Fletch's year-long crusade for a viable 2nd line center has, finally, borne fruit. Or so he says. With the addition of Matt Cullen (a son of the Land of Sky Blue Waters returning "home" from the front, as it were) Fletch would have us believe he got his man. I sure hope he's right.
It was a long, arduous, probably frustrating year for Fletch. And it wasn't for lack of trying, obviously. But Fletch was not able to fill the role via trade, which means three things. First, that he had to take on net additional cap hit to fill the role. Second, that he had to pay the Free Agent Premium (3 years, $3.5M per). Third, that Cullen better work out for Fletch and the Wild.
I would say the Wild and its fans have done well by Fletch so far. I think Latendresse is a clear win, Zanon too, and the mere fact that he has been willing to make moves is a dramatic improvement over his predecessor. And I'm optimistic that Cullen will work out for the Wild. He certainly seems like a character guy, good hustle, good "compete", etc. All things the Wild seem to both lack - in this fan's eyes - and covet (judging by Fletch's own words.)
But, for all the Wild fans out there patting themselves on the back for getting a Minnesotan on the team, they may wish to reconcile their excitement against the feelings of other Wild fans who decried the last GM for his free agency forays that landed the likes of Kim Johnsson.
What will be very interesting to me is how the addition of a 2nd line center, at big dollars and a kid from Minny to boot, will change expectations from some of my fellow State of Hockeyers for the Wild this coming season.
Because, to me, the Wild with Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom, and less Boogaard, Nolan, Hnidy, Earl and Ebbett, is only marginally better than the 13th place-team from last season. Doubtless the desire will be to put higher expectations on them. And to the extent some of that will come simply from excitement, there's certainly nothing wrong with that. But Nystrom and Cullen do not make Bouchard's head better. And the little guy is the most gifted offensive player of that particular trio.
Now, man-for-man, I think there's some improvement. Boogaard needed to move on for the Wild to start getting better. Not that he was holding them back, but he was a big, huge door opener for the last couple seasons. And the team's skill level was falling behind at an alarming rate. So, Nystrom for Boogaard is an upgrade in every dimension but fisticuffs - but Boogaard was having trouble even getting other guys to drop with him by the end of his reign in St. Paul.
So, the Wild is marginally better today than it was yesterday. Some of that is addition by subtraction. Some of that is addition by addition. But this is not an upper echelon roster at this point. And, though the rhetoric about "look at what 8th seeds did this year" is tantalizing and intoxicating, there's also the theory of reversion to the mean.
Keep it real, Wild fans.