Posted by Dan Shrader on Sunday, December 18, 2011
With much of the focus on Mike Yeo has come with leading the Minnesota Wild to the top of the National Hockey League standings, he's become a sure-fire Jack Adams Trophy candidate when the Award Tour begins. However, the hardest part of the job has just started- as Nate pointed out recently, Minnesota's gotten clobbered by the injury bug. We've seen a revolving door with the goalies, the blueline, and now with five top-6 forwards out of action (Setoguchi, Koivu, Latendresse, Bouchard, and Wellman,) Yeo has his work cut out for him.
It doesn't even resemble the hockey team that broke Camp this fall- if anything, it resembles some sort of ensemble play, like a "Tony and Tina's Wedding"; the principle characters are there, but the supporting cast changes every night. 10 rookies and 33 skaters in 33 games so far; and with the scuttlebutt being that Eden Prairie Native Chad Rau (#FSNBingo) and Jed Ortmeyer are on their way up for the upcoming Western Canada road trip, that could possibly make 11 rookies and 35 skaters in 34 or 35 games.
Still, this team continues to push forward- grinding out games to get wins and points no matter what it takes.
There's some good that comes from the growing infirmary list; The Brass and the fans alike get a chance to see what some of these players, long buried in Houston in some cases, can do at the NHL level; meaning these cups of coffee could very well be their "big break", and could determine the organization's long-term viewpoint of the player's future with the team. Kris Fredheim has his American League contract torn up, and was greeted with a fresh new NHL Entry-Level Contract (part of which was necessary just to get him up) and responded with solid and responsible play. Jarod Palmer was undeniably the best forward in last night's game against New York; Warren Peters has cemented himself a role as 4th line center. Casey Wellman, until the wrist injury (please tell me they made him test his wrist by holding the stick like Adam Banks did in one of the Mighty Ducks movies) looked like a different player than before and was a legitimate offensive player in this last stint. This interchangeable element of the organizational depth is huge during a long season; because its not just the 23 skaters on the NHL roster who've bought in to the Church of Yeo, its 23 skaters in Houston as well.
But...at what point does General Manager Chuck Fletcher have to look outside of the organization for help?