This was the season the Minnesota Wild were supposed to turn it all around, when the franchise could finally take that next big step in becoming a contender in the Western Conference. Having not made the postseason since 2008 and not winning a playoff series since 2003, the Wild made a big jump to the future with the acquisition of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter over the summer to add to what was seen as a rather stout roster.
The Wild were an up-and-coming team, just in need of an infusion of talent to help put them over the edge. The Wild had been fighting for relevance in the NHL and it only made since then to shell out nearly $200 million for the services of two players, adding the type of high-caliber players the Wild had been sorely missing.
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Unfortunately, at least in the early going this season, the Wild have proven that it takes a lot more than just the addition of two players to change the fate of a team. That the Wild are suffering through the exact same struggles as last season, despite the additions of Suter and Parise, has some thinking that perhaps coach Mike Yeo should be on the hot seat.
Whether Mike Yeo is responsible for his team's slump is irrelevant.
When you sign two players for about $200 million, print T-shirts that read "Take the Next Step; No Excuses," call up your best prospects, alter your best line, threaten the jobs of a couple of veterans, hold a players-only meeting, trade for an enforcer, watch one of your two incoming saviors play like he's still learning to skate backwards, and then embarrass yourself at home against a prime rival, the owner owes it to his accountants and fans to consider all possible means of improvement. And he's not going to cut Ryan Suter in the first month of a 13-year deal.
The Wild dropped their third-straight game on Thursday night, falling to the Vancouver Canucks 4-1, scoring just one goal in each of the three losses. The Wild have now lost six of their last eight games and suddenly have a very real scoring issue to work through -- one that was supposedly fixed in the offseason.
Through 35 games in the 2011-2012 season, the Wild sat No. 2 in the Western Conference with a 20-10-5 record while scoring 2.42 goals per game. Just 13 games later, the Wild had slipped to No. 9 in the conference after going 3-8-2 the previous month with scoring output dropping to 2.07 goals per game during that stretch.
The Wild struggled mightily as the season progressed, scoring just 1.91 goals per game while going 12-18-4 in the final 34 games of the season to fall to No. 12 in the West after looking like a sure-fire contender through the most of the first half of the season.
The same issues plaguing Minnesota have remained this season, as the Wild continue to be incapable of winning away from the Xcel Energy Center. After going 15-19-1 on the road in 2011-2012, the Wild are winless (0-3-1) away from home in this short season.
Most troubling is the fact that Yeo and his team seem unable to truly pinpoint the issue, one which culminated in an incredibly disappointing and lackluster performance on Thursday night at home against the Canucks. Boos rained down from the crowd near the end of the 4-1 loss and it could certainly be seen as an understandable response given the financial commitment made over the summer, especially considering the perceived role of the Wild and owner Craig Leipold in the four-month lockout.
The Wild have seemingly been on the cusp in each of the last two seasons, showing signs of contending for the postseason in 2011-2012 and then falling apart in the second half of last season. With Minnesota having made such a deep commitment to the roster -- and there are some fine young prospects that could be helping the team very soon -- it only makes sense then that Yeo could be on the hot seat.
There is a lot of pressure upon the team to succeed and to do so immediately and already there have been whispers of discontent from Wild fans who stuck around through the lockout, only to see their team fall on its face to start the season. There is something to the thought that perhaps Yeo might not have been the coach for the job from the start, given the team's continued struggles despite the improved roster.
Zach Parise has been the team's best player this season, leading the Wild with ten points in ten games. Suter, while only notching four assists, has been a steady force on the blue line while eating big minutes. Perhaps this is just another case to prove it takes more than just one (or even two) big names to come in and fix a team.
Minnesota faces a four-game-six-days gauntlet over the coming week and could see any postseason hopes destroyed by the time that stretch is completed. How these four games go could likely have a significant impact on Yeo's crumbling job security.