The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils ended up in the Stanley Cup Final for a lot of reasons, but both shared one discernable trait: quality grunts. The lower liners on both teams energized them in the playoffs, proving quality minutes and surprising offense.
The Minnesota Wild aren't a Stanley Cup contender. Hell, they weren't even a playoff contender by the end of last season.
But if they're going to get there, it'll be with a combination of elite offensive talent (Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, perhaps Zach Parise?) and the kind of grunts they signed today: Zenon Konopka of the Ottawa Senators and Torrey Mitchell of the San Jose Sharks.
Konopka, 31, is great in the room, tough as nails and is one of the primary investors in an instant wine aerator (seriously). But best of all: He was 58.9 percent on faceoffs, which is far and away better than anything the Wild had in the circle last season.
Mitchell, 27, brings speed and grit. But he also brings a chip on his shoulder, which is what you like. From the Mercury News:
Mitchell missed the entire 2008-09 season after fracturing his leg in training camp, then suffering a second injury during a conditioning assignment. He was slow to recover from both and never seemed to quite get back on track after returning.
"For me, it's behind me," Mitchell said of the injury. "Hopefully that's not part of it, because I feel pretty much back to normal. But that's a good question -- you'd have to ask Doug that."
According to Michael Russo, Konopka gets a two-year deal worth $925,000 per year and Mitchell gets a three-year deal worth $1.9 million per. Good moves, both of them, for GM Chuck Fletcher.