As the Wild Go, Thomas Vanek Goes


Every player on the Minnesota Wild has a role. It’s what makes it easier to go out and perform as a unit.

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Thomas Vanek’s role is to score goals and generate points.

You can’t expect the best defensive play in the NHL or game-saving hustle, but you can expect game-winning goals and offensive production. For Vanek to be an asset, the positives have to out-weigh the negatives.

For a large chunk of the season, the negatives were on full display, and his plus/minus was a good indicator.

Along with the team, Vanek got off to a good start. The Wild went 7-3-0 in their first 10 games and he was a +3 with 8 points. The 11th game of the season came on November 4th, the day the wheels fell off.

The Wild lost handily to the Penguins, the first of a four game losing streak in regulation. In the lowly period between the 11th game of the season and the acquisition of Devan Dubnyk, Thomas Vanek had a -13 rating.

Then came a January 15th match-up with the Buffalo Sabers, who do a great job providing confidence for teams that need it. The 7-0 victory was the beginning of Dubnyk’s reign between the pipes. It was also a 2 point night for Vanek, who has been a +6 since.

According to the man himself, trying to fit in with a new team isn’t easy.

“The struggle on the ice is finding the right teammates, the right fits,” Vanek said. “That was, I think, the biggest struggle, at least the first half. I think at times, especially players like myself, I know I got to produce. When you don’t, you start overthinking the game and it gets to your head a little bit.”

Head coach Mike Yeo agreed shortly after, saying the biggest difference has been Vanek’s confidence in his teammates.

That confidence has come with new line-mates Charlie Coyle and Justin Fontaine. They all bring something different to the third line. According to Coyle, Vanek brings wits.

“He almost thinks on a different level than other guys, just the little plays that other guys wouldn’t think of,” Coyle said. “Shoot one off the board to himself or finding that guy and just flipping one up past a guy to you. Almost like a quarterback throwing a football or something, just little things like that that he thinks of and talks to us about. I never thought of it like that. I like that. He talks to us a lot and I think that helps us too.”

With the Wild’s back against the wall, Thomas Vanek has stepped up and performed, providing timely goals and cutting down his defensive lapses.

We’ve learned he is an interesting player; some would say a frustrating one. But he seems to ride the roller coaster of the team’s success, which can be good or bad. When the Wild are winning, Vanek has earned close to a point per night. In the Wild’s slump, he seemed to be in the negative every single game.

Moral of the story? If the Wild stay hot in front of Dubnyk, all signs point to Thomas Vanek maintaining his recent productivity in the playoffs.

Next: The Wild Make a Big Jump in this Week's Power Rankings

Apr 2, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek (26) celebrates his goal during the third period against the New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center. The Rangers defeated the Wild 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports