Wild Trade Deadline’s “Biggest Loser”
The Wild needed a “shot in the arm,” and more than what Marian Gaborik will theoretically provide them in the last few games of the season. Losers of four straight, Doug Risebrough needed to draw a line in the sand in either direction. Either be buyers or sellers. Instead, he did what he always did and played it safe; drawing a line in the sand on either side of him and standing right in the middle, doing nothing.
Now I have always been very forgiving of the Wild’s management for a few reasons. First, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Risebrough and found him to be a very sincere, kind person and, on a personal level, I think he’s a great guy. Second, I know that no one knows the goings on behind the scenes. No one knows what deals were on the table, what the hang ups were, what the circumstances surrounding the deal may have been. We can only speculate. Unfortunately for the management, however, they have been very forthcoming as to what could have been for the Wild over the past few seasons.
Last season, they were in the running for Peter Forsberg right up until the end and lost out. They were also in the running for Olli Jokinen but didn’t want to give up what the Panthers were asking. Over the summer, they threw their name in the hat of a plethora of free agents. They were in until the end on Marian Hossa, put an offer in for Mats Sundin and also extended offers to Kristian Huselius, Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund; all signed with other teams. Assistant GM Tom Lynn also told Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune that the Wild had a big deal on the table up until yesterday morning, when it fell through.
The old adage says that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. This begs the question that isn’t it about time that Risebrough finds one?
The Wild are free falling right now. They needed help. They needed grit on their blueline and a scoring presence up front. Instead, the team stood still and made no moves; not even minor moves.
Why were they unable to make any moves?
Simple. They have no appreciable assets. Risebrough has categorized their young players (James Sheppard, Colton Gillies and Tyler Cuma) as untouchable, and rightfully so. It is also widely known that the Wild’s most productive players (Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns, Pierre-Marc Bouchard) are untouchable as well. This doesn’t leave the team with many valuable assets. The two most valuable assets that they had available were Marian Gaborik and Josh Harding. Gaborik’s value to the league has taken a large hit this season due to his injury status and the team will likely have to trade his rights before July 1 or lose him for nothing. Harding, on the other hand, will likely have much greater trade value after the season is over due to a very thin goalie crop this upcoming off season. In terms of prospects, the Wild have mortgaged their future in order to win now. Ryan Jones and a second round pick went to Nashville for Marek Zidlicky and a third round pick went to Anaheim for Marc-Andre Bergeron (it should be noted that both Bergeron and Zidlicky have provided a great deal of offense from the blueline for the team, but leave much to be desired on defense).
This left the team with very few draft picks to offer out a the deadline. This, combined with the team’s less than stellar draft record after the first round has left the cupboard bare.
What does this mean for the team?
In my opinon, this trade deadline was time for Risebrough to put up or shut up. The team is floundering and something needed to be done to elicit results. Instead, the team did nothing. Risebrough’s answer to this?
“This is our team.”
The bottom line is that, due to mismanagement of resources and assets, the Wild were handcuffed this deadline. They could do nothing but watch as other teams acquired players that genuinely could help the team. Patrick O’Sullivan, Ales Kotalik, Olli Jokinen, Erik Cole…Any one of those four could have helped. Steve Montador, Derek Morris…Either one of those two could have helped. Instead, a lack of assets had the Wild playing the role of the awkward kid standing in the corner during the school dance with his hands in his pockets.
This summer is quite possibly the most important summer of Doug Risebrough’s career. Not only does he have to show the fans something in his free agent class that he brings in, he also needs to do something to improve the team’s stock of prospects. If he can’t do these two things, the team will continue to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the talks of the Stanley Cup.