Tag: northwest division

Wild Oilers Hockey

Should the Minnesota Wild be worried?


To the awe of many critics, the Minnesota Wild managed a tight-rope act to the top spot in the Northwest Division through the first quarter of the season. They still remain a point ahead of the surging Vancouver Canucks, but with their sixth loss in a row, is time to get worried yet?

The scrappy team wasn’t exactly blowing opponents out when they were winning, but their offense has fallen apart without Mikko Koivu in the lineup. Their underrated captain was placed on the IR today, which is horrible news.

Minnesota has only managed seven goals in their last six games while going 0-4-2, including a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers tonight. (Dany Heatley scored what was essentially a garbage goal in the third period.)

Looking at the simplest numbers, it doesn’t seem like the problem is a lack of effort. They’ve managed at least 30 shots in all but one game (they fired 27 on the Winnipeg Jets in a 2-1 defeat that began this ugly streak). Most hockey people expected the Wild to struggle without Koivu – especially considering the team’s litany of other injuries – but it seems obvious that they have trouble winning small margin of error games without him.

My guess is that the Wild’s chances of winning their division are very slim. The Canucks are just one point behind them with two games in hand and a boatload of momentum. A playoff berth is certainly still a reasonable goal for Minnesota, though.

That being said, they’ll need to find some scoring if they want to do any damage once/if they get there.

The NHL’s best bargain contracts: Northwest Division

Corey Crawford

The hockey world tends to focus on the most regrettable contracts rather than the best ones because let’s face it: it’s more enjoyable to make fun of Brian Campbell‘s deal than to linger on Dustin Brown‘s bargain contract. That being said, clever GMs deserve credit for either finding the right timing to sign a player, judging their value better than most or simply fostering a climate in which a player will take a pay cut. This series of posts will take a look at every team to see which (if any) players deserve to be called bargains.

Notes: entry-level deals don’t count because they have built-in maximum levels. “Loophole” contracts will be considered, but they won’t receive as much consideration because of their inherent salary cap dishonesty. Bought out players will be considered for their current cap hits. I also think $6 million is a reasonable – if arbitrary – cutoff point for a true bargain player.

Calgary Flames – Jay Feaster has some work to do to clean up all the messes that Darryl Sutter left behind. So far … eh.

Scott Hannan ($1M) – It’s really convenient that the Flames signed Hannan yesterday, because he’s the only true bargain on the roster now that Alex Tanguay got paid. I’m not Hannan’s biggest fan, but that’s a nice price for a guy who can absorb tough minutes and dish out some punishment.

Honorable mention: Anton Babchuk – he generates a nice amount of points, but he’s not very strong in his own end.

source: Getty ImagesColorado Avalanche – After a Cinderella 2009-10 season, the Avs fell apart in an ugly manner in 2010-11. The Washington Capitals hope that happens again, so they can get a high-end draft pick from the much-criticized Semyon Varlamov trade.

David Jones ($2.5M) – The Avs don’t have a lot of steals that aren’t entry-level deals, but Jones scored 27 goals last season so he might qualify. He’ll need to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke to do so, though.

Erik Johnson ($2.6M) – He gains this rank mainly because of his pedigree (No. 1 pick of a 2006 draft that was strong at the top) and because he’s set to play a top role. It’s unclear if he will live up to either billing, though.

Edmonton Oilers – Are there any steals on a team whose greatest hopes probably lie in the development of their prospects?

Ales Hemsky ($4.1M) – Hemsky hasn’t been much of a bargain because he’s been injured too often to show off his considerable skills. If there’s ever been a time in which he might actually earn that title, it’s next season because he’s in a contract year. If he plays anywhere close to 82 games, he’s probably worth more than $4.1 million.

Eric Belanger ($1.75M) – A solid deal for a defensive-minded center who might help the Oilers clean up some of their spills. He’s not a miracle worker, though.

source: APMinnesota Wild – The Wild experienced some drastic changes during this off-season, so does their roster look a little better than it did during the last few bleak seasons?

Cal Clutterbuck ($1.4M) – Clutterbuck was worth the money for the mere comic relief of his last name and the fact that he’s basically a homing missile on skates. He’s become even more valuable offensively each year, though; in the last three seasons he went from 11 (2008-09) to 13 (09-10) to 19 goals. Only departed winger Martin Havlat had more goals (22) in 2010-11.

Kyle Brodziak ($1.1M) – He’s not a crazy value, but Brodziak crossed the 30+ point barrier in three of his last four seasons. That’s not bad at his price, although he might see fewer opportunities to score next season.

source: Getty ImagesVancouver Canucks – The team that fell one win short of the 2011 Stanley Cup hasn’t changed much, which means they will still enjoy some nice bargains.

Ryan Kesler ($5M) – The runaway Selke Trophy winner enjoyed a strong enough campaign that some thought he was the Canucks’ true MVP.

Alex Burrows ($2M) – With Zach Parise’s $3.1 million cap hit a thing of the past, Burrows is a serious contender for the NHL’s biggest bargain. He might not be the most popular guy on the ice, but his combination of grit and goal-scoring ability make him a major asset. Perhaps the most insane part is that his contract won’t expire until July 2013.

Alex Edler ($3.25M) – Edler scored at an outstanding .65 point per game rate last season, the only problem was that his 33 points came in just 51 games. If he could stay healthy in 11-12, he might not be underrated much longer.

Honorable mentions: One of the trends with many of the NHL’s best teams is that their best players are paid below market value. That’s true with the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo (especially with the twins). Critique those three all you want, but most teams would gladly accept the trio for the approximate annual cap hit of $17.5 million.


Feel free to point out any glaring omissions or faulty inclusions. Again, remember: players on their entry-level deals don’t count, so that’s why you won’t see the Taylor Halls of the world.

Click here for the Atlantic Division version.

Click here for the Central Division version.

Click here for the Northeast Division version.

Northwest Division Watch (March 18)

Calgary Flames v Phoenix Coyotes

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder, Underlined = clinched division.

Northwest Division outlook (March 18 -March 24th)

1. Vancouver Canucks (47-16-9 for 103 pts; 72 Games Played)

Current streak: Seven wins in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Phoenix (Friday) and @ Detroit (Wednesday).

Thoughts: The Canucks became the first team to cross the 100-point mark and the first team to clinch their division this week. At this point, the Canucks can just rain on other teams’ parades and hope no one else gets injured.

2. Calgary Flames (37-27-9 for 83 pts; 73 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Anaheim (Sun), Los Angeles (Mon) and San Jose (Wed).

Thoughts: The Flames have a loose hold on a playoff spot, but it will be tested, with six of their next seven games on the road. This next week might be the toughest stretch, too, as they take a tour of some formidable California teams. They’ve been playing some impressive hockey lately, but there isn’t much of a margin of error in the West right now.

3. Minnesota Wild (35-29-7 for 77 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: Four losses in a row.

Week ahead: Three home games vs. Columbus (Sat), Montreal (Sun) and Toronto (Tues).

Thoughts: The bad news is that the Wild went 0-fer on their four-game road trip, which is bad because they needed the points and also because it indicates they might be too dependent on home cooking. The good news is that their next four games are at home, so maybe they can make up some ground.

4. Colorado Avalanche (26-36-8 for 60 pts; 70 GP)

Current streak: Ten straight losses.

Week ahead: Away vs. Edmonton (Sat), home vs. Columbus (Tues) and home vs. Toronto (Thurs).

Thoughts: You know, maybe people hate tanking so much because it’s called tanking. Then again, it’s better than my alternate idea, which is “reverse racing.”

5. Edmonton Oilers (23-39-9 for 55 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: Five losses in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Colorado (Sat), @ Nashville (Tues) and @ St. Louis (Thurs).

Thoughts: Well, I already used my comment about tanking on the Avalanche.  Say what you will about how awesome the Canucks are – because it’s true – but they did get a few extra cracks at weak teams like the Oilers and Avalanche, plus so-so teams like the Flames and Wild. That must inflate their numbers a bit, right? Maybe?