We begin with the caveat that needs to be given whenever we discuss a standout offensive player struggling in the postseason: The Minnesota Wild’s probable sweep at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks is not Thomas Vanek’s fault.
That established … woof.
Vanek signed a three-year deal worth $6.5 million per season with the Wild last summer. It was a redundant acquisition – the Wild didn’t necessarily need Vanek, whose best case for joining the team appeared to be an obvious connection to his college playing days – but added a dynamic offensive weapon to their roster. Well, when he’s on.
In the playoffs, he’s been off. Way off.
Vanek doesn’t have a goal his postseason for the Wild in nine games and is a minus-7. Going back to his ill-fitting campaign with the Montreal Canadiens last season, and Vanek has gone 15 playoff games without a goal. He has six assists in that span.
Here's Vanek after the St. Louis Blues series, via TwinCities.com:
Against St. Louis, Vanek finished with zero goals, two assists and a minus rating in three of the six games.
"I don't think our series was awful," Vanek said of his line's performance against the Blues. "Sometimes you don't get the points and you think your series wasn't that great, but overall I thought whatever line we were matched up against we did a good job.
"Offensively, I thought we could have contributed more, especially in Games 1 and 3. We hit some posts. But it's a long playoffs."
Tuesday, Thomas Vanek did not distinguish himself. He often pulled up just inside the blue line with the puck, ignoring open ice and turning his back on breaking teammates. When the puck was in the defensive zone, he often hung out near mid-ice, hoping for a breakout pass.
But at least it was better than his Game 2 against Chicago, via Gone Puck Wild:
The bottom six simply need to produce tonight. Thomas Vanek had one of his ugliest games in a Wild sweater Sunday. He was a -4 overall, and had multiple turnovers while trying to generate any sustained pressure alongside center Charlie Coyle.
His underlying analytics are all over the map, too. Which is to be expected given how ineffective he’s been.
Last season it was how the Canadiens used him. This season it’ll probably be his off-ice issues as a season-long distraction. Meanwhile, fans are wondering where the elite goal-scoring has gone for this elite goal scorer. And more than a few are looking at that contract and probably saying, “Told ya so…”