Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thoughts on Savard, Granlund

by NiNY

Just brutal news about Marc Savard.

And I can't even muster up any righteous indignation at the Cookes and Hunwicks of the league. Sooner or later, it seems, Savard was going to take the hit - legal or not - that rendered him hors de combat.

Sort of like how so many kids/people are developing allergies than back in the olden days, the concussion epidemic has really moved to the fore in sports over the last years it seems.

And, to get one is a black mark on your service record. To get two, well now you're just circling the drain. A hockey player's career is a short one to begin with (check out this awesome data dump from the guys over at and getting dinged for a coupla thumps on the melon puts you At Risk from that point-on.

Which makes me think about Mikael Granlund. How many concussions has he actually endured at this point? Of all the new(er) Wild prospects, he's the one high-level guy I'm really nervous about - because we just don't know about his concussion situation. Obviously I hope it's nothing. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind with him.

Best of Hockey On the Web Poll

by NiNY

I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty excited and antsy for the NHL season to begin. Prospects Tourneys, training camp, pre-season games....then the big show!

So, because I'm jonesing, I thought I'd toss up a little poll. I want to find out (in the most scientific way possible, of course), what the most-popular sites are for hockey consumers.

So, please take a moment to respond to the following questions. Then I'll tally and post the results.

1. Your friend calls and says your team just made a big announcement. What website do you go to first to check it out?

2. Your friend calls and says the league just handed down a big suspension to the doosh you hate. What website do you go to first to check it out?

3. Who is your favorite hockey columnist?

4. What's your go-to site for salary cap, contract info?

5. What's your go-to site for trade info?

6. What's your go-to site for historical stats/data?

7. What site do you camp out at (and hit F5 over and over again) on trade deadline day?

8. What's your guilty pleasure hockey site?

9. What's your go-to site for non-NHL hockey?

10. Do you write for a site or blog? If so, which one?

I'm looking forward to your answers!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fletcher (Almost) Completely Free

by NiNY

With the weekend news that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had traded James Sheppard to (you guessed it) San Jose for a 3rd round pick, I immediately thought about Doug Risebrough.

More specifically, the job Riser did (or didn't do, as the case may be) in setting up the team that Fletcher inherited.

There was the lack of top-end scoring amid the murder of third and fourth-line muckers at forward. There was a fairly solid defense, anchored by Kim Johnsson, Brent Burns and Nick Schultz (with a little Marek Zidlicky thrown in for offense). There was Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding in goal.

Down in Houston there was.... well there just wasn't a hell of a lot. At least not a lot that projected to fill the more-gaping holes (e.g. top end scoring talent) already in the roster.

It couldn't have been a pretty sight to Fletcher, but, as it was his first kick at the NHL can as GM, he bucked up and stiff-upper-lipped it.

To be fair, Fletcher has made some knee-jerk moves that didn't really work out so well. Divesting 2nd round picks for the likes of Chuck Kobasew jumps immediately to mind. And, at first, he was not immune to the intoxicating powers of free agency, as the over-payment of Eric Nystrom indicates.

But even in Fletcher's early days there were signs that he isn't the same man that Riser is. Scoffing at the Rangers ridiculous offer for Derek Boogaard (RIP) was one such sign. Dealing with the impending Mikko Koivu contract issue well in advance of the danger zone (and eons before Riser would have) was another one.

And this summer he's come full-around to the realization that it's impossible to play for today and build for the future simultaneously. He has moved to address the lack of high-end offensive talent dramatically (albeit with youth) the past two off-seasons. He has been willing to admit mistakes and move to correct them. He has been pro-active. He has been crafty. He has not come out and chastised the fans for harboring unrealistic expectations.

And now, after shedding Sheppard, Fletcher is nearly free of the chains of Riser's failures that have imprisoned him since he started.

No, there isn't a Pittsburgh-like amount of top-end talent on the NHL roster yet. But, trading Andrew Brunette (respect) and Antti Miettinen (dos vydanya) for some combination of PM Bouchard, Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley is a major upgrade (on paper, anyway).

Riser's lack of first round success in harvesting top-end talent will likely be his longest-lasting blight on the franchise. But the kids are coming - and they look pretty good. Is there a chance a Jonas Brodin turns into a Cam Barker? Sure there is - you never really know at the draft. Is there a chance a Mikael Granlund turns into an Alexandre Daigle? Yes; same reasoning.

So we reserve final judgment until it's prudent to judge. But Fletcher has bought himself the one thing that Riser ultimately ran out of: patience from the fans. Which, given what we went through leading up to the end of Riser's tenure, was not something many of us were going to be willing to sell very cheaply, regardless of who replaced Riser.

But, for now, I'm calling it: the stink of Doug Risebrough is all-but dissipated from the Wild. And a new day, with new expecations, starts now.

It's your team, Chuck.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Burns Deal Justifies Trade


Rare is the Minnesota Wild fan who doesn't at least have a soft spot in their heart for lovable, talented Brent Burns. He will be missed as much for his affable, easy going personality as for his upper-echelon (among defensemen) offensive skills on the Minnesota blue line.

That being said, he had to be traded if the Wild was going to try to change the culture of an organization for which mediocrity had become the norm.

You trade from strength. And given both the progress of some of the young defensemen in the system (on display during Houston's run to the Calder Cup Final) and the upper-echelon offensive skills of Marek Zidlicky (not the same flavor as Burns' offensive skills, per se, but still ice cream) already on the team, Burns would have represented a position of strength for the Wild.

But, entering a contract year, and represented by an agent who has had a, shall we say, checkered past with the Minnesota organization, and Fletcher had to at least look. And what he found when he looked was an eager dance partner in Doug Wilson.

That's all history.

What we have today is news of the 5-year extension that Burns agreed to with San Jose that will pay him $28.8M over those five years, for an average cap hit of $5.76M. Burns will make $3.55M this season.

This new deal would make Burns the 10th-highest paid defenseman in the NHL, according to, edging Andrei Markov down from 10th to 11th.

Now we all know Burns has top-ten offensive skills. But his defensive skills, or more accurately his ability to maximize them consistently, would rank decidedly lower than top-ten in the league. Nonetheless, you overpay for offensive defensemen, as the Wild did with Zidlicky for example.

But where this gets interesting is when you start looking at the Wild's financial situation after the '11-12 season, and try to envision Burns and this $5.76M fitting into it.

As of today, on, the Wild has $45.66M committed to 14 players heading into the '12-13 season. That includes the Barker buyout. The salary cap for the '11-12 season is $64.3M. Zanon is also in a UFA contract season in '11-12, so Fletcher has to make a decision on him at some point that could increase our expenditure.

That $45.66M is divided up between 9 forwards, 4 defensemen and 1 goalie. If you add Burns' $5.76M onto that you're at 15 players, including 5 defensemen, and $51.42M committed. Let's assume a modest increase in the salary cap, and use $65M as a nice, round number.

So you've got $13.58M left over to find three forwards, one defenseman and a goalie.

Oh and you also have to re-sign Gui Latendresse who is a RFA after this season. Assuming you at least qualify him, you're adding at least $2.5M (100% of previous contract for a player making $1M or more) right there. So now we're at 10 forwards, 5 defensemen, 1 goalie and $53.92M committed. And that's only if Latendresse signs for exactly the same amount that he will have made this season. If he gets healthy and puts up some numbers (in a contract year) then he could easily command more than $2.5M.

So now we need 2 forwards, 1 defenseman and a goalie, and you have $11.08M left to spend. Brodziak ($1.15M) and Staubitz ($575k) are both UFAs after '11-12 and cheap. Say you sign them to fill out your forwards. That means you're at 12 forwards, 5 defensemen and 1 goalie and $55.645M committed.

But weren't you hoping Granlund at least comes over next season? What's his contract going to look like? And Brodin's already got a contract. Is he ready for NHL blueline duty? Maybe he earns a spot in camp next year. Russo reported that his cap hit would be $1.475M with bonuses.

And figure a million for a backup goalie.

And this is all to fill out to 20. Do they want to carry an extra forward or defenseman? At the start of the '12-13 season Bouchard, Cullen, Nystrom, Zidlicky and Backstrom are all entering UFA contract seasons. Presumably Fletcher will want to sign at least a couple of those guys. And Clutterbuck, Gillies, Scandella and Spurgeon will all be entering RFA contract seasons and likewise some of them will warrant new deals.

AND we still haven't reconciled this with Fletcher's stated desire to be more middle-of-the-pack, cap-wise, until the team is ready to take the next step towards true contention. In other words, they don't want to spend to the cap right now. Will they be that much closer to the expectation of a solid playoff run in the '12-13 season?

The point here is that, while Burns brings undeniable offensive skill to the team (which is something that every team wants), he would have likely been nearly prohibitively expensive for the Wild to re-sign, anyway.

Instead, Fletcher turned Burns into Setoguchi, Coyle and Phillips, significantly upgraded his weakest point (young offensive forwards) and stayed true to his economic vision at the same time.

That, my friends, is how a real GM gets it done.