Sunday, May 1, 2016

2015-16 Minnesota Wild: One blogger's opinion

Yes, these are my opinions, and mine only (thought you'd like to know).

The Minnesota Wild season is behind us. Never to return. And, for some of the Wild staff, players and most of the loyal fans, four words can aptly sum up the season:

Thank God it's over.

Putting the fan base out of its' misery, was the best thing the NHL could have done for this dysfunctional franchise. Although taunting the heck out of the fans in the third period of Game 6 versus the Dallas Stars was nearly the ultimate cruelty, the fact of the matter was that the Wild could not have survived a second-round series. Not that they weren't physically able to do so, mind you; but as the fan base was to deduce (because no one would actually come out and SAY it), there was a rift in the Wild locker room, between the veterans and the young guns on the team, that developed during the season's 1-11-2 stretch from Jan. 10 thru Valentine's Day. Continuing to lose to NHL lottery teams (e.g., New Jersey, Buffalo, Edmonton, Boston, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Arizona) is simply unacceptable for a franchise, who thinks they are just oh-so-close to a Stanley Cup run.

The Wild need to reboot; not a total rebuild, but a remodeling is definitely in order, especially after the classic 'back-in' to the playoffs, and the seven-losses-in-a-row ending with Game 2 in Dallas, including the come-from-ahead losses vs. Ottawa, at Detroit, the season-ending injury to Zach Parise vs. the San Jose Sharks, and the blowouts at Winnipeg and Game 1 in Dallas.

Let's play GM for a few minutes. (At least until someone says we don't know better.)

What should the Wild do?

1.) Dump Thomas Vanek. His usefulness to the Wild has diminished, and the foot speed to go with those hands has evaporated. He continues to refuse to help on defense. Yes, he scored 18 goals this season, but he faded in the finish. (Of course, on the Wild, who didn't?) But his continual 'figure eights at the center red line' routine has become maddening stale. And everyone knows it.

2.) Darcy Kuemper needs a new address. The NHL draft should at least allow the Wild to trade the recalcitrant goaltender to an organization that needs a No. 1 wanna-be goalie. Too bad it didn't work out, but at the time, Kuemper was the best alternative the Wild had. Yet another fallout from the 3-headed goaltending monster (Harding, Backstrom, Kuemper) of the Summer of 2014. Harding was forced to retire; Backstrom traded to Calgary on Trade Deadline day 2016; and now Kuemper can pack his bags and go, also. There are cheaper alternative backup goalies out there. Sorry, Kuemper fans, but so much of the NHL these days is a numbers game.

3.) Are we stuck with Jason Pominville? Looks like we are, at least for a season or two. 'Pommer' rewarded his team for his new contract with an 11-goal regular season while watching him literally grind his stick into the size of a spaghetti noodle. Shots high, shots wide, shots high and wide...never on net. Most squirt players have a better shot percentage than 'Pommer'. If the Wild could unload his contract (he would have to waive his no movement clause) to some other team, he could be a useful cog in helping that the cap floor.

4.) If you feel you need to trade a defenseman, do NOT trade any of your top 5 (Suter, Brodin, Spurgeon, Scandella, Dumba). These are the core of your true calling as a defensive hockey team. Reilly, you could package him and some of the roster's forward dead weight (Granlund, for example) to get something nicer...I'm sure a certain Alberta team (in Copper and Blue) would love to upgrade their defense.

5. Most of the UFA's and RFA's on the roster are not worth keeping. Porter, Larson, yeah, they deserve to stay around. The rest? Buh-bye now.

6. Mikael Granlund must be dealt with. Or, just flat out dealt. Granlund is deathly afraid to shoot, like someone is holding him hostage in Finland in the off-season or something. Whatever, he is the primary reason the 'pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-tip in' kind of Euro-goal will not work here. You have to shoot the puck to score. Apparently, the memo hasn't been translated yet for Granlund, Koivu, and the rest of the Euros on the current roster.

I just hope, for the sake of those of us who just got asked to pony up extra $$ for season tickets, that the Wild gets its' collective act together. Or, as the North Stars found out in the late 1980's, the fickle nature of the Minnesota sports fan will turn against them. The Minnesota sports fan is a front-runner; ask the Twins and the Timberwolves how it feels to be a footnote in the sports sections of the StarTribune and the Pioneer Press; they've experienced it for years. At least the Wolves are trying to actually DO something about it. The Twins? Well, we all know what those problems are.

Which way do the Wild go? Up? Or, down? Only owner Craig Leipold knows for sure.

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