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ISABELLA… NHL Update; the annual NHL Entry Draft was held last Friday-Saturday in Dallas and from what I can tell, from analysts, some scouts and a lot of the Minnesota Wild fanbase, no one is jumping up and down at the selections made. I’m not gripping too much; the draft positions of the club weren’t great, and this was destined to be a draft that didn’t feature many NHL ready prospects. I didn’t have high expectations going in so I’m not steaming from the forehead. The clubs first choice, Filip Johansson, is a defenseman from Leksands Jr. team in the Swedish Hockey League. He just turned 18 in March, so he is relatively young, and he is not ready to play in the NHL, and perhaps not even ready for a minor league assignment. The best reports on him basically said that he has a high IQ, is a smart player and doesn’t make glaring costly mistakes. Can he develop? I’ve no opinion on that. Overall the club chose 2 D-men, 5 Centers and a Right Wing. No Goalies were picked as I had stated I would do right off the hop…
IN A REVIEW of last week, my quick read on the team is basically that it is time for some hockey honesty here. This club isn’t ready to win a Cup, nor will they be with a few “tweaks” as owner Craig Leipold seems to believe. I understand his outlook. Managing a fan base with high expectations can be fear inducing for someone with this massive of an investment. And it’s no secret the Wild fan base is getting a bit more restless every year a playoff appearance goes down in flames. But that’s exactly why it’s time to flip it over and shake it out. Start making victory decisions instead of business decisions. Like I have said, don’t be stupid and careless, but don’t be stupid and careless. Pro sports aren’t like running a Dairy Queen. If you have a vision with a positive, achievable goal in sight, I think Leo would be surprised at how many fans would be on board with him. I am a Minnesotan to the very core of my maroon and gold, green and gold and green and red hockey loving heart. I have been around or in the game since the early sixties. I’ll be 64 this fall. If I am lucky enough to have another 20 years here, I’d love to see a Stanley Cup Champion begin with the word “Minnesota” at least once before I croak. I mean, I’ve already had 50 years of NHL angst…
A summation of netminder Devan “Duby” Dubnyk’s Wild years would be that the club has had strong regular season performance and that’s what has enabled them to get into the playoffs all four of his years with the club. But this is a team that had to battle tooth and nail for at least the last 3rd of those seasons just to get in and was probably in less then good shape by the time the tourney began. They topped STL in the 1st round of his 1st Wild playoff year then were swept by eventual Cup winner Chicago. They have went 4-12 in the following 3 playoffs, all first round losses. Of these three, Duby’s best playoff run featured a 1.86 GAA with a .925 SP. More often then not you would win a series with those numbers. The team didn’t and now after consecutive 1-4 playoff series, Duby is 32 and for me, the team needs to find at least two future replacements and begin the development process, like now. Rumors in the TC have new GM Paul Fenton looking for a new backup to Dubnyk. Why? The club is not winning the Cup, so I’d be inclined to hold on to Alex Stalock. I also would have drafted the two goalies I mentioned last week. They were each selected by the way, with the first goalie not taken until the 62nd pick. (Olivier Rodrigue) Jakeb Skarek went at 72 and Alexis Gravel went at 162. The Wild drafted NO netminders. This is short sighted and plays to Leo’s ‘tweaking” theme.
FOR SKATERS, I feel that at least half of the 12 forward spots need new blood, and by the time you get toward the end of a five-year project, you might be looking at 10-12 replacements. For defensemen, I see the need for 3 right now considering depth necessities. This represents a major turnover of the team’s big roster. And if we are eschewing the draft and develop model, then we are relegated to trades or free agent signings to tweak. But once again, I’m not interested in a tweak. I’m going to rebuild, place a timeline on that and get busy. Before the entry draft even occurred, I’m deciding who is staying and who is going. I might not be able to draft their replacement right away, but that’s ok, it’s a process, and if it diminishes the clubs shot at the playoffs or lessens our won-loss record, that’s fine because that will get me into the top 5, or hopefully a top three draft position in due course. And I’m hoping like hades it’s a year where there is a Sid Crosby, Connor McDavid or Austen Matthews type player available. Because if there is, that’s like hitting the jackpot. Obviously, it takes more then one player, but having that guy and the ability to build around him gets the process going. Right now, we are wasting time thinking we can tweak our way to a Cup. We can’t. It’s that simple.
Fenton has been gauging trade value on Jason Zucker, Nino Neiderreiter and Jared Spurgeon and has requested updated “no trade” lists from Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle and Devan Dubnyk. Does this mean anything will happen with these players? No, any GM usually has a good meter on what all his players are worth to other clubs, and the updated lists might just be for a just-in-case scenario. In the free agent world, Wild forward Daniel Winnik is ranked 57th of available UFA’s. For RFA’s Jason Zucker is ranked at 18th best available, and Matt Dumba at 20th best. U=Unrestricted and R=Restricted for those not in the know. In a UFA status the player has freedom of movement, and in an RFA status the club still holds most of the rights. It is unusual for a team to lose players in an RFA situation, but it happens every blue moon. In some case’s another club will table an offer forcing the team holding that players rights to match the offer and/or overpay to retain. One such situation caused some serious bad blood a few years back. NEXT WEEK; a final analysis and summation of what I will do in the 5-year timeframe to propel the Wild to a Cup win… PEACE