We got an email from Dan Shrader (formerly of First Round Bust) last night saying that he had some stuff to get off his chest, and asked if we could post it here. Dan is smart and awesome, so of course we decided to post his work. Here it is, and you can find Dan on Twitter.
The final, but ultimately futile, flourish at the end of Game 4 was the last dying gasp for the 2014-15 Minnesota Wild. Now the eulogies and autopsies have begun; the fingers pointed, scapegoats anointed, and decrees of change demanded. Thus far the resonant narrative is that Minnesota lacks a true finisher; that pretty much a flaccid offensive effort in the Chicago series serves as a damning Exhibit A of such.
I think there's so much more to how we view this series, and the season as a whole; it can be incredibly shortsighted to look simply at the final result and assess opposed to seeing things in totality; that there is context and there may be more value and truths in the "how and why" than gleaning things from the "what." Plainly put, the "what" is another playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, now for the third year in a row- in a year where the collective belief was that Minnesota was trending upward with an insane tsunami of momentum since January, and that the Hawks, now in ridiculous hindsight, were ripe for the picking; a tried and true championship dynasty-type team that simply was a shell of its former self. In the end, we lost to Patrick Kane by goal count (really a testament to how special a player he is), but Minnesota basically did themselves in with a sloppy effort that snowballed after Devan Dubnyk couldn't track a 40-odd foot shot by Teuvo Teravainen, who was just trying to get the puck on net, in Game One.
Like I said, the final analysis will be that we lack a Kane, or Vladimir Tarasenko; the rarest of commodities in the National Hockey League- the purest of goal scorers. This is true, but as do many other teams in the League; and the drumbeat for the tired trope of needing to acquire such a player has already begun. This drum line didn't exist when it was goal scoring by committee during that three month stretch of lights out desperation hockey that vaulted Minnesota from 12th to the first wild card spot. Aside from about two periods in Game One, and sporadic shifts after that, Minnesota basically, well, sucked. This wasn't the same team that largely outplayed St. Louis; there was no crispness, no precision, no belief in the process.
Controlled entries became dump ins, missed passes and assignments became turnovers, turnovers turned into odd man rushes, odd man rushes turned into goals. The Teravainen goal was such a game changer; The Wild roar back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game only to cough it back up after essentially a flukish goal. Thus began the downward spiral; scoring goals became such a Herculean effort, yet the slightest mistake ended up in Dubnyk's net seemingly with ease. The process of belief in what you need to do to be successful goes out the window, and then becomes hesitation, fear, and trepidation. Now everyone's booking tee times, and the Hawks are biding their time while Anaheim and Calgary pummel the snot out of each other. Minnesota let Chicago into their heads, and Chicago won.
Thomas Vanek did prove to be the black sheep of the bunch, a player who has the same quality we lust after but not the qualities Minnesota clearly wants from top to bottom. Yes, Jason Pominville did get goat status, but did we really expect him to score 30 goals again as a declining player? Ryan Suter's warts were exposed; he's his own worst enemy in the offensive zone. That the all-veteran First Power Play Unit grossly underachieved all year, yet Mike Yeo continually ran them out. That their propensity of long east-west stretch passes through the neutral zone, when taken away from the puck carriers, essentially neuters the forecheck. That there was little production from 250 million worth of older players, and the younger players took a step to the side instead of a step forward.
All of those are things of note, but it all has to be taken in context. Minnesota raised itself from the dead in spectacular fashion and possibly found some goaltending stability for the first time in a handful of years. This team dealt with the mumps (FREAKING MUMPS!), the deaths of JP Parise and Bob Suter, goaltending questions, inconsistency, injury; there's something to be said for the resiliency, and how the team rallied when it mattered most.
I'll end it with this; things may not be as doom and gloom as it seems right now, when the wound is still very raw. Maybe there will be changes, but there doesn't HAVE to be wholesale changes like what will happen in St. Louis; one eye will have to be on the present, and the other on the future. Its crazy how things fluctuate during the year, as a team can simultaneously underachieve then overachieve and still end up where it should have been in the first place. It is, and will always be, a process.