If you had to pick the top six teams in the Western Conference at the beginning of the 2014-2015 NHL Season, many people would have included the Minnesota Wild and for good reason. This was a team that was coming off a strong 2013-2014 in which they made the postseason and defeated the Colorado Avalanche in an epic seven-game quarterfinal series and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. This was a team that has a strong core group of players that were looking to build off a strong season last year while looking to make a big leap forward this season.
Instead, The Wild find themselves doing a lot of soul searching at the halfway point of the season. The Wild have lost six straight games and have fell to last place in the Central Division with an 18-19-5 record with only 41 points. Not only the Wild are falling out of the divisional race, they are also falling out of the playoff race in the Western Conference fast. At the halfway point of the season, the Wild’s struggles now begs the question:
Who is to blame for the Wild's struggles?
Do you blame Head Coach Mike Yeo for the team underperforming or do you solely blame the players?
Looking at the overall team, it is very easy to see why one would blame the under performance of the team as a sole reason why they have been struggling mightily. When you have a team of core players with the likes of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville, this is a very strong core group of players that you would expect to perform at a high level on a nightly level. However, when you have struggled to score goals in the last seven games given the amount of offensive firepower on the Wild that in itself is absolutely unacceptable.
For the Wild, the struggles have not been limited only to lack of scoring. The struggle of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom has become so problematic that Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Arizona Coyotes goaltender Devan Dubnyk for a third round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry draft to help bolster the goaltending for the team that sorely needs it. Keep in mind the Kuemper is a very young goaltender who may very well be the net minder of the future for the Minnesota Wild given he is only 24 years old and has not yet reach his full potential as a full time goaltender in the NHL. However, no matter who Coach Yeo may put between the pipes, the goaltenders will continue to struggle especially if the Wild defense continue to give up 30-plus shots per game.
Mike Yeo is a fantastic coach who has done a great job with the Wild during his time as head coach. The video released of him snapping in the middle of practice at his players is a major sign that if he is losing the locker and that is very problematic. Yeo has to know and understand that if he is going to keep his job as well as turn this team's season around that is quickly fading away, he has to start with the leadership group on that team with Parise, Suter, and Niederreiter by preaching the main fundamentals of playing team defense.
The blame is to be placed on the players as well as the coach. This is one of the most talented rosters in the NHL and for this team to be under-performing as much as it has is completely unacceptable. Coach Yeo has to figure out what is he going to do and how he is going to turn this season around.
That must begin tonight in Buffalo as the Wild take on the Sabres.