The Wild lost to St. Louis on New Year’s Eve by a 2-1 score that did not reflect the difference between the clubs. It was the sixth straight regulation loss for the Wild. That was a rare feat in today’s NHL … to go six games without gaining a point in the standings.
That put the Wild’s record at 20-17-5. If you mark down those five for what they were, losses, that meant the Wild had lost more games (22) than it had won (20). Owner Craig Leipold was said to be growing extremely impatient, and it seemed to be merely a question of when coach Mike Yeo would be fired.
Zach Parise already was out of the lineup with a broken foot. Jared Spurgeon would suffer a foot injury in the next game, Jan. 2 vs. Buffalo. Mikko Koivu would suffer an ankle injury in the following game, Jan. 4 vs. Washington, and has yet to return to the lineup.
Also: Josh Harding, a goaltending star for nearly three months, lost that New Year’s Eve game to St. Louis and then was forced from the lineup due to complications with his multiple sclerosis.
There have been 16 games played since the 2013-ending loss to the Blues.
Parise, the team’s best two-way forward, missed 10 of those games. Koivu, the team’s best defensive forward, has missed 14 of those games.
Spurgeon, in the photo with Jonas Brodin as the second best defenseman, missed 14 games. He returned Tuesday night, had assists on both goals and was named the No. 1 star in a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay.
Harding, after his long wait to become the Wild’s No. 1 goaltender, has missed 16 games.
There was a strong tradition with our previous NHL team – the North Stars – to explain disappointing results by the loss of “man games.’’ You were able to add to the total when a man (as in an individual player) missed a game with injury.
As I recall, the North Stars were still counting defenseman Gary Sargent in their man-game totals at least a year after injuries had ended his career. What has taken place with four of the Wild’s most-important players has been a valid “man game’’ situation.
Sixteen games multiplied by Parise, Koivu, Spurgeon and Harding would be 64 man games. This foursome of important Wild men has been out of the lineup for 54 of those games.
Yeo has made the correct moves in this shorthanded situation to get victories in 10 of those games and points in two others. Those 22 points in 16 games have put the Wild at 67 points, the sixth best total in the difficult Western Conference.
There’s a complication in this – three teams from both the Pacific and Central are in the playoffs – so for seeding purposes the Wild is seventh.
Either way, it has been a danged impressive rally for Yeo’s troops and it’s time to forget the hot seat for the third-year coach and ask this:
Any chance Leipold will give Chuck Fletcher, his general manager, permission to give Yeo an extension of a couple of years during the Olympic break?
Yeo’s contract expires after this season, and there’s no longer a good reason for the Wild to allow that to happen.