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CARLTON PEAK… If you regularly practice Yoga, Zen Meditation or another form of physical/mental body and mind care, you are likely better prepared to withstand the rigors of being a Minnesota Wild fan then those that don’t. There are many fans who are simply trying to cope with that pain utilizing malted grains, fermented grapes and good old-fashioned corn squeezing’s to dull the agony. Others are just hitting themselves over the head with their snow shovels. Us Minnesotans are already predisposed to be a nagging lot with the winter weather and all. If our local hockey boys aren’t doing well on top of that, we can really go around hang-dogging it right up until the snow melts off or our teams are out of the running for the year. The cartoon character Droopy Dog comes to mind. It is turning out to be a long winter already, and the boys in St. Paul are giving the faithful little to be optimistic about these days. Where do I even start? It’s going to sound like a broken record no matter what. The most common reference point to start this dissection with is when the club returned from a late October, early November road trip
Using the Sagarin method of looking at the season in terms of wins and losses, the team went 5-2 on the trip which put them at 11-6 at that time. They finished out November by going 3-5, accumulated a 4-9 record in December, fared better in January with an 8-4 record and then coming off the All-Star Game break, the team has gone 1-5 thus far in February, including last week’s 1-3 bust-ola. That is a 16-23 pace since the infamous roadie that had fans smiling at the time. The team lost Star defenseman Matt Dumba to injury in mid-December, and just last week in a loss at Buffalo, lost Captain Mikko Koivu for the rest of the season to a torn ACL and meniscus. It is thought that Dumba may be recovered by late March-early April, but I think that’s optimistic for his type of injury, and if the team is still bagging it, I’d hold him out for the rest of the campaign. No use taking unnecessary risk. Koivu had surgery last Friday and it was successful and will require about a 6-month rehab timeframe if all goes well.
They are two very important players for the team and their loss has had negative impact. Dumba was a major part of the team offense from the backend, and Koivu is the team’s strongest player on faceoffs and may be the best defender of the forward group. He usually got the assignments to go up against the oppositions best center in important games. The team traded perennial underachiever Nino Neiderreiter for Victor Rask, and while Nino has had positive impact for his new team, the Hurricanes, I think Rask is a game or two away from a healthy scratch and the press box. He played only 7:25 Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the NY Islanders. Nino is likely glad to be released from Coach Bruce Boudreau’s Canine Hacienda and so far, is prospering in the Tar Heel State. (10 games, 6G, 3A, 9pts) Nate Prosser and former UMD forward JT Brown have been sent down to Iowa, and forward Pontus Aberg, obtained from Anaheim in a trade, is on the IR list for an LBI. GM Paul Fenton picked up two D-men in minor deals, getting Brad Hunt from the VGK, and Anthony Bitetto from NASH. Hunt is a bit of an undersized D-man and played at Bemidji State. Bitteto can play the hitting game well while Hunt is more of a puck mover from the back end.
The teams indifferent play couldn’t come at a worse time. I had opined recently that there were probably 3 teams in the Western Conference that were real Cup Contenders in CAL, WIN and NASH, and then the SJS and VGK, and the rest of the West. I just got done watching San Jose destroy Vancouver in a 7-2 beatdown and that has enticed me to say that the new top three in the West are CAL, SJS and WIN. My next two are NASH and the VGK. The Preds have dropped off a bit and the VGK just aren’t last years entry. A couple of weeks ago you could throw a rope around the rest of the teams there was so little separating them. That was then, this is now. The STL Blues and CHI have persevered and got their mojo’s back and they will soon be pushing the WILD out of a playoff spot. STL has already moved ahead of the Wild. While both are tied at 59 points, STL gets the seven-spot due to games in hand. I’m not sure the Blues will need the two extra games though, with the Wild not winning, the Blues will elevate past them in short order.
Both the Blues and Hawks were near the bottom of the NHL back at the Holidays. Both had fired their Head Coaches. Both have had injuries to deal with. And both are among the hottest teams in the show right now. Both clubs are 7-2-1 in their L10. STL is on a 6-game win streak, the Hawks are on a 7-game streak. By comparison the Wild are 4-4-2 in their L10. In individual play the Hawks have 3 players in the top 50 in points, Kane, Toews and Debrincat and STL has O’Reilly. The Wild have no players that high, although Zach Parise is cracks the T50 with 22 goals and Mikael Granlund cracks the T50 in Assists with 32. It is a rarity for a team to be near the top without multiple players in the T50 in Goals, assists and/or points. I’ve been watching this league for a long time and that has been my observation at least. The Wild have also had an inability to string wins together, achieving a 5-game streak once this year in October. I looked at last week as a make or break week for the team and they broke. Is the 6-year playoff string about to break too? PEACE
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, (2/11) 18th, trending for 88 points, 1% chance at the Cup. The SAGARIN, (2/12) 15th on a 27-29 record, 7-11 vs T10, 12-15 vs T16, 15th in difficulty of schedule. NHL STATS; T16th with 27 wins, t17th with 59 points, 18th in pct. of pts available @ .527%. 5th in the CENTRAL on a 27-24-5 record, in the 2nd Wild Card spot. 13-10-4 @ H, 14-14-1 on the road, 4-4-2 in L10, 156 GF, 162 GA, -6 Diff. 24th in GF, 11th in GA, 11th on the PP @ 21.1%, 7th on the PK @ 82.5%, 16th in PIM’s with 478. This week; vs PHI, vs NJD, vs STL. And consider this; 8 pts separate the 2 WC spots, 8 teams and last place! OVER & OUT!