Tidbits: The "Watch It Crash" Edition
Posted by Dan Shrader on Sunday, March 20, 2011
I guess I'll speak for myself in that the disappointment doesn't lie so much in the fact that it looks like myself and others will be watching eight other teams in the Western Conference play for the Stanley Cup in a couple of weeks; the harshing of my gig is that Minnesota is melting down on a Fukushima Daiichi level (yes I went there.) By now we're all aware that there are shortcomings on the roster, and that on paper and on-ice we just don't stack up to the teams that are ahead of us in the standings but for a team that was playing great hockey under the flag of locker room solidarity has just gone in the jug. I'm understand fully the impact of losing Mikko Koivu for a stretch of games during a season where the standings change on a nightly basis- arguably he is the straw that stirs the drink- but there's more to it than the Captain's absence. There are a number of players on the roster who have not just failed to step up to not only fill that void, but to help carry this team to April and beyond, but have sputtered down the stretch, and in some cases, regressed in their play. I'm not talking secondary or role players; some of these tank jobs are key guys, players counted on to produce and contribute.
There is an odd coincidence in that this derailing began around the time of the Trade Deadline; there was a sense of disappointment in that there wasn't a move made to help the current roster moving forward; since then The Wild have gone 2-5-2. This team, like the song above, is a train that's gone off the tracks and we are watching it crash. It isn't like as fans we are watching tight games, close contests where the opponent scores late against a suffocating defense to win- the scores are belying the context of the game. These are games where Minnesota is effectively playing their way out of contention until the opponent lets up and The Wild score a couple of late goals; games where it was over after the first period.
10 games to go and all we can do is watch them crash...
- Culprit #1, and maybe the most under the radar tank job: Niklas Backstrom. 2-6-2 in his last 10 games, 4.34 GAA in the six losses. For some reason he's fallen apart; doesn't look comfortable in net, letting in soft goals. If there was going to be one guy Minnesota absolutely needed to step up, its Backstrom.
- Culprit #2 - Brent Burns. I wrote about this Friday Night, and Jim Souhan wrote something similar for today. Burns has been erratic since the All-Star Break, to point where he is costing the team victories. His primary assist to Columbus' Antoine Vermette was Skoula-like in its gaffe-ability.
- I don't want this to devolve into a post where I just point fingers, because there are a fair share of players whose play has suffered for one reason or another- there are some things out of one's control. I can't really blame Todd Richards though, he can only work with what he has, and at this point its clear that aside from a couple of players, its not much.
- The biggest truism is that this team struggles to score goals. Duh. But if you look beyond that, this team lacks players who are capable of creating their own chances. Some guys need a certain element to contribute, and some guys just don't have that sort of offensive ability.
- It would be a huge injustice of me to not mention how great John Madden was yesterday. He played with determination, and was out to make a difference every shift. This is the type of character he was brought in for, and I wouldn't mind if he was brought back next season too.
- Missing Persons Alert: Anyone seen Eric Nystrom?
- Tough ride for Marco Scandella...comes back from a concussion, and now breaks his finger blocking a shot. I hope he's healthy in time for Houston's playoff run, but the upside is we can see what we got in Nate Prosser now that he's got some AHL time under his belt.
- Finally...it's always amusing reading the comments section of the Star Tribune. Yesterday Page 2 highlighted "some of the best Wild-related comments of the week", and it never ceases to amaze how some folks think that Craig Leipold and Chuck Fletcher have the resources to readily make changes but don't; like it is just that easy. I thought we as Minnesota hockey fans had a reputation for "being smart"?