Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Parrish Waived

Another son of Minnesota cast aside by the in-state professional hockey team. As neat as it is to have "one of our own" on the squad, perhaps we should apply a little perspective to their on-ice contributions to-date before we yell ourselves hoarse clamoring for DR to sign another one.

I have nothing against Parrish, and hope he ends up playing hockey if that's what he wants.

I have nothing against Minnesota hockey players, either. But it's difficult to argue with the evidence that they tend to peak somewhere between college and the AHL.


Monday, July 28, 2008

The Hockey Ombudsman 7/28/08

Dear Hockey Ombudsman - I love hockey. I mean, I really love hockey. Can you love hockey too much?

- Hockey Lover

Dear Hockey Lover - The short answer is: yes, you can love hockey too much. I mean, it's not like you can love it so much that you get a rash or something, but loving anything more than you love yourself is a recipe for disaster.

If you are in a relationship then hockey shouldn't be more important than your significant other. Try to cut back, you know, during the off-season.

There are lots of little ways you can represent your love of hockey while doing non-hockey things. If you go to a party, you could be the "ice guy" and make sure everyone has adequate levels of ice in their beverages all night. That way you get to be social all night AND be near the smell of fresh ice.

But the bottom line is that you can love hockey too much. I mean, how else to explain Islanders fans?


Dear Hockey Ombudsman - Why does my team continue to raise ticket prices even though they still suck?

- Inflation Haterr

Dear Inflation Haterr - On the one hand, you could blame the escalating salary for the need to generate more income. You could also blame the NHL's overall lack of visibility in the United States of America for the general un-profitability of mass-media endeavors by the league - requiring teams to go out and raise capital in other ways. You could blame ESPN. You could blame Versus - but who would notice? You could blame Gary Bettman. You could blame Todd Bertuzzi.

You could blame a lot of things.But the bottom line is that your team continues to raise ticket prices even while they continue sucking because you keep paying for them.


The Hockey Ombudsman is here to help you. If you have hockey questions for the Hockey Ombudsman please submit them to hockeyombudsman@gmail.com.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

PMB Signs: $20.4/5 Years

Bouchard and the Wild avoid an aribitration hearing by agreeing on a five year, $20.4M contract including a "verbal" no-trade agreement for at least the first two years. While there may be some question as to exactly the ramifications of the "verbal" part of that pact, nonetheless it was enough to get a solid young player under contract at a cap-friendly term, and for a long time.

Kudos to Risebrough for getting another piece of the young core signed, sealed and delivered - and for good money. PMB, Burns, Schultz and Koivu are all signed for a minimum of three more seasons, at a TOTAL cap hit of just over $15M. That's a terrific number.

Kudos also to Bouchard for doing the team-first thing. There seems to be little question that he could have made more on the open market as a UFA next summer (barring a bad season or an injury) but he followed in the footsteps of Mikko, Nick and Brent before him by putting the team ahead of himself.

Now, it's on to Marian Gaborik as the final piece of this summer's puzzle for DR. If DR can spin the same web around Gaby that he spun around the other three this team should be complete - and a fairly complete team - by the time they get to Grand Forks.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

SRV Signs

Stephane Veilleux avoided an arbitration hearing on Monday by signing a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild today. According to Russo, Veilleux signed for $737,500 and a $125k signing bonus. That's $862K well-spent, as it does not break the bank (for a valuable, if replaceable player) and incents him to maintain his level of play all season - heading into UFA next summer.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard remains the sole Wild player not under contract.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Thoughts on a Schedule

We know the NHL does not make its' schedule necessarily for the fans, as there are many things to consider when the schedule involves moving 30 teams across well over 4 million square miles of real estate. Arena availability, collective bargaining agreements, TV contracts, and simple travel logistics are some of what items come into play when the league's Toronto-based minions sit down and hash out the schedule for the upcoming season. With all this being said, one thing is clear:

Somebody in the NHL Toronto offices REALLY hates the Minnesota Wild.

The way the 2008-09 schedule sets up, the Wild will be running virtually on fumes by the time they finally arrive at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on April 11th. What this blogger wants to know:

1. Why in the World did they not set the three New York area games up to be together? (Wild at New Jersey March 20; at the Rangers March 24, and the next night vs the Islanders at Nassau). A needless trip home (for one game vs. Edmonton March 22) forces the Wild into two more charter flights than needed for the same period. If you are going to treat the Wild like a Western Conference team, why not have them play all 3 games on the same road trip? You mean to tell me that of the 60 potential Wild home dates submitted by Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE, the Wild's corporate parent company) to the NHL offices earlier in 2008, you couldn't have found a better way to do this?

2. For the second consecutive season, 3 of the 4 Wild vs. St. Louis games are played before Christmas Day.

3. All 4 of the Wild vs. Chicago games are either on Sunday or Monday nights. Last season, 7 of the 8 Wild vs. Colorado games were on Sunday or Monday nights. What's up with that?

4. The Wild do not face division rival Edmonton (the team which gained the most from free agency in the Northwest Division) until January 15 -- 10 days before the All-Star Game.

5. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to run the Wild down to Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay in early October really needs to think this one ALL THE WAY through. Hello? Snowbirds not only come from Ontario and Quebec to the Southeast, OK?? How about those of us who winter in Minnesota and need some hockey with our winter thaw, eh?

6. Does the NHL want the Wild to be the 'spoiler' team in the Central Division? With 3 of their last four games versus Central opponents, you'd think that was the case!

7. Only seven home games after Feb. 25th. Seven. And only one on a weekend day (Sunday...see Item No. 1). Last season there were nine home games (4 on weekend days) in the month of March alone.

8. We're supposed to be 'happy' with 8 Saturday games, none of which are after Feb. 21? Yeah, right...

Needless to say, we fans will not see MSE traded on the Chicago Carbon Exchange anytime soon. Eco-friendly, this schedule is not, folks. Some of these trips are really poorly planned. Some of them are the, 'We really don't know where to put them on X date' trips. And still others would flat out get them in financial trouble, if not for the deep pockets of MSE. (Jet fuel isn't cheap, either.)

As I said, someone in Toronto hates the Minnesota Wild. What did they do to tick you off, pal? Not play in Toronto on Boxing Day again? (Awwwwwww...it's your own fault if that's the case!)

Oh, well. Back to road trip planning...

Veilleux Clears Waivers, and...

...heads to his Monday, July 21 arbitration hearing, safe in the knowledge the the Wild still retain his services after he cleared waivers. No one wanted him, even at the 'dumpster-diver' price of $15.000. Both sides will go before an arbitrator in Toronto Monday morning, the first day of NHL arbitration hearings. Assistant GM Tom Lynn will represent the Wild management in these proceedings. Written arguments are to be presented Saturday morning by 9:00 AM Eastern Time for review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'Schedule'-d Anxiety for Veilleux?

There's a bit of angst over at 317 Washington St. in St. Paul these days.

And it has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming Republican National Convention, Sept. 1st-4th.

It more has to do with two matters concerning the Minnesota Wild hockey team -- and its' legion of faithful fans, including you, dear blog reader -- which has arisen as free agency wanes and the upcoming arbitration hearings for restricted free agents loom.

One matter will, of course, settle itself at 11 AM Central time Thursday when the NHL releases the 2008-09 regular season schedule. The Wild (and its' fans) will know how to plan their lives for the next nine (or more, depending on playoffs) months.

I, your Wild Road Tripper, cannot wait. The Wild are guaranteed games at Tampa Bay (please, January, please!), Boston and the Nassau County Coliseum (not in January, thanks) vs. the Islanders. This is in addition to playing every Eastern Conference team at least once during the upcoming campaign. (Let's do better against the Southeast this time, OK, boys? 2-2-1 really sucked rocks last February & March. Of course, I attribute the two wins to the presence of the Road Tripper and his faithful wife at both the St. Pete Times Forum and BankAtlantic Center last February!)

The other matter, of course, is much more distressing. LW Stephane Veilleux has been put on waivers by the Wild. Their best overall checking forward, he epitomizes what we fans thought was the Wild long-term philosophy. 'Grown-in-house' talent, who will play defense first, and if they get offense in the deal, all the better. Veilleux had to cover the likes of Vinny Lecavalier, Olli Jokinen, Alexander Ovechkin (good luck there), not to mention the Iginlas, Forsbergs, Sakics, and Jonathan Cheechoos of the NHL.

Now why, do you ask, does this occur? Let's let Gordon Gekko, from the late 1980's movie 'Wall Street', tell you...

"Greed is good. Greed works."

But now, who really IS being greedy here? Veilleux? Or Wild management?

Veilleux, acting as his own agent (a practice frowned upon by the NHLPA) , wants similar money to Aaron Voros, who left the Wild for the much greener pastures of midtown Manhattan, where Voros signed a two-year, $2 Million deal with the New York Rangers. The thing is, Veilleux wants it from the Wild, not the Broadway Blueshirts.

So what do the increasingly frugal Wild do? 'Dollar' Doug Risebrough pulls the rug out from under Veilleux by putting him on waivers.

(Geez, Dougie. Nothing quite like setting direct player-management negotiation relations back a generation in one move, eh?)

The Wild want to show Veilleux that he is not worth as much as he THINKS he is. If no one claims him, he remains Wild property and heads for an arbitration hearing late in July in Toronto. he probably will get most, if not all of what he wants, and then, guess what?

Next summer -- when he will also be trying to re-sign (unless traded) the likes of Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and Marian Gaborik -- Veilleux will become an unrestricted free agent.
(Anyone tell Dougie that if he doesn't like dealing with player agents, that maybe he should change his tune just a little bit? He'll get his fill of player agents next summer, won't he?)

Now, I've never said that the Wild should just roll over and open the vault for Stephane. (After all, he's not the offensive threat of Gaborik.) But then again, the phrase 'penny-wise and pound-foolish' really comes into vogue here. A little compromise -- on BOTH sides -- can go a long way.

Veilleux plays a dangerous game. He sticks up for his teammates, 'mans up' when necessary and will actually drop 'em once in a while, and has shut his mouth and played. And learned. He has earned the respect of Jacques Lemaire and every real Wild fan, by making the best use of what abilities he has been given to pursue a hockey career. He normally faces some of the greatest players in our time and has to defend against them.

Who woulda' thunk that the most dangerous game Veilleux would have ever played would turn out like this?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild Still Tweaking

The Wild has made a couple smaller, low-end-of-the-depth-chart type moves over the last few days. Never-was defenseman Shawn Belle was traded to Montreal for minor-league center Corey Locke. And the Wild signed center Krys Kolanos (minors last season). These are depth moves, both with an eye on a relatively thin lineup at center. Kolanos helps fill the "must have several washed out former first round picks on the roster at all times" quota that Belle's departure left a hole in.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Roster Pretty Much Set

One week into free agency, and the Wild roster is more or less full. Here's a breakdown by position:




Foster *will start on IR


There's been a lot of talk about a lack of depth at center, but I feel like LW is a bigger question mark. There's a question mark over really each of the guys at that position, and at least at center the question marks are over recent first-round draft picks. Yes, a bona fide top 2 center would be great, but that would have to come via trade at this point - and we all know how afraid DR is to pull the trigger on a meaningful trade.

According to Russo, this roster carries a cap hit of just over $53M, leaving DR $3M and change to play with as the season unfolds.

I think the RWs are pretty solid, with nicely defined 1st through 4th line roles.

If anything, I think the defense is better (on paper) than it was last season.

I'm looking for Harding to earn half the starts this season.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bruno's Back! And a Friend For Marty


On day one of free agency, the Wild signed Andrew Brunette, late of the Avs. They also traded for Marek Zidlicky (Ryan Jones, 2nd round pick) who is a puck-moving defenseman and a countryman of much-maligned Martin Skoula.

Wild sign Craig Weller (mini-Fridge).

Wild sign Antti Miettinen.

Wild sign Owen Nolan.


They definitely lost Todd Fedoruk (PHO).
Aaron Voros also gone (NYR).
Rolston signs with the Devils.

Russo is covering this as well or better (read: timely) than anyone else I've seen on the web so far.

More as it develops.


WRT asks: "Did they improve?"

That is THE question, eh?

They have not replaced Rolston yet.

Bruno for Demo is, at worst, a push.

Queen MAB and now Zidlicky for Carney and Hill is, at worst, a slight improvement (in offense if nothing else, and I trust our coaches to teach these guys defense).

Weller (one way deal) is, at worst, a push with Voros/Fridge - and hopefully a better fighter.

Not to be too Pollyanna about it, but I feel like DR did okay in each of the areas that he addressed yesterday. Is he done? He better not be.

But so far, so good.


(and no, I won't be doing a recap of each and every day in free agency)

The Wild made pitches to several of the big name FAs, according to Russo, but were rebuffed by all.

As a side note, the tenor of Wild fans appears to have taken on a more onerous timbre as the team's most glaring holes (ie center, impact forward) continue to be left unfilled. I can't imagine it would play much with management, but there seems to be a growing sentiment of unrest among the natives.