There's something to be said about star players blocking shots...and there is something to be said about star players blocking shots. So after "dodging a bullet" with a layoff of 2-3 weeks, the now Parise-less Minnesota Wild continue a stretch of their schedule that could be akin to an Electric Kool-Aid Acid test.
So the uneasiness starts; thoughts of a tremendous spiral have started to creep in with the knowledge that not just Parise is out, but there is talk about Mikael Granlund AND Josh Harding possibly heading to the IR. That's two of Minnesota's top-6 forwards (and arguably the former being the best one) and their best goaltender now on the shelf. Let's talk about Parise's absence though; it certainly seems like a tall task to replace what he brings to the lineup.
Or is it?
In the movie "Moneyball" there is a scene early on where Billy Beane and his scouts are discussing free agents to sign, and how they have to replace the production Jason Giambi brought them the season previous. Now, its not easy, nor cheap, to replace a stat line like Giambi had; so instead of doing that and heaping that on one player, Beane decided to go aggregate- getting multiple players who in the end bring the same elements to the table, but just not the quantity; but sums would roughly be equal and the cost may be in fact less than backing up the Brinks truck for one guy.
So, now replace Jason Giambi with Zach Parise; with help from Extra Skater we see that he accounts for roughly four shot attempts a game while 5 on 5. So instead of calling up a player and putting the onus on him to fill Parise's shoes, the reality is that it has to be the younger forwards- namely Charlie Coyle and Nino Neiderreiter- to step their games up and take the next step beyond "has potential" tag.
The opportunities are there- there will be unaccounted for ice time
there for the taking. I don't believe Mike Yeo completely trusts Jason
Zucker to thrust him immediately into that position; that is until
Zucker responds to a wake up call like Neiderreiter did against Winnipeg
Both are big bodied players who are successful along the walls utilizing their size; but both average roughly 2+ SA/game despite getting really favorable zone starts. Both have had the luxury of playing Top-6 minutes (Nino playing more up and down the line chart moreso than Coyle) and being a tad protected by the veterans they played with. What better time than now though, where they come of age- the schedule is a veritable murderer's row the entire time Parise will be on the shelf. But it isn't just for the short term; Nino and Coyle are the future- they're going to be the guys when the veterans on the team inevitably start their declines and step aside.
It will be interesting to see where this team goes now; if they succeed, how will they do it? If they stumble and fall, why was that? Me thinks the answer lies in the youth.