Do you believe in aliens? Do you believe in the Shanaban? Do you believe in the Wild? So many mysteries surrounding the Wild this year, although Mike Yeo knows the answer to the one on most people's minds: How are the Wild #1 in the NHL in mid-December? Most of us know why as well, because we've watched the progression from game to game, we've watched how they've responded to many different situations...we've watched them PLAY, which is more than most non-believers can say when they talk about how the Wild shouldn't be way up there.
I have a few mysteries of my own that I have pondered: How will the Wild survive the bazillion injuries they've suffered? Could there possibly be some sort of conspiracy regarding the Shanaban? Is the Koivu line cursed?
Maybe I caught your attention. If so, join me after the jump.
Opening panel: YOU GET AN INJURY, AND YOU GET AN INJURY...
Let me start off with a Russo quote: '' The Wild's lost 117 man games to injury. To put that in perspective, Chicago's lost 21.'' 117 games is an insane amount when you consider we're only 32 games deep in the season. Yet, the Wild have found a way to fight through those injuries with depth that we didn't necessarily know was that strong. It helps that the call-ups already know Yeo a great deal and have had success with him, but how long can this last? The top 6 are falling like flies and as @KnowsKnothing pointed out on Twitter (or Jerem77 on HW), the one constant in the injuries is that the center core of Mikko Koivu - Matt Cullen - Kyle Brodziak (#SignBrodziak) - Darroll Powe remained mostly intact through it all. Centers, especially Koivu, Cullen and Brodziak, are going to be much harder to replace than the wingers or d-men, because those three can do-it-all.
Now, we get to learn from Russo that Koivu got hurt in OT last night. We all remember what happened when Koivu got injured last year, right? Now, it doesn't seem serious, but we better hope and pray it doesn't derail the Wild. I don't want to be negative, but if the Wild, who're not exactly known for their offense, lose a guy who has 18 points in his last 14 games, who is money in the defensive zone, in faceoffs and happens to be the captain of the best team in the NHL right now, then it will take a miracle for Yeo to continue to get so many wins from this team. Not saying it's impossible, but it's going to be a hell of a test. If they continued to win in Koivu's absence, absolutely no one would be allowed to say the Wild aren't for real.
Of course, we all know that there isn't too much mystery for the team's current success. Yeo has this team playing well as a unit. It's not just a few guys scoring, a few guys defending and the rest just...there, it's everyone contributing in both ends of the ice. It's playing as mistake-free as possible. It's energy, relentlessness (Is that a word?) and teamwork. It's the never-say-die attitude, it's the confidence in themselves, that they know they can beat any team in this league. It's the belief. Stat-heads will tell me I'm saying a bunch of baloney. Well, THEY'RE FULL OF BALONEY.
Second panel: Shanascam?
I'm not going to get into the Bogosian hit again. There have been 3 posts devoted to it. No, I want to look at a more general view of this situation. It seems to me, and a lot of people, that the discipline system under Shanahan, just like under Campbell, is seriously flawed. My dad has been saying for years how this should not be up to one man, and I think a lot of people agree. In the justice system, the judge hands out the final verdict, but basically, the jury votes and decides if the person is guilty or not. Could there not be such a system in the NHL? A bunch of experts, referees, ex-players, whatever you want, could form a ''jury'' and look at this hit together. One guy, a former player at that, can't possibly be expected not to look at some teams with different colored glasses as the rest of them. No matter how much integrity he has, no matter how much he'll tell you he has no favorites, deep inside, everyone has some. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but some teams and players just seem to have a shield around them when it comes to supplemental discipline. With a jury, at the very least 3 people I would think, those kinds of seemingly biased calls would be kept to a minimum. I'm not saying for absolutely sure that there are some shady happenings when it comes to suspensions, but with a multi-man team, those kinds of feelings would be put to rest, I'd think.
Another problem I have that became evident with the Bogosian hit is that he served a one minute penalty for what was called a 5 + a game. It hardly seems fair to me. I think a game misconduct in the final two minutes of a game should lead to the player missing the next game. If you'll let me use the justice system example again, if I'm given a 5 year jail sentence, is it fair that I get out after 1 year, just like that, no questions asked? I don't think so. Sure you'll tell me ''But there are pardons, there are bails'', but the only reason Bogosian got out is because the game ended. The Wild didn't score to get him out early, the game just ended. The Wild were given a one minute powerplay as a reward for having their teammate maimed and out for a few games. That has to change. Just sayin'.
Final Panel: The Koivu line curse.
''What are you talking about, JS? The Koivu line is doing great! Koivu's red-hot, #DanysTurtleneck has been lights out, the third wheel always does good, no matter who it happens to be!...'' Yes, of course, but what do Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse have in common? They all sustained injuries while playing with Koivu and Heatley. Think about it, when Lats was first concussed, he had scored in 3 of his last 4 games, all of which were alongside Koivu and Heatley, as Setoguchi was moved to the second line in an effort to get some offense going. When Latendresse went down, it was Cal Clutterbuck's turn to play on the top line, he had earned it with his increased production of late and I believe he and Koivu make a fantastic duo. What happened? Knee-to-knee with Ryan Whitney, missed a few games. (no suspension) So then? Setoguchi back on the top line, but not for long, as he suffered a knee injury which got worse while playing against San Jose. He was on the top line while Casey Wellman was finding success on the second line. Now, you'll tell me ''But PMB wasn't on the first line when Bogosian hit him!'' No, he technically wasn't, but if you look at the players on the ice at the time, Koivu and Heater? They were there.
Coincidence? Curse? You decide. I'll just tell Powe and Taffe to be extra careful in the next few days! Maybe it's time to try a 2 FW, 3D system when Koivu and Heater take to the ice. Then again, maybe all the D got injured when the two of them were on the ice as well!
Punchline: All things considered, the Wild have some serious voodoo magic around them, both bad and good.