Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wild at the Quarter pole

OK, so after ¼ of the 2009-2010 NHL season has been played, what do we have?

  1. 7 of the 16 teams who made last year's playoffs would be out today, if the season ended now.
  2. Six points separate first from eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the same number which separates second from tenth place in the Western Conference.
  3. The Minnesota Wild coming off a combined road record of 2-9-2 after two killer road trips (one road trip five games, the other four games) in a span of five weeks.
  4. Six of the next 10 games for the Wild are against teams who are currently in the playoffs, if the season ended today. Two of the other 4 games are against teams who made the playoffs last season.
  5. The jury is still out on Wild Head Coach Todd Richards and his new 'system' of more offense. Although they actually show signs of doing it the way it's drawn up at times, there are still lapses, such as the third period of last week's game at Tampa Bay, and the first 25 minutes of the game at Carolina last Sunday, a game played so badly, that in that period they allowed a team, who lost 14 games in a row, to get up by three goals. Twice.
  6. The question still exists of whether or not the Wild will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline following the 17-day Olympic break Feb. 14-March 3. And just whom do you trade, anyhow? Those players with expiring contracts only? Or, do you blow the whole thing to Hell and start over? Who gets to pick and choose who stays, and who goes?
  7. It is only a matter of time before the Wild's sellout streak is over; it may even happen before Thanksgiving, as the team plays two opponents who are not really strong draws league-wide (Phoenix, NY Islanders) and a third opponent (Boston) who's major calling card, at least in Minnesota, is no longer with the club (Phil Kessel, now a Toronto Maple Leaf.)
  8. What about the Wild defense? Brent Burns is having an up-and-down season, at best: Nick Schultz, after some horrid nights early on, is slowly adjusting to the new style; Greg Zanon and Shane Hnidy are still getting used to playing with their new teammates; Marek Zidlicky still takes the dumb penalty at the wrong time, still gets caught out of position frequently and makes it harder for other defensemen to do their job; and Kim Johnsson, shoulder injury (or higher up, depending on who you listen to) still isn't the same defenseman he was last season.
  9. Injuries to forwards have plagued the Wild this last six weeks as well. Four of the top six forwards (Petr Sykora, Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Andrew Brunette) were out at one time or another. Throw in the pre-season woes of Brunette and Mikko Koivu, and you have a recipe for disaster, as no one knows much about who they're playing alongside.
  10. Although one of the brightest spots has been the goaltending of Niklas Backstrom, the lack of defense in front of him means he has seen a lot of rubber already, and we still have 60 + games left to play.

Although the Wild are far from out of the playoff race (it's way too early in the season to even start that talk for any team), they are inching precipitously close to the edge of the proverbial cliff. If they go over, they're like a bad Michael Jackson record.


-- WRT

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