The basics. It's the stuff you learn early in any endeavour in life, whether it be dressing one's self, driving your car, or playing hockey.
The Minnesota Wild still need to re-learn some of the basics. Like making sure that when four players are attacking the net, one man has to stay somewhat back and let nothing (puck or player) get by him. Like getting back and helping out your teammate as an opponents' 2-on-1 goes for your fearful goalie. Like taking care of business in your own end before going off on one-man, length-of-rink rushes which result in no shots on goal, time after time.
Some teams, they have learned the basics. Pittsburgh. Washington. San Jose. And, apparently, the Los Angeles Kings, who thumped the Wild 6-3 Thursday night at STAPLES Center. Now, the Kings are still learning, especially on the power play, where the Wild were 3-for-5 Thursday night. But, then again, when defensemen are scoring two of your three goals, 2 of your top 9 forwards are riding the pine after three goals in less than seven minutes, and the defensemen who did score, wind up a sad minus three each, then you still have lots of room to learn how to play the game.
The right way. The way that the coaching staff wants you to, not the way that dug you into this hole in the first place. The Jacques Lemaire days and ways are over. No more Doug Risebrough telling you on the event level of the Xcel Energy Center that you need to do more even though you've been injured for weeks. No more Jacques saying 'Hey, You' because he can't remember your name. Those days are gone for good. Start playing like it, for your own sakes, if not for those of the paying patrons you perform for night after night. Please.
This Wild team has more talent, top-to-bottom, than any other in team history. Yes, they no longer have Marian Gaborik (and his plethora of problems), but Player One (Mikko Koivu) to Player 22 (Jaime Sifers), the Wild have more talent now than at any time in the franchise's nine seasons.
But the truth of the matter is, every other team in the West is that much better, also. Many regular 3rd/4th line players from last season now are either out of the game entirely, playing in the AHL, or playing for reduced pay scales on different teams. The downturn in the North American economy has forced NHL teams to drastically cut pay scales, or risk even more Phoenix Coyote-esque situations across the League.
'Hey, wait a minute! There are 23 players on an NHL roster!!'
There are indeed 23 positions on an NHL roster. One of those on the Wild is currently occupied by a young man who really hasn't shown that he belongs there.
Welcome to Roster Spot number 23, Benoit Pouliot.
Derisively nicknamed 'Pool Boy' on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune 'Russo's Rants' hockey blogs, Pouliot's 'Million Dollar Talent, 10-Cent Head' routine has grown exceedingly stale for Wild fans, who clamor for someone willing to be more aggressive to fill that roster spot. Someone who will use his talents to do something -- indeed, anything -- to help his club out. Marshmallow-soft, 'B-b-b-Benny' will not take on any grinding after pucks in corners, will not stay in the play, cannot even take a man out so that the other forwards can attack the net with the freed puck.
And NBA fans said David Robinson of the Spurs was soft? Pouliot makes Robinson look like Ayres Rock, the Australian monolith which is considered sacred to Aborigine peoples.
The waste of this first-round talent is all too apparent. Time for both sides to say 'Au revoir' to each other, and go their separate ways. Pouliot needs a fresh start to resurrect his failing career, and the Wild need cap space, to fill that 23rd roster spot.
With someone who might actually appreciate it.
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