually icing a winner...
5. Columbus Seven seasons in, and they're just now realizing they have to build from within. Go Buckeyes!

Northwest Division

One-Liner: Every bit as competitive as Atlantic, any of four teams could hoist division banner next season.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Calgary* Very balanced and deep roster now has Iron Mike to keep them motivated. I don't see this team underachieving two years in a row. Kipper playing for contract? Can you say "Vezina"?
2. Minnesota* Wild could be one groin away from playoff success. Or they could be a lack of depth at center away from missing the big dance altogether. They do enjoy the biggest x-factor in the division in Lemaire.
3. Colorado* Three big acquisitions addresses key weaknesses from last season. Is Budaj the real deal? If so, then playoffs are a certainty. If not, then it will be a stretch again.
4. Vancouver It seems crazy to say that the best goalie in the league will miss the playoffs, but that's what happens if he doesn't have any offense in front of him. Sedins are super, but one pair of identical twins does not a scary offense make. Even Luongo can't win every game 2-1. But the teams above them have zero margin for error.
5. Edmonton They've taken a ton of abuse since their fall from grace last season. But thousands of people can't be wrong. Souray will add some pop to the power play. But simply not enough at too many positions to seriously contend in the regular season. Tavares Watch!

Pacific Division

One-Liner: If you like big, tough, swashbuckling hockey then this is where you want to be.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. San Jose* Sharks have it all, should be hungry after recent playoff performances. Time for Big Joe to lead a team to the next level.
2. Anaheim* Cup hangover not helped by London chaser to start season. Still extemely dangerous team, won't lay down for anyone.
3. Dallas* Turco finally laid playoff demons to rest, Modano getting long in the tooth...first round casualty.
4. Los Angeles This team could be as exciting to watch as any in the league. Goaltending still in flux, but lots of sunshine ahead in Hollywood.
5. Phoenix Hopefully new management group will stick to rebuilding...question is: will anyone be around to notice when it starts paying dividends? Don't bet on it (Janet). Lottery-bound.

Playoff matchups

Conference Quarterfinals

1. Detroit
8. Dallas

2. San Jose
7. Anaheim

3. Calgary
6. St. Louis

4. Minnesota
5. Colorado

Conference Semi-Finals

1. Detroit
4. Minnesota

2. San Jose
3. Calgary

Conference Finals

1. Detroit
3. Calgary

Western Conference Champion

Stanley Cup Finals

Rangers vs. Calgary In 1994, "Iron" Mike Keenan coached the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years. In 2008, Keenan will lead his new charges, the Calgary Flames, into battle for hockey's ultimate prize- ironically against the Rangers. There will be many intriguing story lines in this final, including Keenan, Kipprusoff and Lundqvist dueling for Finland v. Sweden supremacy and Chris Drury (formerly of the Flames). In the end, the winner will be the....

Stanley Cup Champion
Calgary Flames


HTP Predicts! (Eastern Conference)

On the eve of new season (Fowl/Kings set to drop the puck in Merry Olde London in a little more than 24 hours) I bring you the Official Hitting The Post Predictions for the 2007-2008 NHL season.


Atlantic Division

One-Liner: Three probable playoff teams and that's NOT including the "always-dangerous-to-underestimate" Devils.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Pittsburgh* Great job of building this team around a super-talented nuclues of youth. Only weakness is relative youth, but the veterans they brought in/retained will make up for that.
2. Rangers* Sure, it's big money hockey again in Big Apple, but how can you argue with who they brought in? Great job of cap management at the Garden. King Henrik is a stud.
3. Flyers* Huge props to Homer for doing an amazing job retooling this team on the fly - and building them back into a playoff team. Same expectations as last year, but better odds for success.
4. Devils Brutal 9-game road trip to start come home to a new building that will be half empty by Christmas. Gordian knot of not wanting to overplay Brodeur again, but no viable backup, combined with loss of key players means Lou's luck is on the wane.
5. Islanders Not much to like here. Guerin's a name for the marquee, but stalwarts/hope from last season bolted for greener pastures at first opportunity. At least the arena's nice....oops.

Northeast Division

One-liner: Still top-heavy, can Ottawa finally find playoff magic?

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Ottawa* All major pieces back, eyes firmly on the prize. Whether or not Emery is the real deal is the key here.
2. Buffalo* Lost two of top four players to free agency, had to overpay to keep third. They'll make the playoffs but guile and guts, not skill will have to get them over the hump.
3. Toronto* Can Toskala get it done? If not, will Raycroft get back to rookie form? Blake is a gamer, but depth issues linger. Playoffs? Probably. More than one round? Highly doubtful.
4. Montreal Nice stable of goaltending not enough to offset significant depth issues all over lineup. Once playoffs become remote possibility, will Gainey start re-tooling?
5. Boston Chara will rebound, upgrade in goal...not enough horses or firepower to make any real noise in division/conference.

Southeast Division

One-Liner: Recent success looks like outlier, not harbinger.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Tampa Bay* Last hurrah for three (overpaid, collectively) musketeers. Boyle/Kuba solid, but not going to deliver Bolts to promised land. Division title by default.
2. Atlanta* Sold soul for playoffs last season, have nothing left to show for it. Lehtonen needs to find consistency.
3. Washington AO is a stud. Kolzig looking for one more grab at the brass ring. Will take advantage of soft division, threaten Thrashers for last playoff spot.
4. Carolina Even the Karmanoses are starting to flee. Ward will rebound, but no depth, limited high-end skill. When does college hoops season tip off?
5. Florida Sooner or later these kids have to pan out, right? Big upgrade in goal with Vokoun, and, honestly, there's some reason for optimism.

Playoff matchups

Conference Quarterfinals
1. Ottawa
8. Toronto

2. Tampa Bay
7. Philadelphia

3. Pittsburgh
6. Atlanta

4. Buffalo
5. Rangers

Conference Semi-Finals
1. Ottawa
7. Philadelphia

3. Pittsburgh
5. Rangers

Conference Finals
1. Ottawa
5. Rangers

Eastern Conference Champion
New York Rangers


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bill Daly: Arrogant, Idiot Jerkwad

Open Letter to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:

Get over yourself, you donkey.


Nick Henry

NHL Deputy Commissioner/Bettman Lapdog Bill Daly has always rubbed me the wrong way. Not just for the fact that he looks like a penis, but also for his arrogance and blathering "Bettman's Yes Man" routine. I found him to be particularly unctuous during the lockout. He's essentially of the Tony Snow of the Bettman administration. Or, more frighteningly, the Karl Rove of the Bettman Administration.

Well, after the Rangers and Islanders renewed acquaintances the other night, Russo brought up the question of why Chris Simon was allowed to play in the preseason while Sean Hill was not. Both still have games left under their respective suspensions (Simon's for bashing Ryan Hollweg in the face with his stick, and Hill for allegedly failing a drug test for a banned substance), but the Wild had been told that Hill was not eligible for preseason games, while apparently the Islanders were told something different about Simon. This is not to say that Hill SHOULD have been able to play in the preseason, but that if he couldn't, Simon shouldn't have either.

As a side commentary, it's this kind of discontinuity in operational decisions by the NHL that makes it look like the second-tier league the rest of the free world regards it as.

So Russo emailed the league with his query. He posted the response he got from Daly in the paper today and this is the quote from Daly's email:

"Terms of suspensions are case specific. Sean Hill's does not allow him to play."

Typical beauracratic, double-speak, obfuscatory, arrogant idiocy.


Wild Pound Peoria

Okay, it's the preseason.

Even though it's getting down to the end, when teams normally are identifying their opening night rosters and icing them to develop chemistry or cohesion or whatever cliche you particularly enjoy, my guess is that a lot of guys whose NHL jobs are secure are probably not giving 100%. As such, these games don't really mean anything, and are certainly not predictive of regular season things-to-come.

This is possibly why Blues' coach Andy Murray decided to leave virtually all of his probable starters (goalie Manny Legace notwithstanding) in St. Louis and take the kids on a little trip to St. Paul. Conversely, JL played a lineup almost entirely made up of probable regulars. The result was a 7-0 win for the Wild.

The game was scoreless after one period, and the Wild exploded for six in the second (including 4 in a 4.5 minute span) and added the cherry on top in the third. Blues goalie Legace had to have been pissed. The poor guy was abandoned by his teammates - and he played quite well overall, all things considered.

I thought Benny Pouliot played a strong game, and Shawn Belle also played fine. I was unimpressed with Dominic Moore.

Here's my problem with guys like Moore, Foy, Radio, and Veilleux: they're all fighting for maybe two of the three spots on the fourth line. But none of them has stepped up to really claim a job. They're all basically different shades of the same color, and I really don't care which of them ends up playing on our fourth line - as long as two or three of them actually earn it.

Boogaard is technically in this group, but his is a unique value to the team being that he's the only guy we have who scares anyone on another team. Now if the current trend of refs targeting him and giving him a shorter leash than everyone else continues, maybe that value will be nullified. But until it does, he warrants at least a split of a fourth line spot.

But guys like Moore just don't have the margin for error to be invisible in a game like last night. I'd really like to see the team make some actual decisions with these guys, and get rid of the one or two that don't earn a job. I'd also like to see the team play one of the kids (like Pouliot) even if it means losing a guy like Radio. I don't think you're counting on Radio for more than a handful of points, and he doesn't do anything else that much better than a guy like Pouliot. Add into the mix the fact that Pouliot's ceiling is obviously a lot higher than Radio's (or Moore's, Foy's or Veilleux's) and there's no reason to keep dead weight on the roster right now.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Ironically, both teams can chalk this one up to a preseason game mentality. Hard to get too excited about how anything looked because it wasn't a very good litmus test at all. Individually, Pouliot and Belle saw their stock rise a bit.

STUD: Rolston who now has five preseason goals in three games. His whole line was great (PMB and Belanger) but he finished.

DUD: Moore. Sorry, but when you're fighting for a job you have to show me more than that.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Downie Downs McAmmond, Dollar Bill Benched - Permanently

Ice hockey, at its core, is a violent sport. Those that play it are constantly trying to harness their own violent tendencies, or are being subjected to someone else's. Some have more luck at both of these things than others.

The hockey apologist will give you some combination of the following arguments for why this is okay:
  • Hockey has always been that way.
  • There is a degree of violence in all sports.
  • Hockey does a better job of policing itself than other sports.
  • Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, Latrell Sprewell and their ilk generally don't have a representative in the NHL.
  • The players know what they're getting into when they step on the ice.

This is all bullshit.

Not that it's not true, because most of those cases are legit.

But the biggest reason why this is okay in hockey is: it sells.

Anyone who's ever been to a hockey game - really at any level - where a fight, big hit, even pushing and shoving after a play has happened knows that the fans become more engaged and vociferous at that point than any other point in the game, other than a goal for the home team.

The casual fan may not know why you cheer when your team clears it all the way down on a penalty kill, but they cheer their faces off when two (or more) guys are toe-to-toe.

Hockey, and the NHL, may not like it, but it can not live without the violence in the sport.

The problem, therefore, is that the non-hockey-enjoying public's perception of hockey is that there is no other reason to watch hockey other than for the violence. What other explanation can there be for the refusal of ESPN, major networks and cable news channels to show anything hockey related other than the ugliest moments that transpire? We are subjected to every home run, interception, slam dunk, birdie putt and NASCAR wreck, but we only see Todd Bertuzzi, Chris Simon and, now, Steve Downie on ESPN, CNN or Good Morning America representing the "good old hockey game". Interestingly enough, or frustratingly enough, we also witness the dissection of the minutae of the lives of our heros from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR on those same networks, while hockey players are, by in large, spared the scrutiny.

But is this the media's fault? No. They know what their viewers are - and are not - interested in watching.

Is this even a "fault" issue? In other words, does hockey celebrate its obscurity and self-marginalization in order to maintain the status quo? Maybe. It would be a lot easier to say it does if all the owners in the NHL were in the black. But the bottom line is that if the NHL wanted to do something about this kind of play, it would. Since it hasn't....

Speaking of owners in the black, "Dollar" Bill Wirtz passed away last night. The tight-fisted owner of the Chicago Blackhawks was apparently a philanthrope, but was just a horrendous owner of a professional sports franchise. His refusal to pay for talent or televise home games in the local market unless it was a sellout for x-many years now was an absolute joke. I know he's in the Hall of Fame, but Blackhawks fans have been getting a raw deal for a long enough time that this should be a happy day for them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wild: Road Warriors

Remember the first half of last season, when the Wild couldn't have bought a road win even if Tim Donaghy was reffing? JL said something about the team would have to at least get back to .500 on the road to even have a shot at making the playoffs? Well the Wild started playing better on the road, made the playoffs, and....then got squashed by the Fowl.

But their play on the road has continued to be strong so far this pre-season. Their last three games have all been on the road, and they've all been wins. Admittedly, to say that pre-season play is predictive of regular season play is not exactly defensible. But it is encouraging anyway.

Last night, the Wild nipped the Sabres 2-1 on a pair of goals from Brian Rolston. According to the usual sources (Strib, PioPress) Pouliot played a lot of center and didn't appear to hurt his chances of making the team. Kalus also seems to be hanging around. And Colton Gillies got his first action for the Wild. Foy continues to buzz around and hit stuff, but his inability to finish might be a problem.

The Wild host Erik Johnson and the Blues tomorrow, and then have two more pre-season games after that. So I would think the coaches will want to have the roster pretty much set after the Blues game.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Catching Up

So I was out of town for the weekend, thus, slow blog.

The Wild beat the 'Hawks on Friday 5-4 on Mikko Koivu's hat-trick-clinching OT winner. Mikko had a huge jump in his overall game last season, and if he can even come close to replicating that kind of improvement this season, he could be an All-Star. (How cool would it be to have both Koivu brothers at the ASG?)

Three more cuts (Voros, Payer, Adrian Foster) and general satisfaction at the play of the defense.

The Wild are in Grand Forks tonight, as the visiting team, playing the "home" Buffalo Sabres at the Ralph. Regardless of what you think of old man Englestad (or his family) as a human being, from what I've heard there can be no debating that his generosity allowed the university to build one heckuva facility.

The Wild's first round draft pick this year, Colton Gillies, will be making the trip and presumably playing. The Wild are trying to give him as thorough an experience as possible with the big club before sending him back to junior.

Also making the trip:

Brian Rolston, Eric Belanger, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Pavol Demitra, Dominic Moore, Petr Kalus, Stephane Veilleux, Benoit Pouliot, Mark Parrish, Colton Gillies, James Sheppard, Matt Foy, Branko Radivojevic

Nick Schultz, John Scott, Keith Carney, Erik Reitz, Kurtis Foster, Kim Johnsson, Shawn Belle

Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom

No video (online or otherwise) it seems, radio on


Friday, September 21, 2007

But, Will They Have To Clear Waivers First? is reporting that the San Jose Sharks are going to send three coaches and five players to China to compete in the Asia Ice Hockey League.

The goal is to help grow the sport in Asia in general and in China specifically.

First, I wholly support this goal. I am Korean, and there just aren't enough of my Asian brothers and sisters playing the game of ice hockey (Richard Park and Yutaka Fukufuji notwithstanding).

Second, I read Dave Bidini's awesome book "Tropic of Hockey" and it appealed to me on both a hockey and a wanderlust level. Since reading it, I've harbored a dream of returning to the land of my heritage and playing some puck with my native peeps.

Finally, who better than the Asia League Ice Hockey itself to tell you about what they're trying to build:

*The league which everyone, all people of every generation have a great longing
for with its ice arenas which are filled with feverish excitement.

*The league which produce some higher level players as international level with great games and fantastic entertainment.

*The league which can give a dream and a deep impression to people and can let people have a great heart.


Game # P2, Wild @ Red Wings

I was unable to watch the game last night* and to sit there listening to streaming audio for a preseason game exceeds even my own dedication to hockey/the Wild. Plus I had a game of my own (which we won).

In any event, the Wild won 3-2, and, from what I can glean from the usual sources (Russo, Shipley), the Wild played a much tighter game, perhaps because they had a more veteran lineup than Tuesday night, perhaps becase the lineup was so veteran-heavy because JL was pissed at the overall performance of the veterans on Tuesday night, perhaps because the Wings only played about half of their veterans, perhaps because the Wild really is a decent team. Also, it sounds like Hards played pretty well.

But the defense (all regulars) stepped up, and a couple guys like Johnsson specifically played better than the other night. Burnsie even got involved in the offense.

The two big story lines were Moore on the top line and the "kid" line of Kalus-Sheppard-Foy.

Sounds like everyone played ok, with the exception of a brain cramp by Shep in the third that A) lead to him missing his big chance to center Gaby and Demo, B) lead to confusion that lead to a Wings goal and C) drew the ire of JL, but no one really blew the socks off the coaches.

JL has promised to play more of the kids in tonight's game in Chicago.

BOTTOM LINE: The Wild got focused, and played a better game. Now some of the more dramatic Wild fans might be able to come in off the ledge.

STUD: Since I didn't hear or see the game, I can't say.

DUD: See "Stud".

*Forgive the soapbox, but:

It is inexcusable for the NHL not to make all these games available on the beta version of the Center Ice Online product they're offering for free during the preseason. This is a league that bitches and moans about how they never get any visibility by the major media sources, and how they have such a limited ability to generate advertising revenue because of it, blahblahblah. I had used the CIOnline thing for the Tuesday night game, and it was great. I'm sure I wasn't the only person upset to learn that last night's game was not available.

Get your head out of your butt, NHL. If you want to be visible, make yourself visible. Surely you can't be run by people idiotic enough to assume that visibility will just be granted to you?

And, as a league, you simply can not afford to alienate the (relatively) few fans you do have. You blow sunshine up our collective butt about how we're the most passionate fans in sports. Well part of that passion includes a willingness to defend the game - and the league - to the unwashed, and trying to sell the game as well.

Your persistent inability to grow the game at a grassroots level (particularly in the "non-traditional" markets that you seem to think are so vital to the growth of the game/league), compounded by your stunning lack of vision and initiative from a marketing perspective often leave those of us who try to take up that considerable slack on an individual level swinging in the wind, and it is utterly mind boggling that you would allow yourself to act that way.

The sooner you figure out that keeping your fans happy is far more important than keeping your owners' pockets lined with our dollars (and, ironically, will lead to the lining of their pockets) the sooner you will be able to rise from a marginal sport to a major sport in the eyes of the American media, etc.

And seemingly little things, like making preseason games available on a new platform you're offering, are the first steps down that road.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Roster for Wings Game has the following listed as the probable roster for tonight:

1) Demo-Moore-Gaby
2) Rolston-Belanger-Butch
3) Radio-Koivu-Parrish
4) Kalus-Sheppard-Foy

1) Schultz-Johnsson
2) Carney-Burns
3) Skouba-Foster

The thought is that Harding will start and Nik will back him up.

The prevailing wisdom is also that the Wings will play many more of their assumed regulars tonight as well.

That "kid" line will be one to watch. Also, how Moore does on the big boy line will also be interesting.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thanks Daron...For Breaking My Heart

It is with heavy heart that I confirm what Daron posted in the comments from my previous post: that Cal Clutterbuck, my favorite name in all of hockey, has been cut from Wild training camp. He will report to Houston for Aeros' training camp.

Lemaire did have some favorable things to say about him as he departed, but nonetheless the day when we get to see "CLUTTERBUCK" on the back of a Wild jersey on the ice in a game (preseason, even) is a bit farther away today than it was yesterday.

Such is life, friends.

Such is life.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Game night #P1 Wild vs. Red Wings

Since I watch so many games on TV, I am going to try to find a format for either blogging or tossing up comments on the games that I watch, sort of as they happen. Not sure how it's going to work out, but that's why there's a preseason!

Game #P1

First Period

U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi! The Wild came out all stinkeroo for their first game of the season. Matt Foy and Derek Boogaard had a hit-off, and Foy won because DB took a major and a gamer for "interference" when he stupidly elbowed a guy and then complained about it to the ref. I'm sure JL will NOT be happy about that. 3-0 lead for Detroit after one - really nothing positive for the Wild.

Second Period

Wild first goal of the preseason is from Demo, on a nice second effort off his own initial shot.

*** *** ***

Okay, so that didn't go so well.

For me or the Wild.

6-1 win for the Wings, and not a lot of good things from the Wild. I thought Foy, Reitz, Kalus and Foster played pretty well. I did not think Irmen, Moore and Radio had particularly strong games.

For the record, Boogey and JL claim that no contact was made on the elbow to Downey that got him ejected. Watching online, I am in no position to offer an opinion on that.

Also for the record, SKOULA STINKS!! I remember three distinct plays where he screwed up something (ie clearing the zone) that an NHL-calibre defenseman should not screw up, and one of them ended up in the back of our net. I'm sorry, Jacques, I just don't see why you like him. He simply folds under pressure of any kind. He can't make more than one "right" play in a row. So he settles the puck, but then flubs the pass. And he makes mistakes at bad times (ie trying to clear the zone on a PK).

If Reitz can play like he did last night - where he did nothing spectacular but didn't make any glaring mistakes and did his job in his own zone fine - then I say cut Skoula loose and give Erik a shot. You're not going to be any worse off than you are right now.

In other news, Nik Backstrom had a fancy new mask, and his usual calm demeanor, but was beaten down by the Wild's parade to the penalty box, and it seemed like he didn't see at least a couple of those goals. Harding also had a fancy new mask (tributing the I-35W catastrophe) and looked fine as well, though the Wings weren't pressing as hard once the score got out of hand.

Kalus was involved on several shifts and I thought had one in the third in particular where he was the best player on the ice. I liked how he used his size, wasn't afraid to go into the corners OR the slot, and took shots when they presented themselves.

The Slick Slovaks got a good amount of ice time, and though there were moments of keen play, the brightest memories I have right now are of Gaby missing on breakaways and Radio not finishing any of several nice set ups - mostly from Demo (who actually had a strong game, now that I think about it). I liked Demo on the point on the PP with Gaby and PMB on the wings. There was one PP in particular where they basically moved the puck in a "V" from Demo to Gaby, back to Demo, to Butch, back to Demo...etc and set up some nice looks.

BOTTOM LINE: It's only the first preseason game. I'm happy for the couple of good performances I saw, and not so happy about some of the bad.

STUD: I guess it has to be Foy. He hit everything with a winged wheel on it's chest, showed off some serious wheels and was pretty much the most energetic guy on the ice all night.

DUD: Skoula. Get used to it. As long as he's on the team he will probably be a frequent visitor to this section.


So...Bettman DOES Have Ears! reports that the Board of Governors has decided to kill the unbalanced schedule and get back to showcasing every team in every city next season. They will vote in November on which format to go with.

Thank God!!


Roster Update for Tonight, First Cuts

I read that Benny Pouliot will NOT be in the lineup tonight against the Red Wings, though I have not confirmed it, and don't know why. **Apparently Benny was in Canada appearing before court as a result of a drunk driving incident last year. is reporting that AJ Thelen, Tyler Hirsch, Matt Kassian and Petr Olvecky were all cut today, and sent to Houston.


On Outdoor Hockey and Frosty Attitudes

The Buffalo Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year's Day for the first outdoor NHL game in the United States. The game will be played at the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium, with seating capacity around 74,000.

There is a very good chance that the weather will be perfect for outdoor hockey. And there is a chance that the weather will be horrid for outdoor hockey. But hopefully Ma Nature will comply and give the NHL a nice day for what should be a great showcase for the sport and the league (NBC will allegedly make the game a big part of it's holiday programming - though certainly not over any NCAA Bowl coverage, one presumes).

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle had a little story on the game in the paper today, which included this funny line from Larry Quinn:

"Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn was asked if the Sabres will elicit advice from the Oilers, who staged the NHL’s first regular-season outdoor game.

‘We’re not real happy with Edmonton right now,’ Quinn said, referring to the Oilers’ attempt to hijack Sabres winger Thomas Vanek through restricted free agency with a seven-year, $50 million contract offer. ‘We won’t be talking to Edmonton.’”

I just checked, and the geniuses at the NHL scheduling department don't have the Sabres and Fowl playing each other this season. Pity.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Wild Roster vs. Red Wings

Mike Russo posted the Wild's roster for tomorrow's first preseason game, against the Red Wings on his blog.

"The All-Slovak line of Radivojevic, Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik will be dusted off probably because Radivojevic won’t stop scoring in these scrimmages. Other regulars scheduled to play include Eric Belanger (Wild unofficial debut), P-M Bouchard, Dominic Moore, Derek Boogaard, Wes Walz, Kurtis Foster, Kim Johnsson, Petteri Nummelin, Brent Burns and Martin Skoula.

Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding will split time in the ice. Of the contending roster players, Benoit Pouliot, Petr Kalus, Danny Irmen, Matt Foy and Erik Reitz will play."

Glad to see some of the kids getting a chance to impress in a game that "counts".


Around the NW *updated*

Some tidbits on our peers (and Edmonton, too) in the Northwest Division I've collected whilst surfing the world wide web:

*The Canucks have a couple injuries already, most notably to Sami Salo who has a cast on his arm and may have a broken wrist. All-Universe goalie Roberto Luongo took a shot up high in a scrimmage, lay on the ice and then left the game for good. That injury is not thought to be serious. Trevor Linden was also injured in the scrimmage (does Voros have a brother who is in the Canucks' system?) and will be checked out today. **Tsn is reporting that Salo does indeed have a hairline fracture of his left wrist and is out indefinitely.

*Many Flames fans felt that former CC Tiger goalie Curtis McElhinney jumped over Brent Krahn last season on the Flames' goaltender depth chart. There was some rumbling that he could win the job of backing up Miikka Kiprusoff this season out of camp. Now there may be a third horse in the race. Little-known rookie Matt Keetley ended up playing the whole game last night after McElhinney too a puck in the unmentionables in warm ups and had to sit out. The Flames lost to the Panthers (in Vokoun's first game as a Floridian) but Keetley planted himself firmly on coach Mike Keenan's radar screen with a 31-save performance.

*The Oilers have invited Anson Carter to their training camp. Sheldon Souray strained his back, but it's not thought to be serious.


Who Is Aaron Voros??

Just kidding, sort of. Reports from camp are that Voros (acquired from New Jersey last season) is throwing his weight around with near-reckless abandon in Wild camp - and it's paying off. First, he's getting under the skin of everyone else (drawing the ire of the Carneys, Burnses and Veilleuxes of the world in the process) and getting noticed by the coaches (I'm sure Dominic Moore can tell you just how difficult that can be to accomplish). But he's also providing a value that all of us who follow the Wild will tell you was sorely lacking from the team last season: grit.

Funny word, grit, in hockey parlance. It's essentially a catch-all for players who maybe aren't the most skilled so they run around bugging everyone else, trying to piss people off and get the more-skilled members of the opposition off their game.

Mr. Boogaard notwithstanding, the Wild don't have a guy like this. And yet Wild fans' bloodpressures will spike as soon as I type the words: "Matt" and "Cooke" or "Jarkko" and "Ruutu".

So Voros is out there banging on established veterans, yelling to everyone that the King, in fact, does not have any clothes on. I say that kind of irreverence is NEEDED on this team.

All things being equal, I doubt we'll see Voros on the team when they break camp, especially if a Sheppard or Irmen (or Moore) can incorporate a little of that into their game. And we still have a glut of fourth-liners, not enough of whom appear able to competently push the third liners.

But I applaud him for doing what he needs to do to get noticed, and poking the sleeping bear in the process.


Friday, September 14, 2007 Joins Blog Fray

And just in time for Training Camp!

Wild All Access purports to provide "the viewpoint of the Wild on why we do what we do."

They claim they will offer insight from actual organizational peeps in Hockey Ops, Management, the official website crue and the omnipresent media team.

Of particular note is the Hockey Ops input "which includes posts directly from the staff of President and General Manager, Doug Risebrough."

No doubt this is a cool idea, and if they actually engage in some form of dialogue with fans that would be incredible. But I'll believe it when I see it.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Camping With Cal

I am happy to report that I will apparently get to write the name "Cal Clutterbuck" a few more times over the next few weeks (if not longer).

My Pal Cal earned an invite to the Wild's training camp with his team-leading 5 points in Traverse City.

The other walk-on, feel-good story from Traverse City, Moises Gutierrez has a sore hammy, about which Tommy T said he is "cautiously optimistic".

Players report for physicals and Rohrschach tests today, on-ice action begins tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Training Camp Roster

Russo reports that the took 16 kids from the Traverse City roster and invited them to camp, which starts tomorrow in St. Paul.

He names: Sheppard, Gillies, Pouliot, Thelen and Hirsch as among those who earned the invite with their performances in Michigan this week.

I'm sure the omission of Cal Clutterbuck's name was an error on Russo's part, and not indicative of him not getting an invite to camp.

Camp will also be an opportunity to see Petr Kalus and Andre Lakos for the first time in a Wild capacity. Lakos is kind of the ultimate dark horse in terms of the little we know about him/have heard about him and his odds of making the team.

Let's play hockey!


NiNY Skates Again!

So, I play goalie at the low beer league level.

Growing up, my ability to play the game at a level that was consistent with the competition of my age group quickly gave way to my ability to enjoy the game as a spectator. Then, when I got to the age where I figured I could play in an adult rec league and actually contribute on the ice, I decided that if I was going to pay a few hundo for gear, another few hundo for ice time, and be out on the ice at un-Godly hours of the night, I might as well get my money's worth (in terms of ice time) - so I switched to goalie.

I joined a new team in the New York/Westchester division of Hockey North America. HNA bills itself as a co-ed, adult beginner league. There's an umbrella organization, based out of Virginia, and then a dozen or so leagues in various cities in Canada and the US.

The beauty of HNA is that, unlike house leagues based out of your local ice rink, they can control rosters to keep the divisions competitive. Anyone who's not very good and has played in a house league knows that the lower divisions usually end up with a team or a couple players playing WAY below their skill level. That team or players cuts through everyone else like a hot knife through butter and it's no fun for everyone else who has to play them. Why this is fun for that team/those players is beyond me, but c'est la vie I guess.

HNA has a system for weeding out good teams/players and moving them up to the next level. If they reach the top level for that league they are disinvited from returning for the next season. So for those of us who A) aren't very good and B) would like to still be competitive in our not-very-goodness HNA is great.

My team was the Badgers. We started as a new team three seasons ago. When you start as a new team in HNA you first go through an 8-week school where you are on the ice once a week for 8-weeks learning everything from how to skate to basic positioning and game play. Remember that this is beginner adult hockey. You get a lot of people whose kids are playing hockey and they want to be able to relate to them so they take up the game - for the first time. I'm talking about people who have never strapped on the blades in their life. Not only is the instruction necessary, it's wanted by the players.

My two-plus years with the Badgers were great, and I miss playing with those guys.

The reason I'm not playing with them this year is that my family moved this summer. So I've been shopping around for a new team in need of a goalie for the last couple months, and I'm happy to report that I appear to have found one. This new team is the Ice Hawks, and our first game is tomorrow night.

Wish us luck!


Fowl Suspend Scott Niedermayer

As reported on, Scott Niedermayer, the current President and CEO of the Waffle House, has been suspended, thus relieving the Fowl of the burden of his salary counting against the cap for the duration of his suspension.

It sounds like this was a formality that was predicted to happen as soon as camp opened in the absence of some clearer indication from Mr. Niedermayer about his decision to play or not in the coming season.

Personally, while I agreed with many others that Scott had earned the right to take the summer to decide whether or not to retire, I feel that he is now being a total jerk by keeping his little game going this long. It would be one thing if his contract was only a couple million. But $6.75M in limbo really puts a crimp on the team's ability to set up its roster going into camp and beyond.

It's time for Scott to man up - one way or the other - and at least act like he cares about the fortunes of the Fowl this season.


Prospects Tourny: 3rd Place Game

According to Brad Holland's blog on the tournament on, the Wild lost the third place game to the Thrasher's prospects.

I'll get some more info on scores, etc and toss it up here.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wild Trivia *answer*

Mike Vernon was the first player taken by the Wild in the expansion draft that never played a game for the team.

FYI, Mike was the second player taken by the Wild in the draft. Jamie McLennan was the first.

Oddly enough, Dwayne Roloson was taken two picks after Vernon - by Columbus - though he signed with the AHL's Worcester Ice Cats instead of reporting to the BJs (and, really, who could blame him).


Prospects Tourny: Game 3 *Updated*

The Wild completed the round robin portion of the festivities in Traverse City yesterday by whupping Erik Johnson and his Blues cohorts 7-3. The story is here.

The Wild, BJs and Blues all finished with 2-1 records, and the Stars headed up the rear in the Western Conference of the tournament with a record of 0-3 (pity).

Two goals for Danny Irmen, and two more helpers by - you guessed it - Cal Clutterbuck. James Sheppard, Tyler Hirsch, Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Hamilton and Carson McMillan scored the other goals.

With the round robin completed, there is a one-game playoff to determine who finishes in what position, with cross over between the two conferences. I have been looking, but I can't find who plays whom, for what, and when. But if/when I do I'll toss it up here as well.

**According to Russo, the Wild will play the Thrashers for third place today.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Who's Left?

Noticed an article on that shows Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents still available. Clearly most teams are pretty much set going into camp right now. But there are some intriguing names out there:

Here are the Unrestricted FAs, and I've bolded a couple names that are interesting to me for one reason or another. Just to be clear: I don't think we'll be signing any of these players, and I'm not necessarily advocating that we do so.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS - GROUP 3 The following players have qualified for Group 3 Free Agency (age 28 or older or with at least seven Accrued Seasons) and are Unrestricted Free Agents.

ANAHEIM Trevor Gillies, Mark Hartigan, Ric Jackman, Antti Jussi Niemi, Teemu Selanne.
ATLANTA Yuri Butsayev, Andy Delmore, Cory Larose, Scott Mellanby, J.P. Vigier.
BOSTON Nathan Dempsey, Jeff Hoggan, Petr Tenkrat, Jason York.
BUFFALO Mikko Lehtonen.
CALGARY Tony Amonte, Brad Ference, Jeff Friesen, Darren McCarty, Jamie McLennan.
CAROLINA Jesse Boulerice, Anson Carter, David Tanabe.
CHICAGO Denis Arkhipov, Peter Bondra, Carl Corazzini, Michael Holmqvist, Reed Low, Craig MacDonald.
COLORADO Steve Konowalchuk, Antti Laaksonen, Pierre Turgeon, Ossi Vaananen.
COLUMBUS Bryan Berard, Brian Boucher, Paul Manning, Jamie Pushor, Martin Spanhel.
DALLAS Matthew Barnaby, Alexei Komarov, Eric Lindros, Patrik Stefan.
DETROIT Brendan Brooks, Jiri Fischer, Danny Markov.
EDMONTON Jussi Markkanen, Petr Nedved, Daniel Tjarnqvist.
FLORIDA Ed Belfour, Jean-Marc Pelletier, Dmitri Tolkunov, Ari Vallin.
LOS ANGELES Sean Burke, Mathieu Garon, Jamie Heward, Marty Murray
MINNESOTA Mika Hannula, Jason Morgan, Peter Ratchuk.
MONTREAL Aaron Downey, Mike Johnson, Janne Niinimaa.
NASHVILLE Marian Cisar, Peter Forsberg, Karl Goehring, Patrick Leahy, Scott Nichol, Pavel Skrbek, Kim Staal.
NEW JERSEY Jim Dowd, Dan McGillis, Alexander Mogilny, Erik Rasmussen, Jason Wiemer.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS Rick Berry, Eric Boguniecki, Joel Bouchard, Mike Dunham, Peter Ferraro, Evgeny Korolev, Deron Quint, Randy Robitaille, Todd Simpson, Dimitri Upper.
NEW YORK RANGERS Sandis Ozolinsh, Martin Richter, Jason Strudwick.
OTTAWA Jamie Allison, Konstantin Gorovikov, Brian Maloney.
PHILADELPHIA Mark Cullen, Niko Dimitrakos, Robert Esche, Denis Hamel, Eric Meloche, Brad Tapper.
PHOENIX Curtis Joseph, Pascal Rheaume, Mike Ricci.
PITTSBURGH Wade Brookbank, Eric Cairns, Nils Ekman, Joel Kwiatkowski, Richard Lintner, Josef Melichar, Niklas Nordgren, Ronald Petrovicky.
ST. LOUIS Glen Metropolit, Ville Nieminen, Vladimir Orszagh, Michel Riesen, Daniel Tkaczuk, Andrei Troschinsky.
SAN JOSE Mathieu Darche, Scott Ferguson, Vladimir Malakhov, Mark Smith, Patrick Traverse.
TAMPA BAY Daniel Corso, Rob DiMaio, Sascha Goc, Marek Posmyk, Nolan Pratt, Eero Somervuori.
TORONTO J.S. Aubin, Bates Battaglia, Brad Brown, Travis Green, Pierre Hedin, Marc Moro, Tyson Nash, Jeff O'Neill.
VANCOUVER Jan Bulis, Rory Fitzpatrick, Lee Goren, Josh Green, Mika Noronen, Tommi Santala, Brent Sopel, Yannick Tremblay.
WASHINGTON Andy Hedlund, Quintin Laing, Bryan Muir, Pete Vandermeer.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS - GROUP 6 The following players qualify for unrestricted free agency, having met the requirements for Group 6 free agency. These players, whose contracts have expired, are age 25 or older, have completed three or more professional seasons, and (i) in the case of a player other than a goaltender, have played less than 80 NHL games (regular-season and playoff), or (ii) in the case of a goaltender, have played less than 28 NHL games (regular-season and playoff).
BOSTON Brian Finley, Jay Leach.
BUFFALO Timo Helbling.
CAROLINA Scott Kelman.
COLORADO Matt Murley.
DALLAS Shane Endicott, Mike Green.
DETROIT Darryl Bootland.
LOS ANGELES Tim Jackman.
MONTREAL Dan Jancevski.
NEW JERSEY Adrian Foster.
OTTAWA Jeff Heerema, Cory Pecker.
PHOENIX Mike Morrison.
PITTSBURGH Matt Carkner, Micki Dupont, Libor Pivko, Nolan Schaefer, Wade Skolney.
ST. LOUIS Tomas Mojzis, Peter Sejna, Mike Stuart.
SAN JOSE Garrett Stafford, Grant Stevenson.
TAMPA BAY Stephen Baby, Joe Rullier.
TORONTO Brad Leeb, Jean-Francois Racine, Aleksander Suglobov.
VANCOUVER Brandon Reid, Nathan Smith.
WASHINGTON Chad Wiseman.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS The following players were not tendered a qualifying offer and are therefore Unrestricted Free Agents not subject to a right to match or draft choice compensation.
ANAHEIM Sebastien Caron, Nathan Marsters, David McKee, Doug O'Brien.
ATLANTA David Caruso, Andre Deveaux, Michael Garnett, Lane Manson, Brad Schell, Adam Smyth.
BOSTON Dennis Packard, Philippe Sauve.
BUFFALO Adam Berkhoel.
CALGARY Richie Regehr, Justin Taylor.
CAROLINA Vince Bellissimo, Kevin Estrada, Craig Kowalski, Stephen Peat.
CHICAGO Nikita Alexeev, Alexander Kojevnikov.
COLORADO Ryan Steeves, David Svagrovsky.
COLUMBUS Jaroslav Balastik, Ryan Caldwell, Janne Hauhtonen, Tomas Kloucek, Tim Konsorada.
DALLAS Yared Hagos.
DETROIT Krystofer Kolanos.
FLORIDA Greg Jacina, Dustin Johner, Juraj Kolnik, Jeremy Swanson.
LOS ANGELES Barry Brust, Yutaka Fukufuji, Greg Hogeboom, Jamie Lundmark, Joey Mormina, Shay Stephenson.
MINNESOTA Adam Hall, Mike Madill, Mark Rooneem, Ryan Stokes, Mattias Weinhandl.
MONTREAL Michael Lambert.
NASHVILLE Ramzi Abid, Paul Brown, Chris Durno, Daniel Widing.
NEW JERSEY Tomas Harant, Bryan Miller, John Oduya.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS Brandon Cullen, Johan Halvardsson, Andy Hilbert, Billy Thompson.
NEW YORK RANGERS Lee Falardeau, Dwight Helminen, Jake Taylor.
OTTAWA Kelly Guard, Matt Koalska, Neil Komadoski, Grant Potulny, Bobby Robins, Ryan Vesce.
PHILADELPHIA Dimitri Afanasenkov, David Printz, Rosario Ruggeri.
PHOENIX Randall Gelech, Jakub Koreis, Lance Monych.
PITTSBURGH Andrew Penner.
ST. LOUIS Chris Beckford-Tseu, Jon DiSalvatore, Magnus Kahnberg, Doug Lynch, Aaron MacKenzie, Ryan Ramsay, Patrick Wellar.
SAN JOSE Michal Macho, Glenn Olson.
TAMPA BAY Morgan Cey, Brady Greco, Adam Henrich, John Toffey.
TORONTO Dominic D'Amour, Todd Ford, Tyson Marsh, Chris St. Jacques.
VANCOUVER Tyler Bouck.
WASHINGTON Maxime Daigneault, Jonas Johansson, Jiri Novotny, Louis Robitaille, Matt Stefanishion, Joey Tenute.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

NHL Coaches Offer Clinic To Youth Coaches at Prospects Tourny

Just read this article on about some of the NHL coaches whose teams are at the Traverse City prospects tournament doing a clinic for local youth coaches. Everyone from Mike Babcock and Bob Hartley to our own beloved goalie coach Bob Mason gave lectures to the collected coaches - for whom this must have been an invaluable (and once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity. After the lectures they coaches got to go watch the Wild team practice.

Again, this is just one of those things that you don't see coaches/managers from the NFL/NBA/MLB doing. The growth of hockey is largely dependent on growth from the grassroots levels - particularly in some of the "non-traditional markets". The willingness of hockey people to practice what they preach is a testament to their passion for the sport, and their decency as professionals.


Prospects Tourny Game 2

So much for a better showing this year...the Wild kids got spanked by the BJs kids yesterday 8-3. You can read the article here, and here are a couple thoughts:

Moises Gutierrez tallied two goals for the second straight game - with an assist from ersatz first round pick AJ Thelen on the second goal. Looks like this kid Gutierrez is really making a statement about getting an invite to camp!

Tyler Hirsch got his first goal, and had an assist in the first game. It would be awesome to see Tyler get it figured out and get back to playing hockey at a high level - which he is definitely capable of doing.

And, because I believe you have to take every opportunity given to you to say, print, type or read his name, Cal Clutterbuck earned an assist on Hirsch's goal.

Other than that it looks like a whole lot of ugly for the Wild.

Their next game is against the St. Louis kids on Monday at 3pm ET.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Prospects Tourny redux: Minny connections

Just read through the lineups for the Traverse City tournament, and thought I'd post the Minnesota connections for all the teams. Yup, I'm a giver.

Tampa Bay
Mike Lundin, D, Burnsville

St. Louis
Steve Wagner, D, Grand Rapids
Erik Johnson, D, Bloomington

New York Rangers
Mike Sauer, D, St. Cloud

Tyler Hirsch, F, Bloomington


Matt Niskanen, D, Virginia




Prospects Tourny

Last year the Wild boys stunk it up in this tourny. An horrendous showing that prompted DR to leave a lot of those guys off the training camp roster - and possibly was the touchstone for the dismal year in Houston (who really knows).

So last night, perhaps armed with the motivation of knowing that another crappy showing would ensure another quick trip to Houston (or, metaphorically speaking, points south), the Wild apparently "got it". reports that the boys in green and red trounced the Stars' prospects 5-1. Feel-good Cinderella story Moises Gutierrez scored not one but TWO goals (both in the first period), and He Who Must Be Named (because he owns the best name in hockey) Cal Clutterbuck also chipped in a pair. Former Gopher Danny Irmen (whose game I feel is well-suited to the NHL) had the other goal for the Wild.

Miroslav Kopriva went the distance for us, finishing with 26 saves.

Tommy T was in the audience and reportedly liked what he saw. It was also new Aeros' coach Kevin Constantine's first official game behind the bench in a Wild-related capacity. has a blog about the tournament that has some more info if you're interested.

The Wild's next game is today at 3pm ET against the BJs' prospects.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Wild Trivia

Just came across this looking up info for another query.

Who was the first player chosen by the Wild in the Expansion Draft in 2000 that never played a game for Minnesota?

I'll post the answer in a couple days.


Pens: They Do Marketing Right

Just read a cool story on about the Penguins sending out players to hand deliver season ticket packages to 24 randomly-drawn season ticket holders.

And I'm not talking about Rob Scuderi, either.

No, the Pens went all in on this one, sending out Evgeni Malkin, MA Fleury, Ryan Whitney, Colby Armstrong, Maxime Talbot, oh, and some kid named Crosby.

First, this is just a cool idea no matter who the players were.

But to send the best player in the league, your starting goalie, the 1A (Malkin) on the team....I mean that's just awesome.

No doubt Pens fans have been through a lot the past few years. So it's really refreshing to see that the team has it's priorities in line with regards to recognizing what it put the fans through.

How-how, Mario and Co.


My Whipping Boys: Skoula and PMB

It's well established that I can't stand Skoula. He makes mistakes that cost us goals or momentum at critical times, he doesn't score enough to justify his salary, and he isn't strong enough or consistent enough defensively to justify same.

I watched him when he came up with Colorado (I lived in Denver from 97-01) and he was maddeningly inconsistent then. But while you can give a rookie a pass for inconsistency, you can't do that for a guy that's been in the league as long as he has.

The only thing that gives me pause in my distrust of him is that JL seems to love him so much. Clearly I couldn't hold JL's jock when it comes to really anything about hockey, so the fact that he seems to have so much faith in Skoula is a little discomfiting to me.

PMB is a different case. My issue with PMB is that he's entirely one-dimensional, and he's small. Actually, his slight stature isn't the problem. If he was Theo Fleury it wouldn't be a problem. It's his apparent fear of contact COMBINED with his slight stature that's the issue. He's simply not a threat to shoot. He's fast, and that's a good thing. But how many times do we see him bust in on the rush ahead of everyone, realize that he's all alone in the offensive zone and wimp out and circle outside somewhere in the vicinity of the dots and look for a pass? Way too often.

To mark him your priorities are simple:

1. Try to make contact with him. Any kind of contact will do.
2. If #1 is unsuccessful, just play him to pass the puck.

I would like to see PMB dangled as trade bait while he's still young enough to be tagged with the "big time potential" label.


Circle The Date: January 24th, 2008

The New York Rangers have announced that they will retire the number 2 that was worn with such class by Brian Leetch on 1/24/08 at MSG. Leetch's number will be only the fourth to be retired by the Rangers (not including Gretzky's #99).

Brian is arguably the pre-eminent American-born defenseman in NHL history. He excelled at both ends of the rink, and kept his nose clean outside the arena as well. He was incredible in the '94 playoffs and instrumental in the Rangers' first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years - and was rewarded as the first American EVER to win the Conn Smythe for his efforts.

There isn't a defenseman out there who shouldn't aspire to be like Brian Leetch.


In Deference to the Many Minny Manny Fans Out There...'s my epilogue on his story with the Wild.

I never, ever had a problem with Manny. I think he's a high-second tier NHL goalie, capable of stealing a game (or a series!) when he's hot. I don't think he can become a top 10 goalie in the NHL. But I think he's a defensible choice as a #1 for a playoff candidate team (or a Cup contender with a great defense).

There was a lot of scuttle about whether or not Manny was a clubhouse problem. And the bottom line is I have no idea if there's anything to that. When it was reported that he said something stupid after a loss or whatever it was annoying to me, but I suspect that if we'd won the game that A) he wouldn't have made those comments and B) even if he had I wouldn't have cared. There's also the question of whether or not the comments ascribed to him were taken out of context. (No offense to the esteemed members of the fourth estate.)

The important thing was that I never got the feeling that Manny was giving anything less than 100% out on the ice. And that's all I can ask for. He incorporated the butterfly more and more into his game last season and you could tell he wasn't totally comfortable with when to use it and when not to - which is understandable under the circumstances.

So I wish him well in Boston.


AJ's Back?

Russo reported that the Wild have signed the mercurial kid from Savage to an AHL contract, and he's on the roster for the Prospects Tourny in Traverse City that starts today. (Also of note to Gopher fans is that Tyler Hirsch is also there on a tryout basis.)

We could discuss whether or not DR and Tommy T laid an egg by drafting AJ in the first place, but that's academic at this point.

Since we can't undo that pick, I think they've done a great job of handling the situation since the end of the season.

AJ's got some issues. Fine. I can accept that. He might not ever live up to his draft pick. Okay. That's a bit harder to swallow, but I'll get it down. Either he wants to be a NHLer or he doesn't. So the question becomes: can he be motivated?

I think dropping him for a compensatory pick (which we parlayed into moving up to draft Gillies) and then bringing him back into the fold for free is a stroke of genius. Hopefully he's embarassed and pissed off at the way his summer went. By all reports he had a good playoffs for Vancouver in helping them win the Memorial Cup last spring. So the best-case scenario here is that he uses this as the impetus to keep his head down and really focus on the proliferation of his hockey career.

He's playing for a contract, and he knows the best he can hope for from us is Houston right now. So our cards are all on the table. It's up to AJ now, for better or for worse.


Random Musings *Updated*

I'll be regurgitating little bits of collected half-thoughts and quasi-coherent ramblings periodically as I defrag the ol' supercomputer between the ears, as it were.

*Where you can find me -
Other than here I hang out most often at the following websites:
  • Mike Russo's blog "Russo's Rants" on the Star-Tribune's website. I post under the moniker "Nick in New York".
  • Chris Thompson's website I post under the moniker "nmhen".
  • Also under the moniker "nmhen".
  • The Calgary Flames fansite Still under the moniker "nmhen".
  • I just started reading the blog Wild Puck Banter, thanks to a link on Russo's blog. Definitely bookmark this one.
  • I also just started reading the blog Land of Lakes and Hockey, and it's another one Wild fans won't want to miss.

*Speaking of, Chris has given me free range to start a section on his message board to act as a support group for people who are afflicted by bad sports announcers and the stupid things they say. Yes, I'm talking about you Terhaar and Greenlay. Feel free to check it out.

*This whole new jersey thing is such a scam. I mean, who really cares? And does anyone NOT see that this is just a big marketing circle jerk for the league? The whole thing about doing away with third jerseys this season because RBK wasn't able to produce them was also total BS.

*I would love to be going to London for the Ducks/Kings season kickoff.

*Vanek is obscenely overpaid. But I'm still not sure where I stand on K-Lowe's RFA offer sheets from this summer. I understand that it's totally legal. I understand that it's also kind of a dick move. If the Oilers really have trouble luring FAs to Edmonton because they're the Oilers and/or they play in Edmonton, then that stinks for Grease fans. But that didn't seem to stop Souray. At some point money talks, you know?

*Thank goodness the NFL kicked off it's season last night. That means that hockey season is right around the corner!


Wherefore Art Thou "Hitting The Post"

We've all read hockey blogs. Okay, maybe not ALL of us. But most of us, no? Um, some of us? Whatever. You get the picture.

I have personally seen a few hockey blogs since God invented the blog.

It's actually a pretty good combination: hockey and blogging. The hockey fan being used to isolation and self-marginalization simply by associating himself with the sport, and blogging being essentially a passive-aggressive means of masturbatory ego-stroking. But I digress...

This is actually about my third attempt at writing a hockey blog. My previous attempts failed because I either focused too narrowly or got distracted by pregnant wives or new babies or total life overhauls. But no more! I am now Settled Into Life. And clearly this means that it's time to get back to writing about hockey.

For the record, I follow all levels of hockey. I grew up in Canada South (aka Minnesota) and fostered the love of the game alongside my thousands of fellow Gopher-staters. My appreciation for the game quickly surpassed my ability to play it and, though I do play in the beer leagues now (as a goalie), that is not the main manifestation of my participation in the sport. Instead I love watching hockey and talking/writing about it.

I follow the Minnesota Wild NHL team most closely. But, being that I have not lived in the State of Hockey since the Wild were born, I have been a slave to the NHL Center Ice cable package for going on 5 years now. In addition to being able to follow my beloved Wild this allows me to be able to watch A LOT of hockey during the season. I sort of pride myself on being a HOCKEY fan first, and a WILD fan second. In other words, though I'll always want the Wild to win, I try to appreciate a good play, game, season no matter which player or team it is - even if it means the Wild lose. In this way, I tend to abhor blatant homerism. I believe you can root for your team without blinders on. That every call against your team is NOT automatically wrong. That, to paraphrase Crash Davis, "sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes a huge blizzard postpones the game."

So I'll be offering my view on the world of hockey. I'm not Grapes. I'm not Fischler. I'm not even Eklund. I'm just a guy with a love of hockey and a computer.