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SILVER CLIFF… The National Hockey League All Star break is coming up next weekend and it can’t come soon enough for the Minnesota Wild. A season that has alternated between hope and despair has had some reality set in; this team might make the playoffs, and the word might is in full play here, or they might finish up the crash and burn we have witnessed in the past two tilts and then, Lord Almighty, perhaps, perhaps we can get on with what this team really needs, and that’s a full scale rebuild. I look back now at my thoughts from October with a fresh season in front of us, Fall in the air, weekend cookouts, Carmel apples and the promise of a new year for our ice heroes. I examined the veteran core, the experience level, the mid-core as I refer to them, and the youngsters and thought this is a bonafide playoff entrant. I can’t say with any certainty after what I witnessed over the past couple of weeks that this team could obtain a playoff berth. The only reason they might still get in is because the rest of the Western Conference after 3 or 4 teams has skunk aroma all over it. I’ll get to that.
Last week the team put up a solid win against Montreal in a 1-0 nail biter. But they played poorly in Boston the next night in a 4-0 whitewash of epic proportion. This game was 3-0 at the end of the first period and the team offered up only token resistance for the rest of the game. The B’s had two power plays and scored on both. Ok. This is the marker on this team. Last game of a roadie, tough opposition, let’s get outta here and head home. After an unexpected post road trip win over Winnipeg last Thursday, (3-2, a game I thought they would lose) the club put up a dismal effort against Detroit, (DET was on the end of a back to back) and got totally smoked in a 5-2 defeat. Coach Bruce Boudreau stated that it was the worst game the team had played in his 2 ½ seasons with the club. But wait! They followed it up this evening with a loss to the lowly Flyers out in Philly, giving up two leads enroute to a 7-4 loss. Last week is in the books at 2-2 and by chance I found out that this is how Boudreau likes to break down the season, in week to week increments. A quick look shows the Wild have won 7 weeks, lost 5 and tied 4 so far.
Since their late October early November road trip (5-2) that everyone thought was a watershed moment for the team, they have gone 11-17. That’s real close to a win one-lose two pace. That won’t get you much in this league. The team is on the way back to St. Paul as I write and have the LAK Tuesday eve, then the Ducks on Thursday and the CBJ on Saturday. Short of the Columbus game, if this team was a serious contender, they would have laid waste to the lowly Flyers this eve, and then do the same to the Kings and Ducks. The Athletic Rank of these 3 is 26th, 29th and 18th. The Duck rating is courtesy, I’m sure, of some earlier season wins because they are 0-6-4 (0-10) in their L10. Columbus is 10th in the rank but compared to the Eastern powers they are likely a first round out in the tourney.
So, GM Paul Fenton has got to be wondering what he has gotten himself into. The team is sinking fast, the ASG break is near but is unlikely to solve any team woes so there probably isn’t much you can do until the season is over. Can you fire Boudreau? Why? He’s not the problem. The trade deadline is February 25th at 300pm CT. In assessing the roster and various contracts attached to certain players, they either have no trade clauses or the combination of their production and contracts are such that they are unmovable at this point. Fenton has got a major set of handcuffs on at this point. I’m saying he would have to be a Hockey Houdini to shed these things.
In a quick roster eval, I see 9 players that can’t be moved or are worth keeping. The other 17 aren’t going anywhere either. With both Kunin and Greenway on the big roster now, there is literally no one on the Iowa Wild who could come up and change anything going on here with their efforts. It would be a waste to think the team would be buyers at the deadline because they thought they could get in and make a playoff run, and no one will be beating the door down to convert the Wild into sellers. Who wants marginal players with bad contracts? 14 of the skaters are negative on the +/- ranking, and the team is now into negative goal differential rank. The only reason the team still has a shot at making the playoff is how badly the West has suddenly become. Every team just above them or below them in the standings are struggling. There is a group of about 6 clubs in that boat, DAL, COL, EDM, ANA, VAN and even STL now, there is only 6 points difference between these teams, including the Wild. I’ll take another look at that next week and do some projections… Until then, PEACE
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, (1/14) 17th, trending for 90 points with a 64% chance at a playoff spot, 2% chance at a Cup. The SAGARIN; (1/14am) 15th on a 22-22 record, 5-11 vs T10, 9-14 vs T16 with an 8th ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STATS; t17th with 22 wins, t18th with 47 points, 18th in pct. of points available @.522%. 8th in the West on a 22-20-3 record, (based on ROW of 22 vs EDM/20) and in the 2nd Wild Card playoff position. The team is 11-11 at home and 11-12 on the road following the PHI game and are 5-5 in their L10. They are 23rd in GF with 128, 11th in GA with 132, 8th on the PP at 22.3%, 4th on the PK at 84/6% and are 14th in PIM’s at 398. The club has dropped into a negative goal differential with a -4. The team has only 5 skaters with double digit goal production and netminder Devan Dubnyk will be the lone representative for the Wild at the NHL All Star Tilt…
SOME HUMAN EXPERIENCES remind us to have some perspective on how we view sports in our own spheres. They show us that athletic competition isn’t the end all and be all for our lives. From a heroic young lady liberating herself from a horrific kidnapping experience not very far from the Ports, and then scrambling into the arms of safety and comfort to the heart wrenching loss of a Canine police hero, life never fails to show us what the truly important things are… Over & Out