Friday, September 25, 2009

The 'new Wild order' (H)

With the Wild roster finally taking shape, it will be interesting, to say the least, as to how this team will become a cohesive unit. At least, we hope they become a unit.

Someday. When they are all healthy...

Yes, it's not been the best pre-season in Wild history. Far from it, frankly. Including Friday night's game at the United Center in Chicago versus the Blackhawks, the Wild were a disappointing 2 wins, 4 losses. And they were all either shutout wins, or 4-goal-against (or more) losses. Not a record that is very conducive to a squad whose goal is to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have yet to see ice time in pre-season action; Koivu and Brunette with nagging groin injuries (new head coach Todd Richards decided the first day to gas the returning players by skating them into the ground; their groins disagreed) and PMB has the flu (a great reason to take off work; just ask the Centers for Disease Control.)

Add to that the fact that Benoit Pouliot didn't survive his first pre-season game at home vs. Chicago (due to yet another groiner) and that Derek 'Face of the Franchise' Boogaard got a stick in the chin, leading to a concussion (the last thing Boogaard needs) and you have a real recipe for trouble. Throw in the fact that four of the Wild's seven pre-season games are against teams who are headed for Scandinavia to start the NHL's regular season, and it's no wonder that the Wild are in the situation they are, as the pre-season schedule winds down.

Very few teams in team sports are able to rebuild and stay competitive. Even fewer teams can do it while not only operating under a salary cap. I haven't heard of one yet that can do it while not only operating under the cap, but trying to rebuild their minor-league system, which was gutted as ex-Wild GM Doug Risebrough traded away draft pick after draft pick, for such 'stellar standouts' as Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Simon, Petteri Nummelin, and Dominic Moore -- all of whom have moved on to other places, far, far away.

(Thank God.)

The new regime -- Richards and GM Chuck Fletcher -- are operating under extreme pressure to turn things around. And quickly. There is precious little room for error, no thanks to Risebrough and his 'five-year plan', which never was fully implemented in nine full seasons. When Wild owner Craig Leipold sacked Risebrough on April 16, the draft day cupboard looked like the aftermath of the Nazi invasion of Russia in World War II -- scorched earth. Nothing to use as trade bait.

But, Fletcher has managed to, for the most part, make chicken salad out of chicken(bleep) while trying to hang onto draft picks, as most successful teams have done. Time will tell how Fletcher's rebuild is going. Until then, the best thing to do is sit back, wait and relax. If the Wild make the playoffs, great. If they don't, we all can blame DR. Either way, the die is cast for big changes this season.

Hopefully for Wild fans, it will indeed be 'Change...we can believe in.'

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