Overpaid and Underwhelming: Big Contracts Not Enough for Minnesota Wild

Lately I’ve been crying doing a lot of thinking about what’s gone wrong with the Minnesota Wild. This team has so much talent on their roster – Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Thomas Vanek – that this poor play is simply inexcusable. The problem in Minnesota is clearly not a lack of talent, especially considering the Wild just locked up four young, core players in 2014: Charlie Coyle, Nino

Defenceman Marco Scandella signed a five-year contract extension with the Minnesota Wild late last November. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
Defenceman Marco Scandella signed a five-year contract extension with the Minnesota Wild late last November. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Niederreiter, Marco Scandella, and Jonas Brodin all signed big contracts this season. I also haven’t been able to stop wondering what has changed since October, when the team played so well.

And then it hit me: When the Minnesota Wild started inking these boys to long-term contracts, they also began their decline. Both of these things happened around the same time in the season. Could it be that signing lengthy deals is causing these guys to lose motivation to play up to their full potential?

Big Money, Little Effort

Sometimes big contracts are a good thing. They allow teams to lock talented players into their organizations for an extended period and this works out for the best because the player with the long-term contract plays his butt off to prove he’s worth this big money. Take the Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carry Price, for example. Two years ago, Price signed a six-year, $39 million extension with Montreal, but this security hasn’t stopped the Canadiens star from playing like his job is on the line.

Sometimes, however, these big deals end up going in the other direction. The security makes these players feel like they don’t have to worry anymore and in turn, they don’t play as hard. After all, they have millions of dollars and a job guaranteed for the next couple of years. Would you be motivated to put your body on the line night after night if you knew nothing was at stake? Probably not. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are good examples of this. Don’t get me wrong, they’re the best players on this team right now, but for being two of the highest paid athletes in the NHL, they should be contributing a bit more.

No Motivation in Minnesota

With this new information in mind, I went back and looked at when Coyle, Niederreiter, Scandella, and Brodin signed their contracts. The following chart from ESPN.com lists the Wild’s transactions from 2014 and if you study it closely, there’s an interesting correlation.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 5.52.21 PM

Niederreiter signed in September and then Brodin and Coyle in October. The Wild were still doing relatively well at this point, but then they signed Marco Scandella in November to a five-year extension. After all four of these core players were locked up, Minnesota started to tank. I’m not at all suggesting this is the only problem facing the Minnesota Wild, but it does seem strange that these boys just suddenly stopped giving 100% effort after they were all awarded big contracts.

It’s possible that these players realized they were safe and didn’t have to work as hard anymore and just stopped putting it all on the line. Obviously there are other issues with this team, but a lack of heart is definitely a big one. I suspect this is a reason for that loss of passion on the ice. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’m just searching for reasons the Minnesota Wild fell off the tracks midway through the season. Whatever the problem, I’m just hoping they can address it quickly.

6 thoughts on “Overpaid and Underwhelming: Big Contracts Not Enough for Minnesota Wild”

  1. Anyone that watches Wild hockey should be able to see Zach is the heart of this team. Watch him on both ends of the rink, in offensive zone he is constantly working hard to get a shot and in the defensive zone he is a pest. To say he has to contribute more is insane! Michael is correct with his goaltending take. This team gives up the third least shots per game and is allowing the third most goals. That is a huge problem in my opinion. I would say that some of the coaching decisions are more of a concern for this team. For example a guy like Matthew Dumba should be playing at this level on a regular basis, his size and skill set are assets to this club. I wont keep going on with things I feel are wrong because that list is long, but saying that Zach is one of the reason the Wild are not playing well is something I would not say.

  2. Suter was brought in here mainly for point production and hes been consistently top 5 on the team every year . As far as that aspect goes hes still on par for a successful season . forwards need to score and that changes everything .

  3. They suck because they don’t have a real goaltender. Signing Backstrom to that extension a few years back was a ridiculous move. Hard to be good when they’ve been basically rotating goaltenders the last 2 yrs.

  4. Yes, I agree with you on the Parise/Suter situation, which is why I tried not to focus on them specifically too much. Neither one of them can be faulted for this year, as they’ve both had immensely difficult personal issues to deal with and those obviously come before hockey.

  5. Suter and Parise have both lost their Fathers. (also I know at some point this season Parise was PPG player earlier this season for a while). Brodin is quietly having a very good season. mumps and norovirus have gone through the team also. Having league worst goaltending doesn’t help either. If you look at it in big picture everything that could go wrong for this team has gone wrong. This is just my two cents. Also this guys are humans not robots.

    • I think the biggest problem with this team, is two of it’s core members have had personal issues that have probably taxed them. The death of a parent is a tough, especially if they’re close to that parent.

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