The Wild came a long way last season. What? Well consider what Mr. Fletcher had to work with when he took over. Not much. We should all smile that the “Risebrough/Lemaire Empire” is crumbling down, just not as fast as we would like. I am a very patient person when it comes to hockey, except when they are playing! I know this will take time, but show me something better than 13th this season. And I am not talking about 12th place. I am thinking playoffs here, as I do every year of course (wishful thinking), but I think we have a legitimate shot this year. Here are the “5″ priority things we need to improve on.
Number One – Part I:
No way can we start like we did last year. A 9-1 record to start the season cannot be let go. This is ludicrous to even think that. If you look back in NHL history, it is not bound to happen. Just too much momentum already busted up, and the moral of the team goes to nothing. Very hard to overcome.
Number One – Part II:
While the Wild were getting used to a new coach, new system, and new players, this is not the case anymore. Sure we added a few guys, but I think Cullen and Madden can more than handle a change, and quickly. These guys are veterans, not guys that played the same boring trap system for years. I understand it could be very hard to get away from that. Every time I witnessed even an inkling of it last year, I cringed. As the year progressed, we witnessed less and less, but it still popped up every now and then. They need to make it stop, like yesterday.
Number One – Part III:
At least we do not have 9 of the first 10 games on the road again. This should help. We were a terrible road team last year. This HAS to change. Sure it is nice winning at home, especially when you are at the game, but it is not enough. It was a horrible season to watch road games, just horrible.
Number Two – Part I:
We need to get someone on Koivu’s wing. It is that simple. Miettinen was a 42 point man last year. 42! This is not top line material, at all. How can we forget all the Koivu bashing when he re-signed, and comparing him to Kesler and his 5 million a year? We watch him every game, and we know what the man can do. How can he score with “bozo” on his line? How many times have we cursed Miettinen for missing a beautiful pass from Koivu with a wide open net? I do not have enough fingers to count, and that was in the first three games! Koivu works that puck, all over the ice, and gets Miettinen. Koivu deserves a better fate on the ice.
Number Two – Part II:
On the other wing we have Bruno. Leave him right where he is. He cannot skate by a long shot, but give him that puck anywhere around the net, and he will get it in, or a sweet pass to Koivu. This better not change. So why even write this? Because Bruno rocks!
Number Two – Part III:
Who should be this new winger for Koivu? Why Latendresse of course. He is up in the air, but if he can play as he did last year, I am calling this a total win situation. I believe Mikko can have chemistry with anyone, without game after game of trying to find it. He IS that good. We all know it. Kesler comes to mind again. Yeah, ok! Even Kobasew if he can stay healthy. Which brings me to change number three.
Number Three – Part I:
Our guys have to stay healthy this year, no question about it. Makes me think of the 2009 playoffs. Top of the division, and everyone hurt. *shudder* It was very ugly. And last year, PMB entire year. Burnsie way too long, and many other shorter IR’s, but still too many. I don’t know what the Hockey Gods are thinking on this one. Sure players will get hurt, but we have had more than our share. I hope the trainers can figure something out. This has gotten way out of hand. It just never ends. They all need to be schooled by Zanon, that’s for sure.
Number Three – Part II:
With Butch out for almost the entire season, did that really impact the outcome of our team? I don’t think so. He is skating again, but that means nothing. Being out for a year, he cannot get to where he was before overnight. He has incredibly sick hands, but that is about it. He needs to be permanently replaced. I believe I mentioned that last week. And I still stand by it.
Number Three – Part III:
Brent Burns is another one. Clearly when he returned last year, it wasn’t as good as we had hoped for. As the rest of the season progressed, we witnessed what we know he can become. He was looking like the old Burnsie we know and love, and even more. He really came out big at the end of the season. So he better stay healthy this year!
Number Four – Part I:
Martin Havlat needs to bring it all season and not only part. He was getting used to a new team, new system, and feeling sorry for himself for too long last season. He has superior vision on the ice. The one problem I see though, is he either passes too softly at times, well a lot of the time, and is afraid of being hit. I remember him back in Ottawa, he wasn’t like that. I understand he had his shoulder damn near ripped off, but Mr. Havlat is making 5 million a year. Time to earn it.
Number Four – Part II:
With the chemistry established between Havlat and Latendresse, I am sure many people will disagree with me that they need to be split up. But look at the big picture. You can put Kobasew in there, and I believe it is just what the doctor ordered. Bruno/Koivu/Latendresse (I call him “Tenders” because it makes everything that much more facetious) and Havlat/Madden/Kobasew. Too much sense if you ask me. That is IF Tenders plays as he did last year.
Number Five – Part I:
Playing 60 minutes per game, every game. This is something The Wild struggle to do year in and year out. Why? I only wish I knew. Last season, most games they would come out sluggish, with cement feet. Then struggle to catch up. This is not acceptable anymore. They have to come out with relentlessness, fight, and tenacity, each and every game. It is the problem that lost them so many games last season. While it was amazing watching them come from behind so many times, just think if they played like that all game! We would own the Northwest!
Number Five – Part II:
Remember the comeback of the year against the Blackhawks? Who wants to relive that? Not me! Although exciting, and Harding being beast, I can only take so much. I have watched that game many times over, and it still gets to me even knowing the outcome. Let’s just call it last season, a season of horror for fans, and move on. 60 minutes guys, sixty!
Number Six – Part I:
Of course there is more. I can only wish for the beginning of a season with just “5.” That would basically mean we won the Cup. I cannot leave out the defense here. With the addition of Clayton Stoner, I am pretty confident with our D this year. I have waited for Stoner for a while. The guy can move the puck, block the puck, and gets right in your face. He is pure awesome on the ice. Another healthy issue again. Hockey Gods this is where you come in.
Number Six – Part II:
Marek Zidlicky (pronounced Zid-Lits-Key) has to stop with the turnovers. He had some atrocious turnovers last year, with way too many, leading to the opposition scoring. But his numbers do not lie. His slapper is pure gold. He just needs more consistency on the puck. He puts grey hair on my head prematurely. It needs to stop.
Number Six – Part III:
Greg Zanon just needs to continue to be Greg Zanon. I would like a pinch in once in a while, well more than not, but he is a keeper.
Number Six – Part IV:
Johnsson gone, Hnidy gone, and thankfully, Scott gone. This is nothing but good news. Nothing! Cam Barker, Clayton Stoner, and hopefully Nate Prosser. Those changes made themselves. *Stick Tap* to Mr. Fletcher. Well played, sir.
Number Seven – Part I:
I cannot end this until I look at the goaltending situation. Backstrom is a world class goaltender. Maybe I should say he was. People argue this with me all the time, but ever since he signed his 6 million dollar a year, NTC, ignorant contract, he has not been as good. Granted, he did not have enough help last year, but he has not been the same since. He commits way to fast, and stays down way too long. We need the old Backs. You know, the one before he signed the hideous contract? Yes, that one.
Number Seven – Part II:
Josh Harding needs to play more games. I think Hards is a stud. How good is he supposed to play when he sits a month at a time? I have been a huge Harding fan for the past 2 seasons. I do not want him traded, even though we know it is going to happen. I think he will make a fantastic starter somewhere, if given the chance, and if he can stay healthy. (we are jinxed in this department!) The guy stands on his head at times, only after Backs makes huge mistakes, only leaving Harding to take the loss. Blasphemy! The guy is good!
Number Seven – Part III:
Anton Khudobin is a card. I do not know how else to explain it. At the game he played “up” last year, and kicked butt, I will admit I was impressed. So when Harding does get traded, (ugh) we have a nice one waiting in line. I do not see a lot of Aeros games unfortunately, and his stats are not the best I have ever seen, but I know what I witnessed last year. The kid was on his head ALL night, with the fans going crazy because of it. And he was loving every second of it. I am ready for you Mr. Khudobin. And I will say, he gives one of the most entertaining interviews in hockey. Hilarious!
Number Eight – Part I:
I really like coach Richards. The fact that Ramsey left, was indeed a needed change. Adding Darby I am not so sure about yet. Time will tell on that. I am not a huge fan of Barr, but 1 out of 2 gone is fine by me. I like Richards system, a lot. It is the same as the Sharks system. It is funny to watch a Wild/Sharks game because you almost know what is going to happen. They have more talent than us, so naturally they kicked our ass last season. We added much needed depth, so this year’s match up will be a classic.
No more parts to eight. that is all, for now.
*****If you do not know, the Baby WILD won the tournament in Traverse City! We beat the Baby Red Wings. Oh this feels so good! The future looks bright, very bright! And J.T. Barnett found the back of the net. Kudos kid, you rock! Let’s get on this kid, Mr. Fletcher. Otherwise there will be a “Number Nine”
And for those of you that have asked. I love The Wild! But I will always call it as I see it. If you want to debate, feel free to let me know. I answer comments, and questions always.
I have been waiting for October for so long now. But all I can think now is, “Is it Sunday yet?”
GO WILD GO!
Topics: Andrew Brunette, Anton Khudobin, Antti Miettinen, Baby Wild, Brent Burns, Cam Barker, Chicago Blackhawks, Chuck Fletcher, Chuck Kobasew, Clayton Stoner, Darby Hendrickson, David Barr, Doug Risebrough, Greg Zanon, Guillaume Lantendresse, Houston Aeros, Jaques Lemaire, John Scott, Jon Madden, Josh Harding, Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen, Mike Ramsey, Mikko Koivu, Nate Prosser, Niklas Backstrom, Northwest Divsion, Ottawa Senators, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Red Wings, Ryan Kesler, San Jose Sharks, Shane Hnidy, Todd Richards, Traverse City