Written By: Michael Anderson (@fscottprufrock)
There are a few things in this world that I hate: poverty, unregulated free-market capitalism, Shakespeare’s poems, and Wild fans.
I myself am a diehard Wild fan. I love the Wild and have been following them since they came into existence when I was a wee-little boy. I remember the early years of Jacques Lemaire and Doug Risebrough doing the best they could with very little. I mean we went to the Western Conference Finals with a collection of rag-tags. We had Pascal Dupuis before he was cool. We had Andrew Brunette dominating down low, Cliff Ronning wearing old equipment, Willie Mitchell bruising the opposition, and Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson giving us a great goalie tandem.
We did have Marian Gaborik, who was our first draft pick and remains our best and most explosive pick to date. But he was mishandled here injury wise and has since moved on. Prior to his exit, things with Risebrough and Lemaire began to unravel. The franchise was having trouble getting out the expansion team phase.
In fact, after the 03’ run we didn’t get to the playoffs again until 06-07’. That year we lost to the Ducks in the first round after posting a franchise best 104 points in the regular season. We made the playoffs again in 07-08’ when we won the Northwest Division title with 98 points. The playoff run was short lived though as we lost in the first round again, this time to the Avalanche.
After 07-08’ we didn’t make it again for four years. Wild fans seem to have forgotten this. Mike Yeo has been here for only three seasons, and we have made the playoffs twice. That is pretty darn good for a franchise that has not seen any real playoff consistency.
Before Yeo even coached a game, he was under fire. From the moment Chuck Fletcher hired him, fans have been on his case. Whether it is because he is too young, or people think we should have hired someone else, Wild fans have been overly critical. I will say he gives veterans far too long of leashes, i.e. Heatley and Brodziak this year, but for the most part his tenure here has been very successful.
Let’s look back at his first year. He took a team, which had no business being there, to the top of the NHL standings at mid-season. Then we had some injuries to top guys and things fell apart. I don’t care if you are Scotty Bowman; you are not going to win with Nick Johnson, Cal Clutterbuck, Brad Staubitz, and Darrell Powe seeing serious minutes.
That year Koivu played in only 55 games, and was still second on the team in points. The second half “collapse,” was more of a coming back to earth. It was painful to watch, but it was not a reflection of Yeo.
Then last season things got even worse for the poor guy. The Wild signed Parise and Suter, and Wild fans reacted as if the second coming of Jesus was upon us. Fans quickly forgot that we still have a core of young players that are still learning the pro game. They saw the money we paid, and figured that dollars spent meant championships. That doesn’t work, no matter how many times Minnesota sports fans in general blame our lack of championship pedigree on minimal payrolls.
Last year we got off to a good start, then gimped into the playoffs. Pominville got hurt right before the playoffs. Backstrom got hurt in warm ups of game one. Then, Harding gets injured as well. To no surprise of anyone paying attention, we lost 4-1 to the eventual Cup champs in the first round.
Now here we are in the playoffs yet again, this time as the top wild-card seed, and fans are again calling for Yeo’s head. To them I say this, shut your mouths. This is a team that has seen its top two goaltenders fall to injuries for the season, their top two point guys miss significant time, and yet we still had a 98 point season—the second best finish in franchise history.
Signing Parise and Suter was huge, but it’s not the saving grace. The fact is that we are still young in key areas. Our starting goalie coming into Monday’s game, three of our top-four defensemen, and four of our top nine forwards, are all under 24. I know MacKinnon and Landeskog are young too, but they are top-two draft picks.
The Wild haven’t had a pick that high ever in the draft, besides Gaborik who we took at number-three. It takes a bit more time for mid-level draft picks to develop. And believe me Coyle, Haula, Zucker, Granlund, Brodin, Scandella, El Nino, Fontaine, and Spurgeon are all going to be very good NHL players, and some of them are doing great now.
Throughout his tenure, Yeo has done a great job of keeping his cool as the pressure mounted. That ability has been tested mightily this year. He has kept this team together as they dealt with injuries to Backstrom, Harding, Koivu and Parise.
Yes we are down 2-0, and probably should have won game one, but let’s relax. It’s a seven game series, and now we have two games at home. We win these both and we are back to even. The Wild played great in game one, and started out great in game two before Bryzgalov let in a weak one to tie it. Colorado is a highly skilled team with a great goalie that is scoring when they get their chances.
Whether the Wild make this a series or not, Yeo should stay on as the head coach. He has proven that he can handle adversity and come out on top. We had our second-best season ever. We have a great young group of players on the precipice of their best years and a group of veterans that are hungry to prove they can win when it counts. And in my opinion, they better. Time is running out for them.
So Wild fans, just shut up and let this play out. A new coach solves nothing; in fact, it only creates more problems.
Also, if you are a fan who thinks Jared Spurgeon sucks, you are probably an idiot. I am willing to bet you are easily distracted by shiny objects and enjoy staring at explosions to a point where you thought Transformers III was a good movie.
Spurgeon is a very skilled, smart, and fundamentally sound defenseman. Yes, MacKinnon burned him, but I recall Suter getting burned a few times in the past. Yes, he didn’t clear the puck in game one that eventually led to the game-tying goal. However, on that play he took a risk, looking to connect with Parise. If it works, he is a genius. It didn’t.
And yes, he is small. Though if size really mattered, than Falk and Foster would still be on the Wild and Stoner would be a top four player. But guess what? There is more to playing defense than hitting and being large. I know in your brutish small minds that doesn’t compute, but believe me there is.
In conclusion, the Wild had a very good regular season in the toughest conference and the toughest division. They now find themselves down 2-0, despite playing some solid road hockey. If we can take anything from the regular season, it is that the team will respond. Whether that means a series win, I do not know, but this team will make it a series.
Just sit back and enjoy the intensity of the game. And remember Wild fans, just because you played JV at your local high school, (and never got a shot at Varsity ‘cause your coach is an idiot); you are not a great hockey mind.