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  • The Minnesota Wild as James Bond Films


    Meaningful hockey is just around the corner and with preseason under way, there’s quite a bit of serious hockey news to discuss. With the summer hockey doldrums essentially done, it’s about time to put away the highly speculative analysis and silly lists here at Hockey Wilderness. Before we do, let’s finish it off with possibly the silliest list possible: if every player on the Wild were a Bond film, which would they be?

    There have been 24 Bond films in over 50 years and there are 23 players on a full NHL roster, which gives us room for one extra player to be included. The justification for some of these are pretty thin, most are pretty silly, and all are open to discussion. Think a different film better fits your favorite player, let us know in the comments. All posters were the creation of Kine. Read some of his great articles.

    Here’s a compilation of James Bond films and music to jog your memory. Warning: video is mildly NSFW (no nudity or language, but some suggestive scenes.) Use your best judgment.

    Dr. No - Jonas Brodin

    Dr. No features a villain, Dr. Julius No, with metal prosthetic hands and a radio “toplling” beam that knocks America’s space rockets out of the sky. Jonas Brodin, often criticized for a lack of hands, frequently uses his excellent poke checks to disrupt opposing forwards. Honey Ryder, the quintessential Bond girl, smoothly rising up out of the sea is the perfect Bond-themed metaphor to describe Brodin’s skating.

    From Russia with Love - Mikko Koivu

    One of the greatest films in the franchise, From Russia with Love established many of the identifying features of James Bond: multiple locations, Desmond Llewylen as Q, and compelling and occasionally bizarre villains. Mikko Koivu, similarly, did much to establish the Minnesota Wild franchise. His decision to stay with the team laid the groundwork for the Wild to acquire Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Koivu’s dependable two-way play is another prominent feature of the Wild club. Lastly, the brutal train compartment fight between Bond and Red Grant is just the type of no-nonsense action that fans of Koivu can appreciate.

    Goldfinger - Zach Parise

    Goldfinger is considered by many to be the best and most important film in the Bond series as it establishes the remaining key characteristics of Bond films that From Russia with Love didn’t, namely the tricked out Aston Martin DB5 and suggestive (read: utterly ridiculous) Bond girl names. Zach Parise is widely considered to be the most important player on the team, and his move to join the Wild firmly established it as a free agent destination and team looking to contend for the Stanley Cup. Parise’s attitude on the ice is shared by Bond strapped to a table with the threat of a laser cutting him in two. “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”

    Thunderball - Jason Zucker

    Thunderball features Sean Connery on a jet pack which might make him almost as fast as Jason Zucker on the ice. We’ve also seen two versions of this film as non-Eon production Never Say Never Again was a bad remake of this film, just as we’ve seen two versions of Jason Zucker over the past few seasons. The comparison between Thunderball and Zucker is also apt in that Thunderball earned the highest domestic box office when adjusted for inflation, and Jason Zucker had the highest goals per game during the 2014-15 season.

    You Only Live Twice - Darcy Kuemper

    To be clear, this comparison is not based on the story, but rather is based mostly on the name. James Bond fakes his death and comes back to foil the evil plot of Ernest Stavro Blofeld, head of SPECTRE. Darcy Kuemper has given the Wild a second life when he was pressed into emergency service as the Wild’s starter in the 2013-14 season. His play also has died and come back to life numerous times as Kuemper’s unfortunate issues with consistency have defined his NHL career so far.

    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service - Nino Niederreiter

    Much of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service takes place in the Swiss Alps, a region with which Niederreiter is familiar. It’s also one of the better films in the Bond franchise, but tends to be underrated due to the introduction of the first actor not named Sean Connery to play Bond. Niederreiter, similarly, does not get his due as one of the best all around forwards in the league. The tragic ending of OHMSS might bring a tear to your eye; Niederreiter has likely done the same, but in that case they were tears of joy.

    Diamonds are Forever - Chris Stewart

    Diamonds are Forever saw the return of Connery to the role of James Bond, but don’t let that make you think this movie was a great success. Chris Stewart has had a previous stint with the Wild when he was traded for at the deadline during the 2014-15 season. Hopefully his return sees more success than Connery’s did. Also adding to the comparison between film and player are the presences of villainous duos. In the film, the assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd work closely together, as do the acrobatic bodyguards Bambi and Thumper. In Anaheim, where Stewart just left, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are a forward duo that terrorize the rest of the league.

    Live and Let Die - Devan Dubnyk

    Most people remember the theme song for Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and little else about this film, which is probably for the best given it’s a cash-grabbing attempt to get in on the blaxploitation films of the ‘70s with a less-than-nuanced treatment of its black characters. Still, the film does feature a record-setting speed boat jump worthy of comparison to Devan Dubnyk’s extraordinary run in the 2015-16 season to carry the Wild into the playoffs. Also, “Live and Let Die” seems like a great theme song for a goalie.

    The Man With the Golden Gun - Christian Folin

    Christopher Lee’s turn as Bond villain Scaramanga was highly anticipated at the time. It resulted in an uneven and fairly typical entry into the Bond film pantheon. Christian Folin was the most highly-touted college free agent prospect at the time of his signing. The result has been uneven and fairly typical for a college free agent. The jury is still out on Folin’s ultimate impact in the NHL, but his powerful slapshot is probably worthy of comparisons to the golden gun.

    The Spy Who Loved Me - Jared Spurgeon

    The Spy Who Loved Me is the best Bond film featuring Roger Moore in the role. It hits all the marks of a great Bond film: a cool car (a submarine-capable Lotus), a physically unique bad guy (Jaws), and an exotic locale (the underwater base Atlantis). None of those features are the best in the overall Bond franchise, but they combine into a great overall package. Jared Spurgeon has most of the marks of a franchise defenseman: great defensive awareness, excellent vision, strong skating, good passing, and an effective slapshot. He doesn’t top the league in any of those categories, but the overall package, much like The Spy Who Loved Me, stands out.

    Moonraker - Matthew Dumba

    Moonraker was a transparent attempt to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars. There’s a space battle with lasers and a targeting computer and everything. It’s a lot of chaotic fun. Matt Dumba creates chaos on the ice with his offensive flair and booming shot. When it’s going well for him, there’s no one more fun to watch on the ice. When it isn’t working out well, it can be downright painful, just like any scene with wooden Bond girl Dr. Holly <sigh> Goodhead.

    For Your Eyes Only - Charlie Coyle

    An overall strong, albeit not overly flashy, film that brought Bond back to earth after the poor performance of Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only has one of the best physical stunts of the entire Bond series: Bond climbing up the cliff face of villain Kristasos’s monastery hideout (filmed at Meteora in Greece). The physically demanding scene and the film’s overall effective but fairly straightforward feeling are reminiscent of the play of Charlie Coyle. Coyle is a renowned gym rat and is usually the strongest guy on the ice whenever he takes a shift. Although he does have moments of flashy play, his game is at his best when he is battling in the corners and at the front of the crease. It isn’t always pretty or sophisticated, but as his 24 goals last season show, it is effective.

    Octopussy - Kurtis Gabriel

    This is by far the campiest Bond film ever made. At one point in the film, Bond sneaks around a circus (all female performers naturally) disguised as a clown. There’s a Tarzan cry. Tangled among the multiple plots is diamond smuggling, a rogue Soviet general hoping to instigate WWIII/invade Germany, the Octopussy cult, and a stolen Faberge egg. So much of this film should have been left on the cutting room floor. Similarly, much of Kurtis Gabriel’s game should be left behind too. Brought up for his gritty, physical presence, Gabriel managed to get 10 penalty minutes in just three games of play. The confusing spectacle that was Gabriel’s brief time on NHL ice is well-matched by this bizarre Bond film.

    A View to a Kill - Jordan Schroeder

    On paper, A View to Kill should be pretty great. Christopher Walken was born to be a Bond villain. With her statuesque figure and presence, Grace Jones had the ability to be equal parts intimidating and enthralling as Walken’s right hand woman. The climatic final battle takes place on airship and the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, the end result was an uninspired and heavily criticized.

    On paper, Jordan Schroeder looks great. He was the WCHA Rookie of the Year in 2009 and named a top-5 North American skater heading into the 2009 NHL Draft. He was selected 22nd overall by the Vancouver Canucks. He’s a fast skater that liked to shoot and liked to score. Unfortunately, the on ice package at the NHL level hasn’t panned out. Schroeder is still fast and he has some offensive upside, but his play in the NHL has looked as uninspired as Roger Moore’s last turn as James Bond.

    The Living Daylights - Mike Reilly

    Timothy Dalton’s first film as James Bond, The Living Daylights featured a Cold War storyline that usually played well in Bond films as it did here. It’s a far cry from the more compelling Soviet-focused films like From Russia with Love and The Spy Who Loved Me, but it was realistic (for a Bond film) and fairly enjoyable. Mike Reilly is an offensive defenseman in the mold that usually finds success in the NHL. He’s not the most compelling offensive defenseman on the Wild, but he’s a credible NHL blueliner.

    License to Kill - Zac Dalpe

    License to Kill is mostly remembered for being the most graphically violent of the Bond franchise. Felix Leiter, Bond’ former CIA-ally and friend, is left half dead after being partially fed to a shark by drug kingpin Franz Sanchez. The fate of Leiter’s wife is even worse. Audiences did not respond favorably to the brutal storyline, making this the lowest domestic grossing Bond film of the series. Zac Dalpe is thankfully not as violent as this film, but he has a career 11 goals in 119 NHL games, making his production about as promising as that of this film.

    Goldeneye - Ryan Suter

    Goldeneye saved the Bond franchise. When it was released, it had been six years since the last film. The series had experienced a pretty steady downturn in quality. Pierce Brosnan was cast as Bond and introduced Judy Dench as M. The story was compelling and the spin-off video game that came out two years after the film revolutionized first-person shooters and was the third-best selling video game for the N64.

    The free agent signings of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise saved the Minnesota Wild franchise. Prior to that signing, the Wild were mired in the NHL as a perennially mediocre team. They weren’t bad enough to gain a top three draft pick, but weren’t good enough to go far in the playoffs or keep the talented players they did have. Why does Ryan Suter deserve the comparison to Goldeneye? Because Suter is amazing in video games, and not as good in real life.

    Tomorrow Never Dies - Mikael Granlund

    Tomorrow Never Dies undelivered on the potential created by momentum from Goldeneye and the casting of Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese secret agent and Bond’s reluctant ally. It flashed brilliance in places, like the motorcycle chase and the skyscraper descent, but frequently muddled through a tired plot. Tomorrow Never Dies might be a good name for the Wild fans that have constantly held out hope that Mikael Granlund would be the 1C that was promised. Prior to the 2010 NHL Draft, he was a top European prospect renowned for his lacrosse goal. Although he has shown stunning ability at times, like during the 2014 NHL Playoffs and the 2014 Winter Olympics, Granlund has frequently under-performed on his promised potential.

    The World is Not Enough - Jason Pominville

    There are several good pieces in The World is Not Enough. The speedboat chase of the “Cigar Girl” at the beginning of the film, a supposed victim turning out to be the villain all along, an ex-KGB bad guy living on borrowed time and incapable of feeling pain, and the kidnapping of M were all great ingredients for a film that was largely undone by Dr. Christmas Jones played by Denise Richards. The role was unbelievable, there was no chemistry between her and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, and her name was a long setup to a terrible pun that ended the film.

    Pominville has many qualities of a good hockey player. His positioning is excellent, he sees the game well, and has a wealth of experience and leadership skills. It’s all undone by his long goal droughts. A strong scorer for most of his career, his second complete season with the Wild saw his shooting percentage fall off a cliff which has spoiled him in the eyes of many Wild fans. Hopefully the bounceback he experienced the playoffs last season will continue on this coming season.

    Die Another Day - Eric Staal

    This comparison is another that pretty much boils down to the name of the film. Eric Staal in his heyday was one of the best forwards in the entire NHL. He’s had a 100-point season, which in today’s NHL is a rarity. The past couple seasons have seen that productivity downturn badly. Last season, Staal finished with just 13 goals and 39 points in 83 games. Staal signed with the Wild this offseason in the hope that he can recover his old form and his NHL career might die another die.

    Casino Royale - Eric Haula

    Casino Royale introduced us to Daniel Craig as a far more physical and, at time, feral James Bond. The film, despite being one of the longest in the Bond franchise, is also one of the most fast-paced films, especially seen in the parkour chase scene early in the film. In the film, Bond is a fast-rising agent that was recently promoted to “double-O” status, but soon gets on the bad side of his boss M for his poor performance on a mission. Eric Haula was introduced to fans of the Wild as a fast-skating forward tasked with shutting down opposing teams’ star players, which he did with great success. His star on the rise, the disappointment was palpable when Mike Yeo soon grew frustrated with Haula’s declining performance (following some bad injuries that affected his conditioning). Hopefully Haula can experience the same resurgence that Bond does in Casino Royale. The end of last season was a good start.

    Quantum of Solace - Nate Prosser

    Quantum of Solace was so terrible that the film Spectre, which had numerous callbacks to the other Daniel Craig Bond films, did everything it could to pretend this film never happened. Most fans of the Wild would like to do something similar with Nate Prosser. Frankly, Prosser probably doesn’t deserve a comparison to a film this terrible.

    Skyfall - Alex Stalock

    Skyfall finds Bond’s career nearly ended by an injury received in a mission gone wrong. He returns to service when a threat from M’s past comes back to haunt her. To protect her, he returns to his childhood home of Skyfall in the Scottish Highlands. Alex Stalock has had a bit of an up and down career, in part due to a serious knee injury he received in an AHL game in 2011. He worked his way back to the NHL as a backup for the Sharks before being traded to the Maple Leafs. As he seeks to continue his NHL career, Stalock has returned to his childhood home of St. Paul, Minnesota to play for the Wild.

    Spectre - Marco Scandella

    Spectre is a direct sequel to Skyfall and involves Bond fighting against a powerful and mysterious organization led by Franz Oberhauser Ernest Stavro Blofeld. The plot is a bit contrived, but it delivers some outrageous stunts and is a solid addition to the series. Marco Scandella will likely also be facing off against a powerful organization led by Ernest Stavro Blofeld Gary Bettman. Due to the expansion of the league to include Las Vegas, an expansion draft will occur during the next off-season. The contrived rules of the draft (far more favorable to Las Vegas than the previous draft’s rules were to Minnesota and Columbus) will likely mean that Scandella or another Wild blueliner will be selected. Unforunately for Wild fans, this story is less likely to have a happy ending than Spectre.

    All stats are courtesy of www.nhl.com.

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