In my season advance Jan. 19, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild wouldn’t wait long to address underperformance due to the truncated season.
"[Former NHL General Manager] Brian Burke used to tell me, 'After the 20-game mark, you need to really evaluate your team and see what you need to do,' " Fletcher said. "Well, the 20-game mark this year may be too late. In this type of season, you've got to take advantage of every game and every day to get better.
"If players aren't performing this season, you're going to have to make adjustments more quickly than you normally would. That's not a threat. That's just reality. In 48 games, you can't allow 20, 25, 30 games to go by and say, 'OK, we can make a move now.'
"You have to have some patience, but this year, we won't hesitate to look elsewhere or to Houston if players are not up to expectations."
The Wild got off to a 4-2-1 start this season, then laid a giant egg in Anaheim.
That’s all it took for the Wild to 1) recall Charlie Coyle to make his NHL debut Monday night at Phoenix; 2) juggle the second, third and fourth lines in Sunday’s practice; and 3) send a message to Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund by rotating them in and out of the fourth line Sunday with Darroll Powe and Zenon Konopka.
Coach Mike Yeo says he hasn’t decided who will be scratched from that group Monday, but regardless, it’s a message to Setoguchi, who has no goals and 10 shots, and Granlund, who has struggled the past three or four games, isn’t producing offensively and has been a liability in his own end.
Banged-up Matt Cullen will play and move back to his natural center position on the second line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Coyle, 20, acquired in the Brent Burns-for-Setoguchi trade in June 2011. Speedy Torrey Mitchell moves up to the third line to play with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck.
The question now will be who plays on that fourth line. Somebody will have to be scratched with Matt Kassian and Nate Prosser.
My gut this morning even before practice was that the Wild would send a message to Setoguchi by pulling him. Now, I think that message may be simply putting him on the fourth line and see how he reacts. Plus, as I’ve reported, I am told my multiple sources that Setoguchi is on the trading block. To trade him, you need to play him.
So that could mean Granlund comes out and watches a game from the press box, which sometimes is a good thing for a rookie. Or it could be Granlund centers the line with Setoguchi and Powe and Konopka comes out. Or it could mean Konopka centers Granlund and Setoguchi and Powe comes out.
Granlund did center the second-line power-play unit with Setoguchi and Coyle up front and Cullen and Tom Gilbert at the points in practice today. So unless Brodziak moves to center the power play, maybe the move is to sit Konopka or Powe. We will see Monday.
Regardless, message sent across Setoguchi’s bow. He’s a speed winger who loves to shoot, and he has 10 shots in eight games. He needs to be better away from the puck, too. There was one shift in Anaheim where he was cognizant to move back and be the third man high and still gave up a 2-on-1. And there was the shift in Detroit where he idled back and the Wings scored a big goal.
Cue Yeo: “We went into this season counting on him to score goals and create offense for us and to use his speed and to be strong on pucks. He’s not the only one. There’s some other people that aren’t performing probably to the level we need them to. So this is the decision we take going into [Monday’s] game and we’ll be ready to make new ones again after that.”
Cue Setoguchi: “It is what it is. I don’t know if I’m playing tomorrow either. … Personally, I’m disappointed. If you’re not contributing, it’s disappointing. Collectively we need more from other than the top of guys. That my job personally and it’s a couple other guy’s jobs. We need to be better. I’m not saying the pucks just going to start going in, but maybe you’ve got to start working away from the puck and doing the right thing.
“It’s frustrating, but you can’t really sit and sulk about it and dwell on it. You’ve just got to play. If I’m in, I’m in. If not, then I try to get back in the lineup.”
On Granlund, Yeo said, “He’s a young kid and we have to give him a fair chance, but at the same time, there has to be a little more on his side. We’ll do everything we can to help him grow through the whole process of it. I’d definitely like to see him bring a real hungry attitude to the next game.”
Yeo said there was a lot of temptation to break up the first line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley after the past few unproductive games, but he’d like to give them one more chance to get back to their game – offensive zone time.
Coyle was excited, saying, “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to since I was little. It’s something I’ve worked towards since I was little and it’s finally paying off.”
Coyle’s parents, Theresa and Chuck, were making arrangements to fly to Arizona for their 20-year-old son’s debut.
Why Coyle and not Jason Zucker or Johan Larsson? Size and wall play, Fletcher said. “Sometimes you need a right winger, sometimes you need a big body, sometimes you need a goal scorer. Our wall play hasn’t been very good and we’re not very big, and that’s what Charlie brings. He’s as good as anybody on the wall. Good stick, he’s smart, he’s got poise, he’s big and he’s got skill.”
Fletcher says it comes down to role, like “if we needed a fourth-line penalty killer, maybe we would have called up [Stephane] Veilleux or [Jake] Dowell” over Coyle, Zucker and Larsson.
Cullen, by the way, looked good back at his natural center position and at the power-play point, where he has played a lot of his career. He also feels lucky after being able to walk away from that head-first crash into the boards in Anaheim: “Anytime you go into the boards awkward like that, you worry about all kind of different things. I feel really lucky. You see enough of those where, … those are no fun. You never want to be a part of that.”
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