Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Minnesota Wild 2010 Schedule Thoughts

Minnesota Wild winger and fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck
The Minnesota Wild released their schedule on June 22 for the upcoming 2010-2011 season. The Wild will open their season on October 7th against the Carolina Hurricanes. It is neither in Minnesota nor Carolina. The game will be played in Finland. Yes, Finland. Actually, the first 2 games of the season will be played in Finland against the Hurricanes. The Minnesota Wild feature Finnish cover boy Mikko Koivu, Antii Miettinen, and goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Not to mention the Wild just drafted Finland star Mikael Granlund. This will be the first international game for the Wild.

Of course there are 80 other games on the Minnesota Wild's 2010-2011 schedule. Here are some notes and games I am looking forward to on the schedule:

-40 home games, 40 away games, 2 games in Finland
-The Wild will play each team in the Northwest Division 6 times (24 games total)
-Will play Western Conference's Pacific and Central Division teams 4 times each (totalling 40 games)
-18 games against the Eastern Conference
-vs. Chicago Blackhawks Oct. 30, Feb. 28
-vs. New York Rangers Nov. 20 (Gaborik may actually play this time around, who knows)
-vs. Nashville Predators Dec. 31 (Friday, New Year's Eve game)
-vs. Dallas April 10 (last game of the season)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grading the Minnesota Wild 2010 NHL Draft

Minnesota Wild 1st Round Pick Mikael Granlund
The Minnesota Wild completed their 2010 NHL Draft over the weekend in Los Angeles. They collected 6 new picks, 5 of whom are forwards, which can only help the Minnesota Wild. With the #9 overall pick, Minnesota selected Finnish center Mikael Granlund. Only 18 years old, Granlund is said to possess strong skating and playmaking abilities. At 5'10 the Wild believe what he makes up for in size is his vision and high hockey IQ. He amassed 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) while playing 43 games in one of Finland's most competitive leagues. The plan is believed to have Granlund stay another year in Finland before trying to jump into the NHL.

The Wild then selected three forwards in the 2nd round of the draft. With the #39 pick, Minnesota selected Canadian native Brett Bulmer of the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. Claimed to be a bit of a project pick, Minnesota hopes that Bulmer is just on his way to reaching his potential. He plays right-wing and shot up mock drafts in the last few months. With the #56 pick, Minnesota drafted Johan Larsson, a left-wing from Sweden. He led Sweden to a Silver medal in the U-18 World Championships this year and scored 34 points in 40 games in his Swedish league. The final pick of the second round for Minnesota was left-wing Jason Zucker at #59. Zucker is from Las Vegas, Nevada and became the first Las Vegas native to ever be drafted. Jason Zucker played for the United States Under 18-NTDP Team and led the team with 29 goals last season. He's described as a fierce competitor, that plays with edge and a lot of passion.

Minnesota didn't have a pick until the 6th round when it selected Swedish goalie Johan Gustafsson, which was considered a quality draft pick, not necessarily a need position. Former Wild Assistant GM Tommy Thompson had Gustafsson at #44 overall in his rankings. He is considered a big and athletic goalie, with a ton of upside. The Minnesota Wild's final pick was Canadian Dylen McKinlay, drafted at #189 in the 7th round. He played last season for the WHL's Chilliwack Bruins, amassing 20 goals and 42 points in 72 games.

Overall, as a Minnesota Wild fan you have to be pleased. Recognizing the need for scoring, General Manager Chuck Fletcher selected five forwards with a lot of potential and possibly a steal in the 6th round with the Swedish goalie Gustafsson. If the five drafted can develop into NHL caliber players, then the Wild would help their goal scoring issues. Again, time will tell.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 NHL Draft Wild Thoughts

The Wild celebrate a victory at the Xcel Energy Center
This weekend is important for the Minnesota Wild. On June 25 and 26, the Wild have a chance to select at least seven players in the 2010 NHL Draft. With four picks within the first seventy, Minnesota has a great opportunity to select some impact players. After losing star forward Marian Gaborik last offseason to free agency, the Wild really need some goal scoring forwards. They only had 4 players score 20 goals or more last season, with Guillaume Latendresse netting 27 for the team lead. If the Wild are going to contend with the NHL's best, they will need more depth at forward. A talented forward who can put the puck in the net is just what the fanbase could use.

The last two first round picks have been defensemen, one of which they traded in Nick Leddy. Minnesota has some quality players at defense right now with Marek Zidlicky, Cam Barker, Brent Burns, Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz, and prospects Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella ready to come up. The first pick Minnesota will have will be the #9 spot in the 1st round. Some options at #9 are forwards Brett Connolly, Jeff Skinner, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johansen, Alex Burmistrov, and Mikael Granlund. The general consensus is that the Wild will definitely select a forward this year and the hope is that player can be the star they desire. Definitely an exciting weekend for a Wild fan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

James Sheppard Gets One Year Deal

James Sheppard prepares for a faceoff
James Sheppard agreed to a 1 year contract worth up to $803,250 with the Minnesota Wild last week. As many Wild fans are aware of, James Sheppard has been an underachiever in his tenure with the Wild. Drafted 9th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, Sheppard has yet to attain 25 points in a season although playing in 78, 82, and 64 games in three seasons. In a season in which General Manager Chuck Fletcher traded 2009 1st round pick Nick Leddy, as well as 2005 1st round pick Benoit Pouliot, resigning James Sheppard was not a guarantee. Last season was James Sheppard's lowest scoring output, registering 6 points in 64 games. James Sheppard must elevate his play next season with the Minnesota Wild if he ever wants to validate his first round selection. In today's NHL 1st round selections (especially top ten) are brought in to be contributors, not role players. James Sheppard's disappointment has hurt the Minnesota Wild's offense which only averaged 2.61 goals a game last season. If Sheppard can elevate his game and get on the scoring sheet, he could salvage his career. After all, Sheppard is still only 22 and with the right players around him he could flourish.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stanley Cup 2010: Congratulations Chicago Blackhawks!

The Chicago Blackhawks celebrating the Stanley Cup VictoryI know that the celebration for the Stanley Cup is long over, but I haven’t had a chance to post lately, so in the name of good sportsmanship (and the fact that my team didn’t even get close) I wanted to congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks on the 2010 Stanley Cup Title. Not only had the Chicago Blackhawks not appeared in the Stanley Cup playoffs in quite some time making the 2010 Stanley Cup that much better for Chicago Blackhawks fans, they also won in game 6 on the road, a rare and challenging feat in Stanley Cup history. So, although it wasn’t the MN Wild… Congratulations Chicago Blackhawks.

Here is to hoping this time next year my blog will read 2011 Stanley Cup Title goes to the Minnesota Wild!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals 2010 Showdown

The Blackhawks can hoist the Stanley Cup tomorrow night if they can secure a road win tomorrow in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Blackhawks played stellar on Sunday, but they were on their home ice in front of their home fans and so far the Blackhawks are 0-3 this season at Wachovia Center Philly. Those flyers fans are intense and you can bet the Flyers are going to give it their all to stay alive and force Game 7 to create the ultimate Stanley Cup Finals 2010 showdown. I will be glued to the TV tomorrow night. I am not just an MN Wild Freak…I am a HOCKEY FREAK...I love this time of year.

Friday, June 4, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Update, Can the Flyers come back?

Blackhawks and Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals The Chicago Blackhawks lead the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in the best of 7 2010 Stanley Cup Series. Critics expected the match-up to be a much more balanced series, with the teams going one for one right up to game 7, yet the Chicago Blackhawks have outskated and outscored the Flyers, proving that perhaps they just want it a bit more.

Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers are on their own ice, with the game starting at 8:00, Sunday the teams play in Chicago at 8:00. If the Flyers pull out a win in either game, games 6 and 7 are scheduled for Wednesday June 9th and Friday June 11th. Check back here for game by game Stanley Cup Series updates.