There is an elephant in the Minnesota Wild’s locker room.
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It wears No. 3.
On Jan. 31, defenseman Marek Zidlicky complained of poor treatment from the coaching staff after being scratched for the third straight game, even seeking out Mike Russo, the Wild’s beat writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, to air his complaints.
“I can’t be quiet,” Zidlicky told Russo. “If I would be a healthy scratch, if it helped the team, that’s good. I will not cry. I will not tell [Wild coach Mike Yeo] he’s wrong. But if he doesn’t want to play me again, again, I have to do something.”
That something turned out to be publicly waiving his no-trade clause to go to the New Jersey Devils — something that turned out to be an unsolicited action on the part of Zidlicky and his camp, which was confirmed by Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher shortly thereafter.
“We haven’t traded Zid,” Fletcher told Russo. “We haven’t made the decision to trade Zid at this point. I have not formally asked him to do anything because at this point I honestly don’t have anything to take to him, I don’t have anything for him to say yes or no to.”
It was a public move by Zidlicky and his camp that did nothing but buy him ill will from the Wild’s fan base and make it painfully apparent that the veteran defenseman wanted nothing to do with Minnesota anymore.
But Zidlicky’s play over his last few games hasn’t shown he’s on his way out. If anything, it has shown that he’s auditioning for another team in the midst of a truly horrific season that has seen the 35-year-old tally just 13 assists in 40 games this season.
Zidlicky has two assists in his last three games and has logged significant minutes in all but one of his last five.
While he might not necessarily be out of Yeo’s dog house right now, the coach seems content to let Zidlicky’s desire to showcase his talents shine in the brief time that he may have left with the squad.
Still, despite being the biggest bargaining chip that the offensively challenged Wild might have for more scoring punch, there is no guarantee that Zidlicky is moved before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
“Maybe he’s here next trade deadline and we’re having the same conversation,” Fletcher told Mike Russo, also intimating that he won’t be boxed into a trade with one specific team or boxed in by trading him closer to the deadline, saying that he could take advantage of Zidlicky’s limited no-trade clause over the summer that would make him significantly easier to move.
Whether Zidlicky is moved by Feb. 27 or not is uncertain, but one thing is clear: Zidlicky is currently playing motivated hockey.
Northwest Division notes:
The Vancouver Canucks were rated the NHL’s most overrated team in a Hockey Night in Canada players’ poll, with 24 percent of the respondents naming the reigning Western Conference Champions. … David Booth finally seems to have regained the form that made him a rising superstar prior to the hit on Oct. 24, 2009 by Mike Richards. After struggling for a couple of seasons and being traded by the Florida Panthers just six games into this season, Booth has 11 goals and 22 points with the Canucks. … Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney is still on the shelf, battling post-concussion symptoms stemming from a puck to the head on Feb. 6. … Nikolai Khabibulin will be out 7-10 days for the Oilers after suffering a groin injury in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Canucks. … Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing seven weeks with a knee injury. Duchene had zero points and zero shots in 18:06 of ice time. … A big reason why the Calgary Flames have surged into playoff contention is the play of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff is 10-3-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average in his last 16 games. … Al MacInnis will have his number retired by the Flames on Feb. 27. MacInnis was drafted 15th overall by the Flames in 1981 and holds the franchise record in assists with 609. … The Minnesota Wild’s win on Sunday over the Boston Bruins was just the team’s sixth in the past two months.