State of the State (of Hockey): 12/30/08

Matt EllenbergerCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2008

For one, I’m sick of it. The period ends, and the fans start booing the home team of the ice. It's classless in my opinion, although I can totally understand everyone’s frustration.

The Wild come back on the ice after the intermission, and play just as bad as they did in the last period, and leave to an even louder chorus of boos. Nothing changes from period to period, which is why this team is so difficult to watch.

What the Wild need is a captain. Someone who stands up in the dressing room between periods and demands accountability. A captain is not only all fire and brimstone, but he’s got to lead by example as well.

Which brings me to my next point, the Wild’s captain for January. I was really happy with the Wild’s choice for November, Mikko Koivu, and it reflected in the 8-5 record the Wild put up during the month of November.

During Koivu’s captaincy, the Wild held together an impressive three- game winning streak against the Coyotes, Blue Jackets, and Penguins. Obviously, good captains have “intangibles” that are, by definition, immeasurable, but judging solely by record and individual statistics, I can conclude that Koivu’s captaincy was a successful one.

So, now we know what a good captain should be, so why didn’t we just give the “C” to Koivu again for December? I don’t think you could find a harder worker on the ice than Mikko Koivu, other than… (we’ll get to that later, it would ruin the rest of the article if I told you now).

Instead, Jacques decided to keep the captaincy rotating and gave the “C” to Kim Johnsson. Personally, I’m not all that crazy about Johnsson’s play on the ice, and I’m sure a lot of people agree with me. He’s put up a ton of minutes on ice, but mediocre numbers—certainly not “team leader” caliber numbers.

Johnsson has one goal and nine assists in 34 games, which ranks fourth among Wild defenseman. Decent, but not worth the “franchise defenseman” 5.3 million we’re paying him, nor good enough numbers to earn a captaincy, in my opinion.

As long as we’re using month-by-month records for judging captaincies (though I realize that isn’t the end all and be all of judging captaincies), the Johnsson has captained the Wild to a 3-8 month*, including a streak of six straight losses.

The Wild are suffering from a lack of leadership, no one demands accountability between periods, and Johnsson sure isn’t leading by example with his shaky play and ten points on the season.

So, throw out this month? With two games yet to play against the West’s best- Calgary and San Jose- I don’t think we have a choice. So, now you see how a captain can change a teams outlook game to game and month to month, so who’s wearing the “C” in January?

If it was my call, I’d give it to the rookie Cal Clutterbuck. The kid’s been what you call an energy player. He’s not too terribly skilled offensively, but the team doesn’t need someone who can score all the goals for them, they need someone to set the tone of play.

Clutterbuck is an expert in banging the bodies; he’s the NHL rookie leader in hits, set the Wild team record in hits, and is tied for seventh in the NHL in hits. If captaincy is all about setting examples for others to follow, Clutterbuck is the one you want at the helm, setting the tone.

Second order of business: Mr. Marian Gaborik. Gaborik is not feeling very well, I believe “soreness” was the word the Wild used. They said they are keeping him out against Chicago and Calgary*, although it could be longer.

Of course, let the trade speculation begin. There have been reports that the Wild have been in talks with Atlanta, although these talks don’t include superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Then there was talk of a Angelo Esposito plus a pick for Gaborik trade, but the general consensus, at least that I’m hearing, is that Esposito is a bust.

If you ask me, don’t count on a trade between now and whenever Gaborik starts playing again, although if Risebrough knew what’s good for him it would be soon. Reason being, Gaborik’s played six games this season. That’s not enough time for teams to go out and scout him fully and put together a good offer, let alone the teams we want doing all that. 

*Note: The Majority of this article was written yesterday, and doesn’t include the results for the game 12/29 against Calgary