In last night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Mikael Granlund looked like a rookie. He made a number of mistakes, was constantly crossing in close quarters to his teammates (suggesting he was out of position - not something easy to do when playing center), failed to make the little decisions when he needed to make them, could not seem to dump a puck or chip a puck around a defender, and could not, for the life of him, hang on to his stick.
He looked... human.
When there is as much hype and excitement built up around a single player, the expectations rise. The kid arrives, and boom, reality. Turns out the NHL is a better league than SM Liiga or the AHL. Who knew?
There are calls by fans, and by those more in the know, that Finnish Baby Jesus may need some additional time to season in Houston. Somewhere, Heather is squealing with delight. The argument goes that Granlund would get the minutes he is getting here, but he would be able to get his legs under him and learn to walk before he runs.
The opposition says that he needs to stay here, that it is trial by fire, and for his caliber of prospect, he needs to sink or swim. It isn't often you will find a Wild fan that was so scarred by HWSRN that they don't want prospects to spend as much time as possible developing, so it is odd to see this group call for him to stay and suffer through the slings and arrows.
The truth, as always, may lie somewhere in between.
Mikko Koivu did not start on the top line. After spending time in Houston during the lockout (he never would have been there without it), Koivu came in as a third line grinder. Jacques Lemaire knew that Koivu needed to learn the defensive game before he would excel, and excel he did. Koivu worked his way up, minute by minute, shift by shift, and finally worked his way into one of the best two way players in the game.
Is that the solution? Move Granlund down to the third line? Would he work out on a line with Cal Clutterbuck and Torrey Mitchell? Would Pierre-Marc Bouchard move up to the second line, and shift Cullen to center?
Maybe. One or more of those things certainly might work.
The question really needs to be, are the expectations where they should be? It doesn't seen that Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher are buying into this idea that Granlund was supposed to come in and score 30 goals in the shortened season. He is a rookie, he is playing in a league that moves faster than anywhere he has ever played or every will, and he has a whole new system to learn.
As Nathan said last night on the Game Re-cap, when we here at Hockey Wilderness jumped on Tom Gilbert for sucking harder than a black hole last season, we were mocked and told we were being too hard on him. He's a veteran, with years of service in the NHL. He had one issue to deal with - the system. Granlund has that and everything else, and yet he somehow is being thrown under the bus?
One of the other issues hurting Granlund is how well Jonas Brodin is playing. After all, if Brodin can do it, why can't Granlund?
So ask yourself - is it better for Granlund to go to Houston because it helps his career, or is it just because he did not meet the lofty goals of Wild fans right out of the gate?
Now play GM. What do you do, and why? If you send him to Houston, who do you call up?