Myers: Will GM Chuck Fletcher make a trade in wake of 4 key injuries?
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild are short four regulars. And not unimportant regulars.
Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Josh Harding and Jared Spurgeon all are watching games in suits and ties these days, with various ailments. The Wild had survived, and even thrived in their absence, thanks to good goaltending, winning their first four games of 2014, after ending 2013 with a six-game skid.
That feel-good story took a setback on Saturday, when the Wild clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to forge a tie, only to fall 4-2 at home to the Colorado Avalanche. That defeat featured the inability to get anything over the goal line for 59 of the game's 60 minutes. And with 17 saves, Niklas Backstrom fell to 5-10-2 for the season that began with him clearly in the top goalie spot - a place he's reclaimed due in large part to Harding's on-going struggle to find the right medication balance as he battles multiple sclerosis.
So the onus is on general manager Chuck Fletcher to make a trade, sooner rather than later, to get a goalie, or a goal scorer, or both to St. Paul. Right? Shouldn't a career backup like Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen, or a well-known local name like San Jose goalie Alex Stalock be in green and Iron Range red by now?
If you know Fletcher, and have studied his body of work in his four-plus seasons with the Wild, you know that he won't make a move just for the sake of making a move, or at least he won't do it again. Early in his tenure, Fletcher may have tried the "desperation move" tactic, unloading a prospect in defenseman Nick Leddy to get a stopgap for the blue line in Cam Barker. The trade, in the long view, was a disaster. Leddy has won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Barker, when last we saw him, was toiling in the former Soviet Union, having played his way out of the NHL.
Fletcher's predecessor with the Wild, Doug Risebrough , also tried the "trade for the sake of making a trade" move at least once, adding noted goon Chris Simon to a playoff-bound Wild team at the deadline in 2008. Simon spent 10 unremarkable games in a Wild sweater - his last stop in the NHL - and also ended up in Russia.
By contrast, Fletcher showed two seasons ago, in the months prior to the blockbuster free agent acquisitions of Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, that he's not one to trade for the sake of trading. At the deadline in 2012, with the Wild's playoff hopes fading fast, Fletcher was offered a host of fourth-line talent at high prices and stood his ground, refusing to sacrifice the future for a not-too-attractive present. The Wild missed the playoffs, but had the resources for the biggest free agent signing in franchise history a few months later.
On draft day in 2011, with the Xcel Energy Center packed with all of the NHL's brain trust, Fletcher pulled the trigger on the transaction that sent cornerstone defenseman Brent Burns to San Jose, but brought scorer Devin Setoguchi (since traded to Winnipeg for a draft pick), prospect Charlie Coyle (who set a franchise record with two goals in 40 seconds on Saturday) and the first round pick that landed prospect Zach Phillips.
At the trade deadline last season, Fletcher was willing to part with prospects to bring Jason Pominville to Minnesota in hopes of bolstering the Wild's playoff odds. They made it to May, but without Pominville, injured late in the regular season. Although nearly a year later, the acquisition has the look of genius, as Pominville has been an anchor on the Wild's top line and has led the team offensively.
Fletcher may yet make a move. Another injury, and the Wild's teetering on the edge of playoff contention may force a move. But even with the injuries, the team has won four of five in 2014, climbing back to a place of consistency and respectability after the disastrous end to 2013.
Much work remains if the Wild are to be playing when the regular season ends, and questions abound about whether Parise and Koivu will be healthy enough to play for their respective countries at the Sochi Olympics next month. And if they are and they do, what will they have left in the tank for the Wild in the season's final two months?
But Fletcher's history suggests that if a move is made, it will come after careful consideration. It will be protective of the prospects currently playing in Iowa. And Fletcher's own history clearly illustrates that making moves for the sake of making moves, no matter the team's state of desperation, will almost surely never happen again.