Matt Cooke was asked by a TV reporter Monday if it’s time to push the panic button.
“You got a big red one for me?” the Wild veteran replied.
As bad as things have been, at least the Wild still has its sense of humor.
Ryan Suter was asked what he and coach Mike Yeo were chatting about for conspicuously 20 minutes on the ice after Monday’s practice. Suter stared in the distance at probably 200 cases of Budweiser and Bud Light that were just delivered to Xcel Energy Center. The defenseman smiled and joked, “He told us to drink more.”
Hey, it couldn’t hurt.
The Wild is coming off a six-goal beatdown that could have been worse vs. the Dallas Stars. It has lost 12 of its past 19 (7-8-4). It is in 11th place in the Western Conference and only two points ahead of Colorado for the Central Division cellar.
A little beer might not be a half-bad idea.
“I don’t think that’s going to help,” Cooke said, regarding the proverbial panic button, not the brewskis. “Panic, frustration, lack of confidence. Any of those things that you want to say it’s time for are only going to hurt us, not help us.”
The Wild opens a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. The Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators, the two top teams in the Central, are next on the docket before the Wild heads out on a three-game road trip.
The reeling team is desperately searching for answers. It has been for a month. Despite saying all the right things, losses keep mounting and every time players walk by their locker-room lounge, the whiteboard that lists the standings show a harsh reality of where the team sits.
“It sure does feel like we could be in trouble,” Suter said honestly. “But it’s up to us. We control it. That’s a good thing to have. There’s not many problems in life that you can control.
“Maybe this Dallas thing was the best thing to happen to us. Maybe it’ll wake us up.”
Suter said it’s up to each player to improve his individual game for the team to improve. Suter said that starts with him. The NHL’s leading minute man has struggled the past month. Plus-minus is a flawed stat, but on Nov. 24, Suter was a plus-13. In the past 15 games, he’s a minus-13. He hasn’t scored a goal since opening night and looked visibly sluggish in Saturday’s loss.
He said the good thing about Yeo is the fourth-year Wild coach has got an open-door policy “where you can always talk about whatever” and Monday, they “talked about everything.” Suter so badly wants to help the Wild get out of this mess, he feels he has been trying to do too much and it has adversely affected his play.
“It seems like the last couple weeks, that’s what I was thinking,” Suter said. “I wasn’t really focused on just going out and playing the way I’m capable of playing. I was always trying to do more than I needed to do to win and I have to be consistent and just focus on my game and be good at my game so everyone else can be good at their game.”
The talking point Monday was that a 2-1 loss or a 7-1 loss, it’s the same thing — two lost points in the standings, not 10. Forget it, don’t dwell on it, fix the mistakes.
“You have a setback like last game, it can’t kill ya,” Yeo said. “You can’t carry that into two or three more games.”
The Wild entered Monday’s action five points back of a playoff spot. It made the playoffs last season with the deepest hole being four.
“We’ve done it before, but to just rest on that and hope that that’s going to happen again, that would be difficult to do,” Yeo said. “We have a tough task ahead of us, and I think the first part to giving us a chance to make sure we come back is recognizing how difficult it’s going to be.”
Added Cooke, “It starts with looking in the mirror. … Each and every one of us has to grab hold of the rope. It can’t be well, ‘He’s got to be better and he’s got to better.’ It’s collectively as a group.”