Tank, tank, tank, tank.
During the Wild’s two-month stumble down the Western Conference standings, many despairing fans looking for a reason to be optimistic about the future have embraced the old tanking crusade that has kept dejected fans in Buffalo and Edmonton hopeful during another season of pain.
You’ve heard of “McEichel,” haven’t you? If not, check out McEichel.com, scan Twitter for accounts like @RaceForMcEichel and hashtags like #embracethetank, see how losing-team beat writers post nightly updated “McEichel” standings, which is the NHL’s reverse statistics that read in order, “Edmonton, Buffalo, Carolina, Arizona, Columbus and New Jersey.”
Yep, despite all the losing the past two months, all that winning in October has killed the Wild in the “McEichel” standings.
What the heck is “McEichel,” you ask? A blend of the last names of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the two dynamic teenagers expected to go 1-2 in June’s draft. They’re considered franchise-turners, and after a season of treading water and looking at the lack of a gamebreaker in the Wild organization, some Wild fans are hoping to finally make losing count this season.
It’s hard to blame Wild fans. They see what bottoming out has done for Chicago (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) and Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury). They see how Tampa Bay can win a Stanley Cup in 2004, yet one bad year earns the Lightning Steven Stamkos. They see how three perfectly timed bad years “earned” the Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog and how John Tavares has helped turn around the on-the-rise Islanders.
It’s why fans like @normaliswear tweeted Thursday, “Going to be Sabres toughest #McEichel challenge in weeks. Minn is nose diving and Suter suspended. Gotta buckle down and get reg L.”
It’s why @FakeOilersGM Craig MacTavish tweeted Wednesday, “Well played, Don Maloney …#McEichel,” a laugh-out-loud joke insinuating that Maloney, the Coyotes GM, was assisting his team’s tanking by trading his best-playing goalie, Devan Dubnyk, to the Wild. Hey, Penguins GM Eddie Johnston proudly tanked in 1984 so he could draft Mario Lemieux.
In Thursday’s proverbial “McEichel” race four-point game, the Wild annihilated the Sabres 7-zip, proving that no matter how much Wild fans dream of “McEichel,” there’s little chance the Wild will be able to play down to the ineptitude of the Sabres.
That is one atrocious hockey club, and Sabres fans love it!
Tweeted @RyanHoran: “Vanek’s still scoring some important goals for the Sabres … #embracethetank”
Tweeted @faketimmurray (Sabres GM): Looking good boys … #EmbraceTheTank”
Tweeted @Hockeylife30: Losing 7-0 to the Wild?! #EmbraceTheTank”
Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges doesn’t like the #embracethetank craze.
“Never, never, never would we tank as players,” Gorges said. “I’d be hard-pressed to find one player in the NHL that has that mentality. Lose on purpose? We’re all competitors and we all have a lot of pride. Tanking, it’s not in our vocabulary.”
It might not be in Gorges’ vocab. Players are paid to care about the present, not a franchise’s future. But don’t think Tim Murray — the real one, not the fake one — wouldn’t mind being rewarded for all this excruciating losing and rebuilding with 30th place, meaning the Sabres are guaranteed McDavid or Eichel.
All 14 non-playoff teams can win the lottery and get the top pick, but the worst team has a 20 percent chance, the second-worst a 13.5 percent. Odds decrease from there.
Gorges understands that grief-stricken fans are “looking for answers and hope,” but he also pointed out “nothing’s guaranteed in life, especially in hockey.” As good as McDavid and Eichel are supposed to be, there can be injuries, development issues, anything that derails growth. Heck, look no further than the Oilers, who drafted Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov first overall from 2010-12, and they still stink so badly, they’re first in the “McEichel” standings.
So Wild fans, just face it: Root for your team to make the playoffs. If you embrace the tank, you’ll only be disappointed. After all, it’s Wild tradition when missing the playoffs to finish middle of the pack and select 10th.
NHL SHORT TAKES
Lightning forward Cedric Paquette felt the wrath of 6-9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara when he jostled with him last week. When Paquette pushed Chara, Chara dropped Paquette with a punch to the throat.
“I don’t know what that kid was thinking. I mean you know, you don’t mess with Z,” said Brad Marchand. “He must have forgotten that we play them three more times, so hopefully he’ll be sent down by then for his sake.”
Wild his favorite foe
Chicago’s Bryan Bickell loves playing the Wild. He has 14 goals in the past 21 regular-season and playoff games against Minnesota, 31 in the past 171 vs. everyone else: “I wish I’d play Minnesota 82 games.”
Wild assistant coach Andrew Brunette’s cabernet sauvignon-colored suit caused quite a stir last weekend when he wore it behind the bench against Nashville.
“Last time I wore it was in Dallas in November. I looked up and all the ushers were wearing the same suit,” Brunette said, howling.
Less painful that way
After losing back-to-back at Minnesota and Winnipeg earlier in the month, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told the Toronto Sun, “In my mind, I thought this could be my last game.”
He said GM Dave Nonis sent him a text that he wanted to meet at 8 a.m. two days later.
“He knew where I was because I told him I needed to drive my mother-in-law and my wife to Sudbury,” Carlyle told the newspaper. “So there was a red flag automatically, a light went on in my mind. ... Well, if he wants to meet me at 8 o’clock, obviously it’s pretty important. So I just said, ‘Call me.’ And we had a conversation. And I said, ‘I’m not going to drive five hours back and through a snowstorm to get fired. You might as well do it now.’
“The disappointing thing is, we didn’t play to a high enough brand of hockey on a regular basis. … I plan on coaching again. We’ll see what the future brings.”
THE WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Columbus (FSN)
Tuesday: 6:30 p.m. at Detroit (FSN)
Player to watch: Nick Foligno, Blue Jackets
Scooped up from the Rangers, the power forward has broken through this season to be the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer, and he’ll pick one of the All-Star teams next Sunday.
"I don’t know what the heck is going on, but every day’s a bad day right now."
Defenseman Ryan Suter on the skidding Wild