The Wild are in a tough spot, to say the least.
Injuries throughout the lineup have forced some of the kids to bigger roles than they were perhaps assumed to have at this point, and some of the "role players" are asked to perhaps play in a role they're not that familiar with. At least not at the NHL level.
The guys who the Wild really, really need to produce during these tough times? Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund. These 1st round picks need to make sure that the potential we all know they have, translates into numbers on the score sheet while Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu aren't with the team.
I'll slice this thing into two pieces.
1. Charlie Coyle needs to actually do something.
For two seasons now, we ALL have said how freaking good this guy looks. He's a beast. He's a great fit next to Koivu and Parise. He's a lock to be a star one day.
He also has 12 points on the season. 4 goals.
The "eye test" takes you so far. A big guy who has wheels usually looks good on the ice when he's on a line with other good players. Just like a really fast player (Casey Wellman and Jason Zucker, folks) always gets your attention and sometimes you fool yourself to think there's a hidden potential somewhere to be the next Pavel frickin' Bure.
But if there's no actual points being put on the board, what good is the guy in a top-line role? His time will no doubt come, and the Wild really need him to be more than he is right now, and the whole situation isn't ideal.
But hell, a hockey season rarely goes the way you plan it. A player's season, let alone his career rarely ever goes exactly the way you have it pictured in your head beforehand. Coyle's first real "spotlight moment" is here, and he needs to light opponents up. Right here, right now.
If he's not producing, he's letting the team down. Even if that sounds unfairly harsh.
2. Mikael Granlund, show us the magic.
Unlike Coyle, Granlund really hasn't escaped the fans' criticism. Why? He's small and not that fast, looks like a boy out there sometimes and if he's not scoring, what good is he?
When playing 5-on-5, Granlund really needs wingers that suit him. Who should suit him the best out of all the healthy guys? Excluding Pominville, the answer is Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker. As long as Yeo is putting those three out there at the same time, there should be no excuses why Granlund isn't putting up points. The reason is that he just isn't good enough (yet) to take over games 5-on-5 against tougher competition.
The bright side? He SHOULD still light the God damn planet up on the powerplay. He's got all the talent in the world to slice every single 4-man unit to pieces, he just lacks the confidence and the sort of "assholeness" that a guy like Malkin or Giroux has. Not comparing Granlund to those guys as a complete player, only as a PP specialist.
He can move the puck to an open guy in less than a blink of an eye, and sees the ice better than any other player on the team. Sometimes (most of the time) he's just trying to make a perfect pass, when in fact the perfect passs would be a quick pass to an open man who can get it back to him. That gets the PK moving and creates space for Granlund. Then it's time to dominate the offensive zone.
And shoot the damn puck when the room to shoot is given to you. Shoot to score, shoot to create a rebound, just shoot. He's shooting more this year than last, but there are still moments of incredible frustration when he's got the puck and does literally nothing with it.
Both of these guys really need to produce. That's the point here. They have the talent, they're given the role and opportunity to do so. Now, guys, go out there and have fun.