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For Minnesota Wild, Puzzle Pieces Don't Match the Picture on the Box

ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 18: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the Minnesota Wild skates during warmups prior to a preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on September 18, 2009 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)
Austin LindbergCorrespondent IOctober 27, 2009

This is still the team Doug Risebrough put together.  This is still the team that used to rely on the system of Jacques Lemaire to escape with points.  Putting these players into an open system under Todd Richards doesn't change that.

The majority of these players are a direct result of the Risebrough era.  They were brought in for a specific reason.  Despite Risebrough and Lemaire not always seeing eye to eye, Risebrough brought in players he felt would work in Lemaire's system.

In Richards' system, many of these players don't appear to fit.  Because of a lack of players who fit the mold for this system, the Wild have been forced to rely on players like Antti Miettinen and Eric Belanger.  Both are hard workers and have done a lot of things right for the Wild, but neither should be inserted in the power play.

The power play magnifies this team's problems.  There doesn't appear to be any sort of chemistry between anyone on this team.  Passing from corner, to half-boards, to the point proves too difficult on many occasions, much less moving to the weak side.  Figuring out how to play together five-on-five is most important for the Wild, but getting some sort of cohesion and flow with the man advantage could go a long way to kick-starting this club offensively.

The more aggressive forechecking has revealed more about Benoit Pouliot and James Sheppard.  Neither played truly impressed under Lemaire, Sheppard being very vocal about being under-utilized.  So it was thought that both players would excel under a less restricting regime.  They've combined for one goal and one assist in 19 games.

There wasn't much of a chance for either Monday against Chicago with the massive amount of special teams play.  Each player saw nine minutes.  When they were on the ice, they continued to disappoint.  Each had moments of hope when they were forechecking deep in Chicago's zone, but neithWer were able to turn those moments into anything substantial.

However one of the most unnerving aspects of this team is the instability of its defensemen.  In keeping with the Richards system, defensemen are all too eager to skate with the puck and make dangerous passes.  Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon are all too guilty of both of these offenses.

Jacque Lemaire got the best out of this time by instilling responsibility and defensive accountability.  Ricahrds doesn't have to throw his aggressive forecheck and open style out the window.  But he better re-instill some of that Lemaire defensive accountability if this team is ever going to compete.

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