Wild: Skoula is Lemaire's secret weapon

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2007 - 4:44 AM

Criticized and misunderstood by fans, defenseman Martin Skoula is a favorite of Wild coach Jacques Lemaire and a big reason the team is 5-0.

EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. — Take a meander inside the numerous Wild message boards and blogs out there, and you'd think George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" should have an eighth entry --"Skoula."

Few players are more reviled by Wild fans than Martin Skoula, the defenseman who, yes, has committed some glaring brain cramps during his short history in Minnesota.

Yet, conversely, few players are more applauded on a daily basis by coach Jacques Lemaire than Skoula, who averages more than 20 minutes a night and is an enormous reason why the Wild gave up the fewest goals in the NHL last season and has yielded only four goals in five games this season and remain the NHL's only undefeated team (5-0) heading into tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings.

"If you point to the team being good defensively, I can almost count that a big component of that is Skoula," Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough said.

His size is a key

At 6-3 and 226 pounds, Skoula, 27, is a gigantic presence on the ice even though he might not be the most physical. His size and mobility make it difficult for opponents to get to the net or away from the wall.

"To get the puck off him, he's the guy that's going to step in front, protect the puck and give it to one of our guys," Lemaire said. "And maybe that time [the opponent is] on the forecheck, and he cuts it out: 'That's it. Your forecheck is done. The puck is going out.' It's like he goes, 'There won't be any forecheck. I'm taking charge here.' It's like he controls the game.

"I just like his game. I like his style. I like his potential."

Again, we're talking about Martin Skoula here.

Lemaire simply loves him, as displayed by Skoula's ice time in critical situations. Late in tight games, one constant will be Skoula ... on the ice ... every other shift.

Lemaire has complete faith in him, which is why Lemaire asked Risebrough three times at June's NHL draft, "What's going on with Skoula?"He's the only guy he cared about," said Risebrough, who then got on the horn and re-signed the veteran to a two-year contract.

Lemaire said he feels it's difficult to counter size in a league where space is at a premium.

"Jacques gave me the best analogy about what size does," Risebrough said. "He said, 'Doug, when somebody big stands besides you, do you feel comfortable? No. When somebody small stands besides you, does it bother you? No.'

"What he's saying is put big defensemen on the ice, [forwards] don't do things normally even if that defenseman doesn't play big. He just looks bigger, it looks more ominous to get around him. And Skoula's a classic example of that. He's got size and because of his mobility, he can get closer to people."

In seven seasons, Skoula is a plus-43, averaging nearly 21 minutes a night. He's missed only five games because of injury and has never played fewer than 78 games.

His role changed with Wild

Earlier in his career, Skoula was considered an offensive defenseman, chipping in a career-best 10 goals and 31 points in 2001-02. Skoula, who hasn't scored since March 12, 2006, thought he'd have the same role in Minnesota, but Lemaire quickly put the kibosh on that.

"It's not controlling. It's guidance," Lemaire said, grinning. "I was asking him to play a certain way, and I felt that way he'd turn out to be a pretty good defensemen. Safe, don't gamble."

Skoula says it wasn't a "difficult" transition but a "different one."I've played offensively all my life, but in today's hockey, you can't just have somebody skating around, cheating or looking for offense all the time," Skoula said. "In today's hockey, it's defense and battles."

Last December, Skoula was often at the center of everything bad for the Wild. In four games, he made mistakes -- turnovers, poor pinches, incorrect reads -- that directly led to losses.

But Lemaire stuck with him, and Skoula recovered. In January, when the Wild turned its season around, Skoula was outstanding, in particular during a four-game stretch in which Kim Johnsson was injured. Skoula topped 28 minutes a night and was a plus-8.

"Every hockey player, it's never 82 games of good games or outstanding games," Skoula said. "If you have a tough time for two weeks, a month or two months, you just have to keep going. Somehow you have to get out of it and just keep working and just keep playing.

"That was a tough time for me. But it's only up to the person how fast it takes him to get out of it. And the more I play, I feel more comfortable and more confident."

  • related content

  • Wild-Los Angeles preview

    Monday October 15, 2007

    Preview: The 5-0 Wild, the NHL's only undefeated team, looks to end its three-game mother-son trip out West with a...

  • Wild pursuing practice facility

    Monday October 15, 2007

    The Wild is in discussion with several communities regarding the possibility of housing a new practice facility for the team,...

  • WILD AT LOS ANGELES 9:30 tonight • FSN • 830-AM

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Phoenix 12:00 PM
New York
Portland 6:00 PM
New Orleans
Utah 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Atlanta 7:00 PM
Houston
San Antonio 7:30 PM
Dallas
Indiana 8:00 PM
Denver
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Arizona 3:00 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Philadelphia 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Montreal
Washington 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Florida 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Carolina
Chicago 6:00 PM
Columbus
Nashville 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Calgary 9:00 PM
Vancouver
St. Louis 9:30 PM
San Jose
VA Commonwealth 39 2nd Half 18:18
Cincinnati 21
Charlotte 31 2nd Half
Georgetown 38
SMU 30 2nd Half
Michigan 27
Louisville 29 2nd Half
Western Ky 24
Mount St Marys 12:00 PM
American Univ
Abilene Christian 12:00 PM
Boise State
UMass Lowell 12:00 PM
Duquesne
South Alabama 12:00 PM
IUPUI
Ohio State 0 1st Half 19:43
North Carolina 0
Massachusetts 12:00 PM
Providence
Syracuse 12:00 PM
Villanova
Citadel 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Belmont 12:30 PM
Fairfield
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
Binghamton
Montreat 1:00 PM
Campbell
Delaware 1:00 PM
Fair-Dickinson
South Florida 1:00 PM
Florida State
Vanderbilt 1:00 PM
Georgia Tech
SC State 1:00 PM
Houston
Missouri 1:00 PM
Illinois
Truett-McConnell 1:00 PM
Jacksonville
Toledo 1:00 PM
McNeese State
Elon 1:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Drexel 1:00 PM
Penn State
St Francis-PA 1:00 PM
Rutgers
Albany 1:00 PM
Yale
PSU-Beaver 1:00 PM
Longwood
Eastern Ill 1:05 PM
Indiana State
Indiana 1:30 PM
Butler
Marshall 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
Lafayette 2:00 PM
Kansas
Oral Roberts 2:00 PM
Memphis
Western Mich 2:00 PM
Northwestern
Delaware State 2:00 PM
Oregon
Fla Atlantic 2:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Arkansas Tech 2:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Howard Payne 2:00 PM
Texas-Arlington
UMBC 2:00 PM
Kennesaw St
St Josephs (IN) 2:05 PM
Chicago State
Eastern Mich 2:05 PM
Missouri State
UCLA 2:30 PM
Kentucky
UC Davis 3:00 PM
Air Force
Houston Baptist 3:00 PM
UC Riverside
Davidson 3:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
USC Upstate 3:00 PM
Miss State
NC Central 3:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Illinois State 3:00 PM
Murray State
Louisiana 3:00 PM
Northwestern St
Oakland 3:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Detroit 3:00 PM
Rhode Island
Presbyterian 3:00 PM
UT Martin
Monmouth 3:00 PM
Wagner
Southern U 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Iowa State 4:00 PM
Drake
Wake Forest 4:00 PM
Florida
High Point 4:00 PM
James Madison
Texas Southern 4:00 PM
Michigan State
New Hampshire 4:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Northeastern 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Huston-Tillotson 4:00 PM
Texas State
Purdue 4:15 PM
Notre Dame
Prairie View 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Xavier 5:00 PM
Auburn
Bluffton 6:00 PM
Akron
NJIT 6:00 PM
Central Conn St
Hofstra 6:00 PM
Columbia
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Dayton
Iona 6:00 PM
George Mason
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Texas A&M 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Morgan State 6:00 PM
Manhattan
Saint Josephs 6:00 PM
Marist
East Carolina 6:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Richmond 6:00 PM
Pepperdine
La Salle 6:00 PM
Towson
Incarnate Word 6:05 PM
UMKC
CS-Bakersfield 6:30 PM
Idaho State
Iowa 6:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Long Beach State 7:00 PM
Texas
TX-San Antonio 7:00 PM
TCU
SE Missouri St 7:30 PM
Arkansas
Lehigh 8:00 PM
Arizona State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Washington
Utah Valley U 8:00 PM
Weber State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
St Edwards 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
NC State 8:30 PM
West Virginia
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
Fresno State 9:00 PM
Pacific
Montana State 9:00 PM
Portland
Ball State 9:00 PM
San Diego St
South Dakota St 9:05 PM
Utah State
Stanford 10:00 PM
BYU
Utah 10:30 PM
UNLV
Nevada 3 3rd Qtr 4:34
Louisiana 10
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Livingstone 38 2nd Half
UNC Greensboro 42
Loyola-Chicago 32 2nd Half
Dartmouth 27
Georgia Tech 27 2nd Half 20:00
St Francis-NY 25
Auburn 22 2nd Half 20:00
St Johns 32
East Tenn St 28 2nd Half 18:50
Jacksonville St 22
Western Mich 35 2nd Half
Detroit 26
Cal-Irvine 25 2nd Half
Wright State 41
Gardner-Webb 23 2nd Half 19:00
Kennesaw St 23
(7) Stanford 12:00 PM
(11) Tennessee
Central Michigan 12:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
Nebraska Omaha 12:00 PM
Creighton
FIU 12:00 PM
Western Carolina
St Thomas Aquinas 12:00 PM
Army
St Bonaventure 12:00 PM
Niagara
Texas State 12:00 PM
Stetson
Alabama A&M 0 1st Half 20:00
Ole Miss 0
Houston 0 1st Half 20:00
Nicholls 0
George Mason 12:05 PM
ULM
Grambling 1:00 PM
Kansas State
Missouri 1:00 PM
Wake Forest
Robert Morris 1:00 PM
Cornell
Air Force 1:00 PM
Abilene Christian
Hampton 1:00 PM
James Madison
American Univ 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Texas Southern 1:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Tenn Tech 1:00 PM
NC A&T
Presbyterian 1:00 PM
NC Central
Penn 1:00 PM
Drexel
Lipscomb 1:00 PM
Xavier
Vermont 1:00 PM
Green Bay
Charleston Southern 1:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Ohio Christian 1:00 PM
Akron
Jacksonville 1:00 PM
Murray State
(17) Rutgers 1:00 PM
Iona
Indiana 1:00 PM
Oakland
Indiana State 1:30 PM
SMU
Denver 1:30 PM
Purdue
TX-San Antonio 2:00 PM
Texas Tech
UCF 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Campbell 2:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Florida A&M 2:00 PM
SE Louisiana
Northwestern St 2:00 PM
Jackson State
Lehigh 2:00 PM
Arizona State
Valparaiso 2:00 PM
SIU-Edwardsville
Toledo 2:00 PM
Southern Ill
Liberty 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Wofford 2:30 PM
North Florida
Montana State 3:00 PM
Washington St
Marshall 3:00 PM
(22) West Virginia
Morgan State 3:00 PM
Chattanooga
Northeastern 3:00 PM
Harvard
Furman 3:00 PM
(15) Georgia
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(9) Baylor
Ohio U 3:00 PM
Massachusetts
Prairie View 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
High Point 3:00 PM
(12) Nebraska
Winthrop 3:05 PM
Wichita State
William Jewell 3:30 PM
UMKC
Louisiana Tech 4:00 PM
Utah
Southern Utah 4:00 PM
Gonzaga
Hawaii 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Jose St 4:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Northridge 4:00 PM
San Diego State
Norfolk State 4:00 PM
East Carolina
Saint Peters 4:00 PM
Loyola-Maryland
Arizona 4:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Northwestern 4:30 PM
Eastern Illinois
Oral Roberts 5:00 PM
Wisconsin
Florida Atlantic 5:00 PM
New Mexico St
La Salle 5:00 PM
Georgia State
(16) Oregon State 5:30 PM
Nevada
Sacred Heart 6:00 PM
Villanova
Delaware 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Washington 7:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Pacific 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Old Dominion 7:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Austin Peay 9:00 PM
Montana
Lewis-Clark State 9:00 PM
Idaho
(21) Miss State 9:30 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close