The Minnesota Wild have not been the greatest as of late. That's the nice way to put it. To say they have been out played, out gunned, and out manned would be an understatement. I wouldn't say they've been out "classed," but hey, that's just my opinion.
Plenty of blame to go around, from the coach to the goalies, and from the system to injuries. The coach isn't going anywhere and either is his system. The goalies have been lights out, while the team has failed them at every turn. Injuries can never, ever be an excuse in professional sports. Ever.
However, when your top offensive defenseman is hurt, you need to find a way to fill that void. The Wild plan to do so with Jared Spurgeon, who Wild.com has at 5' 9", 175lbs, though there is some debate about how accurate those numbers are. Make the jump for an introduction.
First, a look at just the facts, ma'am.
See? HockeyDB has him at only 5' 8", 172. The Islanders had him listed at 5' 8", 185. His current profile with the Wild has 5' 9" 185. Different tape measures, different scales. No one ever measures the same twice, right? The point we are trying to make here is this. He's not very big.
Comparison points: Brent Burns is listed at 6' 5", 215. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, considered by everyone around the league to be "small," is 5' 10", 173. The biggest difference? Butch is a play-making forward, Spurgeon is a defenseman.
Spurgeon is Lilipution for an NHL defenseman. Will that size disadvantage be a massive problem? Could be, but from all reports, he plays bigger than he is, and his game deserves a look at this level. He is a puck mover, something the Wild would lack if Zidlicky cannot play, and he is solid positionally. He isn't going to knock Jarome Iginla off the puck, put he'll be in his shooting and passing lanes, ready to break up the play.
He also has eight points in the past eight games with the Aeros, which means he has nose for the net, something the Wild desperately need right now.
Borrowing a bit from the best source for all things Aeros, good friend Ms. Conduct and her friends at The Third Intermission:
I'm told he was quite the PP quarterback for the Spokane Chiefs and he definitely racked up some points (almost a point per game his final WHL season) to back that up. I think at the AHL level, sometimes smaller guys can pull off some slippery moves. They can hide in the weeds a little bit. We'll see what he can do. If his energy at camp is any indication, he'll be a fun guy to watch.
A power play QB that racks up points. Sounds promising. The next sentence scares me a bit. There aren't too many weeds to hide in at the NHL level. If you're out there, they know it, and they will hit you. Hard. Energy is good, the Wild need some of that, and hopefully he will be fun to watch.
I am often overly skeptical of things when it comes to hockey. When the Wild make a call up, it would be comforting to see it be someone who fits the prototype. A defenseman like Justin Falk, Marco Scandella, Tyler Cuma. However, those guys do not have the skill set the Wild are looking to replace. They are looking for Marek Zidlicky, not Brent Burns.
Will he cut it? Will he even play would be the better question. From Russo's reports, Zidlicky was wrapped in so much ice he should be purple. That said, Zidlicky has a way of playing when no one thinks he will. If we see Spurgeon, let's hope his slipperiness is enough to keep him out of the death crunch of a highly physical, hard hitting Calgary Flames team.
Finally, one more bit to borrow from T3I. A video produced by Spurgeon's agent shows that he is not afraid to throw a check, the sound positioning he uses, and that he will block a shot from anyone. Oh... and some of that offense.
For the record, Spurgeon wears #46.