Zulgad: Wild make the right move by taking Dany Heatley off first line
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Mike Yeo juggled three of his four forward lines heading into Monday night's game at Phoenix. These changes did not have the desired result - a Minnesota Wild victory.
On Wednesday, the Wild coach took the next step in the process when he broke up the top line for the first time this season by replacing Dany Heatley with the recently called up Charlie Coyle. The rookie almost certainly will play on the right wing with Mikko Koivu in the middle and Zach Parise on the left side Thursday night against Vancouver at Xcel Energy Center.
The move is a smart one for a team that needs to find an offensive spark fast.
The Wild are 4-4-1 and have nine points, trailing the Northwest Division-leading Canucks by three points. Minnesota has 21 goals in nine games, tying Colorado for the second fewest goals in the NHL ahead of six teams lumped together with 20.
The Wild's average of 2.2 goals per game is 26th in the league and the team dropped both games on its just-completed road trip.
Coyle was called up from Houston of the American Hockey League for Monday's game and played well in his NHL debut, a 2-1 loss to the Coyotes. He had no points but did have two shots on goal while working on the second line with center Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Yeo must have liked what he saw. Part of what probably struck him was the fact the 6-2, 222-pound Coyle would give the first line a boost with his size and physical presence.
Heatley is 6-3, 218 pounds but the expectation was that Parise and Koivu would set him up.
The problem, and what few seem ready to accept, is Heatley is no longer the sniper who would bury nearly every scoring opportunity and he certainly isn't the guy who had back-to-back 50-goal seasons with Ottawa in the mid-2000s.
Heatley scored two goals in the Wild's opening night victory over Colorado but had only two since. He had not registered a point in the past three games and has only one goal in the past six.
He will play on the second line with Cullen and Bouchard. There is no shame in this and, in fact, it should dial down any pressure that Heatley might have been feeling.
Meanwhile, in an ideal world, Coyle will not only bring a scoring presence to the top line - he had 14 goals and 10 assists in 44 games with the Aeros - but he will enable Parise to become even more dynamic.
Parise, who along with Ryan Suter signed $98 million, 13-year free-agent deals last summer, has done everything expected of him and leads the Wild with 10 points and six goals.
However, one thing you don't realize until you watch Parise on a game-by-game basis is how hard he is willing to work. He's a blue-collar player with white-collar skills. With Heatley on the top line, you got the feeling that Parise was working as hard as possible to try to set up Heatley to score goals.
Koivu also is a hard worker and with the new trio in place, ideally Koivu and Coyle will do the dirty work and attempt to be the ones trying to make Parise look good.
In Wednesday's practice, Yeo also juggled the third and fourth lines a bit.
One game after demoting the struggling Mikael Granlund and Devin Setoguchi to the wings on the fourth line - and then playing them perhaps more than any fourth line in history - the pair was moved up to the third-line unit.
Only one catch here.
Cal Clutterbuck and center Kyle Brodziak also are on the third line, meaning Granlund or Setoguchi might be a healthy scratch on Thursday. The fourth line Wednesday consisted of Torrey Mitchell with center Zenon Konopka and the newly acquired Mike Rupp.
Here's hoping Yeo gets this one right.
Granlund struggled early in this 48-game season because he clearly had, and has, some adjusting to do playing center in the NHL. The rookie will be fine at his natural position long term but, right now, should be playing the wing. He also should be playing as much as possible.
Setoguchi is another case.
He appeared to play one of his best games of the season on Monday. That was a good thing. But the Wild would be foolish to trust what they saw. Setoguchi is the classic case of a guy who needs a constant fire lit under him until you can deal him away.
The smart move would be to scratch him Thursday, with the hope that he takes it personally.
Keeping a guy like Setoguchi guessing is never a bad idea and might be the best way to get short-term production from him, thus, giving another team the impression there is a value there.
There are those who believe Heatley doesn't work as hard as he should, but the feeling from this corner is that he's simply an old 32 with plenty of tread on the tire. There's no shame in that. Eliminating Heatley from the lineup, isn't going to happen and it's not going to do the Wild any good to make such a move.
Setoguchi has no excuses. He's 26 years old, the Wild paid a steep price to get him in the trade that involved Coyle and he should have far more than two assists in nine games.
A one-game line demotion is not enough.
The Wild has made the right move with Heatley and now they should do the same with Setoguchi.