Kyle Brodziak doesn't watch a lot of episodic television when the Minnesota Wild are traveling, but one show has hooked him: "Gold Rush Alaska" on the Discovery Channel.
"I started watching it with my wife last year," he said. "You just want them to do so good, and it seems like everything goes wrong. But you hope in the end they do well."
It's easy to see why the show speaks to the 27-year-old center. He's the underrated forward who does the dirty work for the Wild, putting up 14 points in 28 games while also working as one of their primary penalty killers. In his seven NHL seasons — parts of four with the Edmonton Oilers, now in his fourth with Minnesota — he's been prospecting for a playoff appearance and has yet to discover one.
Based on the current standings, that might change. The Wild have the best record in the NHL at 18-7-3 for 39 points, and are surging at 8-2-0 in their last 10 games under new coach Mike Yeo.
We spoke with Brodziak about the Wild's success; playing a more defensive system; Cal Clutterbuck's mustache; Dany Heatley's turtleneck; realignment; Social Distortion and his least favorite NHL jersey. Enjoy:
Q. So do you just look at the standings and smile right now?
BRODZIAK: Yeah, it definitely feels good.
At the same time, everyone knows that it's still early in the year. But there's a reason why we are where we are: The focus we've had since Day 1 of camp, the work ethic we've brought to the rink every day, the change of attitude. We have to maintain that all year.
We're working really hard. When you work hard in practice and you see results, it makes it easier to put the work boots on. You're having fun because you're winning.
Do you think people underestimate the Wild? You get a sense that people are just waiting for the team to crash back down to Earth at some point.
I get that sense. It's OK though. I think everyone on our team knows how we're doing it. We can't worry about what other people think of us. We've done a pretty good job, to this point, of just doing what we have to do every game.
Yeah, whatever. If people don't want to give us respect then who really cares? All we want to worry about is playing hockey and winning games. Eventually it'll come.
What was the reaction when Fletcher shook up the roster during the summer?
It's exciting to be a part of a team when your GM is making moves to get better. It's tough to see guys go, but at the same time you get fresh faces in there and look ahead to the future. It was something to be excited about. And the team has embraced that.
Is Dany Heatley a bit misunderstood?
I think so. There are quite a few cities he gets booed in, but just as a teammate everybody thinks he's a great guy and everyone loves having him around the room. It's one of those things where people have a misconception about it.
And what do you think of the turtleneck? Do you ever wanna just take him to the side and tell him he's not Tomas Plekanec?
I think it's hilarious … because he thinks it's so sick.
He thinks it's pretty legit, and that's why I think it's awesome.
A lot's been made about Yeo coming in with this renewed commitment to defensive hockey, openly talking about the trap. Was that style an adjustment?
To be honest, I wouldn't exactly call it … we take a lot of pride in what we do defensively, but at the same time I don't think a lot of people give us credit for being an aggressive team on the forecheck or being aggressive in the D-zone as well. We take pride defensively, but it didn't take away any of the aggressiveness.
It's one of those things where people hear "trap" and then look at the goals-for in the standings and they think Jacques Lemaire is coaching the team again.
It's a different style than what Jacques Lemaire would be coaching. Mike preaches being aggressive on the forecheck. You look at other teams that are playing more defensively, and I don't think they're as aggressive. We're playing our best when the first guy's going after the puck as hard as he can. We want to put pressure on teams.
You've mentioned that your role is more clearly defined now than last season. Is that a product of not being moved around the lineup like Todd Richards did, or did Yeo sit you down and tell you specifics on your role?
We had a lot of dialogue early on. What's important for me is to play a hard game, be a hard player to play against. Not let other teams take the puck away from me easily. That's pretty black and white. If I can just go out there and think about that, everything else will take care of itself.
You've also mentioned you're a perfectionist, which we imagine means you're never satisfied with your efforts or results.
Yeah, that's exactly what I was getting at. For me, I take a lot of pride in my game. When I evaluate it, I think about a lot of things I didn't do very well. I want to do everything right. Every play can't be perfect, but I want to make every play be the right one.
When you were a younger player, did you let those imperfections linger on your mind more than they do now?
You have to be able to let it go. Early on, maybe I dwelled on the negative things too much. Now, you can put it in perspective a little better. It's all about what you do the next shift, the next game. As you get older, you can handle it a little better.
Cal Clutterbuck called you the most underrated player on the team. Do you like being part of the supporting cast rather than being a featured player?
I guess you can say I like to fly under the radar a little bit. If the coaches think I'm doing a good job, and my teammates think I'm doing a good job, that's all I care about.
Clutterbuck's ability to grow facial hair is remarkable. Do you ever marvel at it?
It's pretty impressive how fast and how thick it grows. I'd say I'm a little bit jealous. Mine's definitely not close to the level his is at, and I keep it all year long.
Mine is pretty horrible looking. It's red. I can grow it pretty thick. But it's red.
You can come clean with us: Does Clutterbuck use any mustache performance-enhancing drugs?
Nope. Nothing. That's all natural. He's a pretty hairy guy.
The Edmonton Journal called you the "one that got away." You find that flattering?
It's definitely flattering, but right now I'm very happy about the situation I'm in. Looking back at the situation in Edmonton, I didn't play nearly my best hockey there. I'm happy with the organization, because they gave me a chance to play in the NHL, but I like my situation now. There's no hard feelings. It's a business.
The Oilers are no longer a division rival; what are your thoughts on realignment?
I think everybody's really happy with it. We have a tough schedule. It's a lot of travel, a lot of going through customs into Canada. Those hours add up at the end of the year. If we can have shorter flights, get home earlier, that's great.
The other thing is the rivalries. If you come to our building when you play [the Blackhawks], you can tell everyone gets a little amped up for those games.
A couple of quick ones for you: Outside of your team's, what is your favorite NHL sweater?
Definitely something older. Probably Chicago or Detroit. They're classic jerseys.
And throughout history, do you have a least favorite jersey?
Oh, the worst I can remember was the Islanders [Fishsticks] one, from some time in the 1990s.
What do music listen to?
I'm a huge Social Distortion fan. Right now I don't even listen to anything else. I could name about 10 songs that I'm in love with, but the song that really got me hooked on them was "I Was Wrong."
What are you driving these days?
A 2010 Yukon Denali, white.
Finally, we ask this of all our interviewees: Your adult beverage of choice?
Probably Miller Lite.