It’s September 1st.

Some teams are still trying to destroy their futures. The NHL, like any ecosystem is a delicate entity. There are many moving parts, and the ratio of one part to another will impact things two or three steps removed from either. You need players on the rise, players at their peak, and ones who are on the decline. They all contribute just as moths, and blue jays, and red tailed hawks all play their parts.

Marcus Foligno is a great example of a middle six forward who gives much, and is well regarded. The Chuck Fletcher thought it was more important to sign aging Penguins discard Matt Cullen, than to secure the return for trading Scandella. CapFriendly and others currently project Landon Ferraro and Joel Eriksson Ek as making the roster, with either of them back in the AHL the Wild would have right around three million in cap space. If they decide to carry just twelve forwards it would give them an additional cushion for injuries. The issue here is do you pay him better or the same as other left wings who had similar point totals like Justin Abdelkader and Carl Hagelin who both made more than four million last year? Or do you simply try and cram him into a roster that is unlikely to go far in the playoffs?

In the last two season Bo Hovart has increased his point total year over year, jumping from third two seasons ago to first last year, and has a better faceoff win percentage in that time than team captain Henrik Sedin. Somehow with training camp close enough to feel, he is without a contract. He’s scored shorthanded, powerplay, and even strength goals. He’s played over 18 minutes a night. He’s done just about everything a setup man can do on a roster that is 80% ECHL and alumni quality to help the team win. Joe Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Jason Spezza all produced less points last year with far, far more help and hugely better compensation.  Ondrej Palat was on a non-playoff team and produced the same number of points, Logan Coture had the same points total, as did Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov. With all or most of the $14,000,000.00 set on fire at the feet of the Sedin twins coming off the books next year, and no other player in the system in need of a big raise cash should not be the issue. Not when they have close to nine million in cap space to work with.

David Pastrnak has been covered in depth over the summer and all that’s worth adding is that the team president said there haven’t been any talks in months.

With all the glory of last season, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s seem to have gotten a pass on Alexander Wennberg not having been hog tied to their roster yet. Year over year ye’s increased his points total twenty points twice in a row. He played in 80 of the teams games last year. Last season he stepped into the gap created by trading Johansen and ended up the team’s second leading scorer, putting up just two less points than the Nashville Predator’s second most famous Ryan. While the Blue Jackets do have a pretty dynamic cap situation with the number of impact players due contracts in the next two years, they do have to be careful. But in the ultra competitive Metropolitan division who can afford to be without their number one center?

The Detroit Red Wings roster is as run down as the Joe, and while Andreas Athanasiou isn’t the level of impact player the other forwards on the list are. That said, you don’t improve by continuing to leak talent. All players are ultimately replaceable, but alienating players for little good reason when you have a new arena to fill, and pay off is senseless. The optics are also poor when it’s time to get free agents into town, or when the next RFA is due a contract.

Damon Severson is one of three men to crack the top fifty among defensemen in scoring while playing less than twenty minutes of ice time. The other two Brady Skej, and Dmitry Orlov were both on playoff teams. The New Jersey Devils were needless to day, not quite that good. His point total eclipsed Noah Hanafin, Jake Muzzin, and Jonas Brodin. So why is a team with unlimited growth potential wasting time dithering with a solid young defensemen? It’s not like they have 299 other defenders ready to hold the line against the Persians and other NHL teams.

Last years playoff appearance wasn’t a fluke. Last years trip to the second round was also not a fluke. After more than a decade of aggressive mediocrity, the Minnesota Wild are set to be a contender or the next several years. Marion Gaborik couldn’t bring them to the this level.  Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson couldn’t sustain the altitude the Wild now call home. Brent Burns, Marek Zidlicky and Alexandre Daigle have nothing to do with the teams success.

Gone is Jacques Lemaire. His stultifying system of play was a prime contributor to the lockout, and locking the Minnesota Wild out of success. Likewise, Doug Risebrough the teams inaugural general manager. Between Resebrough and Lemaire they took a hockey mad market granted a second lease NHL life, and lulled them to sleep and bored the rest of the league from day one on.

Fortunately, those days are over. Chuck Fletcher has ruthlessly, if cautiously extracted every counter-productive element from the roster or behind the bench. He’s built a team that is not only good now, but has the cap space and flexibility to be good for years to come. About a half dozen movement limiting clauses (beyond this season) are light on the roster. Koivu, Suter, and Parise probably weren’t going to be traded anyway. The others belong to guys who are now at or about their peak and want to be with a contender, not just in the NHL.

The core of the team is built around a top shelf center Mikko Koivu, an enormously talented elite defenseman Ryan Suter, and the hugely driven Zach Parise. A strong cadre of experienced, hungry, talented forwards is the next tier with Jason Pominville, Tomas Vanek and Matt Cooke each filling their roles. Their counterparts on defense are less well known but equally worth watch, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella along with Keith Ballard and Jonas Brodin make for a formidable defense.

The key to this teams next five years is how many of their young players are still on the upswing towards the top of their talent. Spurgeon, Coyle, Scandella, Haula, Grandland, Dumba, Neiderrieter, Brodin, and Kuempher are all twenty-four or younger. That’s half a roster who can’t even rent a car in most places. With that many RFA’s heading into their second contract, they still have an enormous amount of control over what they spend and who they retain. At the end of this year they have just three UFA’s to deal with, none of them critical.

Can the team stand to upgrade at goal? Yes, absolutely. They have talent and depth at the position, but a disturbing and consistent lack of health. Goal has been an troubling question for other teams who have made deep runs and even won the Stanley Cup. No one really thinks Chris Osgood was an elite netminder, and you can point at others to have own the Cup in the last two decades and wonder how they made it, which doesn’t make the Wild’s position either unique or insurmountable.

In a bold and telling move this morning four teams in the National Hockey League did two things together. The first was a conference call that parts of the transcript will be shown in excerpts below, and the second was issue non contact jersey’s to all their remaining players. In a joint conference call in which they did not answer any questions the General Managers of the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, and Boston Bruins announced an innovation that may allow one or more of the depleted squads to ice their full NHL roster by October.

Chuck Fletcher got the ball rolling with the opening remarks in which he said:

“Coming off of last nights game in which we lost seven to one to the Colorado Avalanche we realized it was time to make a change. We’re not sure it will be permanent, but when the trainers tell you they need time off for carpal tunnel surgery from applying tape and bandages it’s something you have to look at very closely. Worse, one of our interns reported that Bodog has switched from having an over under on our wins for the rest of the season to an over under on the number of players who will be injured, the number is 9.”

Peter Chiarelli continued the call:

“With the significant injuries we have not just here in Boston but in our AHL affiliate, we knew the time for action had arrived. After sitting down with Cam, and finding someone who could find someone who knew where in Buffalo the Jabobs were, we as a leadership group decided we needed to be at the forefront of addressing this issue. In light of the acquisition of Brian Rolston at the deadline, and the pending acquisition of Marty Turco we’d also like to announce two additional innovations. The first is that no one may shoot anything other than wrist shots and backhanders during practice. The second is that we will be issuing nutritional injections to players daily before practice. In partnership with Centrum Silver we think this is a very smart way to aid our athletes in staying at their peak. “

Ken Holland contributed:

Ordinarily we keep this stuff in house, but even ESPN has noticed the injuries this year. Before I go any further I’d like to take the opportunity to quash the rumor that Jimmy Howard is being held out in the hopes of preventing any further injuries between now and the playoffs. This is not true, both myself and Jim Dellevano take great exception too this, Mr Howard is a hockey player and we have enough trouble keeping him off the ice when he’s got a game scheduled off. But to illustrate how bad the injury situation is, in practice yesterday Mr. Ilitch was taking line rushes on the second line, in battle drills he caught Brad Stuart with a good hit that knocked the wind out of our defenseman. This just illustrates the unneeded danger of full contact practices. Last night was the first time I’ve taken a phone call from Chuck and not been laughing at him before it was over. As an organization the Detroit Red Wings brought to you by Amway we think it’s time to push the league in this bold new direction.

Paul Holmgren finished off the call:

“While rumors are being thrashed, I’ve been assured by both Bryzgalov and his agent that he did not in fact loan his map of the woods to Tim Thomas, please don’t blame him. When two original six GM’s call you up to bounce an idea off you, you know it’s either something absurd like banning fighting or something important. Amazingly considering who else was on the call, it was important. I’d like to congratulate the 28 other general managers in the league for not trading one of their contracts and prospects for a single player during deadline madness. On the injury front I’ve gotta say I miss the days when injuries were the result of head shots, spearing or someone who only throws two hits a year driving someone into the board from behind. In those days we had someone to blame and send guys like Sestito after. Now with these idiot high sticks taking out our captain, and god knows how many groin strains and concussions from running into teammates its just a pile of bullshit. No one to blame, no one is taking responsibility.”

This is certainly an unexpected move on the part of these NHL clubs. One can only wonder if this was done jointly to lower the chances any one of them would get reamed by the likes of Mike Milbury and Don Cherry for further wimpification of the game.