Defenseman Marek Zidlicky will be a healthy scratch for the Minnesota Wild against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, which is significant for a few reasons.
First, that it's the third straight game in which he's been left off the bench by Coach Mike Yeo. Second, that it's a game against this former team and former coach.
Third, because it may signify the point of separation between the 34-year-old defenseman and his team.
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune spoke with Zidlicky on Tuesday morning, and found the veteran vocal about his role on the Wild and critical of Yeo:
"He doesn't like what I'm doing," Zidlicky said. "If I'm an offensive player, I'm supposed to play with the top guys. He should show me, 'You are that guy, and you will be out there the last minute when we need to score.' There was a lot of times when I just laid on the bench and just wait for my chance. We had a couple meetings about that after 10, 15 games in the season, and I can't change my style. That's what I know. That's for sure. He wants to play easy hockey. I tried everything what he wants, but apparently it doesn't work."
Zidlicky, who turns 35 Friday, said of Yeo's system: "It wasn't me. It wasn't my style. I tried to explain it to him couple times, but he wants something different. I don't think I can change something when you are like 34 years old."
In his last two games before the scratching, Zidlicky was a minus-5 and skated 16:55 and 17:35 respectively. In fact, he's been under 20 minutes in four of the last five games in which he's appeared.
Last season, Zidlicky averaged 21:46 per game; this season, it's 20:39. If you're looking for a sign of Yeo's frustration with Zidlicky, consider this: He averaged 2:11 per game in shorthanded ice time under Todd Richards last season over 46 games; in 35 games this year, he's averaging 25 seconds per game.
Zidlicky has another year left at $4 million, and has a no-movement clause that Russo reports lasts through the NHL Draft. Speaking out of turn like this, with the Wild having won consecutive games without him … well, one expects GM Chuck Fletcher to set the wheels in motion for his departure.
Although that might not be a bad thing, according to Russo: "In the past 15 games without Zidlicky, the Wild is 12-3. In the past 16 games with him, it was 2-10-4."
Yeo's made it fairly clear this season: It's his show, and he knows what he wants from his players. From KSTP:
The locker room has four words: Character, work ethic, accountability, and commitment. Is your team buying into those traits?
YEO: This is not something you buy into. These are traits you have to possess. I do think you can build a lot of these things.
Zidlicky won't change his ways. Yeo's not exactly the adapting type. Thus ends the Marek Zidlicky era in Minnesota?