28 April 2011

Quick Round 2 Picks

School prevents me from writing an article. Here are my very quick round 2 picks

WESTERN CONFERENCE
(#1) Vancouver v (#5) Nashville

I guess I was right to be nervous about picking the Canucks last round. I don't seem to be so nervous, but Nashville will give them a fight. I wouldn't be suprised if Vancouver drops the opener tonight, but in the end...

Vancouver in 6

(#2) San Jose v (#3) Detroit

This will be a series, but I think San Jose just outlasts Detroit

San Jose in 6

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(#1) Washington v (#5) Tampa Bay

Tampa showed a lot of heart with their comback against the Pens, the Caps showed no mercy with the Rangers after the blueshirts game 4 collapse. Too much to like about the Caps here.

Washington in 6

(#2) Philadelphia v (#3) Boston

Two teams that were surprisingly mistake prone against inferior opponents. I'm sorry I had Boston winning it all before last round (though a little less sorry than I was after game 2). Still Philadelphia looked inept through 6 games last round. I'm sticking with Boston (If for no other reason they have discipline czar Colin Campbell's kid on their team, yes I'll take a size 8 for my tin foil hat).

The rest of the way

Washington over Boston (switch, fewer reasons to worry about the Caps now)
San Jose over Vancouver (This series will come down to who doesn't choke, both teams are capabale)

Washington over San Jose


13 April 2011

Round 1 Picks (or why I hate so many teams)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Vancouver v. #8 Chicago

Vancouver is the deepest team since the lockout. They are stacked with talent (and as a Minnesota Wild fan I resent them for it).

Chicago is a mere shell of the team that won the cup last year, and backed into the playoff with the help of the Stars losing to the Wild.

If not for Luongo's playoff failures, this series should be a lock for Vancouver, so why am I so nervous about picking....

Vancouver in 6

#2 San Jose v. #7 Los Angeles

A great California battle that should be fun to watch. Los Angeles lead the Pacific most of the first half of the season, but quietly, San Jose ended up rising to the top. Los Angeles is quite dinged up and I think the Sharks are a tough first round draw for them

San Jose in 6

#3 Detroit v. #6 Phoenix

How is Jimmy Howard going to hold up in the Detroit net? Though I have trouble anticipating a lot of success from Phoenix in this rematch from last year. Should be a nailbiter

Detroit in 7

#4 Anaheim v. #5 Nashville

Anaheim has a very good attack, but Nashville has the best defense they've had coming into the playoffs. Is that enough to get them victory A in a playoff series? Is Fisher (of Fisherwood fame) pleased to be in the playoffs instead of Ottawa?

Nashville in 6

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Washington v. #8 New York Rangers

Speaking of teams that backed in the playoffs, the New York Rangers needed help from Tampa Bay over Carolina to get in. Washington ended up strong at the end this season despite playing erratic early. Do they avoid the disaster from last year's upset?

Washington in 5

#2 Philadelphia v. #7 Buffalo

Philadelpia played terrible down the stretch, and it gives me great joy to watch that. Buffalo overcame a rough start and Miller is near olympic form.

Buffalo in 6

#3 Boston v. #6 Montreal

Or BEST SERIES EVER. Both teams hit, both teams can score in bunches. But if Montreal doesn't get a win early, they're going to roll over like they did in their last meeting.

Boston in 6

#4 Pittsburgh v. #5 Tampa Bay

I hate both teams. This will be short. Pittsburgh is dinged up, but still pretty deep. Tampa has a lot of veterans as well.

Pittsburgh in 7

The rest of the way (spoiler, some upsets here)

Western Conference

Nashville over Vancouver
San Jose over Detroit
San Jose over Nashville

Eastern Conference
Buffalo over Washington
Boston over Pittsburgh
Boston over Buffalo

Boston over San Jose



11 April 2011

Lack of discipline does in Richards

It's sad, though not all that surprising that Todd Richards was let go as head coach today by the Minnesota Wild.

This really seems more melancholy that the absolute exuberance fans expressed when Doug Riseborough was dismissed after failing to build the Wild into a perennial contender. Riseborough got to ride the success from the two playoff appearances for far too long, which can now only be honestly looked at as flukes, especially considering the poor personnel decisions he made in the aftermath (seriously imagine if the Wild kept Brunette instead of letting him play his prime in Colorado?, among other shortcomings).
(Editor's note: one of these days I'll be able to resist taking shots at Dougie, I know he's been gone two years now)

I certainly think there were many other causes of the Wild's failures this year aside from coaching, perhaps I'm somewhat biased because I had the misfortune of attending two of the games where the team just simply quit (Nov 25 v. Philadelphia, Dec 31 v. Nashville). But there were just too many games like these examples that got lopsided, and too many happened in a row before correction.

I like what Richards wanted to do as far as trying to introduce a faster end-to-end game, I just don't think he had enough NHL experience to make the players buy in right away (Remember this team won just 2 of the first 9 games). He was an assistant one year with San Jose in the NHL, before that he was an assistant in the AHL (though for some very good Milwaukee Admirals and Wilkes-Barre Scranton teams).

Richards' resume was light coming in, and I think that really translated in terms of the team's discipline. Under Lemaire, you saw the guys give their best regardless of who's in or out, and those that didn't got called out by the coach. That fear just never presented itself in Richards' player-friendly style. Bag skates were rare to the point beat writers (love you Russo) would seem astonished when they came up.

The other thing that was telling to me was Richards point out a lack of leadership on the team during Koivu's injury. Obviously, it was just a quote, but it leaves the impression that it didn't dawn on him that as nice as it is to have players that lead, that responsibility must always be a part of the coach's job as well.

I think the players and GM Fletcher deserve their share of the blame, and I will be surprised if any free agents are brought back (with the possible exception of Theodore if for some reason he doesn't get the opportunity to be a #1 guy somewhere else). Fletcher came into this job knowing it would be a few years until he could turn it into his vision given the team's cap situation. When you know you're not going to be able to hire the talent you want, you would think you would get a coach in there that has a history of making teams overachieve. Especially because Fletcher had that guy in his office. Not hiring Peter Laviolette is really proving to be a blunder.

Star Tribune Wild Beat writer Michael Russo tweeted a quote from Pierre-Marc Bouchard in which Bouchard express that this wouldn't be the situation the Wild had made the playoffs. I agree, in fact I think even if the Wild got close enough, and played more close games down the stretch perhaps they could attribute their shortcomings to injury alone. However, the length of the streaks and the nature of the losses really make it difficult for me (and probably Fletcher) to blame injuries alone.

While I'm okay if Fletcher gets a pass this summer, I think it's clear his leash is much shorter than it was last April, and if he doesn't hire a coach that can discipline the team better, I think he should probably be out the door as well this time next year.

As for Richards I hope he gets a few more years of experience as an NHL assistant, and perhaps he can compare what went wrong here with what goes right elsewhere. Perhaps he could get another chance down the road. I just think it was too much too quick and when he needed to react he just didn't until it was too late

In short, are the Wild's failures all Richards' fault? Absolutely Not. Is the team better off going in a different direction? Undeniably, yes. The second question is all that's relevant to Fletcher's decision.