CHICAGO – The Wild is in full-scale, five-alarm, DEFCON 1 crisis mode.
“I was talking with Zach [Parise], and we’ve never been through … we’ve never seen anything like this,” defenseman Ryan Suter said after the Wild’s 11th loss in 13 games, a 4-1 whipping Sunday night from the Chicago Blackhawks. “I don’t know what the heck is going on, but every day’s a bad day right now.”
Chuck Fletcher said last week it’s not a “coaching thing” and if players are waiting for him to shake up the roster with a trade, that’s the wrong mind-set to have.
Well, if Mike Yeo, whose arms remained folded in frustration for virtually every click of the clock Sunday, is indeed safe and the General Manager that assembled this broken roster is either incapable or unwilling to repair it with outside help, it’s hard to imagine how the Wild gets out of this painful, two-month plunge.
The Wild closed its disappointing — and, as Parise called it, “unacceptable” — 41-point first half at the United Center, where the Blackhawks have beaten the Wild six consecutive times the past two postseasons and eight times in the past 11 regular-season visits.
Like most Wild games in Chicago, the Blackhawks toyed with and outclassed Minnesota, which is dead last in the Central Division, 19 points out of the division and conference lead and cemented in 12th place in the Western Conference.
“It’s not good,” said Suter, who a day after being named an All-Star, was minus-3 and is minus-18 in the past 19 games. “It’s not fun to be a part of. It’s not fun to play. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Two hours before the puck dropped, Yeo, who keeps pushing and prodding to no avail, was “anxious” to see how the Wild would battle the Blackhawks on the road after outplaying them two games earlier at home in a loss.
Instead, the Wild looked depressed, uptight and slow in a fifth consecutive loss (0-4-1) and 16th in the past 23 games (7-11-5).
“When it rains it pours, and it’s pouring,” Suter said.
The 21,809 fans and the NBC Sports Network audience witnessed what Wild fans have seen for a while. The Wild is lost and stuck in mud.
By the eight-minute mark, the Wild already trailed 2-0 and was heinous to watch in its own zone. Niklas Backstrom was victimized time and again by wide-open players scoring against him.
Wild players couldn’t keep up, didn’t take the body, got caught puck watching and didn’t compete.
“We were on our heels, and we were watching them come at us,” Yeo said. “We’ve got guys in position, but it’s not enough to be close to guys. It’s about being hard in that position, it’s about pressuring.”
The Wild locker room is a miserable place to be these days. Players are feeling sorry for themselves, are at a loss for answers and are uttering the same tired lines after every loss.
“How we handle this is everything to me,” Yeo said. “Typically we’ve been a team that handles adversity. It’s brings out the best in us. Right now it’s doing the opposite.”
All along, Fletcher and owner Craig Leipold, who attended Sunday’s game, have indicated Yeo’s job is perfectly safe. But with capable coaching candidates Dan Bylsma, Pete DeBoer and Randy Carlyle available, Yeo’s leash must be tight.
“I’m not going to get wrapped up in that,” Yeo said. “I know one thing, I’m going to keep doing my stuff. That’s the way I am, and I would expect the same from them. …
“I’m glad we still have half a season, but there’s some things that are concerning. I still have confidence in this group, still know what we’re capable of, but there’s no doubt the clock is ticking here.”
Both for the Wild, and maybe Yeo’s job.