Monday, March 28, 2011

Wild about...apathy

Indifference from players, fans of Minnesota Wild alike as April looms

You know it's bad when...your home fans even stop booing. When the paying customers see that the team has given up. Waived the flag of surrender. Quit. (Sorry, Andrew Brunette, but they have.)Stopped playing like these same fans saw they could just a few short weeks ago. When the Wild were in fifth place in the NHL's Western Conference, one point from a home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And then, and then...

...they rolled over, and they died.

The Wild are 0-7-1 in their last eight games, following an 0-4 road trip and an 0-3-1 home stand where they were out-scored 22-8 in the four games, puncuated by a blowout (8-1 to Montreal, who hasn't won since, BTW), a shut-out (3-0 to Toronto), and by flatout giving up (an embarrassing 6-3 loss to St. Louis, a team which the Wild put out of playoff contention last month on Hockey Day Minnesota).

Wretched doesn't begin to describe the type of play the Wild are exhibiting in front of their fan base right now. The indifference that this team is showing their followers is indeed epic. No jump whatsoever. No pride in receiving an NHL paycheck every two weeks. Not even caring enough to play for each other, even when the head coach, the embattled Todd Richards, is screaming at you during a time-out on the Wild bench.

Even when the puck lay 8 feet from the St. Louis goal, and three Wild players surrounded the puck, NO ONE went for the puck. That is what the Wild have become; the de facto laughingstock of the NHL. Indeed, the Wild are so up against the salary cap, that they will have to jettison some of their current players to have any salary-cap room for next fall. But who will they be playing in front of next September when pre-season begins?

The season-ticket fanbase, the cornerstone of any pro sports franchise, is tired of the blowouts, shut outs, and projects (like James Sheppard) who never seem to pan out. They are fed up with the losing, the lack of progress, and the flat-out giving up. The Wild need an infusion of talent -- real, honest-to-God talent, not more 'character guys' who are 'good in the room'. They need to shed themselves of the 5 unrestricted free agents, and a good amount of the other 'dead weight' this team currently houses on their roster, and get some real talent in here. Talent that can finish. Talent that can score. Talent that can step in and play at the NHL level. Not more third-and-fourth line 'grinders' who are bargain-basement 'projects', who may (or, may not) wind up becoming 'lifers' in the AHL, occasionally coming up for a 'cuppa coffee' in the big leagues.

If the Wild fail to blow it up, and do relatively little between the end of the season (April 10th, sadly) and next September's start of the pre-season, the fans will stay away from the Xcel Energy Center in droves. The Wild sales and marketiung staff will have their hands more than full, trying to get discretionary entertainment dollars out of an already skeptical fan base. And no amount of 'free food' offers, arena give-aways or 'special nights' will help change their minds.

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