Sunday, October 27, 2013

Has Heatley finally received the message? And, do we still believe it?

Did Dany Heatley finally get the message to shape up or get shipped out? Did Coach Mike Yeo finally get his message into Heatley's head?

And, do Minnesota Wild fans believe the message has finally sunk in?

That's the question this blogger poses today, after a week when the Wild went 3-0, outscoring their opponents 10-5 in the process.

The fact that the rest of the team has also stepped it up, following the Wild's 1-2-1 eastern road swing the prior week, hasn't hurt things, either.

It's hard to believe that Heatley has just turned it on, like a light switch. He finally got off the schneid with an empty-net goal in Thursday's 3-1 win vs. Carolina. Since then, at least Saturday night in Chicago, 'Heater' played with a little pep in his step. Perhaps the page has been turned, for a player who sometimes has needed a little extra motivation to succeed on the ice.

But, do Wild fans believe that the page has turned for Heatley? Or is it a combination of bad puck luck, changing on-ice partners and the opponents the Wild have faced so far this season, mostly either Eastern Conference opponents or (in the case of Winnipeg) former temmates of Heatley, who remember how he goes about his business on the ice?

Only time will tell for sure, but of the next eight games (6 of which are in St. Paul), seven are against Eastern Conference teams. The jury is still out for 'Heater'.

OW! Ow! Ow!

This all began on a night when not one, but BOTH starting goalies were pulled due to injury. 'Josh Harding night', featuring his 'Harding's Hope' charity, turned into 'Harding's Hurt' night, when the goalie, and his Carolina counterpart, Cam Ward, both left the game injured after long stretch-needing saves. Ward is out for a reported 3-4 weeks; Harding is reportedly day-to-day.

To see one starting goalie go down during the game is not normal during a NHL game. To see BOTH go down to injury, and not for poor performance, is very unusual indeed. It doesn't happen often, and when it does, you feel for them.

But that's why you carry two goalies, for situations like this. Unfortunately, the stress somethng like this sends shockwaves thru an organization. The fact that the Wild is relatively thin in goal in the minors doesn't help things, as goalies take longer to fully develop than other position players.

The Wild have to start thinking of the future. Think about goaltending. Backstrom is 35, and will not be around much longer; Harding will be 30 in January. Might it be time for the Wild to start ramping up some goaltender development?

Just a thought...

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