Simon — says Minnesota Wild?

March 3, 2008

by Matt Kane

The Minnesota Wild’s acquisition of notorious bad boy enforcer Chris Simon has been widely criticized by talking heads on the radio and television. Simon’s suspension-riddled past gives Wild fans and media members a good reason to scratch their heads in wonder of why the Wild needed a guy like Simon, who is the definition of a hockey goon.

Slashing guys across the face and stomping on opposing players’ legs with a skate have both been a part of Simon’s game in less than a season, and he was suspended for a total of 55 games for two recent infamous incidences. In his 15 seasons in the NHL, Simon has been suspended eight times. One suspension, of three games, was for a racial slur Simon, a Native American, directed at Mike Grier, who is black, in 1997.

In 773 games (through Wednesday), Simon has amassed 1,808 penalty minutes and 305 points while playing with Quebec/Colorado, Washington, Chicago, Calgary, the New York Islanders, and one game with the Wild.

Simon was able to behave Wednesday night in his debut with the Wild at Tampa Bay, but I think we fans would be ignorant to trust that Simon can be a good boy the rest of the season.

But, then again, I have a feeling Wild General Manager and President Doug Risebrough didn’t get Simon so he could be good boy. I think there is only one reason Simon now wears a Wild jersey — to protect Marion Gaborik and the rest of the kids against the rest of the Western Conference, especially the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Wild fans can probably remember what happened to defenseman Kim Johnsson in the first round of the playoffs last season. If you don’t remember, Johnsson was knocked out of the final game of the series with the Ducks because of a concussion he received after taking a sucker punch from Brad May in game four.

The Wild still have enforcer Derek Boogaard on the roster, but Boogaard has been sidelined with a sore back. No Boogaard means the Wild have been without a legitimately feared enforcer on the ice.

Left wingers Todd Fedoruk and Aaron Voros don’t back down from contact, but neither of them is a Boogaard or Simon.

And, in a series, which is the format of each playoff round, big-time enforcers and/or protectors are necessary.

I know Wild fans wanted a proven goal scorer, like lifetime Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin or Florida Panther forward Ollie Jokinen, at the trade deadline, and I’m in that boat, too, but Simon might be more valuable to the team than we initially think, just because of his reputation.

The Wild still have to secure a spot in the playoffs, but, if they get there, who knows what Simon could do? He will push the opposition around, but he has also shown an ability to put pucks in the net.

Simon scored 29 goals and 20 assists with the Washington Capitals in the 1999-2000 season, and has played in the playoffs eight different seasons. He scored five goals and had two assists with Calgary, following the 2003-04 season.

The Flames lost to Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup finals that season.

Speaking of Stanley Cup, Simon knows what winning one feels like. He lifted the holy grail with the Colorado Avalanche at the end of the 1995-96 season. Simon is the fourth Wild player to have won a Stanley Cup. Brian Rolston (Devils, 1994-95), Sean Hill (Canadians, 1992-93), and Martin Skoula (Avalanche, 2000-01) are the others.

I would rather have seen the Wild get a speedy goal-scorer instead of a goon, but let’s hope Risebrough knew what he was doing by signing Simon. And let’s hope Simon stays out of jail.