Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Postgame: Wild needs more from some vets and will Dumba stay or go?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: October 28, 2013 - 11:47 PM

Disappointing loss for the Wild tonight. The team's been playing good hockey, so this is far from the end of the world. It was sort of its first clunker of the season, losing 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

But the Wild’s execution was off all night and it started on the first shift of the game when there were two turnovers the first shift and that trickled into the second and third shifts.

But the Wild rebounded, and even when the Wild was down 1-0, coach Mike Yeo felt his team was “largely in control.” He felt the Wild had good energy, created good chances, defended hard and defended well even though the execution “wasn’t exactly sharp.”

Finally, Mikael Granlund set up Jason Pominville for a howitzer and the forward’s third goal in two goals, sixth goal in eight games and team-leading seventh. The next shift, Matt Cooke nearly scored twice and it looked like the Wild was now well on its way to really taking control.

And then, just careless mistakes. First a Clayton Stoner icing led to a mismatch in lines. After the ensuing faceoff, Mikko Koivu tried to pass to Torrey Mitchell. Mitchell couldn’t clear and fell, and then the Wild was in scramble mode. Matt Dumba collided with Niklas Backstrom, and the Wild goalie just got stuck in mud, was slow to recover and Sheldon Brookbank easily made it 2-1.

Ninety-nine seconds later, Marco Scandella was handed a dubious holding penalty. Regardless of what you think of the call, the Wild’s penalty kill, like it has over and over and over again this season, gave up a costly one. Koivu coughed up the puck and this came right as Brandon Saad knocked down Backstrom.

Brent Seabrook wheeled the puck over to Nick Leddy and Leddy recognized that Backstrom wasn’t set. He unloaded and scored his first goal in 12 games vs. the team that drafted him in the first round in 2009.

Dumba played a starring role in Patrick Kane scoring 2:47 into the third and the game was pretty much over at that point as Chicago skated to a 5-1 win to snap Minnesota’s four-game home winning streak.

Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t pleased with most players, other than the Nino Niederreiter-Granlund-Pominville line, which makes you think Charlie Coyle may start on the top-line right wing with Zach Parise and Koivu if he’s able to return Friday. The Wild needs more from Koivu. He has one goal on 30 shots in 13 games and tonight was on the ice for three goals. The Wild needs more from Dany Heatley, who has no goals with a goalie in net and has 22 shots this season. The Wild’s got to figure this out. It’s not a coincidence that the second line finally started scoring when he was taken off. I’m not convinced they’re ready to scratch him because they don’t want a six-month soap opera ahead, but if he’s not scoring goals, he is not productive. Some players can get away with not contributing offensively because they make impacts in other areas. That has not been the case this year for Heatley. And after tonight, one’s got to think Josh Harding will be back in the cage if he’s healthy enough to be by Friday. Backstrom didn’t control his rebounds well tonight and was slow to recover on the second and third goals – the back-breaking goals.

Read the gamer for the quotes. Yeo wouldn’t single out any players, but he wasn’t happy with some of the efforts, saying some of the “plays out there were odd.”

The Wild went 6-4-3 in its first month of the season. Of those seven losses, four or five at least could have been wins. Defensively, it’s been good. Offensively, it’s still a work in progress. PK stinks.

“It was kind of a weird month,” Pominville said. “We probably lost some games that we should’ve won and won some games that we maybe didn’t deserve to win.

“We’ve kind of turned a corner as of late but tonight was one that kind of slipped by us. If you look at the overall picture, we know we can be better and just keep pushing toward improving. We’ve got a good a group of guys and a lot of good things are ahead of us, but we’ve got to keep working toward everything we get.

“I don’t think we were that off early on. We did a lot of good things and capitalized on a few opportunities. Obviously the third period wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We sat back and kind of stopped playing. But for a good chunk of the time we did some good things. They’re a good team and they make plays, but it’s on us to be better and play a complete game.”

Dumba obviously had a very tough night. On for three of the last four goals for Chicago, although Yeo let him off the hook for the difficult third, saying, if the Wild was going to get back in the game, “We’ve got to try some things. If it doesn’t work, it could end up badly.”

The big question now is whether the Wild is going to let one game where Dumba looked miscast against the Blackhawks override the decision as a whole and return him to Red Deer.

I still don’t think it will, but we will see. The big question the Wild has to answer is if Dumba is going to play more often than he sits and when he plays, will he have a significant role?

I have evolved. I used to think it made little sense to have teenage defensemen in the NHL, unless they’re as special as a guy like Jonas Brodin. But would it really hurt Dumba’s development being in the NHL for a year working with Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor as opposed to returning to junior?

And as I mentioned on one of yesterday’s blogs, I still think it could be a risk to send Dumba back because he adds depth to the team. As we saw these past two weeks with Brodin and Keith Ballard hurt, you can find yourself short defensemen quick in this game. If Dumba wasn’t here, the Wild would have had to turn to Iowa.

Also, if it’s true Chuck Fletcher doesn’t care about burning a year of Dumba’s contract, then maybe the Wild keep him for now, take a longer look at home, work with him longer and send him back at a later date if that’s the decision. In other words, there’s no rush if Fletcher really doesn’t care making his three-year contract kick in.

Remember, he can be sent back to junior at any time. The reason why now is a threshold is because his contract doesn’t slide a year if he plays in his 10th game.

Yeo said the Wild will make a decision based on what his role would be, how often he plays and how it’ll affect his development. Obviously, if Dumba stays, he’s got to play. So the Wild has to make the decision whether it’s willing to live and die with Dumba, who is still quite raw, and while he makes some awesome plays nightly, he has shown at times a player that gets rattled and makes some costly mistakes.

We will see. The Wild has Tuesday off, so there may be no news on this front. The Wild next practices Wednesday.

That’s it for me. I will be on KFAN on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
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