Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vanek, Zucker not Whining about Benching

The Minnesota Wild are reeling and no player is safe from scrutiny. That's the message head coach Mike Yeo is sending to his troops, as the Wild look to find way out of a current slump that has seen them go 1-9-1 in their last eleven games and fall three points out of a playoff spot.

Early victims of coach Yeo's purge were Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker, who were both scratched for Saturday's loss vs. the Blues.

Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer has been a putrid minus-8 with no goals and one assist in his last eight games. On the season he's a respectable 14-15-29, but clearly it's not the type of production that the Wild would like to see out of the 32-year-old.

Vanek took the benching in stride:

“There’s no time for me or this team to pout around,” Vanek said, according to the Minneapolis Star. “We need to win, so if [coach Yeo] thinks by taking me out it’s a better lineup, I’ve got to respect that, work hard and make sure I get back in there and prove him wrong. We’re losing games, things need to change, and [Saturday] I’m the change.”

Zucker, a speedy left winger, has managed just one assist in 11 games. “I’ll be the first one to tell you I haven’t been on top of my game," he said. "This is the NHL. This isn’t college or juniors where you can just flow through a season. This is the best league in the world for a reason and if you’re not playing well, you’re not going to play.”

Things will not get easy for the Wild this week. They've recently lost Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin to injuries and their next three games will be against the Stars, the Capitals and the Bruins.

If the slide continues, the Wild may head into the trade deadline as heavy sellers. But as of now, G.M. Cliff Fletcher has given Yeo a vote of confidence and says the club is ready to approach the deadline aggressively:

“No, we have plenty of cap space," he said, according to the Pioneer Press. "That’s not an issue at this point. We’ve been able to accrue enough cap space where we’re in a position to take on salary, and obviously we have a great owner. Craig [Wild owner Craig Leipold] has always been willing to do what it takes to help the team. But that’s not an issue. There are a lot of teams looking for similar things right now. There are a lot of teams still in the playoff race, there are a lot of teams looking to improve their teams, so that’s more of a challenge than the salary cap.”