In January, I started writing an article about where the Wild's season was going. The impetus of the article was the December 22nd game against Edmonton. You know the one where we lost at the X against the Oilers? The score was 1 to 4?
This is how the article began;
Has the Wild's season "Jumped the Shark"?Granted, I thought that was a common colloquialism up until today. What I learned in using that phrase is that the phrase itself, may have jumped the shark.To define the phrase; "Jumping the shark is an idiom used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery." wikipedia link...The Minnesota Wild, after a mediocre start to the season and a hot stretch through November and the beginning of December have now plummeted to being out of a play off position. One may argue that the cause of this decline is due to advanced stats catching up to us, injuries, or many other reasons.
I really regret not finishing that article, but with the holidays and the busy post first of the year work related garbage, I never got around to finishing it.
The recent fan outrage shouldn't really be recent but it does coincide with the Wild falling down the standings. Falling? How about plummeting. For the month of January, they were hanging on, amazingly so, but now the plummet is in full swing.
The fan anger started with the first loss to Columbus. My question is; Why did this loss set the fan base off? Why not the loss to Calgary on the 7th of January? What about the loss to Toronto on the 19th? Were those not worthy of anger?
Evidently not. The combination of losing two games to the worst team in the NHL and our former head coach, #FireToddRichards seems to be the final fuse.
For me? I didn't get angry, I got deflated. I was in the stands at the X when we blew it against Nashville on the 31st. After the game was over, I sat there with my wife and friend, just utterly deflated.
There are fans that are blaming Yeo. There are fans that are blaming Fletcher. There are fans that are blaming the players.
Before casting blame, there are facts that need to be covered.
1. During this losing stretch, this team has been without 2 to 5 of their top six forwards.
2. Other teams have the ability to shut down single scoring threats.
3. When it is known that your blueline doesn't shoot, other teams take away passing lanes to the forwards.
4. Our prospect pipeline is strong, but most of them aren't even in Houston yet.
Let me address items in order.
1. When the majority of your top prospects aren't even in Houston yet, how do you replace top six forwards from an AHL team comprised of mostly career AHLers or third line grinders? You don't. The organization just doesn't have the depth, yet. If you want to blame Fletcher for this, I daresay you are nuts because names like Larsson, Granlund, Coyle, Phillips, Zucker and Bulmer are not *able* to be inserted into the line up. Fletcher did pull off a trade to try to bolster the up front skill, see also Erik Christensen. If you want to blame Yeo, he can't magically pull a top-six forward up from Houston. See Also; Casey Wellman.
2. It is hard to put together a consistent two line threat when your top line consists of Heatley - Brodziak - Johnson. When that is your only scoring threat, shut down Heatley and the game is yours. For those blaming Yeo, what was he supposed to do? He worked with what he had and attempted many different combinations to get things going. Heatley was still the only scoring threat out there, no matter how you mix things up. If you want to blame Yeo for something, blame him for putting Seto and Heatley back with Koivu once Koivu came back from injury.
3. How do you fix a blueline that doesn't shoot? We all knew that the offense from the blueline was going to be horrible this season. With Zidlicky regressing even more and then throwing a tantrum to the media, it isn't shocking to see how other teams play against our two points on both the power play and even strength. See also Justin Falk's shot and how it surprised all of our opponents. I saw that in Rockford when he was still with the Aeros. You can fault Fletcher for trading away Burns, but frankly, I'd rather have Setoguchi and Phillips than having lost Burns for pretty much nothing. Yes, that was a possibility from everything that we've heard since. In this situation, feel free to blame the players, especially Zidlicky. He hasn't been doing what he is paid to do all season. Spurgeon shoots, but his shot is weak and he telegraphs it.
4. With as strong as a prospect pipeline that the organization has, are fans really clamoring for us to sell some of our best prospects to help the team now? A completely not scientific survey draws the conclusion that we'd rather suck than give away Zucker, Granlund, Coyle... Etcetera. Yet, the hurt and disappointment continues...
With anything I do in life, I always have a possible suggested solution. Rather than point out the flaws and bad things and leave it at that, here are the things that I would suggest to the organization.
First; Never dress Zidlicky in a Wild uniform again. Trade him or waive him. *waveshand* He is not the defenseman you are looking for... This one is on Fletcher and Yeo.
Second; Split up Setoguchi and Heatley. I don't particularly care which of them work well with Koivu. Just split them up. Maybe consider; Heatley - Koivu - Johnson / Christensen - Brodziak/Cullen - Setoguchi instead of having both primary scoring threats together. This one is on Yeo.
Third; Sell. Get what you can for the following; Zidlicky, Harding, Zanon, Brodziak and others. Don't worry about filling those holes with roster players from other teams. Take a rental back if necessary. None of the pieces mentioned are going to put us back into the play-off race if we keep them. The core remains untouched. This one is on Fletcher.
Fourth; Yes, I said trade Brodziak. While he is one of my "least objectionable" players, we will need that center spot come next season. This one is on the fans to accept. There are teams that will over-pay for a guy like Brodziak.
And to finish this up... (*gasp* I'm actually finishing an article!)
It is encumbent on the fan base to take a step back and drop the anger. The season truly Jumped the Shark when Edmonton slayed their dragon, ditched their elephant, and broke their curse. You can look back to the December 22nd, 2011 game and confidently say;
"That is when the hockey gods pushed the handle on the toilet this season has turned into."
Accept it and start trying to figure out where Coyle, Granlund and Larsson are going to fit with the Wild next season. Hey, that's a super line right there! Granlund - Larsson - Coyle! Solved!