The Wild’s a depressed, broken, absolutely lost team right now, and I have no clue how the Wild fixes this.
It’s sloppy, has forgotten how to play defense, how to compete for anything remotely close to 60 minutes. It’s lethargic and outskated, outplayed and outworked in almost every single game.
Other than that, things are just peachy right now as the NHL’s most disappointing team rolled into the halfway mark with 41 points and an 11th loss in 13 games, a 5th straight loss and 16th loss in the past 23.
Please check out the game story as well on www.startribune.com/wild, but a down-and-out Ryan Suter actually apologized to the scribes for his despondent, glum quotes after tonight’s 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks.
“When it rains it pours, and it’s pouring,” said Suter, who said he didn’t know what to say anymore after losses.
When I asked if this team was in a full-scale crisis, he said, “It is. It’s not good. It’s not fun to be a part of. It’s not fun to play. I don’t know what’s going on.
“Everybody’s saying the right things and everybody wants to do the right things. It just seems like everything that could go wrong is going wrong. It’s tough to win in this league, and especially when every single thing seems to be making it harder for you to play. I was talking with Zach [Parise], and we’ve never been through, … we’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t know what the heck is going on, but every day’s a bad day right now.”
So, after two years of making the playoffs and looking like this team was ready to take the next step, the Wild’s 2014-15 slogan has unexpectedly become, “Every day’s a bad day.”
The stress is written on Mike Yeo’s face and is in his raspy voice after every loss. He seems sick right now, and not just with the flu.
After every game, red-faced, angry Chuck Fletcher looks like he has been in a prize fight.
Owner Craig Leipold attended tonight’s game with two of his bosom buddies. He, too, just rolled his eyes and said to make sure I get in that he actually stayed for the entire game.
It was indicated in late December and within the past couple days that Yeo’s job was safe, but if the Wild does plan to ride this out and Fletcher’s hands are cuffed by the ability to make meaningful trades because of the way this team is constructed between unmovable veterans and youngsters the Wild doesn’t want to pull the plug on, it’s hard to see how the heck this team’s going to dig out of the muck without Yeo paying the ultimate price.
He has dodged bullets before with guys like Peter Laviolette and others waiting to be grasped. This time, the Wild’s going to Pittsburgh, where his pal Dan Bylsma is unemployed. There’s also Pete DeBoer, who coached Parise in New Jersey, and hard-$&$ Randy Carlyle, who may be the type of abrasive, stern voice this team needs. There's Paul MacLean, who interviewed for the job before Yeo got it.
“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. That’s the one thing that we’ve talked about several times now is you control what you can control. If you’re doing your job, then that’s what matters.”
This team is broken. It’s lacked energy and excitement for seven weeks. The type of play that made the Wild effective previously is so lost and forgotten, I don’t see how this sluggish, dragging team just magically finds it.
And players just are at a loss. The comments are so sad and gloomy after every game. No answers.
“That’s what’s frustrating,” Yeo said of the melancholy attitude of the team. “How we handle this is everything to me. Typically we’ve been a team that handles adversity. It brings out the best in us. Right now it’s doing the opposite.”
It has a planned day off Monday, so it’s not even expected to practice before Tuesday’s next game against Pittsburgh.
Suter is a minus-18 in the past 19 games and in my opinion looks this way because Yeo is forced to skate him into the ground because of how this team nightly has a third pair it doesn’t trust. Mikko Koivu was as bad and as slow tonight as I have seen him in a long time. Well-earned minus-2 and about five times where he was unable to get a puck a foot from the defensive blue line even out of the zone. Jason Pominville was bigtime responsible for the first goal against. Nino Niederreiter hasn’t scored in 12 games. There are many other passengers.
In the D-zone, the Wild came out soft and allowed the Blackhawks all the room in the world to skate around and through them, particularly in the first 10 minutes. Four goals came by guys left wide open, the last being a 3-on-1.
“We’ve got guys in position, but it’s not enough to be close to guys,” Yeo said. “It’s about being hard in that position, it’s about pressuring. You give a team like that all kind of time and space, they’re going to break you down.”
The goalies, we’ve discussed. Nothing he could have done tonight, but Niklas Backstrom has allowed 24 goals in the past seven starts.
Half the season’s in the garbage. The Wild’s in 12th place, last in the Central, 19 points out of the conference lead.
“I’m glad that we still have half a season, but there’s some things that are concerning,” Yeo said. “I still have confidence in this group, still know what we’re capable of, but there’s no doubt the clock is ticking here.”
Said Matt Cooke, “We have half a season. There’s still lots of time, but today’s the day. Now’s the time. We can’t keep looking forward. We’ve got to look in the moment.
“We’ve got to dig ourselves out. It doesn’t get any easier. No one’s just going to give us a win.”
Onto Pittsburgh. Long travel day Monday. Wild’s not leaving Chicago til 12:30. Barring news, you may only be hearing from me on Twitter and in Tuesday’s paper, where I plan a midseason analysis.