Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Posts about Wild player moves

Weekend Lowdown with Jon Marthaler: Watch and wonder if Wild gave up too much in trade

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 8, 2014 - 9:29 AM

Game of the Week: Wild at Stars, 7:30pm today, FSN

It's the first game of the new-look Wild. Matt Moulson will be on the ice for Minnesota, and can start proving himself worthy of what his new team gave up for him. Until then, though, we have time to argue about the trade - and for me to tell you that the Wild gave up too much.

Torrey Mitchell, I don't consider too much; he was a third-line forward that ended up struggling on the fourth line, and if nothing else, it was a mercy trade, a chance for Mitchell to start over fresh. His departure also gives the Wild their second-best benefit of the trade - a chance to take Mitchell's $2.5 million salary for next year off the books.

Mitchell leaving is more or less a wash with Cody McCormick, the tough-guy forward who is likely to replace him at the bottom of the Wild lineup. But it's the two draft picks - a second-rounder this year, a second-rounder in 2016 - that make me wonder if the Wild got the raw end of the deal.

If all goes very, very well, Moulson will score eight, perhaps nine goals in a Wild uniform. He is a free agent when the year is up, which - given the Wild's position in the standings - it is likely to be after one round of the playoffs. Minnesota will likely have to play St. Louis or Chicago in the first round, and Moulson or no, they'll be heavy underdogs to either.

Second-round draft picks aren't exactly the crown jewels of the hockey kingdom, but neither are they worthless. The second round is where teams find second-line forwards and second-pairing defensemen, late-blooming goaltenders and future Selke Trophy winners. All draft picks carry the risk of being busts, of course, but the higher you go, the lower the chance.

So here's the trade: two future top-nine forwards for nine goals and $2.5 million, and an ever-so-slightly-increased chance of not exiting this year's playoffs immediately. That seems like a lot of future to give up for a little bit of present, which is the type of trade that Doug Risebrough always used to make -- which is part of the reason that Chuck Fletcher has been frantically digging in the prospect ditch for his entire tenure as general manager.

In other words, I wish the Wild hadn't made this trade. But I also hope that they'll prove me wrong.

What else to watch this weekend

11:25am today: Chelsea vs. Tottenham (NBCSN). Chelsea need a win to stay atop the league; Tottenham need a win to revive their chances of finishing in the top four. It's a game between a team with everything to lose, and one with everything to gain; now, can Tottenham actually score a goal, for once?

Noon today / 7pm today: State hockey championships (Channel 45). There's a short list of events that rise to the level of "cultural touchstone," that are the kind of event that you can ask others about, whether you know they're a hockey fan or even a sports fan. This is one of them. I recommend that you watch.

12:05 Sunday: Twins vs. Phillies (FSN). I'm going to keep putting baseball on the watch list until it warms up around here. Just one 65-degree day. That's all.

What to read this weekend

Kyle Wagner of Deadspin went to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and came away with the truth about the current state of sports analytics: there's great, useful data out there. But people are keeping it to themselves.

TFD: Here is new Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and his famous quote about the solar system

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 4, 2014 - 4:24 PM

The Wild just acquired the ultimate lightning in a bottle, awesome, crazy, weird goalie.

Ilya Bryzgalov could play five games in his Wild career and never stop a puck. He could take over in the playoffs and lead them to a Stanley Cup title. Neither would surprise us.

But before we think about all that, let's lay low for a little while and mellow out. Let's think about our place in this big, big universe ... and let ol' Ilya enlighten us all about how much it all really means. Stop a puck? Miss a puck? Does any of it matter?

Rocket's Red Glare: Is the Wild really better off than it was two years ago?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 2, 2011 - 2:50 PM


Commenter Rocket writes a weekly feature on hockey so we don't have to. As usual, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of RandBall or the Star Tribune. Or the Wild. We look forward to a vigorous debate in the comments. Rocket?



Hocku of the week

We wanted a change and said,
“Get rid of the trap”
Be careful what you wish for
The more things change…
The local mood concerning the Minnesota Wild seems to be slowly changing for the better. There are some easily identifiable reasons why this is so. The Wild is both the closest facsimile to a winner that anybody in Minnesota is going manufacture this winter and they are the closest thing a professional team in a major league sport is going to get to being the stereotypical protagonists in one of those hokey, Disneyesque sports movies. This rag-tag collection of lovable misfit millionaire professional hockey players has managed to stay in the playoff hunt despite having what might be generously called “balanced scoring.” Yet, this is also why they seem to be more enjoyable then they have been in the past. Every night somebody new is the hero, the old cliché goes. They also have the best looking uniforms in the league when they sport their green ensembles.
So, they seem like a good bunch of guys without a Sean Avery or Jarko Ruutu among them who look good out there in the green. I admit that I have also felt a growing sense of excitement concerning the team and have gone out of my way to follow them more closely than in the past. The anecdotal evidence might have one believe that the team is now more “watchable” as they have gained a greater grasp of coach Todd Richards’ system. Things are looking up for the franchise. Or are they?
Well, not exactly.
I really want to like this team, I really do. And I am appreciative that the squad is providing the only real excitement in the professional Minnesota sports scene (despite what RandBall’s disturbingly obsessive fixation on Kevin Love’s double-double streak would have you believe). But the Wild is not in a better place now then they were two years ago and the numbers suggest that it isn’t going to get any better any time soon.
Let me be clear about one point: I am not advocating that the Wild let go of Todd Richards. He seems capable and the team is obviously having a (slowly) growing measure of success under him. I also think that sports fans are an impatient lot who often refuse to let a coach get his feet wet before they call for his head, particularly in hockey where head coaches have about the same level of job security as a Middle Eastern dictator.
However, I do think that swapping out Jacques Lemaire for Richards was a bad idea, and that those of us who love hockey are deluding ourselves if we think that the new system is somehow more “watchable” than the old system. In the interest of full disclosure, when Lemaire left I begrudgingly agreed that it was probably time for him to go. But I’m not sure how one doesn’t regret the decision now.
[Editor's note: For the sake of factual correctness, it should be pointed out that Lemaire was not fired by the Wild].
Disagree? Are you one of those who thinks that the Wild is more watchable without Lemaire’s trap? Well, then how do you explain the fact that Lemaire’s post-lockout teams scored more goals per game (2.70) than Richards’ teams (2.60). The obvious answer is Marian Gaborik, but as I wrote about before, Gaborik is one of those players whose immense talent far outpaces his worth and he is proving it again. More importantly, Lemaire’s post-lockout teams gave up fewer goals per game (2.45) to Richards’ (2.74). Thus, Lemaire posted a positive goals for to goals against ratio with both numbers outshining his successor, whose own ratio is in the negative. Wins are better than losses and you get more wins when you score more goals than the other team. Lemaire’s teams did this and Richards’ haven’t.
Still not convinced? I will concede, for the sake of argument, that last year was going to be a painful year for the franchise no matter what, so let’s just stick with this year’s numbers. The Wild are basically scoring the same number of goals per game this year (2.59) that they are giving up (2.56). However, they are dead last in the league in shots per game at 26.1 (San Jose leads the league at 34.0) and are in the bottom third of the NHL in shots given up per game at 31.9. Not surprisingly, the New Jersey Devils, who are making an improbable run at the playoffs with Jacques Lemaire taking over behind the bench at midseason after a truly atrocious start, lead the league in this category at 27.0. While watching your team give up more shots and chances might generously be described as exciting I doubt it’s the type of excitement we were clamoring for when we were all convinced that the neutral zone trap was boring.
Again, I don’t think Richards should be fired. If management gives him more talent he seems like the kind of coach that could make a few things happen. But I do think that we’ve gotten a little too excited about this team because the rest of the Minnesota sports landscape is so bleak. This really isn’t a more watchable team than it has been in the past. Perhaps more disturbingly, given the current makeup of the roster, doesn’t it feel like the kind of team that Jacques Lemaire could have made some magic with? There is enough unselfish talent for this squad to be scary in the playoffs under Lemaire’s system. There might be enough pluck for this team to sneak into the playoffs and get drilled by Vancouver or Detroit under Richards’ system.

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