Sunday, November 28, 2010

Time for a Change?

Something -- nee, anything -- needs to be done if the Minnesota Wild are to salvage anything from the 2010-2011 season.

After getting shelled for 5 or more goals in three of their last four games, two of which were at home, the time has come for the Wild management to do something about this team's malaises. The days of taking whole periods of games off has to stop. And, it has to stop NOW.

Yes. different players (most notably Nick Schultz and Captain Mikko Koivu) have taken the 'fall on the sword' for recent team bad performances. But, it's not just one or two players that take whole periods off. It's the whole damn TEAM that is taking periods off.

This cannot be allowed to continue. The fact of the matter is that if the Wild are serious in an attempt to even qualify for the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they need to right the ship of state NOW, or else face a long, cold winter of discontent -- something, quite frankly, that this franchise has never really faced before. Unless they get going, and soon, the only post-season activity that will be hockey-related at the 'X', will be the 2011 NHL Entry Draft June 24 & 25.

Should this poor performance continue, it will make four seasons since the Wild will have qualified for the post-season. The statistics (yes, I know, lies, damn lies, and statistics; but these don't lie, people) speak for themselves:

  • The Wild are being outshot 117-54 in the second period of the last nine games (going back to the game in Atlanta, Nov. 11), and 79-24 in the second period of the last five games alone. In fact, the Wild rank 30th -- that's right, dead last -- in shots on goal overall this season. And this for a team which is supposed to have a 'new and improved' offense, under Head Coach Todd Richards.
  • Niklas Backstrom, who was held out of the Nashville victory on Friday, should start thinking of getting a lawyer, and suing his defense for non-support. His goals-against average has ballooned from 1.90 to 2.66 in his last three starts, all of which 'featured' the Wild giving up five, six, and seven goals, against the NY Rangers, Philadelphia and Colorado, respectively. Should the Wild start Jose Theodore in their next game (against Calgary on Monday night, in the Saddledome), Backstrom would start against the Phoenix Coyotes at home, on Wednesday night, against a Coyotes team which has scored 4 or more goals in 5 of their last 8 games, winning 7 of those last 8 games, including a sweep of all three Western Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) on the road last week (something the Wild have never achieved, by the way).
  • The next seven games for the Wild (five of which are, thankfully, on the road...I don't feel as guilty shutting the TV off and going to bed, as leaving a home game early) are against Calgary (twice, home and away), Phoenix (same, home and away) and at Dallas, LA Kings and Anaheim. The fact is that the Wild, as they are playing now, stand a better-than-even chance of losing at least 5 of those 7 games, and realistically could find themselves out of the playoff race in the Western Conference before Dec. 19, the start of the NHL's Christmas holiday roster freeze.

The Wild are also hamstrung with three players on injured reserve (Josh Harding, Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard) for which GM Chuck Fletcher stubbornly refuses to request Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) status to get cap relief, to bring in another player who may actually help this club turn its' fortunes around, whether it be via trade, free-agent signing (Owen Nolan is still out there, as example) or otherwise. Now, whether he is trying to 'save' his cap space, so he has more to use later on or whatever, the fact remains that there may not be a 'LATER', if he doesn't do something about turning the fortunes of the club NOW.

The Wild are in free fall, and everyone -- from Owner Craig Leipold, to the most casual fan -- knows it. Will anything be done before they hit rock bottom? The people who DO have all the answers, aren't saying. And the paying public? Those who are 'stakeholders' in this franchise? We're not pleased. And if we aren't pleased, we won't come to games anymore. We'll stop helping pay the bills.

For as fans, the best response to apathetic play, is our own apathy.

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