Oh Mike. What has happened to you kid? The hype surrounding you coming to the Wild was something special. You were propped up high upon a pedestal, you were supposed to be this amazing new toy for the Wild fanbase to enjoy forever and ever. Increasingly though, I'm finding harder and harder to get behind you. It's like a week after Christmas, and I've already grown tired Teddy Ruxpin. (I told you I wanted Lazer Tag!)
It's been a season-long adventure to get us to this point, but I officially hit my breaking point in the final moments of a 4-3 OT loss to the Dallas Stars last Saturday. I'd say that he probably saw this coming, but with as absent-minded as he appeared in the game, I'm not so sure he even realized what was going on. There he was, standing 10 feet in front of Antti Niemi in overtime, puck on his stick, nobody around, and he just froze. What the hell dude? Seriously?
I can appreciate Granlund trying to create offense for others, but right there, in that situation you need to shoot the puck. I don't care if it goes in or not. The sheer fact that he stood there like a deer in headlights is completely inexcusable. It's that kind of indecision that can drive a fanbase insane. Between that, and some of the just plain poor decisions you made during the game (See: 2 turnovers on a PP), it's a pretty tough pill to swallow.
But it's not just against Dallas where we see woes for one Mikael Granlund. On the season as a whole, the offensive side of his game has taken a dive from where it was at just last season. 5v5 Close, just about every stat I can dig up seems to confirm what the eyes have noticed. Shots/60 are down, points/60 are down, scoring chances, corsi, assists, all down.
With just the slightest gains in goals/60 at 5v5 close and faceoffs wins in all situations over last year, it's a real struggle to understand just what it is you're contributing to the team offensively at this point. Neither of those have been particularly impressive throughout your career either. Some of the above season total numbers are certainly smaller because they represent 66% less games than the previous seasons, but those per-60 numbers are killing me.
Yet coach Yeo continues to put him out there is gamebreaker situations like 3 on 3 OT or on a crucial power play.
Your small frame isn't doing you many favors either. I do appreciate the fact that you're not afraid to play along the wall, especially with the concussion history and all. But you're often knocked off the puck with a stiff breeze. Overall, the decision making he has displayed on either end of the ice has me wondering, are we putting too much pressure on him?
I've personally wrestled with the idea between trading Granlund or benching him for a stretch to see if he can't gain a little insight by watching and applying some of what he sees in practice or game situations. My favorite idea however, and I can't claim this as my own original thought, is pushing Granlund out to the wing. Give him less responsibility and a higher focus on scoring goals rather than always looking to be the setup guy. I do question whether or not he'd be able to shake some of these poor habits, regardless of where you place him on the ice. Really, at this point though, what have you got to lose?
Charlie Coyle has certainly shown he can handle himself at the center position. Perhaps Granlund could benefit some from time playing 2nd/3rd line wing and move Coyle up to center between Jason Pominville and Zach Parise. Obviously, you don't touch the Mikko Koivu line. (I mean it Yeo, leave that line alone!) Tyler Graovac will be back at some point soon, you've got Erik Haula who can play center as well as Ryan Carter who could spot in on the 4th line center position. For a team that lacks true center depth, the Wild certainly have a lot a guys who can slot in there and not totally crap the bed.
With the reality of Granlund's situation with the team right now, we are likely going to see this kid around for a while. I believe it's worthwhile to see if we can't fix the situation in-house before we even think about moving the kid. With a little more freedom on the ice, who knows! Maybe that creative spark he had shown growing up that got us all excited in the first place comes back around. The situation as it is right now though, something needs to change to get this kid (and quite frankly, most of the team) back on track.
Thanks to War-on-ice for the stats.