Which Thomas Vanek Will We See In The Playoffs?


Despite the Minnesota Wild still being just a few points and even less games away from clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s not completely preposterous to glance at the standings and assume the team will soon punch its ticket to the postseason, capping off a miraculous run from cellar dweller to conference contender.

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Every year the playoffs seem to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. One such player for the Wild who received his share of warranted criticism last postseason was Thomas Vanek.

During his brief stint with the Montreal Canadiens, Vanek was fortunate enough to see his temporary team glide through the East all the way to the conference championship where they would ultimately lose to the New York Rangers in 6 games.

Much of the criticism was based on his lack of energy and grit in such a high pressure situation. Vanek seemed to disappear at the worst times and it ultimately led to his falling out with the fans and media in the hockey Mecca that is Montreal.

Canadiens Coach Michel Therrien was eventually forced to slot Thomas Vanek on the fourth line just two games into the series. His playing time would end up dwindling to under 10 minutes all in a matter of a week.

Those who ripped Vanek weren’t necessarily concerned with his point production. He had a very respectable 5 goals and 5 assists in 17 playoff games but the biggest issue cited was his lack of effort. He simply played with a lethargic attitude, something that was an early concern with the Minnesota Wild.

Looking at his career statistics, it’s clear that there is a pattern of his offensive statistics taking a dip in the postseason.

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Watching Thomas Vanek’s game right now, there isn’t even a whiff of those issues. Even though he isn’t currently slotted as a top-six forward, he’s found immediate chemistry playing alongside Justin Fontaine and Charlie Coyle, a group that quite frankly been Minnesota’s most complete line the last two weeks.

More importantly, Vanek has gotten much more comfortable with the Wild’s system and his role within it during the second half run. He has 11 points in his past 11 games and was a significant factor in Minnesota briefly passing Chicago in the Central Division standings.

I view Thomas Vanek as the most important player for the Minnesota Wild when the playoffs roll around. If he continues to be a menace around the net and produce points on a nightly basis, there are very few third lines in the NHL that can have the impact the Wild’s does.

But if Vanek struggles to create havoc, it’s very possible that the Wild will shy away from playing him in tight spots because of his defensive liability. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Wild chooses to go with a speedier option such as Jordan Schroeder at the wing on the third line while Vanek is demoted to the fourth.