FGD: Rookies and Liabilities All the Way Down



There were Great Expectations in Minnesota after their hot start last year and big free agent additions this summer. The stats-inclined amongst us remained skeptical and indeed with a .500 start through the early going and bottom of the league possession numbers, the Wild remain one of the least intimidating opponents in the league currently.

The Flames aren’t exactly imposing either, of course. Without Cammalleri and Backlund once again, they will be dressing two rookies on their second line. Not to mention the rookie in net who is playing with the knowledge he will probably be waived and demoted almost as soon as the final buzzer sounds.

Calgary was noticeably exposed against the Canucks on Saturday night in light of these issues, so they can’t exactly take anyone lightly at this point. Particularly since they have to start collecting points soon before the early season hole becomes too deep to dig out of. With just 8 points in 9 games and currently sitting 12th in the Western Conference, the Flames are in danger of falling too far behind the pack out of the gate if they continue to lose for much longer.

The bad news for the Wild is their spending spree has only marginally improved the club over last year’s Cinderella edition. Ryan Suter is playing in the top-4, has a respectably easy zone start (54%) and is getting absolutely buried in terms of possession (-11.95/60). In fact, his corsi is the worst amongst regular Wild blueliners, which should be especially alarming for Minny’s decision makers given how much money they invested in him. It’s early so it’s possible Suter will reel things in, but those are poor early returns. 

Zach Parise has been better and is one of the few Wild forwards above water. He hasn’t turned them into instant contenders or anything, but there’s no question the Wild’s top line is much more dangerous now and will be the primary concern for the Flames this evening.

The Line-up

Nothing changes from the Canucks game aside from Sarich drawing in for Derek Smith. And for good reason – Smith had a dreadful night in Vancouver. Babchuk remains a healthy scratch (FOR NOW).

  • Glencross – Tanguay – Iginla
  • Cervenka – Street – Hudler
  • Comeau – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Begin – Jones – Jackman
  • Bouwmeester – Giordano
  • Brodie – Wideman
  • Sarich – Butler
  • Irving

Stempniak continues to be good on the third line, generating another goal and a few chances on Saturday night, but that unit wasn’t as noticable sans Backlund. The second line was also very quiet with Ben Street in the middle. He has had a good few years in the AHL but Street struggled to do anything of note in his first NHL contest for the Flames. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to translate things at this level.

The Opposition

Parise and Koivu are the big guns here. Cal Clutterbuck is a really good middle-tier, shut-down player (although he’s known more as a hitter/agitator) and Kyle Brodziak is a capable 3rd line type center.

  • Parise – Koivu – Coyle
  • Heatley – Granlund – Setoguchi
  • Cullen – Brodziak – Clutterbuck
  • Bouchard – Konopka – Rupp
  • Suter – Brodin
  • Stoner – Gilbert
  • Falk – Prosser
  • Backstrom

The Wild’s second line is probably a lot more famous than it is effective. Mikael Granlund made hay in Finland the last couple years and is generally considered a high level prospect, but he has been beat up so far in the early going of his NHL career. Granlund’s possession numbers are terrible (worst on the team in fact) and he has just 3 points in 10 games played and 14 shots on net. He’s a guy finding his legs and shouldn’t be in a top-6 position at this point in his career. 

Dany Heatley’s fall from grace is well established at this point. He’s a guy you don’t want firing on your goalie from the slot, but the rest of his game has fallen away over the years. Devin Setoguchi has the second worst possession rate on the team ahead of only the aforemention Granlund, which is not unsual for the erstwhile Shark. I suspect it’s part of the reason San Jose had no problem moving him.

The Wild’s other roster holes are obvious on their back-end. Suter is paired with rookie Jonas Brodin on the first pairing. Brodin is another pretty decent looking prospect, but again he’s hardly being delpoyed in ideal fashion, assuming the Wild want to win more than a few games this year.

Also, I don’t know what PM Bouchard is doing on a 4th line with two ruffians.

Sum It Up

Minnesota remains a flawed club despite their Wild (pun!) spending this past off-season. They have a first line the Flames need to be concerned with and few other decent pieces peppered throughout their line-up, otherwise it’s rookies and liabilities all the way down. At some point all of this may coalesce into a contender, but it won’t be this season for sure.

That said, they could be a club battling for that final playoff position in the West come game 48, which is probably where the Flames will find themselves as well. If Calgary intends to make the dance, then Minnesota is a key team to grab points from.

TIlted Kilt Ticket Giveaway

Good News Everyone! The Tilted Kilt is giving away two tickets to a lucky patron this evening. Simply stop by before the game and you could win the chance to walk down the street and watch the action at the dome as well.

Otherwise you could just stick around TK and enjoy the game on their various big screens. Win-win!

  • Rad

    I know the rebuild camp gains steam after every loss, but it’s still possible to retool a team without completely tanking or giving up all your useful assets.

    A full scale rebuild is a total drag. Ask Edmontonians what they’ve been watching the past three years while waiting for their picks. It’s not like the Oilers are that much fun to watch this year, either.

    Feaster’s done an okay job. But people won’t think there’s an actual rebuild happening until Iggy’s dealt or leaves.

  • Scary Gary

    What do you honestly think the Flames could get for Iggy in a trade? Not much as he is showing his age and he is the last year of his contract. Probably a draft pick and it wouldn’t be a first round pick.

    As for Kipper, assuming his injury isn’t too bad, you might be able to get a first round pick. Maybe to a team like Columbus who have three first round picks in the upcoming draft. Kipper has one year left on his contract after this but I really wonder if he will play in the NHL next year. He has one of those back diving contracts. Do you think he will play next year for a $1 million salary?

    I understand Uncle Feaster took over a team with issues but he has delayed making some trades that had the opportunity for the greatest potential return (Iggy and Kipper). Now, the Flames won’t get much for those players and by delaying until now, it has the potential to slow any rebuild for a few years. That is my greatest complaint about what the Flames have done.

    They could have transitioned more with Feaster when he came aboard but he didn’t make some of the bold moves to ensure a bright future for the team in the near term.

  • Scary Gary

    Ha! I totally agree, PJ is a half-wit loud mouth.

    One thing about Irving is he seems focused the entire game, he does the little things even when we have the puck, I think he’d grow into a decent backup but he’s a little short so he’d have to watch his shoulder.

    Is it sad that our fourth line seemed to create most of the chances in the first?

    The D seemed to be breaking up plays and getting their sticks in lanes but at the same time Min are terrible.

    Jones and Hudler were putting in the effort at least.

    What was with those bizarre line combos tonight? Bob was trying any and everything.

    Enough rambling, that was one boring game…

  • Scary Gary

    Lots of guys have started out slow, Ovi, Perry, Kessel, etc. I agree he’s getting old and has lost a step though.

    Feaster has to be handcuffed by ownership, I’m almost certain. Remember Sutter and Ollie? Big moves aren’t always the right moves.

  • McRib

    @Kent: Could not agree more I am wearing out my mute button this season watching Hockey Night in Canada. PJ Stock honestly makes Kelly Hrudey look/sound like a genius!!! Kevin Weeks has also somehow gone from being unable to get out a complete sentence to being the voice of reason on that panel in a season. PJ Stock has never even watched a Flames game he is clearly drunk by 10pm eastern every Saturday night.

  • McRib

    The Flames need to spend a practice or two learning how to bury rebounds out front. Honestly just shooting it back into the goaltenders pads isn’t working!! ROOF THE DAMN PUCK ALREADY!!!! Why is our only option to score looking to go five-hole….The Flames could have 20 scoring chances a game they still would finish off none of those chances!!!

  • McRib

    What has happened to Glencross the past couple??? Hartley should put Stempniak with Iggy & Tangs until Curtis can get out of this funk.

    On a side note… What has happened to Dany Heatley… He is a shell of the player he used to be, his 7 Million cap hit will ensure that Minnesota continues to be average. Apparently $33.73 million only gets you Parise, Heatley, Bouchard, Setoguchi, Suter and Gilbert these day in Minnesota… Wow.

  • PJ Stock? If you have a point, why defeat it by using PJ Stock as your support. I think you’d have trouble finding anybody who actually watches hockey that thinks PJ Stock is anything more than a complete idiot.