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Wilderness Walk: SMDH, Mike Edition

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The One Where I Continue My Unhealthy Obsession With The Ice Time of Nino Niederreiter.

Nino Niederreiter is a borderline superhero, according to everyone but Mike Yeo.
Nino Niederreiter is a borderline superhero, according to everyone but Mike Yeo.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

As teased last night on Twitter, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune published an article wherein he talked to Mike Yeo about the ice time Nino Niederreiter recieves. The Minnesota Wild winger has been gaining support for more ice time for almost a year now, and it's now spilling out from Hockey Wilderness and into the mainstream, with Russo lobbying for him to get 1st Power Play minutes last week.

I personally am a big fan of Niederreiter, who is in the middle of enjoying a breakout season with 14 goals in 30 games. However, I am a rational human being. I would be perfectly fine with a rational explanation as to why the Wild's leading goal-scorer is getting the 8th-most amount of ice time among forwards.

Unfortunately, Yeo's justification seemed pretty weak.

"Are we saying he'd have 30 [goals] right now [with more ice time]? You could argue that he might have a lot more or you might argue that we're doing a pretty good job with him right now, too."

Ugh... No, Mike. Total straw man- no one's arguing that Nino would have scored 30, or even 20 goals were he to get, say, the 16:38 that Thomas Vanek receives. But Nino is playing well in the smaller role that you've given him, and usually when a player breaks out to the degree Nino is, that player is given a chance to help the team in a bigger role. It makes all kinds of sense- if Nino is this good in 14 minutes, let's see what he can do with 16.

For some reason, Yeo does not agree.

"It's easy to point out the one good thing that happens during the game," Yeo said. "We look at the game as a whole, and I want to make sure he's developing. And if there's other parts of his game, little parts of his game, we might not like it right now, but I'm going to keep pushing him to get better..." Niederreiter... is a team-worst -6. Yeo wants [him] to improve defensively so he can trust putting him on the ice against top forwards in critical situations.

This is patently ridiculous. Of the 8 Wild forwards with 300+ 5v5 minutes, only Mikko Koivu (arguably the best defensive forward in the league) has done better at reducing scoring chances for the opponent. He does this despite getting the largest amount of defensive zone starts out of this group. Judging by the eye test, there aren't very many goals that I've seen where I pointed out "That one's on Nino."

To me, his defense passes the eye test, and this is corroborated by empirical evidence. Is it really the -6 that's the reason for his bad rap? If so, my focus wouldn't be so much on the 5 and a half shots per game Nino allows to get to his goalie, but on the goalies who are only stopping 88.2% of those shots when he's on the ice.

I'm not being unreasonable with Niederreiter, I'm really not. I'm not saying bump Pominville or Vanek or Zucker to the third line- Nino's proven able to be productive while playing with Coyle and Haula at center. It's not even about what line he's on, just give him the minutes.

Mini-article over. On to the Walk.

Wild News

Game Recaps

Frustration mounts for Wild: 'We've got to stop losing' | Star Tribune- It's statements like "We've got to stop losing" that really makes those Wild fans clamor for Parise to be the Captain.

Middling Wild continues to tread water, and frustration has officially set in | Russo's Rants |

Minnesota Wild: Troubling trends continue in OT loss to Bruins -

Key veterans and power play lets team down again as Wild lose in overtime 3-2 to the Bruins | State of Hockey News

Other News

Wild notes: Yeo eases Niederreiter into bigger roles | Star Tribune- Also in the notes were Mike Yeo going with Nate Prosser over Christian Folin because of Prosser's "Veteran Presence". This seems to directly contradict how when Prosser and Folin have both played in the games, Yeo consistently trusts Folin with more ice time. Not to keep harping on Yeo's lineup decisions, but let's look at the career games played for the Wild defensemen that played last night.

Suter- 700
Spurgeon- 252
Scandella- 191
Prosser- 152
Brodin- 145
Falk- 136

Who is this veteran presence a benefit to? The Wild's Top 4 have equalled or exceeded the amount of games that Prosser has played, making them just as much "veterans" as Prosser. Those 4 players are known for being calm, unflappable presences on the ice. There's not enough veteran presence among Suter, Spurgeon, Scandella, and Brodin? There's such a veteran presence deficit that Yeo feels forced to bench start Prosser, even if it means benching someone even Yeo seems to acknowledge is a worse option? I just don't get it.

What to do About the Third Pairing | Wild Thoughts- b chimes in with her breakdown of options the Wild should pursue to fix the third pairing. I like her idea of breaking up the Top-4. Brodin-Folin and Scandella-Dumba have shown good things in limited minutes, particularly the former, whose chemistry has translated into on-ice results.

What's the deal with Thomas Vanek? - Articles - Homepage - Wild Xtra- Hopefully nothing for much longer. He's been improving steadily since the beginning of the month.

Tending the Fields

Pavel Jenys Cut From Czech World Junior Championships Team- This is less an indictment on Jenyš' talent, and more a reflection of how petty the Czech National Program is. They do not like when their prospects go to play Junior in North America. Jenyš is enjoying relative success as an 18 year old on one of the OHL's worst teams, scoring 6 goals and 22 points in 28 games.

Off the Trail

Don't Look Now, But the Blackhawks Have Rediscovered Their Cup-Winning Form- Yeah, the Wild were definitely on the wrong end of that one this week.

Loui Eriksson's two-year slump made worse by Tyler Seguin's rise | Puck Daddy - Yahoo Sports- Wrong end of this story, too, come to think of it.

Bob Hartley’s extension with Flames comes at a great time for Bob Hartley | Puck Daddy - Yahoo Sports- Good for Hartley. Timing is everything.

Top 10 busts of 2014 (Puck Daddy’s Year in Review) | Puck Daddy - Yahoo Sports- A Minnesota Wild player makes the list. WHO IS IT?!?! (I'm sure you can guess.)

10 Lessons Everyone Can Learn From the Oilers’ Misery- Sean MacIndoe looks at what went wrong with the Oilers, and how to prevent such things.