There’s no doubt Torrey Mitchell of the Buffalo Sabres is feeling a little badly this morning. Probably not as badly as he did more than six years ago when a reckless play he made almost ended Kurtis Foster’s career and helped inspire the NHL to change its icing rules, but pretty remorseful nonetheless.
If you need any further proof that some hockey players just don’t ever seem to get it, that no number of rules or suspensions will ever get them to change their ways, look no further Torrey Mitchell. Because if anyone should have realized the perils of pushing an opponent from behind into the boards, the way he did to Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson in a pre-season game Sunday night, it should be Mitchell. Read more
2013-14 record: 43-27-12
Acquisitions: Justin Falk, Jordan Schroeder, Joel Rechlicz, Stu Bickel, Thomas Vanek, Brett Sutter
Departures: Jake Dowell, Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Steve Kampfer, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson
Top five fantasy players: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Mikael Granlund
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: It was a slow, steady progression for Minnesota last season, from 94 (pro-rated) points to 98 points, from a No. 8 seed to a No. 7 seed, from the first round of the playoffs to the second. None of it was a fluke. The Wild own one of the NHL’s elite farm systems, and it was only a matter of time before the young guns made significant impacts at the NHL level. Blueliner Jonas Brodin did it in 2012-13, and last season was Mikael Granlund’s turn to break out. He’s matured into a legit top-two center, and he’s nowhere near his ceiling. Charlie Coyle looks like a handy power forward and Nino Niederreiter, a high-end prospect acquired from the Islanders, scores in the clutch and hits like a truck. Bruising blueliner Mathew Dumba could make a leap this season, too. Read more
Since the Minnesota Wild first appeared on an NHL ice rink in 2000, they’ve been relatively free of out-of-the-ordinary drama. But their goaltending predicament is shaping up to be one of the league’s most intriguing sagas to monitor this season – and that was before Thursday, when the franchise suspended presumptive No. 1 Josh Harding after he got into an altercation with a teammate, kicked a wall and fractured his foot.
Harding is expected to be sidelined for months by the injury, and left the team with little choice but to come down hard on him. Details of the scuffle he engaged in (including the name of the teammate he clashed with) weren’t made public, but by suspending him, the Wild took his $1.9 million salary cap hit off the books and gave that money to restricted free agent Darcy Kuemper.
But even then, Minnesota’s goaltending saga is far from settled. Read more
No one has ever understood goaltenders. From Hall of Fame puker Glenn Hall to wall-kicking Josh Harding, they’re a breed apart and considering the dangerous occupation they chose, perhaps they can be forgiven for their eccentricities. Recently, it’s been very difficult to figure out who will dominate the Vezina Trophy race. But with some help from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, here’s a look at 10 goalies who might have down years. Quality Starts percentage refers to games in which a goalie had a .917 save percentage when facing more than 20 shots (.885 when facing 20 shots or less). Vollman averaged out the past three seasons to get his results.
It’s a tough time to play goalie for the Minnesota Wild. Josh Harding, fresh off an outstanding season in which he led the league in goals-against average and save percentage, already had a major hurdle to climb two days ago. Multiple sclerosis would limit his ability to handle a full starter’s workload. Things went from bad to worse for Harding Wednesday when he broke his foot. The details remain foggy, but so far we know Harding kicked a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate. He’s out indefinitely.
Next up is Darcy Kuemper, 24, who was good but not great in chunks of starting duty last season. In theory, he could step right into Harding’s role, but he’s a restricted free agent and contract talks have not gone well. Wild coach Mike Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher publicly expressed their frustration about the process. Kuemper has even threatened to bolt for the Kontinental League. Kuemper wants a one-way deal, but the Wild prefer a two-way. Kuemper apparently hasn’t quite played well enough to win the organization’s confidence.
That leaves Niklas Backstrom as the “sure thing.” The Finn is 36 and fresh off core muscle surgery. He looked like a shell of his old self when he did play last season. He’s supposedly healthy now, but he’s only healthy relative to his 2013-14 self.
Minnesota’s net situation is dire enough that GM Chuck Fletcher invited Ilya Bryzgalov back for a training camp tryout. Bryzgalov accepted. Maybe Fletcher simply wants to up the heat on Kuemper’s camp. Or maybe the Wild believe they can get by with a Backstrom/Bryzgalov tandem. Bryz was brilliant at times for Minnesota down the stretch last spring after coming over at the trade deadline, going 7-1-3 with a 2.12 GAA and .911 SP. He left a lot to be desired in the playoffs, however, losing six of nine starts with a yucky .885 SP. That’s the problem with Bryzgalov. You never know when he might Bryzgalov things up.
And that’s where I see an opportunity in Minnesota. Martin Brodeur, this is your cue.
The annual Traverse City prospects tournament is in the books for another year and this time, Columbus came out on top despite losing 2014 first-rounder Sonny Milano in the first game.
Despite boasting some of the biggest names in the tournament, the Sabres ended up dead-last, losing to the Blues in their final match to go winless overall. Coach Chadd Cassidy believes bad starts doomed the squad and the fairly young group just couldn’t get over the pressure once they got down.
But how did the individuals fare at the tourney? Here are my thoughts on players from the first four teams. Since games were staggered between two rinks, I saw more of some squads than others and the amount of reports reflects that.
Bob Suter was remembered as the genuine article both on and off the ice, a Midwestern boy whose easy-going nature was contrasted on the ice by a physical presence that helped the U.S. Olympic team win the gold medal in 1980. Suter, 57, also the father of Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died of an apparent heart attack in Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon.
Former Miracle on Ice teammate and four-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Morrow patrolled the blueline for the American team in 1980 along with Suter. On a team that was known for its speed and finesse, Suter was a physical presence who did the heavy lifting for the Americans.
“He was just rock-solid, on and off the ice,” said Morrow, who is now a pro scout for the Islanders. “We used to call him ‘Bam-Bam’. He loved to hit and he was probably one of the fiercest, most physical guys I ever played with.” Read more
In May of 2011, Derek Boogaard was found dead in a Minneapolis apartment after accidentally overdosing on painkillers he took while consuming alcohol.
According to a Fox report, two men were arrested Tuesday in connection to Boogaard’s death: Oscar Johnson, a physician’s assistant from Utah, and Jordan Hart, son of former New York Islander Gerry Hart: Read more