It seems like Keith Ballard’s season was talked about solely through its negative capability this season. For Wild fans, Ballard’s presence meant that the team didn’t have Jonathon Blum or Nate Prosser on the ice. His presence was the absence of someone else for fans.
That, despite the fact that there was some excitement about his signing in the off-season. He’s a Minnesotan — which Wild fans love — and he played for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers — also a big hit with Wild fans.
And how could you not be excited about a guy who can throw a hip-check like Ballard? You can’t deny that you stand up and cheer every time anyone throws a hip check and it’s especially satisfying when the guy throwing one is on your team.
The big disappointment with Ballard, for those who don’t give bonus points for hip checks, was that many saw the Wild as a chance for Ballard to return to the form he made his name on. For five straight seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers he hit at least 20 points. Then he went to Vancouver, where he couldn’t even cross ten and scored a total of three goals over three seasons. (Though one of those season was the lockout-shortened season.)
Coming home to Minnesota was supposed to be his opportunity to bounce back. That wasn’t quite how it happened. He didn’t come on strong with some offensive prowess and his possession numbers are weak. (Corsi for: 45.9%, relative -2.8%; Goals for 42.5%, relative -9.2%.)
Watch both of Ballard’s goals — starring an excited Dany Heatley — below.
#1 — 01/25/14 vs. San Jose Sharks MIN 2 – SJS 3 (OT)
Ballard gets his first of the year and first as a member of the Wild. Better late than never. Right? Right, Mike Rupp?
Ballard didn’t show much offensive prowess, but that was a heads up play, dropping down behind the D and the winger covering the point, into the open ice to take the pass from Granlund.
#2 — 02/01/14 vs. Calgary Flames MIN 3 – CGY 4 (OT)
In both of these goals, Heatley looks super excited for Ballard.
Interesting that neither of this defenseman’s goal came from the point. On both of these Ballard dropped down into the play to get open for a pass from a forward. Not how it looks for most defenseman who only score two all year.