Far be it from me to complain about an embarrassment of riches, but we knew this day was coming. We are now getting news that Marek Zidlicky and a whole slew of other players are practicing once again, so the notion that one of our current defensemen will soon be riding pine in the press box or sent down to Houston is coming closer to a reality. I don't see Zidlicky taking the spots of either Nick Schultz, nor Greg Zanon, so that leaves four defensemen who should be worried about losing their position. After the jump let's look into the merits of each of these blue-liners.
Mike Lundin: While Mike Lundin hasn't been contributing much offensively (just 1 assist), he has been rather efficient with his passing, and solid defensively, blocking 26 shots in the 7 games he's played thus far.
Marco Scandella: I've heard complaints that Pizza hasn't done enough offensively, and to those people I say pfft. Did you see that goal against LA? Yes, Marco Scandella leads all Wild D-men with 3 goals, but what has been a bonus is he has played some great hockey in the defensive zone. His development is critically linked to his playing time. Benching him now would be a mistake.
Jared Spurgeon: The absence of Zidlicky in the lineup created a hole in the powerplay that Spurgeon has filled with mixed results. He was getting points, but was struggling to hold the puck in the zone. But it seems with his demotion to the second unit he has been finding his scoring touch once again, contributing 4 assists in the last 3 games, 3 of those coming on the powerplay.
Clayton Stoner: Like Lundin, Clayton Stoner has been doing little to contribute offensively, but has been doing well in his own zone. Stoner adds another dimension though with his toughness, and willingness to scrap with other teams' ne'er-do-wells. For this reason alone, I believe he stays in the lineup.
This defensive unit has been quite impressive this season, and while it doesn't hurt having Vezina-caliber goaltending behind you, the defense has done well to force the play to the boards and create low percentage shooting situations for their opponents. The Wild have the third-best goals against per game average (2.10) despite seeing the second-most shots per game (32.1). That tells me that the Wild have done a great job of limiting the number of scoring chances that their opponents get in spite of the high volume of shots. Does this sort of efficiency continue with Zidlicky in the lineup? I sure hope so. But what's your opinion, Wilderness? Who does Zidlicky replace in the lineup?