Within 72 hours after a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota’s lineup got considerably larger in size with the call up of top prospect Charlie Coyle and a trade that saw big 6’5” 230-pound forward Mike Rupp arrive via a trade with the New York Rangers. The Wild played a decent game against the Coyotes last night in Phoenix, but it wasn’t enough as Minnesota fell by a score of 2-1. In general, Minnesota looked a lot better and the newly revamped fourth line of Devin Setoguchi, Zenon Konopka and Mikael Granlund looked great, being arguably Minnesota’s best line last night. Young Charlie Coyle looked great in making his NHL debut on the second line with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He created scoring chances, blocked shots, was possibly Minnesota’s best player along the wall and was robbed of his first NHL goal by the stellar play of Phoenix netminder Mike Smith. It was clear that the addition of big 6’2” Coyle in the top six greatly improved the size of this team, how much more can the newly acquired Mike Rupp bring to the ice?
Rupp brings an edge to his game that Minnesota could certainly use in the lineup. Not only is he a good fighter, but he grinds opposing teams down. He brings a large, physical presence that is needed on a smaller-sized club like Minnesota. Just his appearance on the bench could be enough to make opposing role players think twice about leveling Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Granlund or Jonas Brodin. A fourth line with both Rupp and Konopka is a frightening proposition for any opposing top line to face. Throw big Matt Kassian on the line and things get even more interesting.
Another thing Rupp brings is playoff experience desperately needed on a playoff-starved team. Rupp, who scored the Cup-clinching goal for New Jersey back in 2003, is a character guy that Mike Yeo, Chuck Fletcher and Wild star player Zach Parise have all worked with in the past, so the organization knows just what they’re getting in this trade. While Darroll Powe was a great character guy, too, and a leading penalty killer, he was forced into fourth line minutes and has become expendable. Trading Nick Palmieri was just a bonus because, while he is a kid with a lot of raw talent, he’s moody, childish and a locker room cancer. He held out on signing with Minnesota this past summer, then, he wouldn’t report to Houston after not making the Wild out of camp—it’s time for him to grow up. Maybe some time with the Rangers’ Connecticut Whale will help him realize that an NHL roster spot isn’t given—it’s earned.
The fact of the matter is this: Minnesota needed to get bigger to be able to compete against tougher teams. This small trade accomplished that for them and also freed up a contract spot for either a free agent signing or top prospect with Palmieri out of the way. Minnesota fans shouldn’t expect Rupp to score, but what he does bring to the table is just as important, if not more.