Having been traded twice last season and signing a three-year deal with the Minnesota Wild to basically “come home,” one would think Thomas Vanek would have continued his scoring ways coming into this season.
Well, that wasn’t exactly the case. And the critics noticed.
The 16-11-1 record the Wild had to start off the season made it somewhat easy to forget about Vanek his slow start, where he only had one goal in the first 20 games of this season.
Vanek stated to the NHL.com’s Dan Myers:
“I went from left to right, to right to left, and finding linemates hasn’t been as steady as you’d want it to be…That’s what happens when you come into a new place, you try and find chemistry.”
|Minnesota Wild Forward Thomas Vanek|
Myers went on to state in his article on NHL.com (Thomas Vanek finally found his way with Wild) that “Vanek began the season on the second line and went nine games without scoring a goal. He requested to play next to Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund on the first line, but that didn’t work either. With few other options, Vanek spent time on the fourth line, trying to get his game going.”
Earlier, Vanek has joked that he has “played with every Wild forward in his two months with the team, and it’s hardly an exaggeration.” (Chad Graff, twincities.com, 12/10/2014).
Mike Yeo stated this back in December about Thomas Vanek to Chad Graff from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press:
“It's not like he's trying not to work…It's just other things get on your mind and you forget about the little things. Quite often when I talk to players afterward, they actually think that they are working hard, and that's because they don't see the other parts of the game that are missing."
One can also speculate that Vanek’s slow start this season could also be tied to a gambling investigation out of New York (the investigation came to light shortly after Vanek signed his three year deal with the Wild).
Fast forward to the present:
Since starting out with 7 goals and 18 assists in the first 42 games of the season, Vanek has found a good spot on the Wild's third line playing left wing on a line with Charlie Coyle at center and Justin Fontaine on right wing.
Myers wrote, "It took sometime for Yeo to figure out how to use Vanek. A right-handed shot, Vanek said he feels more comfortable at left wing. But when the Wild couldn't find consistency on the right side early in the season, they needed Vanek to fill in a top-six role there. 'I think he's more effective on the left side.' Yeo said. 'He creates a lot more from there. I think we've seen that lately.'"
Vanek told Myer, "Coyle is a big man down the middle and I think he creates room for us on the sides, especially when I have the puck on the left, I think he's good at opening up space in the middle...Fontaine is a good playmaker, good in the corners. He can shoot the puck but he can also find Coyle and myself."
After last night's game against the Los Angeles Kings, Vanek currently has 20 goals and 30 assists. Vanek scored his 20th goal of the season Friday night against Calgary, making it his 10th straight season where he has scored at least 20 goals in a season.
One can imagine the goals Vanek would have had if he was on that third line with Coyle and Fontaine all season. Hopefully the line of Vanek-Coyle-Fontaine will be intact next season....
To read Dan Myers' article, go here.