So the Wild find themselves at the all star break a below average team. They find themselves 9th in west, but just two ponits behind the Oilers, Canucks, and Ducks that are in a 3 way tie for 6ths (the Wild have two games in hand on the Ducks and Canucks also).
The Wild have shown some brilliant games against good teams. Monday is a good example beating Chicago (though they needed a monster 40 of 41 performance from Nicky Backstrom). However, then they play games like last night where they look two steps slower than a really bad team for most of the night.
The fact is I have seen more games like the latter than the former this year, and I see no way the Wild get to the playoffs unless they get a lot better. Even if they should sneak in, I think chances are they are primed to be swept by either Detroit or San Jose.
Our 2nd and 3rd lines seem to be getting absolutly run over, and I think it's just because of the lack of depth the Wild have. Part of it due to injury, most of it due to Doug's unwillingness to invest in anyone other than top liners (yes I'm talking about how well lowballing Brian Rolston has worked out for you Dougie!)
I know Rolston's been hurt in New Jersey, that may or may not have happened here. But when he's been playing he's scoring goals. Doug also lowballed Andrew Brunette after the '03 season and he had 4 monster years in Colorado. Now that he's back he's still getting to the net and has been one of the few offensive bright spots (though I think Brian Rolston would be even better than Brunette and possibly Koivu).
I am sick of this pattern Doug Riseborough has shown of hoping his key players hit slumps at contract time so he can sign them cheap. In other words, the Wild's General Manager is actually rooting for key players to fail so he can save money. It's pretty perverse when you think about it. At the very least, it seems to be the wrong approach if this franchise is serious about ever winning a Stanley Cup.
If I must talk about Gaborik...
I don't think I really care what happens to Marian Gaborik now. I think Doug Riseborough completly mis-handled this situation anyway. It was forseeable that Gaborik wanted more that Dougie was going to pay, even after Doug sent Rolston and Demitra away (though Owen Nolan makes me miss Demitra less), in an effort to clear cap space. Now he's done that for no reason and we're getting run over because players like that would help this huge depth issue the Wild have. Now that Gabs is hurt, DR is redced to hoping someone is willing to send a 3rd or 4th rounder for the off chance Gabs can go in Mid-March.
The Free agent I really want to talk about...
But Gaborik is not who I want to talk about, what's atrocious is that Goaltender Niklas Backstrom hasn't been tendered an extention. Backstrom is the Wild's only all star (and probably deservedly so) and the fact is without Nicky this is probably a last place team. Backup Josh Harding has shown some brilliance but I don't think he's ready to take the reins just yet. Backstrom needs a two year extension at $5M per NOW! Since It is incredibly unlikley that we see Gaborik again that instantly frees up $7.5M. The Wild have only commit $37M to next year (leaving about $20M in total). Some of that needs to go to Backstrom, and they need to get some more $3-4M type forwards to shore up the 2nd line.
But no motion has been made toward signing Backstrom, which I think ought to be the litmus test to whether Doug stays or goes. If Backs gets offered $6M somewhere and doesn't come back maybe that's okay, but if he leaves somewhere cheap, I want Dougie's head to finally roll.