Well, after Saturday night's latest Minnesota Wild loss, the number of Wild walking wounded now ruled out of the rest of this season-from-hell, is now up to five (Bouchard, Latendresse, Falk, Spurgeon, and now Matt Cullen, who had his right index finger broken, by a Christian Ehrhoff shot) and with five of the team's seven remaining games at home, the question has to be asked: Was the schedule as much a part of the team's problems this season as the concussions, groin problems and general poor play in December, January, February and March? Or was it the failure of the 'Director of Player Safety'?
The fact that the months of November, December and January were very much road-heavy months for the Wild, exasperated an already tenuous situation for the team's paper-thin lineup of talent. After the back-to-back nights of December 13 and 14, when Bouchard was re-concussed by Zack Bogosian of Winnipeg, and Chicago's Viktor Stahlberg rang the bell of Latendresse, respectively, Wild fans knew this team was going nowhere but down, from the lofty first-place heights they had been in, just a few days before.
The fact that without two of their top 6 forwards in the lineup, the offense was going to stall. But no one knew it was going to stall this bad. Then there was the shoulder injury to Mikko (Kaptain) Koivu, the groin troubles of both goaltenders (Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding), and you had a recipe for trouble. And, you already had tapped the Houston Aeros affiliate for all the talent that they could afford to send.
But nothing prepared Wild fans for the next two months following the All-Star Game, when the Wild were turned into the NHL's version of Alfred, the butler from 'Batman', -- 'At your service, sirs'.
Disasterous loss after disasterous loss. Beating the Wild was almost becoming comical. From the Nashville disaster on January 31, when the Wild blew a 4-1 lead at home in under 13 minutes, through the embarrassing 3-1 home loss to a Columbus team in 'fire sale' mode on February 11, through a embarrassing 7-1 loss to Colorado on March 6 (thank God, that game at least was in Denver), and onto another come-from-ahead loss to lowly Carolina on St. Patrick's Day. That Saturday, as the party raged on outside the 'X', the funeral was being held inside the arena.
And now, in two successive nights, two more add to the list of Wild walking wounded. Don't forget that on Thursday night, Calgary's Alex Tanguay gets away with an elbow shot to Jared Spurgeon, effectively ending the season for the defenseman some call 'the Minnow', for his small size. Surely, Wild fans thought, the NHL would look at this for some supplemental discipline. Right?
Seems that the Wild don't matter to NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. 'Sheriff Shanny', as he has been known, turns a blind eye to discipline when it comes to matters involving the Minnesota Wild. They aren't even worth his attention, even when the rules are clearly broken and players are getting concussed needlessly. Shanahan's official title is 'Director of Player Safety'. But, excuse me, if we fans point out that his title means for ALL players, not just those of teams going to this season's playoffs. Shanhan is as hypocritical as his predecessor, Colin Campbell, ever was or could have been. Player safety should be pretty straightforward; either the player involved was concussed, or he was not. If he was, and it was the direct result of an elbow (Tanguay's), then supplemental discipline should be assessed. Simple.
But Wild fans are already accustomed to the NHL not doing anything about incidents involving the Wild. Nothing was done about Bogosian when he ran Bouchard; nothing was done about the beatings in the crease both goalies were taking; nothing will be done about the Tanguay elbow.
Player safety? Contradiction in terms, if you ask me.