When my editor asked me to come up with a Thanksgiving idea, I came up with an idea. “Patrick Reusses Turkey of the Year” by Tony Abbott.
It was quickly rejected.
But it’s Thanksgiving, so copyright infringement, it’s time to talk turkeys. So I elected myself president of Minnesota Sports, and with the office comes the power of presidential pardons. I received contributions for the largest turkeys in the history of the Minnesota Wilds. Got a lot of good answers, so now is the time to review this list and decide who to forgive. Let’s go.
Alex Henry (@ Woodsauce24)
We start with an easy one. And by an easy one, I mean “A guy I had to Google.” I have no idea who Henry is. Wikipedia tells me he played 133 games for Wild around the lockout and had 11 points. Even for a defender in the Jacques Lemaire era, it’s pretty bad. At the same time, I can not with good consciousness condemn someone I do not even remember.
Martin Skoula (@ rynryn1138)
In return, I remember Skoula. When a Wild fan thinks of “bad defense”, they think of Martin Skoula. In fact, they should have called him “Martin Skoula” because there was no “d” in his game. That joke would have worked better if he had a “d” in his name, but it still works, I think. Looking at the analyzes we have on him, Skoula was honestly just mediocre as a defender, but instead a black hole in the offense. Good news for those who would like to have their thumbs down here: It’s a worse crime for me.
Mike Yeo (Joe Bouley)
Yeo’s defenders will point out that he had a lot to relate to during his time as a coach. That’s not wrong. Having to cope with the storm of veteran egos from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter – who were big and productive enough to have them at the time – was a challenge. No other coach was able to bridge the generation gap between Wilds veterans and youth at the time.
But was he a good coach? “Neo” way. It is no coincidence that in the first season after Minnesota fired Yeo, virtually all Wild players under 27 enjoyed career years. Unless you really appreciate two trips to the second round of the playoffs, Bruce Boudreau got more out of the same core than Yeo could have ever dreamed of.
Matt Moulson (@puckovaglass)
The Wild traded two picks in the second round for Moulson, who scored 13 points in 20 games in the regular season. He got some scratches in the playoffs and scored a disappointing goal and three points over 10 games. Not great, but swapping for a garbage goal scorer like the missing piece on your team when Minnesota a) Already had Paris and b) never shot, leading to few rebounds, is an even worse decision. I’ll say Moulson is not the guy you should be mad at here.
Colton Gillies (@ JoeBou15)
Gillies achieved a nomination by being a first-round pick who was bad at hockey. The Wilds’ brains had been so shattered by Chris Pronger’s Anaheim Ducks Paul Bunyan, who brought them out of the first round, that they decided that the only way to beat them was to give them a choice in the second round so they could trade for this guy.
Imagine if they had stayed at election 19 instead, taken Max Pacioretty (who became number 22) and kept the 42nd overall choice and spent it on PK Subban (who became number 43)! This is a classic case where a child is blamed for things that are not his fault. He did not choose himself, much less swapped another round to do so.
Marek Zidlicky (@ Dantales24)
Zidlicky was the original “But Turnovers!” guy, with 158 giveaways in 263 games with Wild. His defense is legendary in these parts for being bad, in part because of the minus-34 in his career with Minnesota. However, he had a really good skill, which was as a power-play specialist. If he could have been a guy in the third pair they used as a PP quarterback, he probably has remembered a lot more with joy. At the same time, he was not very good, even though he was stretched thin on incredibly bad Wild teams. It’s a close call.
Stephane Veilleux (@ 00xtremeninja)
Veilleux played nearly 3,000 minutes for Wild in the Analytics Era and finished at exactly 0.1 Win Above Replacement. If you ever try to explain WAR to a Wild fan and they ask what a substitute is, tell them “A guy who’s barely worse than Stephane Veilleux” and they will immediately understand. Alone for that, his soul is saved.
Martin Hanzal (@ teamster4obama)
Hanzal is down in history as the worst trade in Wilds history. The Wild made the big center the missing piece for a team heading to win the Western Conference. Instead, their goalkeeping team collapsed in March, and Jake Allen’s St. Louis Blues goalkeeper got them out of the playoffs.
Hanzal gets a lot of blame here, but he pretty much did his job. He scored 13 points in 20 games on Wild’s third line while dominating ball possession. Did his presence in the lineup disrupt the team’s chemistry? Maybe, but it’s not up to him. Did The Wild pay too much to acquire him? Yes, the choices in the first, second and third rounds would have been useful. Not on him either.
The real Turkey here is the weak trading market by the deadline of 2017, and perhaps a fragile Wild locker room.
Kyle Quincey (@WildFarmReport)
The Wild signed Kyle Quincey to be their Jordie Benn, a veteran to provide stability to the right side of the third pair. One problem: Quincey refused to play the right side of the defense after saying he would do so during free play. Not that it would have helped much if he had played there. One could argue that Quincey fell victim to poor goalkeeping, but he was also terrible, which never helps anyone’s case. Minnesota scored five goals and allowed 12 with Quincey on the ice in 5-on-5 games. He also took a total of nine penalties in 18 games. That’s right – it only took 18 games for Wild to save that experiment.
All of that gives a convincingly filled case. At the same time, let those who have never lied to a job interview throw the first stone.
Marian Gaborik (Patrick Reusse, 2008)
Gaborik is the only member of Wild to have ever won Turkey of the Year and received the honor in 2008. This happened before he dropped Minnesota to New York, but after suffering the injury that would limit him to 17 games in 2008-09 and reject Wild on more lucrative contract extensions. He was also overwhelmed in the playoffs the previous year and scored no goals in over 40 shot attempts in six games.
History has justified Gaborik ever since. Only Paris darkens Gaborik’s 0.76 points per game in the history of the Wild postseason. Gaborik was right to run from Minnesota and eventually won a Stanley Cup (and should have won a Conn Smythe Trophy) by leaving. Dude did nothing wrong.
Sean Bergenheim (@ EL_CAT55)
The Wild traded a third-round pick to Bergenheim in response to losing Jason Zucker to injury. Bergenheim seemed to make sense given his track record as a between-six guy who shot a lot. Instead, Wild scored a goal of 25 shots over 20 games, including playoffs. Pretty bad!
Kurtis Gabriel (@ Schmitty_16)
Gabriel was an enforcer whose greatest ability was to be tooted. According to Hockey Fights voters, he outscored his opponent in just two of his seven NHL games (and is 4-to-15 in his career). But the highlight of his time in the Wild organization was this AHL match against Vince Dunn, where he took an L, played back to go more down the tunnel, and got a punch from Dunn again and got an expulsion.
But Gabriel shines by being one of the few people in the NHL who vocally supports the LGBTQ + community. He became the first NHL player to use pride tape on his stick during a game, and his advocacy business goes beyond word of mouth. Legally cool and good!
James Sheppard (@gopherstate)
Sheppard is enrolled in Wild Infamy to be another bust in the first round. However, he had a lot more skill than the Gillies, scoring 30 goals and 84 points during his draft year in the QMJHL. He flared up pretty quickly out of nature and found his way out of the organization at the age of 22. Michael Russo recently gave a glimpse of why, and told a story about Jacques Lemaire who got mad at him for eating ice cream after a game of his podcast. But let’s face it, if any of us had the choice of listening to Grandpa talk about the left-wing lock for eight thousand times or eating ice cream, we would all be with Sheppard for a pint of Cherry Garcia.
Besides, who else would Wild pick the ninth overall in the rather poor 2006 Draft? The story would not change much if The Wild chose Michael Frolik, Bryan Little or Chris Stewart instead. 5’11 “Claude Giroux (22nd overall) did not go through that door and we all know that.
Doug Risebrough (@ DJ23420117)
Many fans will say that Risberoughs, Minnesota’s first GM’s original sin, was to try to put a competitive team forward instead of finding high picks. It certainly could have been better, but Wild advanced to their only conference final under Risebrough’s plan, and refueling certainly did not work for their expansion contemporaries in the Columbus Blue Jackets or Atlanta Thrashers.
No, the real sin of Risberough’s tenure was not being able to adapt to the new NHL. In a game that quickly centered speed and skill, Risebrough doubled the defense and toughness, gaining an endless array of enforcers and slow defenders. That and a dizzying run of incompetence at the draft in the middle of the decade left Minnesota completely deprived of talent when he was fired. Aside from early success, you can not leave the organization in such a mess and expect to be pardoned here.
Chuck Fletcher (@stateofstats)
Fletcher came to clean up that mess, and from the ashes rose the most mediocre phoenix the NHL has ever seen. Fletcher’s team reached the playoffs six years in a row after signing with Paris and Suter, but only advanced twice to the second round and won only two matches in these excursions.
Fletcher’s faults are many. He absolutely left the closet devoid of imperceptible trades for Hanzal, Moulson and Stewart. Fletcher allowed Yeo to hamper the development of many of his young players for far too long. He could not meet the wage cap to save his life.
But there is also very good in there. Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek are all part of his legacy in St. Louis. Paul. Spurgeon and Eric Staal are two of the top three free agent signings in the team’s history. Their drafting did not yield a superstar until too late, but their track record was very solid. The good outweighs the bad.
Paul Fenton (@puckovaglass)
There is revisionist history with Paul Fenton. Kevin Fiala confirmed the 1-on-1 deal with Mikael Granlund. Dean Evason holds a sparkling record as The Wild’s coach. Matt Boldy looks like a super customer. Even the Mats Zuccarello signing looks okay now.
However, let’s not fool ourselves. This is the same guy who turned Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask. He laid an egg with the Charlie Coyle deal. Drafting Filip Johansson was confusing at the time and he did not even turn out to be the best right-handed Swedish defender who went in the mid to late 20s in the 2018 draft. He alienated pretty much everyone in the organization and was on the verge of losing Spurgeon. Only divine intervention prevented him from exchanging Jason Zucker for peanuts.
Even his crowning achievement, the Fiala trade, is being undone by his own hand. He switched to a game-breaking player, then hand-picked his next coach to be one who clashes with his star player and is about to drive him out of town. It’s a fenton tragedy.
There is no revisionist story here. Fenton was a Turkey then and he is a Turkey now.