The Wild couldn't stand the heat, so they got out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving eve as the much-ballyhooed rematch with Satan and his Spawn, I mean the Vancouver Canucks, went to the Canucks in a 4-2 final.
First, the game.
The Wild came out amped to start, as you thought they would after the insane build up to the game. They got to running around a bit and the Nuks took advantage as only a poised, well-coached team will and were up 2-0 early. Marian Gaborik, showing some flashes of dominance, single-handedly tried to keep the Wild in the game with two goals to tie it, and one of the sickest displays of good-groin seen in the X in a long time when he sort of side stepped around not one but two Canucks players just inside the Nuk blueline and got a shot off in the second. The Wild, though, let the Canucks hang around, Hards got bopped in the noggin, Skoula and Burns both made stupid pinches and didn't recover, and Markus Naslund worked a hatter as Vancouver got out of town with a perfectly played road game victory.
Sean Hill finally got into a game after completing his 20-game suspension. Actually, I would have said he was one of the Wild's best players. He brought a very simple game and stuck to it for the most part. He even got a couple shots on goal.
Voros was the only Wild player to fight (Burrows), and continued to show that he wants to stay with the big club.
CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: I hate to say "I told you so, but..."
POLLYANNA SAYS: Gaby didn't hurt himself.
BOTTOM LINE: You get the feeling this season hangs in the balance over the next couple weeks. Five of six at home, we need to find our game right now.
STUD: Gaby potted two and undressed 40% of a Canucks' line on one play in the second. Groinerific!
DUD: Skoula made a horrendous pinch and then half-assed it back as the Canucks scored the winner.
Now, the reax.
This team is playing like shit.
There is no clear leadership on the ice. There is no obvious willingness to follow through on style of play or game plan. Gone is the cult-like adherence to the team-wide suffocating brand of defense. They've always been baby's butt soft. They're not skating, they're not hitting, they're not creating, they're not thinking.... Compounding this is that, in the absence of strong team-wide defensive play, the goalies are looking mortal. They're a rudderless team right now.
And it needs to change if they're going to continue on the trajectory that DR has promised us since day one. If we, as fans, are going to be patient as they build themselves into a perennial Cup challenger, then part of the deal is that there are no set backs. That once they achieve the next rung in the ladder they do not look back. Last year the rung they reached was of a playoff team. With no significant changes to the roster since then, the fair conclusion to be drawn is that that prior result (making the playoffs) is a given, and they believed they had the right guys in place to take the next step (maybe winning a series or two).
They will get no reprieve from me if they do not deliver on that forecast. This is not meteorology where it's okay to be wrong 95% of the time. This is big league professional sports.
And if that means that players' jobs, or coaches' jobs, are threatened to achieve those goals, then so be it. The Wild is not Marian Gaborik, or Niklas Backstrom, or Wes Walz, or Jacques Lemaire. The team will exist long after those guys are out of the game (I hope). So, if a player isn't getting it done, or if a cattle prod needs to be rammed up the team's collective butt to get them going - then do it.
And if a coach's message is falling on deaf ears - as happens with all coaches, regardless of how brilliant or pedigreed they are, eventually - then it's time to find a new coach.
Apparently DR has a very ill mother, and is tending to her. Obviously we wish Doug and his family the very best, and hope for a quick and full recovery for his mother.
But he and Tom Lynn were apparently fairly busy from the end of the Nuks game through the Thanksgiving holiday (DR's Canadian so I guess it's okay if he works on the U.S. T-day; I don't know where Lynn's from).
The big signing? Todd Fedoruk...???
They claimed him off re-entry waivers from Dallas. While this means we only have to pay half his remaining salary (and his salary cap hit as well, I believe), that would appear to be about the only positive. All I know about this guy is that he's an ersatz enforcer who's one good knock to the melon away from a lifetime of art therapy and Scooby-Doo lunchboxes. The primary cause of this situation is none other than our very own Derek Boogaard who crushed everything in Todd's face other than his will in a fight a couple years back. Apparently he's got more game than that, and is not just a fighter (no shit, Sherlock!) though to what extent I have no idea. One gets the feeling this is not the last move, especially considering Petteri Nummelin and Josh Harding both incurred injuries in the Canucks game, and Demitra is still only day-to-day.
With the BJs in town for the Hmong New Year today, the boys have a chance to come out and prove that they're not going to lay down this season, and hopefully start to get things back on track.
But it's certainly interesting times in Wild land right now.