Saturday, November 30, 2013

Into the abyss: the dreaded 'Yeo Woe'?

And Minnesota Wild fans wonder why their team gets no love or respect; weeks like the last two are reasons why they will not be eligible for NHL prime events, like the NHL Winter Classic, until they can do one thing consistently: win.

Some things, like the calendar, happen at the same time every year:

The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
The buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio.
Macy's Parade happens on Thanksgiving Day in NYC.
The Vikings implode onto police blotters, all over the Twin Cities' west suburbs.
(OK, I went a little too far there. But very little.)

And the Minnesota Wild begin their annual fall out of the top of the NHL Western Conference. OK, it didn't take three full months, like it did in the 'first-to-worst' season of 2011-12; nor did it have a short season to fall down upon, like last season's end-of-season, near-complete crash-and-burn directly out of the NHL playoffs.

But it's happening. Again. And, may I say, as a life-long Minnesotan;

Just like every Minnesota sports team. It happens to all of them.

And Wild owner/CEO Craig Leipold wonders why his team and market get passed over for major NHL events, like the Winter Classic, and the NHL Stadium Series.

Your team can't score right now, Craig. You have a $7.5M human 'boat anchor', Dany Heatley, who can't score unless there's no goalie in the net (unless he gets a bounce of the puck), playing on your 4th line. The center of the 4th line is out because he got a puck inadvertantly in the one of his own players. Your third line is centered by a player who can't seem to play the puck unless it's perfectly placed on his stick just so (don't even think to ask him to look in his skates for the puck.) Your second line center just had his brain injured eight days. Your first line center is deathly afraid to shoot the puck, so much so that he passes up scoring chances, in order to pass the puck away. An assist is worth more to this guy than a goal is. Wide open net? Pass the puck. Breakaway? Pass the puck. Any other decent scoring situation? Pass the puck.

God forbid that you actually shoot at the net. Your countrymen, back in Assist-land, would not be pleased.

And Minnesota fans wonder why the NHL gives them no love whatsoever, why they are always second-to-last on NHL media, like 'NHL Tonight' and other NHL-produced shows.

So, someone (namely, Nick Henry, he of the 'Hitting the Post' blog) coined the phrase which so rightfully fits the Wild's mid-season malaise; namely, the 'Yeo Woe'.

The Wild can't score. The Wild can't shoot. The Wild can't stop other teams from scoring. The Wild can't forecheck, because they're backchecking all the time. Blah, blah, blah...

Wild fans are tired of the excuses. Wild fans are looking for results. Or, do the Wild become the next version of the Buffalo Sabres, who are blowing it up and starting over?

The Wild have lost three straight (and 4 of their last six) while only scoring 12 goals total in that time. Twelve goals. in nearly two weeks. Certainly, that kind of 'production' won't get you far, at least in today's NHL.

So what to do? With the Wild right up against the lowered salary cap, they can't go out and trade for that player(s) they need, unless the net effect is to lower their salary cap number. And, quite frankly, that means moving Heatley, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Due to last season's end-of-season injury, suffered at the end of a 6-1 blowout loss at San Jose April 18, the Wild were prohibited from tendering a buyout of Heatley's massive contract over the summer. Now, the Wild are really paying the price, for carrying 'Heater' on the roster.

No one will take 'Heater' off the Wild's hands for any reason whatsoever. The rest of the NHL knows he is damaged goods; the Wild are stuck with him. Would the Wild be better off just flat-out sending him down to their AHL affiliate in Des Moines? We probably will never know.

But it would be interesting to find out...

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