I've written about the Cody Wild Conundrum before. Wild seems to be ahead of Taylor Chorney by the numbers, but his treatment by the Oilers has been quite different.Rob Daum has said that Wild needs to work on a few things, but the numbers continue to hold up. I decided to go to the source and find out how Wild is progressing and where his game will take him.
C&B: It's been a tough year again for the Falcons. Call-ups and injuries have kind of scrambled the roster, yet your production has remained consistent. How have you been able to do that?
Cody Wild: I just stick to my game plan and just to the things that I'm good at and not try to do too much. I'm not trying to run around chasing the play. I'm trying to worry about my own game, I'm just trying to keep it simple and develop the best I can. I take every day as an opportunity to get better and try to reach my goals.
C&B: Oiler fans don't get to see much of the Falcons, so they don't know much about you. Can you describe your game for them?
Wild: I'm a puck-moving defenseman, I like to get up in the rush and make plays. I'm a pretty good passer and a power play guy, so much of the offense in this game comes from the power play and I try to help the team there, but normally I'm trying to move the puck up the ice and get into the rush. As a defenseman when you see another defenseman up there in the play it's frustrating because it's "Oh man, what's going on?" Defensively I'm developing my game. It's something I need to work on, it's something the Oilers have told me I need to work on and that's been a key for the last two years. I think I've improved immensely in that department. I've had to learn to play positionally, you know coming out of college I was pretty raw defensively, as far not really knowing how to play defense. If you think about that, it's pretty scary coming out of college and not really knowing the right technique or ways to go into a corner and engage in a battle. I really came in as a blank canvas, in not knowing what to do. I feel like I've learned how to do those things, now I'm just trying to keep working at it and get better at it. The game now has a lot of puck-moving defensemen, offensive guys have become a key, but you've got to be able to defend as well. That's what I'm really working on and I feel like I've gotten a lot better at it.
C&B: You mentioned improving your game. Have you set any personal goals? If so are you on track to hit them? Is it more a case of small refinements to improve your overall game?
Wild: I set goals for myself, obviously, and one of them was to be better defensively. This summer was huge for me. I wanted to have a great summer working out, and I was watching video of myself from last year and looking at my game to see what I was doing wrong. I saw a lot of things and thought to myself "Wow, I can't believe I do that." That's what I've been trying to change, those things that I watched last year and couldn't believe I was doing it - trying to fix those little things in my game.
Offensively, I told myself that I need to put up numbers this year to get going. I've done alright so far, but I have to be better in that department and put up more points.
C&B: The Oilers originally listed you at 6'1" 183 when they drafted you. I noticed now that you're listed by the Falcons at 6'1" 205. Have you made a concerted effort to bulk up?
Wild: I think that listing is from my freshman year in college, I'm 198 or 200 now. I don't think I was even fully developed when that came out. As far as this summer, I wanted to come into camp and do well in the testing. Conditioning is huge in this game. You have to be able to play the minutes and stay healthy and stay in good shape. It's a big part of the game today to be physically fit and be able to log the big minutes. As an offensive guy, you're always skating, always up in the play, so you've got to be fit to take the minutes.
C&B: You mentioned that the Oilers told you that you needed to work on some things, what do you think your role within the organization is? Will you be considered a puck-mover for your career?
Wild: I think so. I think they know what I bring to the table. I'm an offensive guy, I'm a puck-moving guy. I see the ice well and I can make plays. I think that's what they see me as. They also told me that I need to get better defensively, and that's what I'm working on and I think I have been better defensively. It's tough with all of the losses that we've had, but I think I'm developing pretty well.
C&B: The numbers seem to bear that out.
Wild: The American League is a tough league. You have guys that come down from the NHL and they have a hard time in this league. For a defensman it's tough too -- coming out of college and playing eighty games is a grind. The competition is really good down here. I feel like I've developed well over the last year and a half.
C&B: What has been the biggest change, moving from Coach Truitt to Coach Daum?
Wild: I liked Coach Truitt, he was a good guy, a good coach, but things just didn't work out. It's not his fault though, we lost the games. He wasn't playing every night, we lost those games. Coach Daum came in and he has more patience, he's more of a teacher, he knows the game really well and he explains it very well. He believes in his systems and you really have to buy into them. I think we have, but we've been struggling lately. We can't put our finger on what it is, but it's frustrating having back to back losing seasons. We're working hard to get out of it, we're playing better, but it's just not there yet. I think once we get a couple of wins, we'll get over that mountain, but it's tough right now.
C&B: That losing streak really picked up steam when Devan Dubnyk was called up. What does Dubnyk mean to the team?
Wild: Man, he's our backbone. He would save us so many times that we wouldn't even realize it until he was gone and then we'd all say "Whoa, what's going on?" We were making the same mistakes, but we didn't have Dubie there to bail us out. He's a great goalie and he's played really well for us. Thing snowballed when we lost him. We have to find a way to get out of this - we're not scoring goals the way we should be and maybe we're not helping out our goalie as much as we should be.
C&B: Coach Daum pointed out that footwork are some things you have to work on. What did you do in the off-season and what are you doing to focus on that? Is it mostly technique in regards to your footwork or is it overall speed?
Wild: You always want to be quicker and that's one of the things I recognize - I need to be faster. So I spend time doing drills and working with the skating coach. In the offseason, I do the dry land workouts to improve explosiveness and first steps. I'm not slow by any means, but you always want to get better in that department.
C&B: He also said he'd like to see you play with more of an edge, and in the pictures that we obtained from the Albany game on Halloween, you seemed mighty perturbed. That's not your normal demeanor?
Wild: Nah, that's not my normal demeanor. I play with an edge when I need to play with an edge. I don't go out of my way to run someone - that's not my role. It's not my style of play to go running around and challenging guys to fight. I'll throw a hit when it's there, but I'm not going to be out of position and cause a two on one the other way. You want to be gritty in this game - you can't be a pushover at all and I don't believe that I am by any means. I'm not afraid to go into the corners with anyone, and I'm not afraid to battle in front of the net with anyone. The "edge" comments I don't really understand, but I guess I'll go out there and play with more edge.
C&B: During the losing streak in December, you took a healthy scratch a couple of times. Was the staff looking for something specific from you, or was that a way of shaking up the lineup?
Wild: I wish I knew. I have no idea why I was out of the lineup. I guess maybe he wanted to get another guy in there to see what he could do.
C&B: You've frequently been compared with Taylor Chorney. What's one significant difference between the way you play compared to Chorney?
Wild: I think we do play a very similar game. We play great together, especially on the power play when we play together, we gel. We know where each other are on the ice and where we are going to be and we move the puck very well. He's a great skater, just a really powerful stride, if you've seen the kid skate you know it's "Wow, he can move." He's a great player. We both are kind of learning the defensive curve at the same time, and we have a lot of similarities. We both use our stick very well, he's got an active stick in the defensive zone and uses it well, as do I. I use a pretty long stick and it's a good weapon for me.
C&B: You mentioned your power play time, when Taylor went up to the Oilers on the call-up, I noticed your power play suffered a little bit. Was it a matter of not gelling with his replacement, or was it losing his overall talent?
Wild: Taylor is a great power play guy with the way he walks the line and holds the puck. He's got a great shot from the point that always seems to find it's way to the net. When we lost him it was tough because he was our quarterback on the power play. Any time you take him out, it's tough. I was off of the power play for a bit, so it wasn't even me and him some times. He was on one and I was on the other. He was taken off of the first unit for awhile, so we had to fill guys in.
C&B: I didn't realize that. It's tough not getting to see the action and trying to track you guys via box scores.
Wild: Yeah, they don't do us justice.
C&B: Is the organization happy with your progress?
Wild: I think they are, I can't tell. Personally, I've improved as a player in the areas that they've asked me to improve. I can honestly say that I've worked my hardest to improve on what they wanted me to do and I still am. I don't have a bad attitude, I'm always trying to get better, I'm always watching video, I'm always trying to take the next step to get better and make it to the next level. I believe that they are happy with my improvement and with what I'm bringing to the table right now.
C&B: When do you expect to make it to the next level?
Wild: Honestly, I don't have a time table for it. Hopefully, next year I'll have a good training camp and be on the cusp of a call-up. You know, we've got a lot of good players in this organization, and we'll see what they want to do. They've got good dmen up there, so it's tough. I can't really put a time table on it. Hopefully soon though, I think I'm close to being ready. We'll see how they feel about it and what they want to do.
C&B: The defensive depth is working against you a bit.
Wild: Yeah, you know their offensive defensemen are Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Vishnovky and the list goes on. Those guys are great players, so it's tough. We've got Chorns here, so we'll see.
C&B: Were you a defenseman as a kid or did you make the switch later on?
Wild: I started out playing forward as a kid and I switched to defense just because I could skate backwards at a young age.
C&B: I think that's the story for every defenseman, the first kid that can skate backwards has to go play defense.
Wild: Exactly. I think I'm going to tell my kid to keep skating forward. Or teach him to skate backwards, but not tell the coach. I played as a kid and always looked up to offensive defenseman. Bryan Berard was from back home and I used to watch him in high school all of the time and he was just awesome offensively and he was fun to watch. As a kid I thought "Oh man, I want to play like that guy." Then I got to grow up watching Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey and all of those guys tear it up and being from New England, obviously Bobby Orr was the original offensive defenseman. As a kid, you always want to score, you want to get up there and score some points.
C&B: You're a Providence kid that went to Providence college and has played the last two years in Springfield, MA. Have you been spoiled by being so close to home for so long, or has proximity made things more difficult?
Wild: I've been pretty spoiled. I've been so close to home for so long, I was hoping the team was going to be a bit further away. It's been good for Christmas breaks, I'm an hour and ten minutes away from Providence. It's been great that my family gets to come up and see the games and I get to play in Providence five times a year and that's right in my back yard - I grew up two miles from the rink in Providence. So it's been good, but I wouldn't mind being further away. It's too close sometimes.
C&B: What do you do for fun when you leave the rink?
Wild: We have downtime that allows us to play video games, go to the movies, hang out with a bunch of the guys on the team.
C&B: The rumor is that you're a avid fisherman.
Wild: Yeah, I like to fish.
C&B: Fresh or Saltwater?
C&B: River, Lake, or Stream?
Wild: I like lakes for bass fishing.
C&B: What's the biggest bass you've ever hooked?
Wild: In New England, there aren't so many big bass like there are down south, but my biggest so far is about a five pounder.
C&B: Are you able to fish during the season, or is that a summer activity?
Wild: In the summer I fish pretty often. After work I'll go down to the beaches or go fishing with a bunch of buddies. It's time that I use to get away. It's so relaxing, sitting on the lake and just hanging out. I'm big into golf too. I played in high school. Right now I'm probably like an eight handicap. I played with and against a bunch of kids that played Division 1 golf and I was just doing it to pass the springtime before I went to college. It's just fun.
C&B: Thank you so much for taking the time out to speak with me.
Wild: No problem, any time.
Special thanks to Jennifer Bock for the photo of Cody Wild in action against the Albany River Rats.