By Craig D. Schroepfer
Last April the Minnesota Wild made a bold move at the NHL trade deadline as they sent goaltender Matt Hackett, forward Johan Larsson and a pair of draft picks to Buffalo for forward Jason Pominville.
The trade was made with Minnesota believing they had a roster that was playoff caliber. The addition of Pominville was the latest piece to the puzzle in transforming the Wild into a Stanley Cup contender.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way as Pominville suffered a concussion 10 games into his Wild career. At the time of the injury, Pominville was averaging nearly a point per game, scoring 4 goals and assisting on 5 others. He would return for the final two games of the post-season series against Chicago and was held pointless in both games.
As the season came to an end, Minnesota hockey fans voiced their frustration with the Wild, some going as far to say the Pominville trade was a disaster. Their fear was that with Pominville set to become a free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season the Wild gave up too much for only one year of service.
Some of those fears were put to rest as Minnesota signed Pominville to a contract extension at the start of the season. Knowing that Pominville would be a member of the Minnesota Wild for the next five seasons the focus would now turn to whether or not he would return to the form he was playing at before suffering his concussion.
After one month, I think those fears have been put to rest.
On Friday night, Pominville scored two goals for the second time in three games, including the game winner, as Minnesota defeated Montreal 4-3. One month into the season, Pominville leads the Wild in goals with nine and is tied with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund for the team lead in points with 10.
When asked about his scoring after Friday’s game, Pominville said, “Pucks are finding me, and I’m finding a way to put them in. We went through a little bit of a tough stretch, but we are finally getting rewarded for all the work we have put in.”
The impact Pominville has had on the Wild roster has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.
“He’s a smart player,” said forward Mikael Granlund. “Sometimes it feels like you know what’s going to happen next. He can make plays and make good decisions.”
Defenseman Keith Ballard added: “He’s playing real well. He has a great shot and shoots the puck real well. Granlund does a good job getting Jason the puck, and it’s working. Let’s enjoy it.”
The person who is pleased most of all with Pominville’s performance is Wild head coach Mike Yeo.
“It’s nice to have a guy like that.” Yeo said in his post-game press conference. “Some guys need eight chances to score a goal and some guys need one or two. Pominville is a guy who is capable of taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Now we are only a month into the NHL season and there is still a lot of hockey to be played. But right now it has to be reassuring for the Wild and their fans that a guy like Pominville is stepping up and producing as expected while other key players on the Minnesota roster are struggling to find their game.
One thing I feel confident about is that as the season goes on, Pominville will be a big factor in the success of the Minnesota Wild.