Interesting quotes from Jacques Lemaire on Michael Russo's Star Tribune blog, on playing young kids (emphasis mine)...
“It’s more patience from me. You can’t have that patience when you have to win. It’s when you see that if you have no chance to be there, then I can have patience. Now, that patience will take one game two points from you, another two points another game, another game another two points, and these six points will ruin you.
“So where do I stop? It’s not just Reitz. It’s everybody. Pouliot, Weller, Veilleux, all the guys that didn’t play the last five, six minutes last night.”
Because you’re scoring, the margin for error is thinner than ever?
“Exactly. If you see at a time you have no chance at all, then I’ll play them to give them more confidence. They’ll make mistakes, they’ll get a goal against, doesn’t matter. When we have no choice that they have to get better. But now, we’re still in between. Until we decide where we’re going, I have to be like this.
“Like last year, we were great for awhile, we had a tough stretch of not even a month (he’s talking in February, early-March). Two-three weeks max that everything was upside down. We could have went down, but everyone picked it up and we went up. But we had to cut down on certain guys to play. Some guys played more, other guys played less because you want to win.”
So you’re saying you can’t afford to play certain guys here unless the season tanks? “Then I can play them.”
I don't know, but it sounds to me like Lemaire's waiting for the high sign from upstairs that it's time to focus on next year instead of this spring.
And maybe that's not such a bad idea.
After all, this is a team that has only three skaters (Owen Nolan, Kim Johnsson and Andrew Brunette) over the age of 31, and just three more in the 29+ age bracket. With the team still struggling to find scoring, especially at even strength, perhaps it's time to focus on developing a newer generation of Wild stars.
Amongst the youngsters, Cal Clutterbuck (just 21) has found a regular place in the lineup thanks to his seemingly limitless energy and physical play, but others - James Sheppard (20), Colton Gilles (19) and Benoit Pouliot (22) all have been watching from the press box at one time or another.
On top of that, look at the core group of players that's signed beyond the end of next season. Brunette (two more years) is 35, but Antti Miettinen (two more years) is 27, Nick Schultz (four more years) is 26, Mikko Koivu (two more years) is 25, Pierre-Marc Bouchard (four more years) is 24, and Brent Burns (three more years) is 23. That's a young group that'll be around for certain in 2010-11, and with the team still struggling this year, maybe it's time to focus on 2010 and beyond instead of clawing for a first-round playoff exit in 2009.