Sometimes things don't just work out. It may be in a relationship, where two people lose that spark that made them such a great couple and people drift apart. Just about about all of us have been there at one point in our lives. Or it can be a company that feels, 'it needs to go in a different direction.' For the person being swapped out you feel ambushed, maybe even betrayed as you try to grasp with the anxiety of thinking you can still be useful if the company only gave you a chance. Or maybe its a person just wanting a change for themselves? The same thing happens in hockey. No, I'm not talking about Ilya Kovalchuk. Every season teams draft a new group of players plus have free agency options to consider and if they feel unhappy or that their team's chances improve with someone different you can find yourself as the odd man out. That is what happened with Jonathon Blum, a former 1st round pick (23rd Overall in 2007) of the Nashville Predators. The franchise has had a long tradition of drafting defenseman from Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Roman Josi, toss in 2013 1st round pick (4th Overall) Seth Jones into this mix as well as current Wild defensman Ryan Suter the team has built its strength from its blueline. More about Blum later in the article. What about Jon Landry?
Landry is a model of perseverance. The 6'3", 220lbs defenseman plays a two-way game and has rose the ranks as he spent time in the ECHL with Kalamazoo K-Wings before making the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Burlington, Ontario-native has continued to improve and was a source of stability for Bridgeport last season providing 8 goals and 33 points to go along with 57 PIM's in 72 games. Landry will bring the Iowa Wild some much-needed size as well as a little offensive punch to a blueline led by Brian Connelly. So what does Jonathan Blum give the Wild?
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Jonathan Blum was a player that was to issue in a new wave of American-born talent who hailed from non-traditional states in the sunbelt. The Rancho Santa Margarita, California-native was unique in the fact he was developed in the state of California as part of the notable California Waves program that was featured in the hockey documentary film In the Crease. The team brings in players from all over California that have proven to be be a decent match for some of the best bantam-level programs in the United States as they've held their own against teams from traditional hockey powers of Massachusetts, Michigan and even Minnesota. Blum took his game to the Western Hockey League and he was a star with the Vancouver Giants. Its perhaps fitting that he was drafted by a non-traditional hockey market in Nashville whose been developing minor hockey at a rapid pace ever since the Predators arrived on the scene in 1998.
Blum was supposed to be a part of that tradition and give the Predators an excellent puck moving presence who could work the point on the power play, setting up forwards and providing another big shot as well. But it didn't work out. By the time he needed to be ready the team had drafted another similarly built defenseman in Ryan Ellis who seemed to have a little more offensive burst to his game. Blum found himself falling out of the mix and his confidence was shaken. I watched Blum playing for the Milwaukee Admirals last year and I would say he appeared to be overhandling the puck at times. He has good mobility and is the non-physical finesse defenseman whose play will remind a lot of people of Jared Spurgeon. At 6'1", 190lbs and just 24 years old, with his career at a crossroads he adds depth to the Wild blueline by signing a 1-year, two-way contract. Yet he's a player who has played 91 NHL games, and while the production he had in major junior hasn't translated to the NHL he does give the team another option on its blueline and will likely battle for that 7th or even 8th defenseman spot with Steven Kampfer and a very hopeful and motivated Mathew Dumba. Dumba shared his goals with Minneapolis Star Tribune's Wild beat writer Michael Russo here. Blum's two-way contract gives the team the flexibility to send him down to Iowa if need be. Nate Prosser is also in this mix, but his big advantage is that he's signed to a one-way contract making it highly unlikely he will get sent down to the AHL as they'd have to pay him at an NHL rate. Another bonus, he provides the team another right handed shot on its defense (but Prosser, Kampfer and Dumba are all right handed shots as well).
So what does this move say about the state of the Wild? It says the Wild have added another defenseman with at least some NHL experience to add to its depth on the blueline. It does also say the Wild feel its toughness will still remain from its forwards as Blum is another non-physical blueliner. Many Wild fans, including myself believe this team could use another dose of sandpaper on its defense. Clayton Stoner really is the only physical defenseman. Stoner has been maligned greatly for his gaffes with the puck, but the truth is he is the only Wild defenseman you can really say is physical. Dumba does have a penchant for playing physically but if he makes the team then one would think Blum, Kampfer would be playing in Iowa. So it will be very interesting to see how this plays out in training camp. This move should also push Blum's status as a former 1st round pick will also follow a long-standing tendency of the Wild to pick up players who were drafted high but have not quite lived up to expectations. Former Wild general manager Doug Risebrough sometimes called "dumpster Doug" by fans for his penchant for selecting these former 1st round picks and attempting to reclaim their careers; guys like Andrei Zyuzin, Eric Chouinard, Brad Brown, Jason Marshall and Alexandre Daigle were all guys of this ilk who Risebrough had varying levels of success at reviving their careers. So in the Wild's mind, the team acquired two '1st round picks' in Blum and Nino Niederreiter who was drafted 5th overall in 2010. Either way, its a low risk move that is smart and makes complete sense in regards to the salary cap.
According to an interview Blum gave Wild.com's Kevin Falness, he said he chose the Wild rather than deciding to go to the Flyers and Rangers. Blum noted his familarity with Minnesota's workhorse Ryan Suter as they played together with the Predators. He feels he can help the team's issues with depth on its blueline and felt the Wild were the right fit for him. Either way this was a decent move by Fletcher and while we do not know the exact details of the two-way deal.
The Wild's defenseman depth chart looks like this.
Jonas Brodin – Ryan Suter
Keith Ballard – Marco Scandella
Clayton Stoner – Jared Spurgeon
Fighting for spots: Jonathon Blum, Nate Prosser, Steven Kampfer, Mathew Dumba