But is it all really as bad as it seems? Is Coach Yeo actually hurting this team by giving the veterans a greater share of ice time than the kids, or is it all in our heads?
It's not the easiest question to answer. When you look at a game as a whole, the argument can be made that Mikko Koivu is struggling to put up points yet he is still getting the most minutes on average. Yet, Mikael Granlund is right up there too, and with 10 points he's not far off from Nino's production early in the season. Part of the issue here lies in the position these players are slotted in at. You very well wouldn't want to bring in a Winger (not named Coyle) at center, and you can't just throw lines together by chucking darts at a cork board.
The idea that Nino can keep up this kind of pace for an entire season is welcoming, but the chances of it actually happening are not the greatest. Even Jason Zucker, who is hovering just under half of Brunette's totals in the same amount of time is a ridiculously high rate for someone that could be flirting with 200 SOG by the end of the season.
When we take a peak at the 5v5 ice time, things start to level out a bit across the team.
As you can see, when you separate the situations a little, the numbers start to blend together. Nino's shooting percentage comes back down to earth, with Mikko and Pominville's raising a bit. In fact, only 2 players in these tables show a decrease in shooting percentage, with Thomas Vanek joining Nino Niederreiter in seeing their percentages go down at even strength. We also see the point production start to even out, as Niederreiter drops out of the top spot for goals scored.
You don't need a microscope to see who is getting minutes on the power play and who is not. Jason Zucker falls into the later of the two. If there is anyone on the roster who deserves more than a sniff with the extra man it is him. Although he has yet to make anything happen, he has not really been given the opportunity to do so. Averaging under 30 seconds a game on the PP will do that to you. Against Buffalo he was gifted over 4 minutes of PP time but was unable to convert. Most games however, he only gets to spit on the ice during the power play. Even Nino is averaging over a minute per game on the PP,
With how the Wild have struggled to produce with the extra skater, you would think it might be time to shake things up. Yet he is still tapping the same guys to jump over the boards game after game with little to nothing to show for it. While it's nice to be dominating the 5v5 play for a great percentage of these games to open the season, getting the motor running on the PP should turn into a huge priority for Coach Yeo and the Wild. Teams are starting to take notice that the Wild are not ones to make you pay for penalties. The risk to reward ratio by throwing out the less experienced kids for the PP should not be something Yeo is afraid of, he should embrace it.
We are starting to the kids stepping up and contributing in big ways, yet at the same time we are seeing some of the veterans start to slow down. Jason Pominville is not getting the kind of goals we had expected prior to the season, Mikko Koivu has never been much for scoring goals, but even he seems to have lost a step. Thomas Vanek was brought in here to score goals and he has yet to notch an even strength goal. The season is still young, they have time to catch fire, but right now the Wild need wins. Every point is important, regardless if it's game 1 or game 82. It might behoove Coach Yeo to take a chance once in awhile and throw the Zucker out there on a power play, or give Nino a shot in the shootout.
Being a fan of any sports team means many different things to many different people. The passion we all hold for the Wild means that we only want the best for our squad. It means we get to second guess the decisions being made by the front office, the call-ups and send downs the I-35 corridor to Des Moines, the decisions on who to start in net, and the deployment of the 18 other skaters dressing for each and every game. With expectations on the rise, we should not settle for anything less than a solid effort by the players as well as the coaching staff, and right now it doesn't feel like we are getting that from Coach Yeo.