The Wild, Role Reversal and the 2009 Draft (redux)

Convoluted headline, yes, but bear with me.

Remember 2009? I do. Things were happening. You had that job/internship/stretch of 2-5 years for B&E, um, Obama…some other stuff. I don’t know.

Anyway, right around the middle of the year, the NHL draft was fast approaching. The Wild had the 12th pick, a farm system that reeked of Risebrough and a new GM with a stoic manner and a neat haircut. What was he going to do?

We all knew what he should do with that 12th pick. He should kill two birds with one stone, and grab an offensive talent so we didn’t have to hear about how Owen Nolan had anything left in the tank or whether or not Eric Belanger could be a top-six forward. We also wanted that player to be from Minnesota, because, you know, we breed excellent hockey players, and god forbid we win a Stanley Cup only to put some Canadian, Swedish, Russian or Czech jackasses name on that thing. ‘Merica. Don’t tell me that you didn’t want this, Minnesota, because people who don’t admit this are the same people who tell you that they “totally would have moved” if they were sitting in Steve Bartman’s 2003 playoff seats. They are lying liers, and they’re totally lying.

The media picked up on this narrative, too. Mock drafts popped up everywhere with one name on their Minnesota ledger: Schroeder. Here’s one, and another one. This guy thought it was a lock, and so did these guys. After all, he checked the right boxes. Dynamic forward? Check! Local boy? How does Prior Lake, St. Thomas Academy and the U of M suit you, Jack? That dude couldn’t have been any more local if he had been scoring hat tricks every Friday night, and then jetting off in the morning for Lake Mille Lacs to drink Hamm’s while ice fishing and bitching about Joe Mauer’s contract (oh, sorry, that hadn’t happened yet). He may have been doing all of that stuff, I don’t know. I’ve never personally met the man.

So what did Fletch do, in a move that would serve as a portent for surprises to come? He outdid himself on his first meaningful day on the job, that’s what. First, he traded the pick to the New York Islanders, dropping down to 16th in the process. I, like all of you probably did, raged at my television. We’ll never get Schroeder at 16! This man is an idiot! Revolution and kill the infidel, etc. etc.

Then, just when we thought he’d botched the whole thing, he pulled this scene:

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Nick Leddy! Talented? Sure, not Schroeder talented, but talented. Local? You betcha. Eden Prairie born and bred, and soon to be Schroeder’s teammate on a truly forgettable Gopher team. He’d do, even if he was a borderline first round pick in most prognosticator’s eyes.

And then of course the roller-coaster ride was completed as we had to watch as our boy, Jordan Schroeder, slip down the draft board, all the way to no. 22 where he was put out of his misery by the…Vancouver Canucks.

That’s right, the f&#(% Vancouver Canucks. Those hosers who kept winning our division, had creepy twins leading their lineup, and for some weird reason, kept trying to fight Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The team that had once fielded criminals like Todd Bertuzzi and Matt Cooke on the same damn team. Who would ever think to employ either one of those asshats…right?

Schroeder was going to move north of the border, turning in his citizenship from the State of Hockey for a Canadian passport, don a sweater that isn’t ugly, but is far from beautiful, and tear us apart for the next fifteen years. The Northwest division would never be ours again. Kill. The. Infidel.

Of course, 5 years later, not only is that story completely blown out of any reasonable proportion (seriously, kudos if you’ve read this far and don’t think I’m a complete lunchbox…I am, but that’s not the point) but none of the details are even close to relevant. Let’s take them in order.

1. The trade with the Islanders. The Wild made out alright. In addition to moving back just four spots, they picked up a third and seventh round pick in the same draft. They used the third on a certain Matt Hackett, whom they spun to Buffalo for our leading point-getter this season and hasn’t been heard from since, except for this. And the seventh round pick they used on some tiny Finnish kid who played a little for Shattuck and was also headed to the U of M. He grew up and eventually became Erik Haula. The Islanders got Calvin De Haan, and are still terrible. Not bad.

2. Nick Leddy. Of course that Islanders trade is nice, but the fate of Leddy lost Chuck Fletcher a lot of standing with a lot of people for a lot of years. He was Wild property for less than 10 months before being flipped with Kim Johnsson to Chicago for Cam Barker, who was coming off a monster offensive season for an improving Blackhawks team (that was months away from winning its first cup in forever). Fletcher’s rationale was that he offered a choice of young defensemen to pair with Johnsson in the deal, including Marco Scandella, and the ‘Hawks wanted Leddy, so they got him. A few years later, we all found out that Cam Barker was worthless, and Nick Leddy got his name on the Stanley Cup. The fact that Leddy may or may not actually be that good, as he keeps getting benched in the playoffs by Joel Quenneville, is beside the point. This trade was an unmitigated disaster and Fletcher was an idiot for making it. Only within the last year have certain segments of the Wild fanbase stopped bitching about this, and I’m convinced some of them never will. Kill the infidel, and whatnot.

3. Schroeder. While Leddy’s career has been up and down, Schroeder’s has been a non-starter. He’s played 56 career games, and his point totals (6 goals, 9 assists) are identical to Haula’s at the NHL level in roughly the same amount of games. The difference is, Haula did that within the past year, and is on a rocket ride to the moon, career-wise, while Schroeder compiled his stats over the course of two tepid seasons in Vancouver (after toiling for three in the minors), and is on the express train to bust-town.

Which is why, of course, the Wild decided to sign him to a two-year contract on Friday.

Maybe Fletcher finally sees something in Schroeder that he didn’t in 2009. Maybe getting a talented, but underused commodity out of the player-development morass that was Vancouver will do Schroeder some good.

Or maybe, just maybe, Schroeder was never good enough, or big enough, to be an NHL player, and everyone’s eye for talent around the 2009 NHL draft was a little skewed. After all, this is the first round that saw Scott Glennie selected 8th, Magnus Pajaarvi picked 10th and the oft-traded, seldom played Tim Erixon go one slot after Schroeder, among others.

Maybe it means nothing, and Fletcher has just assured that the Iowa Wild have a top line winger for the next two seasons. That team, after all, couldn’t score worth a damn in 2013-14.

Welcome back home, Mr. Schroeder, we kept your things just where you left them. Nick Leddy was, is, and will always be dead to us, and we loved you all along.

Oh, and the Wild also re-signed Jonathan Blum today, but since there’s no narrative in that, who gives a damn?

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