I suppose it's about that time, huh folks? We've seen an ... interesting season in the NHL. Spin-o-rama's, shoot-out controversies, #DanEllisProblems, Bribery in Toronto, a decision finally made in the desert, the gutting of a World Champion, The rise of the Stamkos, Adrian Dater being ... Adrian Dater and much much more.
Let's be honest, none of that crap really matters. What matters is the team we love and whether or not they are succeeding in their goal of building a Stanley Cup contender.
Easy answer - No. Good lord no. Not yet anyway.
The first half has been a combination of a roller coaster of effort, attack of the injury ninja (Sheppard, Harding, Latendresse, Backstrom, Zidlicky), same-old same-old (near the bottom in scoring and shots), the end of The Streak, the return of Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and more unfulfilled potential.
I think what this ultimately comes down to is that the Wild have proven they are not good enough nor bad enough. Frankly, they're in the least optimal position in which to find a professional sports franchise. Mediocre. Our prediction before the season was that the Wild would be between 10th and 12th. I would be shocked if they finish somewhere else.
What is coming? Will Jose Theodore play himself into a playoff contender so the Wild actually have a tradeable asset at the deadline? I can't imagine this is a team of buyers, so will they stockpile picks to use in front of the fans at the X when the draft comes to town in June?
What am I looking forward to in the second half? Press Box Popcorn and learning about Gabriel Landeskog, Joel Armia, Dmitri Jaskin and Sven Bärtschi.
What would a first-half review be without looking at the awards, so let's get to it
|Hart||Brent Burns||Brent Burns||Mikko Koivu||Brent Burns||Mikko Koivu|
|Norris||Brent Burns||Brent Burns||Brent Burns||Brent Burns||Brent Burns|
|Selke||Mikko Koivu||Mikko Koivu||Mikko Koivu||Mikko Koivu||Mikko Koivu|
|Vezina||Niklas Backstrom||Niklas Backstrom||Jose Theodore||Niklas Backstrom||Niklas Backstrom|
|Calder||Marco Scandella||Marco Scandella||Clayton Stoner||Jose Theodore||Matt Cullen|
|Lady Byng||John Madden||John Madden||Pierre-Marc Bouchard||Andrew Brunette||Matt Cullen|
|Comeback Player||Brent Burns||Burns||N/A||Brent Burns||Brent Burns|
The first half of the 2010-11 season looked exactly like every season the Wild have had for the past five years. Win two, lose three. Win three, lose two. Blow out an opponent, get blown out. Beat the good teams, lose to the not so good teams. The end result has been the same as well. Mired in mediocrity with flashes of brilliance to just hold the hope of the fans, the Wild ended the first half of the year closing in on a playoff spot, one they have yet to prove they actually deserve.
Some players stepped up, showing they have what it takes to be leaders. Brent Burns, Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat, and Mikko Koivu have all had solid starts to the year. The goaltenders have proven to be a soft spot, with most of that blame going to the Cottonelle defensive corps. The role players did not play their roles, and the players charged with leading the offense have had too much defensive responsibility. More of the same.
As for the second half, I hope everyone is strapped in. It is not going to suddenly turn into a meteoric rise to the upper echelon of the Western Conference. The longer the Wild hang around that last playoff spot, the longer it takes to make moves to get assets in return for the expiring contracts. The longer they hang around the playoff bubble, the more stress it causes if they do not ultimately make it. The second half has started out by showing us that not much has changed, and it is unlikely to change. There will be ups and downs, and the excitement and depression that comes with a playoff race will be in full effect. They need to decide if they are in or out, and make the call. Don't count on that actually happening.
I am expecting to be as frustrated with the Wild during the second half of the season as I was in the first half. Seriously! For a team that has outshot opposing teams only 4 times this season (only one of those games being a win), you would think the team would be consistently bad. Surprisingly, the Wild have found ways to win (leads the league with 20 wins after being outshot), including a number of "hit the boards behind the net and hope it rebounds in front" type of goals. In addition, our second period play is horrendous, scoring only 28 goals in the second period (good for 2nd last in the league).
However, there are some bright spots, such as the improved play of Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat and Brent Burns have kept the Wild afloat. Of course, we can’t forget key players like Mikko Koivu or Andrew Brunette but the previously stated players are having career years (or in Havlat’s case, having a hell of an improvement year).
It is not a good practice to be outshot by teams on a consistent basis but the Wild still manage to win, so the major question is, how long the Wild can hold on with only five points separating the Wild at 10th and the Predators at 4th?
I think someone was confused when I asked for a first-half review, second-half preview, since she posted hers yesterday, then sent me an email from "LidSTRoMfaN97@RedWinGZR00L.NeT"
Ridiculous, all I did was ask for one small thing, and dude went OFF on me.