Monday, September 8, 2008

Meet The Wild, Part 2 (Defense)

The defense corps on a JL-coached team is always greater than the sum of its parts since he demands and (generally) gets such a high degree of defensive buy-in from the forwards. That being said, the converse has not been true - at least in JL's tenure with Minnesota. The Wild's offense has always been lacking, no thanks to the blue line.

With what one assumes is a return to a more Lemaire-esque overall roster this season - meaning more malleable players, built to play a more Lemaire-style game (a departure from last season's more "I wanna do it MY way" squad) - Risebrough went out and re-built the defense with an eye on improving mobility and, God forbid, offense (or at least the initiation thereof).

Out are Keith "Yoda" Carney ("When this old you are, look as good you will not"), Sean "Over The" Hill and Petteri "Never Used" Nummelin. In are Marek Zidlicky, MA Bergeron and Erik Reitz. Clearly the emphasis is on being able to move the puck to set up the rush. Additionally, replacing Rolston's presence on the power play point was addressed as well (Bergeron may be the one true power play specialist on the team).

"Much Maligned" Marty Skoula ostensibly moves down the depth chart, or at least has some downward pressure on him - Lemaire's professed love of him notwithstanding. As often as he's flogged on this blog, the thinking is that he would be a solid 3rd pairing defenseman. Well, he's going to start this season behind Schultz, Burns, Johnsson and Zidlicky for sure - so, by my math, he's a 3rd pairing guy right now (though the thought of him having to cover the inevitable youthful exuberance mistakes of a Reitz is a little discomfiting).

The top seven should be: Schultz, Johnsson, Burns, Zidlicky, Skoula, Reitz/Bergeron. There's at least a good chance (you're on the hook for calling it, Kirsten!) Burns doesn't miss any time with his elbow, though you have to think his timing could be off at first. Otherwise, Johnsson, Burns Zidlicky and Bergeron will all get PP time. Schultz, Johnsson and Burns for sure will get some PK time as well. Foster's still rehabbing the leg, so it remains to be seen when he'll be back on the ice.

Last year's defense squad produced 36 goals and 108 assists (144 points) in 502 man-games. That's 0.287 points per man-game. I'd like to see that get over 0.40 pts per man-game this season. That would represent about 56 more points from the defense - and that would go a long way towards defending the division championship, and, more importantly, represent a team with good odds of improving their finish from last season.

NiNY

2 comments:

Cortney said...

I agree with you. A lot of the guys that are gone this season weren't necessarily crucial to the team's performace last year, at least in the sense that they can't be (somewhat) easily replaced.

Kirsten said...

Damnit! Did I accidentally make a call? I'll stand behind it, though. Burns will be good as new quickly.