Sunday, October 31, 2010

Consistenly Inconsistent

Minnesota Wild lean on unleanable Havlat, Cullen as up-and-down week ends

By Wild Road Tripper

Hallowe'en is upon us. An evening of little ghosts and goblins and kids dressed up as scary creatures showing up at your door (starting about 5 o'clock, or about the time they carry Brett Favre off in a cart) looking to get paid in candy.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Wild thought trick-or-treat started a day early. Like, Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. As they Wild went down 3-1 to the defending Stanley Cup champions, the fact that the Wild were so desperate for offense that they leaned on Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen in a version of the Washington Capitals' "all Ovie" offense, whereby Cullen (and Alex Ovechkin on Thursday) stayed out on the ice, pulling double-and-triple shifts while the clock wound down at the end of the game, giving two points was the treat at the end of a trick gone horribly wrong.

The Wild need someone -- anyone -- to come in, kick this team in the collective heine and scream, 'why don't you want to play for 60 minutes?'

The game versus Washington is an example of what can happen when everything is executed properly. You score, you play defense, you win hockey games. The game versus Chicago on Saturday, on the other hand, is an example of what happens when there is no execution. Players stand around, don't chase after loose pucks, allow opponents to get open for wrap-around chances, and so on. Players skate around at half-speed, don't check, don't make plays, until it is too late to do anything, which will affect the outcome of the contest.

And, it's been this way the entire season. That the Wild players have not seen this by now, is the failure of each individual player to face up to the fact that right now, this team just isn't playing all that well. That some players need to look in the mirror, and blame that person for not playing better.

And I'll be honest with you: Martin Havlat is quickly becoming the next version of another player from the Wild past who also had troubles with consistency, who also had troubles with the puck, who also didn't do his job.

Martin Havlat, meet Martin Skoula. Skoula, now relegated to the KHL in Russia, is the all-time poster child for the Wild franchise when it comes to ineptitude. Havlat is starting to turn down this dark, lonely, pothole-filled road as well, with his lack of speed on the rush, his poor shooting, his 'softness' when it comes to puck battles, his amount of puck turnovers (especially in the last week). He may be hiding an injury, although he will never admit it publically.

It's time for the Wild to sit Havlat out, especially if he continues to play like he did on Saturday, when his turnover in the Chicago zone, in the last minute of the game, directly led to Chicago's empty-net goal with 35 seconds left in the contest. Havlat is skating like a man who is nursing a glass groin, kind of like another ex-Wild from that central part of Europe, Marian Gaborik, so I think most Wild fans have seen enough of that to know better. Even though Havlat's agent, Allan Walsh (who also represents several other Wild players) uses Twitter as his personal soapbox, in order to lobby Wild management for more time for Havlat, the fact of the matter is that after last night, Havlat doesn't deserve more playing time. Based on his efforts the last few games, he actually deserves less. A lot less.

It worked for Skoula. It might work again, you never know:

Time to get Martin Havlat qualified to operate the Martin Skoula Memorial Press Box Popcorn Machine.

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