Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Wild are a Boring, Trapping Team

I hate to break it to you all, but it's true. We all know it. The Wild are the most boring team in the NHL. All they do is trap, and Mike Yeo is a mere disciple of Jacques Lemaire. I mean, the Wild even trap in warmups! It's why Parise and Suter won't make a lick of difference to the success of this team. Parise's offensive skills will be obliterated on the Wild, and Suter, well, he fits right in!

So sayeth Bill Watters on Marek vs. Wyshynski this week. So it must be true, right?

Hold your horses. First off, on paper, I'm sure Watters might have a point. The Wild was one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL and had decent defense. Based on that alone and not watching a single game, he might be headed in the right direction.

If he weren't sitting on his horse backwards. And if the horse weren't blind. And he wasn't wearing a blindfold. Then he might be headed in the right direction.

This is something that chaps my ass, when national "talent" looks at a stat sheet, sees the word "Wild" at the bottom of the goals scored column, and thinks "trap." Five or ten years ago, they might have had a point. After all, Jacques Lemaire IS the father of the Neutral Zone Trap, right? (Actually, he isn't, but let's not get pedantic for the time being.)

Todd Richards. tried to implement a system that was aggressive and offensive in nature. He made a point not to trap, but the team retained the label. Mike Yeo has a more pragmatic view of the game and will use trap variants from time to time, but generally speaking, his game is about aggressive forechecking, lots of back pressure, and trying to disrupt the other team's flow. To get them off their game.

So why didn't the team score last year? For one thing, they lost key players in droves. Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Mikko Koivu all went down at inopportune times in the season. The Wild also had an atrocious power play percentage, scoring only 15.1% of the time. Fourth worst in the NHL. When Koivu came back, the Wild, strangely enough, got better.

In a highly unscientific study, I determined the Wild scored 2.375 goals per game in the first half of the season, and 1.95 in the second half. That's a drop of 0.4 goals per game. Of course, this piece isn't about how the Wild need to score more goals or how the health of the team impacts its ability to score, otherwise, I'd be geeking out on stats right now.

The point is that there's a reason the Wild didn't score goals last season, and it has nothing to do with the style they play. Which isn't a trap.

There are plenty of other teams that do use a Neutral Zone Trap that Watters can watch if he wants to see how that game is played.

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