My family and I attended the Jan. 4 game against Washington, when things weren't looking so good, especially for head coach Mike Yeo. We even made sure to take a few pictures of him behind the bench, just in case he was fired the next day. His days seemed numbered, to some. It wasn't looking good early either, as the Wild dug themselves a hole before grabbing a 5-3 win, thanks in part to the first-career hat trick from defenseman Ryan Suter.
Everybody hurts, sometimes
Injuries have still sidelined some key players, like captain Mikko Koivu and baby-face defenseman Jared Spurgeon. But Zach Parise (who was just named the captain of the Team USA hockey team for the upcoming Olympics) returned from his time off to heal a foot injury, and he's notched a few multi-point games. He scored two goals Thursday in Colorado in a 5-4 loss.
The goaltending situation isn't the best, with Josh Harding out of commission and Niklas Backstrom nursing an injury as well. However, it's allowed young Darcy Kuemper to start a few games in a row and really shine in between the pipes. As I mentioned, he's still a young goaltender, but I like what I see so far.
Zucker really shines
Then there's Jason Zucker, another youngster on the team. He's impressed me with his speed, skill and shoot-first mentality. It's refreshing to see a guy out there working hard, shooting the puck, rather than simply dumping the puck in or looking to see who he can pass it to.
Zucker has been on what seems like a constant yo-yo between the Wild and the minor-league Iowa club. I don't even have to look it up to know if he's been up and down more than any of his teammates this year. I'd say it's a safe bet.
In January, Zucker also found his stride, thanks to some of the others being down because of injury. He has four goals in 18 games this season. It was great to see him getting points.
Yeo keeps demoting Zucker
I'm not sure what the reasoning is, but it appears that Yeo doesn't agree with the strength of Zucker's play and his numbers. First of all, he demoted Zucker to the fourth line. For the past three games, Yeo's scratched Zucker to put tough guy Mike Rupp in the lineup. Yes, Rupp, who seems to have a reserved seat in the press box this season as a healthy scratch more often than not. He's played a total of 11 games this season.
I think the only reason Zucker's even still with the big club is because of, again, injuries.
With a tough schedule of games against the San Jose Sharks, Ducks and Aves, I fully understand why Yeo wanted Rupp's physical presence in the lineup. But I don't get why it had to be a Zucker-for-Rupp situation. You're removing a guy who's put up points for the team.
Pick on somebody else
Meanwhile, there's veteran Dany Heatley, a guy who's past his prime and now up on the top line. Or what about center Kyle Brodziak? He had a long goal drought finally snapped not long ago - with an empty net goal that was awarded to him (It would've been a penalty shot.). Let's put it this way. Brodziak and Zucker each have four goals this season. Except Brodziak has played 56 games to Zucker's 18. You do the math.
Oh, and one of the goals for the Aves was deflected (or tipped, or accidentally shot...) into the goal off Brodziak's stick.
I know Zucker and Brodziak play different positions, so maybe that's a factor, too. I'd just like to see Zucker get more of a chance.
Of course, I'm not a hockey coach. So I want to believe there's some reasonable explanation as to why Zucker isn't getting a fair shake, in my eyes. I'd just like to know what it is.