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Thomas Vanek Is Not The Problem

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The Wilds key free agent acquistion has been under fire for most of the season, but does he warrant scrutiny?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason, Minnesota finally had a chance to land former Golden Gopher and NHL star Thomas Vanek. Contributors from the HW community and national scene had their pros and cons on bringing Vanek to the Wild. After a lunch with Mike Yeo at Champs in Woodbury on June 30th, (I know this because I saw Yeo but didn't recognize the incognito Vanek) Vanek would sign with the Wild the next day on July 1st, inking a three-year contract. The hope was Vanek would awaken a sleeping giant in the PP and more importantly give the Wild a true goal-scorer.

Fast-forward to the present, the Wild have played 26 games, and Vanek has just three goals and has been public enemy number one during that stretch. Since Vanek has entered the league, he ranks third in power play goals. He hasn't been scoring those this season, perhaps the most obvious reason that the power play hasn't been clicking like it should be on paper. Yet, despite the power play being brutal to watch, the Wild's offense isn't suffering all that much.

The Wild have never finished in the top half in goals per game since they've entered the league. The highest they've ever finished is 17th back in the 2007-2008 season. Right now? The Wild are currently 11th in the league in in that category. When you look at 5v5 stats, it looks even better, with the Wild scoring the 3rd most goals in the NHL per 60 minutes. Thomas Vanek actually has a lot to do with that. Despite only having three goals, he is tied for the team lead in assists and according to hockeyanalysis.com, he is 2nd in the league in A1/60. That means Vanek has been very good at directly creating goals for his teammates, more so than guys like Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux.

"HE WAS SUPPOSE TO SHOOT THE PUCK AND SCORE GOALS, WHY WOULD WE NEED ANOTHER PLAYMAKER?!?!?!!!!1"

Again, this seems to be helping more than hurting the Wild, as the Wild have outshot its opponents in all but three games this season. While Vanek is currently on pace for his lowest shot total in his career, that could be partly because Vanek was bumped from the Top-6 during his struggles. And it baffles me why people are surprised with the lack of shots. I'm one of the few guy that loves Kyle Brodziak, but offense play making is not something that is a part of Brodziak's game and it's a big reason why Vanek recently asked to be moved to a top line.

"But we don't need another playmaker, and we would of been fine not signing him at all."

I'm not sure where the better options are. We've cycled through Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck playing in big roles for the Wild, to no avail. Just last year, with these same young players on the roster, we had Kyle Brodziak eating power play minutes for the Wild. Are you telling me Vanek's not an improvement over all that? Even if he maintains his role as a distributor, he's a better offensive option than all those guys.

There are much bigger issues with this team than Thomas Vanek. How about the Wild's dearth of third-pairing options? They were counting on their prospects to step up, and are now getting burned as Prosser and Ballard are playing every night. How about the lack of good goaltending? Darcy Kuemper isn't looking like a player who the Wild can ride to a Cup. How badly do the Wild need Matt Cooke/enforcer back, so top players don't have targets on their back? I guess I cannot control what people complain about, but getting upset about Thomas Vanek's production is not the route to take.