ST. LOUIS – The answers — or lack thereof — are becoming concerning.
Wild coach Mike Yeo admits he is searching for them. General Manager Chuck Fletcher is expected to provide some Saturday during an interview with reporters.
And leaders such as Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are saying the same things after every Wild loss these days. Suter called the Wild a “very fragile team” and one that lacks confidence, and Parise responded to questions after a 4-2 defeat to the Rangers on Thursday in Manhattan after the Wild blew a 2-0 lead with a variety of “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure” and “I don’t have an answer to that.”
With the Wild, 1-8-1 in its past 10 and 3-9-3 in 2016, facing its latest pivotal game Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues, there are a number of concerns:
Are players simply not responding to Yeo after hearing the same voice for five seasons? Has Fletcher simply built a team that hit its peak with consecutive Western Conference semifinal appearances and is incapable of getting over the hump? Were the youngsters who are largely not taking the next step overhyped? Are the veterans tired and worn down?
Struggling teams often make trades or coaching changes for a jolt; could players be waiting for something like that?
“That’s not up to us,” Parise said of the latter Thursday night. “They’re the ones watching and they make those decisions. I’ve said it before. If we’re sitting here wasting our time thinking about that, then we’re jamming up our own heads and making it a lot harder on ourselves.
“You can’t plan on that, you can’t assume it’s going to happen. Because what if it doesn’t? Then we’re just going to quit? We have to play better as a group and a group that’s here right now.”
Parise has one goal and no assists and is minus-11 in the past nine games.
“He’s incredibly frustrated and you can see that,” Yeo said. “I think you can even see that when he’s getting some opportunities. He had seven attempts [Thursday] at the net. Shots are getting blocked, shots are missing the net. I think that frustration is definitely building.”
In the past, Yeo has pushed the right buttons during slumps. This time, nothing he has tried has worked. He says the Wild needs some players to step up.
“We give a script, but we need guys that want to be out there in every situation,” Yeo said. “Every moment of the game calls for something different, and good teams and good players react to those situations and if it’s a shift in D zone, if it’s making a hard play, if it’s making a more precise or a more skilled play, whatever it is, you make it.
“And we’re not doing that.”
Before Thursday’s game, veteran Ryan Carter said he was trying to get a feel of what was going on in the locker room after recently missing seven games because of an injury. It seemed he had a firmer grasp after Thursday’s game.
“It seems like guys are maybe waiting around for somebody else to do it,” Carter said. “We have to … say, ‘I want to be the guy.’ We’ve got to change the mentality. The mentality’s maybe slipped a little bit. We’ve got to find our confidence, and each guy’s got to be the one to do it.
“Power play, you’ve got to go out there and say, ‘I’m the guy that shoots it.’ PK, you’ve got to go out there and say, ‘I’m going to make sure I block every shot that comes my way,’ and you do it. You’ve just got to want to be the guy.”
Yeo knows the Blues, who have expressed similar frustration after recent losses, won’t hand the Wild a gift Saturday. So it’s incumbent on the Wild to pull its damaged egos and psyches off the floor “and win a game.”
“There’s always an answer. You just have to find it,” Yeo said. “The answer, in my eyes, is going to come through me. That’s what we need from everybody inside the locker room as well.
“We could all look around, and I could point to a player who’s not doing their job. Or I could point to somebody else and somebody else could point to somebody else. It’s very easy to do that right now. But the reality is until we dig a little bit deeper and find something more that we can give, it’ll be a similar script.”