There comes a time when unsung heroes must be honored. This is not one of those times. The unsung guys on this team have, thus far, not deserved much recognition. The defensive forwards brought in to help relieve Mikko Koivu's load have not done so.
Can all of the Wild's ills be blamed on the bottom two lines? No, but they certainly should not be allowed to skate by as the top line takes all the heat. Preventing goals is as big a part of hockey as scoring them, and if your checkers can't help your goalie, then you have no chance.
It's time to take a look at some of the guys who get paid to defend, and it is time to rate their worth in the stock market.
Make the jump.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (BALD) - Butch is on a tear so far. Points in four games since he has been back, playing full second line minutes, and not missing a beat show that his guy has some real talent. So many people complained about him when he was healthy. The "spin-o-turnover" being the largest complaint. Now, it seems those people are in the minority. Butch is kicking ass and taking names. Don't doubt his ability, especially since he playing better than 99% of the team.
Rating: Strong Buy
Niklas Backstrom (BAX) - Backstrom is back on the hot seat with some fans. Mostly with those who don't see the defensive break downs that lead to shots that no goalie could save. But hey, blaming the goalie is much easier than actually paying attention to what is going on, right? Backstrom is a very good goalie. The team in front of him? Not so much. His rating is a reflection on his team, not on him.
Brent Burns (IJ) - This guy is lights out. Best player on the team right now. Strong defensively, leading the team in goals with nine, and playing physical against the best players on the opposing teams every night. Not sure what else there is to say about him. Amazing comeback season.
Rating: Strong Buy
Eric Nystrom (WHO) - Not exactly what we thought he was going to be. A step behind too many times, out of position too many times, and not acting as a shut down forward. We were also promised someone who was willing to throw a hit, and I have yet to see anything memorable. With the contract he signed, he should be providing a much bigger return for the Wild.
Todd Richards (SUIT) - Has he saved his job? Has the team saved his job? After every loss comes calls for his head, but Chuck Fletcher says he wants to make a trade first. The holiday roster freeze is coming, and that led to a mini-trade flurry last year. Maybe now is the time, and we may see some action on the coach in the New Year. Unless, of course, things change.
Initial Public Offering
Warren Peters (NAH) - A call up for when Matt Cullen and John Madden couldn't play, Peters was less than impressive. His first game was a disaster, playing just 3:57, and looking like a real liability on the ice. His second game was better, and he played well, but still, nothing special. This shouldn't be surprising as a journeyman AHLer. I bear no ill will toward Peters, but there are better options in Houston.
Kyle Brodziak (GLUE) - Brodziak is once again playing above his pay grade. Centering Havlat and Bouchard is not what guys like Brodziak want to be doing. The fact that there is chemistry makes it difficult to split it up, but it sure would be nice to have him back on the checking line helping to shut down guys like Perry and Getzlaf. If he is going to continue to be on that line, it would nice to see some point production, too. (Stick tap to SpaethCo for the ticker symbol.)
Brad Staubitz (PNCH) - Another player we didn't have very high expectations for, and yet he seems to not be living up to them. We have yet to see him decisively win a fight, and he is part of the defensive forward corps that is not cutting it. Truly, he is a better option than Boogaard, but that's like saying a Kia is a better option than walking. Unimpressed thus far with Staubitz.