The dust has finally settled from the pre-Trade Deadline wheeling and dealing for the Minnesota Wild.
And, to the dismay of the fanbase, nothing has really changed. The Wild are still precipitously close to entering the top 5 in the 2012 NHL Draft, due to the club's continued inability to score goals in a timely manner (or, as in Detroit last Friday night, at all). The lack of offensive punch is a major worry to everyone in the organization as well, from GM Chuck Fletcher on down. The Wild, who had everything in place to execute the unbelieveable 3-goal comeback on Thursday night in Montreal, wound up having a Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan-esque moment, when Devin Setoguchi blew his shootout shot attempt, after falling down and losing control of the puck. The only thing missing was Setoguchi crying, 'Why? Why?' after the blown chance.
Yes, Setoguchi did help engineer the comeback, scoring the tying goal and assisting on another in the final few minutes of the third period, but it will be the shootout opportunity lost that will haunt the Wild the rest of the season. Add that to Tuesday's now-strangely-familiar 4-0 blowout loss on national TV to the Los Angeles Kings, and your 0-2-1 week for the boys in Iron Range Red was made.
You trade the longest-tenured Wild player -- Nick Schultz -- for Tom Gilbert, a similar-but-different Minnesota boy (Bloomington Jefferson) who came from the hapless Edmonton Oilers, and what happens? He gives up the game winner vs. LA, and reminds Wild fans how difficult it is to be the steady, stay-at-home defenseman that Schultz actually was.
You trade Marek Zidlicky to the New Jersey Devils, for a boatload of soon-to-be free agent talent (including two former Wild players, Kurtis Foster and Stephane Veilleux) and possibly two draft picks, and what happens? Zidlicky promptly goes -5, and Jersey fans are incensed. The Wild are immediately relieved of over $3M of salary at the end of this season, which means that if the salary cap does NOT go up, the Wild are nearly $20M under the cap...just enough to possibly be in the running, for two of the NHL's premiere free-agents-to-be, Nashville's Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, who just happens to be toiling away currently with...the New Jersey Devils.
You trade Greg Zanon to the Boston Bruins for Steven Kampfer, a 23-year-old ex-Wolverine who no one knows much about. He still hasn't played his first game in a Wild uniform, although that will probably end this evening in tonight's twilighter vs. the Colorado Avalanche. It looks like he will be paired with Gilbert tonight vs. the Avs, so hopefully the lost (Gilbert) won't lead the 'newbie' down the wrong path. Zanon was going to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) anyhow, so why not get something for him?
So, where do you go from here? Do you actually try to make the playoffs, try to make a last-minute charge for the No. 8 seed (the Wild are seven points behind current No. 8 seed Dallas this Sunday morning) or do you throw in the towel, play as many of the kids as possible, and make the fan base suffer thru the remainder of the fourth consecutive non-playoff season?
Now I know that three of the Wild's top six forwards are unavailable due to various injuries now. They have been for weeks at a time this season, especially after the Dec. 13/14 games where two players suffered concussions in back-to-back games. But the fact is there is no talent in the pool right now. It's been drained.
Reminds me of limbo. 'How LOW can you go?'
How bad into limbo are the Wild right now? And what can be done to pull out of the funk? Or, do you just wait for June and the NHL Entry Draft to try and get better?
I guess we all just wait and see...