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Exit Interviews: Erik Haula

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Sophomore Slump is an applicable term for this season, wouldn't you say, Mr. Haula?

Holla for Haula
Holla for Haula
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason means the end of Wild games, but for the players, the work is never done. With Exit Interviews, Hockey Wilderness takes each player and reviews their season, highlighting what we liked seeing from them over the year, and pointing out what can be improved to take the next step next year.  Huge sticktap to Dan Shrader and Nathan Wells for the idea.

Erik, come in, have a seat.  There will be plenty of time for energy bars and protein shakes after the meeting.  First, we'd like to take a look back at the past season with you.  After showing flashes of brilliance down the stretch and dazzling us in the playoffs of 2013-14 with your blazing speed and shutdown defense, you were set up for a huge letdown this year as your sophomore slump kicked in and wouldn't let go of you.  We attribute some of this to you having suffered a broken jaw and concussion at the World Championship.  The injury seemed to affect your conditioning heading into camp, and the numbers tell the story pretty clearly that you were not the same player we expected to see.  Last year you totaled 14 points, down from 15 the year before.  This is troubling because you had nearly double the minutes this season that you did last season, so your points per game was cut nearly in half.  Your shooting percentage dropped from 11.4% to 7.4% and it's that scoring touch we're really anxious to see develop.  Your PDO fell back to Earth from 104 to 96.  Your CF% also took a minor dip from 51% to 49%.  We know we gave you tougher assignments this year, but you earned them. Here's a reminder of what we talked about last time we sat down.  We are truly hoping for a bounce back year from you next year, (a la Jonas Brodin last year) and feel like you can get there with a healthy start.

Expectations For Next Year

Erik, you've got to understand that all of the promise you showed us in your breakout rookie season - all the speed, timely goals, and shutting down elite scorers - has been tainted by your performance in your sophomore year.  We still believe that you can be a force in the NHL, but you are going to have to earn every minute you see on the ice by beating opponents to pucks, skating around defenders, and being a standout shutdown defender.  We aren't going to be able to retain everyone on our roster, and that turnover will lead to an increased role for you on special teams, but if you want to find yourself playing above the 4th line again, you are going to have to rediscover the elements of your game that brought you success such as moving your feet, controlling your gaps, and never relenting when you are on the ice.

Offseason Homework

1. Get Healthy - We know you had a pretty tough injury in the World Championship following last season and that it was likely a major contributor to your conditioning coming into camp and ultimately lead to a poor start to the season.  You can't afford to repeat that next year, and we're looking forward to you starting with a truly clean slate.

2. Conditioning - We want you to come to camp in the best shape of your life, so if you thought summer was going to be a break for you, please think again.  We don't want questions of your conditioning to follow you around next year, and you will have to show a noticeable difference to silence your critics.

3. Faceoffs - Keep practicing.  You improved 1% this year to 46%, but we need that closer to 50% because we want to keep you at center.