Seems the Wild are dealing with a crisis of apathy. The players seem to be floating, putting in only a cursory level of effort into their games. Last night, they only came alive in the third, then promptly lost the game 4-2. In last night's post-game presser, Mike Yeo made sure to mention that "We have one extra body and potentially another on the way. We're going to be playing guys that want to play hard."
The key phrase there is "guys that want to play hard." "...want to play hard." Yeo is right on the money. He needs players that want to play hard, want to win. But it's tough. I get it: The team has suffered an epic slide brought about by the loss of four key pieces, the dismantling of the defense, and a rookie goaltender. Maybe we're all spoiled from yesteryear, when Jacques Lemaire could take a has-been and couple of never-will-bes and at least made the game entertaining for the fans.
I got the impression earlier in the season that Yeo knew which buttons to push after a punchless night in LA following a loss to the Sharks two nights before. Yeo simply commented that there was nothing for him to say to his players. They responded, beating the Ducks in Anaheim. Yeo knows when to say something, and when to say nothing.
Grit isn't what will get this team into the playoffs year after year, talent is what it will take. At this point, the Wild have lost Bouchard and Latendresse to concussions. Unlike the losses of defensemen early in the season - Zidlicky lost to a concussion, Prosser stepped up and made a name for himself - the loss of key forwards hurt this team deeply. Casey Wellman or Jarod Palmer are not superstars in the making. The loss of those two key forwards, followed by the loss of Koivu in St Louis is what killed this team - both talent-wise and mentally. The team went into a tailspin, and Yeo couldn't keep his troops from getting demoralized.
The trades that sent Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon to Edmonton and Boston, respectively, only compounded things. Although Chuck Fletcher was NOT waving the white flag as some feared (and was - rightly - addressing a lack of talent and acquiring a player that we'd hoped Marek Zidlicky to be), the effect was just that, to the players at least. If there'd been some way to keep Schultz and add Tom Gilbert, we may have seen a resurgence from these guys.
At the time when the losing streak had just begun, I thought that they'd pull themselves out. But that's not the case (obviously). I don't think the players don't care. I think they've been beaten down and demoralized. It's hard to pull yourself up in these situations, and I think that as a fan, I should enjoy seeing the players play, see what Gilbert, Kampfer, and the other Houston kids can do.
And get ready for some excitement next season, when the big crisis will be what to do with all those talented kids coming into the organization.
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