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Marek Zidlicky Out: What Now?

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After a filthy hit from behind by Jamie McGinn, a hit that should likely have been called boarding, Marek Zidlicky will now likely lose the rest of his season to a shoulder injury. The Wild originally said "two weeks" on the injury, which followed last night with "long-term," which became this from Russo this afternoon:

Marek Zidlicky is sounding more and more serious. Both Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards said this morning that Zidlicky will be out a long time. Fletcher said the team has to go over options with the medical staff, and Richards said surgery is one of those options.

It's really sounding like this shoulder injury could cost Zidlicky the season, which is a gigantic blow.

The call was not made during the game, the league will not look at it, and as of right now, I seem to be the only one who feels it was dirty. I cannot find video of it, but with Zidlicky turned away from McGinn, and standing two feet from the boards, McGinn lowered his shoulder and drove Zidlicky head first into the boards. Seems to me that's an easy call. Guess not.

The question of this post is not if the hit was dirty or not, the objective here is to determine what to do now. Make the jump and sort it out.


Marek Zidlicky

#3 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

5-11

190

Feb 03, 1977



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Marek Zidlicky 30 4 16 20 0 22 2 0 0 38

The first thing we need to do is establish just what it is we are trying to replace. There are a great deal of Zidlicky haters in the Wild fan base. At four million per year, the thinking is that Zidlicky needs to be better in the defensive zone, and that he is a liability as he focuses on the offensive game.

What people fail to realize is that Zidlicky plays even strength, power play, and penalty kill. Almost 23 minutes of TOI per game, with 3:28 coming on the PP, and 2:38 coming on the PK. This is not the type of minutes a guy would get if he were truly a liability. Sure, he is not a physical d-man like Burns, but he is a solid player in all three zones.

The biggest role he plays? Breakout leader. In games when Zidlicky is not on the ice, the Wild continually are pinned in their own zone and struggle to get up the ice. Don't believe that? Just watch.

Current Roster Options

The Wild have options, none of them great. Obviously Brent Burns is going to have to step into Zidlicky's role. With the way Burns is playing, this should not be a problem. After that, the prospects to fill the holes fall off dramatically.

Jared Spurgeon

Spurgeon was the immediate call up to fill the roster spot, but he clearly does not fit the role Zidlicky played. Averaging just over 12 minutes per game, none of that on the PK, and very little on the PP. Throwing a very young player such as Spurgeon into a massive minutes per game situation is not a viable option. If you want him to be overwhelmed and fall into a Sheppard-esque hole, go ahead and put him out there. If not, he needs to develop on the pace he is on.

Marco Scandella

Pizza is Burns' new defensive partner, so his minutes are likely to escalate right along with Burns'. While Scandella still only averages about 16 minutes per game, that includes the games before the team gained trust in him, and before he was partnered with minute munching Burns.

Scandella will certainly fill a large part of the hole, but he is not the solution. He has his role to play already, and does so admirably. He is not, however, the breakout leader, and he is not Marek Zidlicky.

Cam Barker

This is exactly the role Barker was expected to play when he was traded. Lead the rush, put the puck on net, play the offensive style game that Zidlicky plays. Once he arrived, it flat out didn't happen. His play is sporadic at best, and nowhere near the level that he would need to be at to fill Zidlicky's skates.

This may be a chance for Barker to re-prove himself, but don't count on it. Todd Richards has shown little confidence in him, and Barker has shown no reason for confidence to be put in him. Barker is the best solution, if he can step up. The likelihood is that he cannot, and thus is not.

Clayton Stoner

To think that Stoner could fill Zidlicky's role is to think that diamonds come in cereal boxes. This isn't even an option worth discussing. Stoner may see more time, but he is not an option here.

Call-up Options

Justin Falk

Falk could certainly see a call up here. He is not a Zidlicky type player, but with the roles needing to shift a bit on the team, maybe Falk is the beneficiary. A solid defender who has shown he can play at the NHL level, Falk is a viable option if the role of the defensive corps moves more to the defensive game. It is unlikely Falk gets the call in this situation, but he is an option.

Nate Prosser

We haven't seen enough of Prosser to know if he could step into a role like Zidlicky's. The major point working against him is that his time in the NHL has been limited, and this is really his first pro season. Stepping up to the NHL, he should only be given limited minutes to start, and that is not something the Wild need right now. Prosser would be a good call up for short time spans as the season progresses, but this is not his big break.

Maxim Noreau

This is a long shot, a very, very long shot. Noreau plays the same type of role in Houston that Zidlicky does here, but that has not resulted in any extended time in Saint Paul for Noreau. Here again, if he is brought up, it would likely be for limited minutes and for only a couple games at a time.

No one has much of an explanation for why Noreau has never been given his shot, which leaves us with the feeling that he just is not impressing anyone enough. His numbers show he can play at the AHL level, but to this point, no one has seen an NHL d-man in his game.

Other Options

Certainly, the Wild could put Zidlicky on LTIR, and trade for another d-man. The question then becomes, then what? If you go out and trade for a Zidlicky-like d-man, you have to give up assets to get him. You are only looking for a loaner, as Zidlicky will be back next season without a doubt.

Unless you really feel this is a Stanley Cup team, why would you trade assets to fill a hole? That would be aranging chairs on a sinking ship.

What Happens

The reality of the situation is that the Wild likely do absolutely nothing. Spurgeon will see a bit of an increased role, or they shuffling between Houston and Minnesota will amplify. Perhaps we see some platooning between call ups and Stoner, but the Wild should not be interested in making a trade at this point.

Burns will emerge as the Wild's top defender, and his minutes will increase to compensate for the loss of Zidlicky, and Scandella's will follow. The pairings will need to be shuffled a bit, likely putting Barker with Spurgeon as a third pairing with limited minutes. The Zanon - Schutlz pairing may need to be split up to create more balance in the bottom two pairings.

The main point is that you should not expect the Wild to put Zidlicky on LTIR and bring in another top defender. No matter the impact, and trust me, there will be an impact, the Wild have no reason to commit to another contract just to fill a hole. The defensive crops is going to need to step up, and learn to run a breakout. Otherwise, the situation in Minnesota goes from bad to worse.

For anyone who hates Zidlicky, I really hope you pay close attention as this season plays out. You will see exactly why he makes the money he does.