Wild Struggle, While Gaborik Is Blowing Up

One lesson can be learned from the transition of new coaches for the Minnesota Wild: Nothing is more exciting than winning.

The Wild have won just once so far this season. This is the first season for head coach Todd Richards, who is bringing a more wide-open, offensively driven system to the Wild. This is in stark contrast to previous head coach Jacques Lemaire, best known for his not-so-TV-friendly trap system.

My hope was that Richards’ style would at the very least be more exciting to watch. That hasn’t been the case. After all, it’s not like the Wild were raising championship banners under the direction of Lemaire, who guided the team to just three playoff appearances in eight seasons.

Meanwhile, another longtime Wild player is having a breakout season thus far with another team.

Marian Gaborik, who like Lemaire was a member of the team dating back to its expansion season, is in his first season with the New York Rangers. He spent eight injury-hampered seasons with the Wild before hitting the free-agent market last offseason.

He cashed in big with the Rangers, reportedly agreeing to a five-year, $37.5 million contract. And he’s been worth every penny so far for the Rangers (6-1).

Now free from Lemaire’s defensive-laden program, Gaborik has registered a point in all seven of the Rangers’ games this season. He’s tied for the NHL lead with six goals and is among the league leaders with 10 points.

The key to Gaborik will always be his health, so it’s hard to say whether or not he can keep this up for an entire season. Not many second-guessed the Wild for letting him walk away after last season, despite him scoring nine points in the six games he did play. Only once in the last six seasons has he managed to play in more than 65 of his team’s games.

The Wild were hoping for more offense with Richards. But having let Gaborik go, the task at hand is only that much more difficult.