Monday, August 9, 2010

Wild Sign Madden; Sheppard on Notice...Again

The Deconstruction of the Risebrough Era took another step when Fletcher signed John Madden the other day to an old-guy deal. $1.25M (including attainable bonuses) for a former Selke-quality pivot whose game January 25th will begin with an abbreviated ring ceremony at United Center.

Among other things, Fletcher inherited a team with gaping holes at center or at least at the skills good centers have - beyond their #1 center, anyway. Little things like, you know, winning faceoffs. And offense. And defense. And this move certainly helps shore up those holes.

Now it's true the Wild still doesn't have that drop dead all-world pure offensive 1st line center. But beggars can't be choosers. And Mikko wears the "first line" yoke more naturally than any of the other candidates for 1st line duty with the Wild.

So insert Madden. I thought (not that this was some big analysis) that Madden was a critical FA signing for the Hawks last season. That whole: "young team starts to put it together, suffers playoff heartache, must learn to lose in order to learn to win, really takes off when management brings in a mensch/Yoda figure to help get them over the hump" storyline.

I love that he's the forward version of Zanon. I love that he's been there. I love that he'll bust his ass to get back to break up a 2-on-1. He'd never had an awkward moment, so he tried one. (Oops...that was someone else.)

And, one of the by-products of this is that Master James Sheppard has....TA-DA! Competition! Sheppard's is a tragic tale of ill-placed promise and piss-poor career management by superiors. And Wild fans have turned on him. Ho-boy have they turned on him. Ask a Wild fan and they're likely to say that Shep's best chance at glory is if they ever do a movie about the '72 Summit Series and he gets cast as Henderson.

We've all seen how Shep's assumed the mantle (position?) in a pressure-free situation in the past. Sure it might have been before he was mature enough to handle it, but then again, he has been playing the game since he was three, dontchaknow.

Maybe he saw Casey Wellman as competition, maybe not. But now, with an old school NHL veteran, multi-cup winner breathing down his neck - not to mention his GM's comments in the paper, there's no way he can come to camp and claim "I didn't realize a roster spot wasn't guaranteed!"

Is this good or not?

Hard to say.

Wild fans seem resigned to losing Shep for nothing in return - just to get rid of him at this point. And, let's face it, nothing says "Minnesota Wild" more than losing former first rounders for nothing. But Wild fans also like to say contradictory things like "Shep is completely worthless but, if he gets waived, there's a 100% chance someone will claim him." Suffice it to say Sheppard has not engendered any good will, won any hearts or minds or garnered himself any currency with Wild fans.

It's hard to roast Risebrough for losing assets for no return and turn around and give the new guy a pass for doing the same thing. And, to me anyway, Fletcher has raised my expectations by getting Latendresse for Pouliot. So I'd like to get something for Sheppard. But, that's being mindful that just not having to talk about him might be getting something (read time) back on his departure.

For now, the important thing is that the Wild is one step closer to shutting the door at the end of one more dark, musty hallway in the Risebrough wing of Wild Mansion. That's good enough for me.


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