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Wild is turning to the goons

March 3, 2008

by Jesse Menden

Maybe Doug Risebrough watched the movie “Slapshot” late Monday night, just hours before the National Hockey League trade deadline.

In the movie, player/coach Reggie Dunlop and his Charlestown Chiefs were struggling mightily, so he turns to a new style of hockey: gooning it up. With the newly-aquired Hanson brothers, it worked.

With the Minnesota Wild mired in a similar losing streak, it seems that Risebrough is borrowing Dunlop’s idea.

Tuesday, the Wild traded for the most infamous player currently in the league: Chris Simon. His borderline criminal acts on the ice are well documented, and he is one of the most feared players in the league.

Combine him with Derek Boogaard (if he ever gets health), Adam Voros, and Todd Fedoruk, and you probably have the most aggressive, feared foursome of players in the league.

The days of opponents taking liberties with the Wild’s skilled players are over. And if they try anything, they will get punched, driven into the boards . . . or slashed across the throat with a stick.

With all of that aside, will Simon and his physical nature improve the Wild’s substandard play, and lack of goal scoring? It seems unlikely, but it did work for the Chiefs.

The deal with the New York Islanders to get Simon certainly won’t hurt the Wild on the ice, but it won’t help either.
Simon’s production has gone down in recent years. Before Simon’s 30-game suspension for trying to slice Jarkko Ruutu’s leg open with his skate earlier this season, Simon was averaging just 10 shifts a game.

In 28 games this season, Simon has one goal. If he can’t score in the wide-open East, how will he in the defense-laden West? There are reasons why the Wild is Simon’s eighth team in his 16 seasons. He has toughness, but doesn’t look to have the skill to score a lot.

After the Wild were easily dispatched from the playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks last season, it was obvious Minnesota needed a Simon-type to become stronger and more physical as a team. But that situation was addressed (at least we thought) with Voros and the early-season acquisition of Fedoruk.

Why was adding another physical player anywhere in Risebrough’s thoughts Tuesday? Adding in that area is fourth or fifth on the list of the Wild’s issues.

Ever since the inception of the Wild, the team has lacked two things, and they have never been more obvious than this season. Those two things are a solid, scoring centerman, and a defenseman that can score frequently, but also play defense.

Neither of those issues were addressed, again.

No matter what your opinion is of Simon, fan frustration should be aimed at the deals that did not happen, rather than the one that did.

There was a slew of players available at the deadline this year – some at a higher price, some not.

Adam Foote, Ruslan Salei, Brad Richards, and Marian Hossa are just some of the big names that were moved, but cost a pretty penny.

And then there is this former MVP named Sergei Fedorov that was traded from the Columbus Bluejackets for, basically, a couple of sticks. Boy, his faceoff abilities would have been nice.

The most concerning thing that transpired is the West, and the teams that the Wild will be competing against, got stronger.

Colorado was one of the big winners, bringing back Adam Foote and landing Salei. The day before, Peter Forsberg decided he would play for the Avalanche. The Dallas Stars brought in Brad Richards, and the Ducks made several deals before the deadline to get better.

The Wild are in serious trouble of missing the playoffs completely. The main reason Risebrough added Simon is for the physicality of the playoffs, and they might miss it altogether.

There is no doubt, the Wild took a major public relations hit last week. But as it went in “Slapshot,” a couple of fights and a brawl or two should bring the fans back in. A bounty wouldn’t hurt either. The only difference: the Chiefs were winning games.