There's a subset of Wild fans that formed an opinion about Martin Skoula, back when he was tripping over goal lines and losing the team games, that is simply unable to give up the ghost to this day. And I suppose that's their prerogative. Nevermind Skoula had a very solid (if unspectacular) season for the Wild last year, once a bum always a bum to these fans. Okay, so it's not quite Bucky Bleepin' Dent Red Sox Fan Crazy Patheticness yet. But, still, it's a little pathetic and a little unnecessary......
.....especially since there's a new candidate for fan crazy-inducing play: Marek Zidlicky.
After coming over from Nashville, Zidlicky teamed with M-A Bergeron last season to provide the Wild a scoring threat from the blue line (particularly on the power play) the likes of which they really hadn't had before.
Brent Burns is a pretty good threat from the blue line to the dots, but he's been suffering through an identity and injury ravaged last season and a half. Kim Johnsson should and does get some power play time but only recently (coughcontractyearcough) has he shown any consistent finishing tendencies at all - which is different from saying he's been finishing consistently. Kurtis Foster was a power play specialist by default if nothing else because he frankly wasn't that good at anything else (and, frankly, his main "speciality" was putting the fear of god into the people sitting behind the net about 6-10 rows from the ice when his shot went high.) But those are pretty much the highlights of the Wild's blue line offense history.
And, to be honest, I don't recall a surfeit of Zidlicky brain cramps last season. Nothing, at least, like this season.
Zidlicky has been producing Skoula-like (circa 07-08) defensive brain cramps with near-stunning regularity this season. At first it could have been chalked up to his, like everyone else on the team that was a hold-over from the Lemaire days, having to learn how to re-calibrate "risk-reward" in Coach Richards' new system. But, uh, that should have happened by now. And it has....with most of the rest of the team.
So I started researching this post with the idea that my meta-statement would focus around why the Wild doesn't need to re-sign Marek Zidlicky beyond this season (he's slated to be an UFA on 7/1.)
Here's the problem, though: the numbers don't lie.
For all his defensive, um, adventures, Zidlicky is still only a -2 on the season. And he is definitely used in critical situations. His 4-25-29 is good enough for 12th-best in the entire NHL, and there are only 7 (seven) defensemen with more assists than his 25 right now.
Zids isn't just scoring on the PP, either. In fact he has as many power play goals this season as Brent Burns does (2.) That could be one of the reasons his +/- isn't worse, but if he's scoring at even strength more than he's giving up....
So, it's hard to make a case that Zidlicky's defensive shortcomings outweigh his offensive contributions. You want a comparison? Zids is the 12th-highest scoring defenseman in the league right now. Kim Johnsson ranks 96th. Zids costs the Wild about $1.5M less than Johnsson (cap hit) this season. Now, I have no interest in stoking the "Johnsson is overpaid and adds nothing" fire here. I think those arguments are indicative of someone who doesn't know the game very well. I'm just saying, on a relative AND absolute basis, Zidlicky's value to the team is real.