02 November 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Two bums (incumbents) that I think should be thrown out.

This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  And we’re in the middle of the 3rd lockout in 18 years to prove it.  This is the last of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.


And what better topic for SOTSO Hockey's 100th post...

Today’s installment: The Two Bums (incumbents) that need to be thrown out.

At the risk of bringing a little of my personal political theory in the hockey blog, the only reason office holders ever change in this county is that there is a certain block of voters (perhaps consciously or otherwise) that like to vote against incumbents no matter what.  Or to put it more simply they like to vote simply to “throw the bums out.”  In that spirit, to conclude the Political Debates of Hockey series,  I present the two bums I would like to throw out.  (And if you think real hard, you can probably name them before scrolling any further.)

Discipline Czar Brendan Shanahan

This should come as a surprise to no one.  Shanahan became the disciplinarian hoping on a promise of transparency and consistency lacked by his predecessor.  What we got is disciplinarian that had to suspend Pierre Marc-Bouchard in the season opener for an action the Blue Jacket's Matt Calvert did to himself, but let the Jets' Bogosian walk without discipline for effectivly ending Bouchard’s season hitting Bouchard in the back with his stick.  I also have documented many other anti-Wild decisions on this blog.  I liked a lot of Shanahan’s ideas, but his execution is so flawed.  To replace Shanahan I support the idea of a panel made up of ex-game officials with some ex-players.  There have been illusions to a shadowy anonymous panel working with Shanahan, but that’s not openness obviously.  One man is taking responsibility and he failed miserably in the first year.

Commissioner Gary Bettman

I understand, the commissioner is merely the puppet of the owners, especially in the area of the CBA.  In other areas though, I do believe he is leading the owners.  It was more prevalent when he first started.

In those days the NHL was only relevant in markets that had teams, and southern expansion was just beginning.  It was Bettman that promised the other owners expansion fees while underestimating the dilution of the talent pool (four teams in three years, and yes, I’m aware the Minnesota Wild were one of them.)
It was Bettman that took the league in the NBA’s marketing direction.  It was on Bettman’s watch that crease violations went the way of travelling calls.  And it was Bettman that changed the rules in this regard rather than admit there was a mistake on Brett Hull’s goal in the ’99 Stanley Cup Final.

If the owners knew what was good for them, they would choose a leader that would help save them from themselves once in a while.  The owners got everything they wanted in the last CBA.  They lost a season to get their precious salary cap with the promise this would bring responsibility among the ownership group.  And all this has brought is another lockout where none of the 30 owners are making money because it’s apparently a strategy to ask for another salary rollback, and they can’t agree on how quickly to get to a 50-50 split like the NBA players and owners have agreed too.

Bettman probably doesn’t deserve all the criticism he gets.  I mean it’s obviously an incredible amount.  But the NHL would be a better place without him.  All of the other commissioners have enjoyed relative labor peace in the last ten years when compared to the NHL.

Thank you for reading this series, I know this was mostly a self-centered mental exercise, but hopefully it stirred some thoughts in you as well and made you realize that you have NHL and hockey beliefs of your own that may be political in nature.  Feel free to share in the comments.


31 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Two Issues on which I am moderate


This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  And we’re in the middle of the 3rd lockout in 18 years to prove it.  This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Two Issues on which I am moderate.
For the purposes of this piece, I am defining my opinion as moderate if I do not have a strong opinion one way or another, even if many in the hockey community find the issue controversial.

Franchise Expansion

The populist opinion is that the league over expanded at the end of the 90s and diluted the talent pool.  While I generally agree with that sentiment, I think the growth of the youth game in America will mean that issue will take care of itself.  The players are getting better and faster every year and I think the talent pool will grow into the size of the league.  And unless you root for Columbus or Toronto, your favorite team probably won’t be terrible forever in a salary cap league.

I don’t think the league should push for any more teams until the end of the decade, but I don’t think two more would be the end of the world either.  There are worthy markets in both the United States and Canada.

The Trapezoid

The populist opinion on the trapezoid is that it is a mean way to reduce the goaltenders ability to handle the puck.  When it first started (I was watching AHL) hockey I actually liked it.  Restricting the goaltenders made dump-and-chase a lot more interesting.  There was emphasis on forechecking, and defenders suddenly had to be quick going back into their own end.

To a point, I understand why New Jersey Devils fans take this personally, sarcastically referring to it as the “Marty Brodeur” rule as he is the goaltender that revolutionized puck handling.

I also understand a counterargument that this rule causes goaltenders to take less risk, but I think that in general, goaltenders  very seldom make errors in when to leave the net at the NHL level.

I guess I’m still in favor of the trapezoid, which I know puts me in the minority of opinion, but it probably wouldn’t change my feelings about the game a ton if it disappears in the near future.

Well that was two issues I don’t feel too strongly about, but State of Hockey, what say you?

30 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Three NHL Issues on which I am liberal



This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  And we’re in the middle of the 3rd lockout in 18 years to prove it.  This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Three NHL Issues on which I am liberal.

In the politics of politics, everyone likes to frame the words liberal and conservative into definitions that suit themselves best.  For my purpose in this piece, I am defining a belief as liberal if it represents something in the NHL that I would like to change, or represents the support of a recent change in the league.

         Increasing Penalty Calls and Discipline
There are many areas in which I think the NHL should step up enforcement.  I support the change to try and remove clutch and grab tactics that were prevalent in the 90s.  I think there should be more suspensions for dangerous hits.  (The joke that is the Department of Player Safety does not accomplish this, which I will cover in part four.)  I think diving ought to be asuspendable offense, not this let’s embarrass the players by making a list weak sauce.  (And in liberal fashion, suspending divers without pay would punish players with bigger contracts more.)  Seriously, publish a list, when did the NHLPA become "Harriet the Spy" writing down nasty things about their peers in a secret slam book?

Nothing makes me madder than people (usually old-timers) that hate penalty calls.  They dismiss penalty calls with some variation of the phrase “let the players decide the game.”  Any version of this quote, frankly is crap.  Players that commit penalties are deciding they game, the defender didn’t have to reach around a forward just because he’s slower.  He choose to commit the foul, the consequences should be the same, regardless of if it’s the first minute or the last in a game.

End Touch Icing

My by definition, support of touch icing is a liberal belief in NHL teams, whereas it would be a conservative belief in reference to just about every other level of hockey in the US, or internationally, where it is the norm.
The purpose of icing in the rulebook is to punish teams for failing to carry the puck over the center line.  I don’t see any reason to give a team that commits this violation an opportunity to cancel the violation by winning a race.

Furthermore, I find attacking face-offs far more exciting that icing races.  Let’s save those three seconds on the clock on the dozen or so icing violations in the game and use them on attacking faceoffs.

I think the hybrid icing being tested in college and the AHL is a step in the right direction, but I would say it's a very small step.  At least hybrid icing will save those few seconds where the violating team doesn't even contest the race.  However, the close plays are the ones that are most likely to cause injury, and it's the close plays that are still being played to a touch.

(Since I am advocating for touch icing everywhere, I suppose since college used automatic icing for years before, switching to hybrid is actually a step in the wrong direction for college.)

It's a no brainer to me, and the extent to which icing races are defended as exciting play is just baffling to me.  Blow the whistle, pushing the dumping team, back to their zone.

Penalty Shots

Of the three views I’m presenting this one is the most controversial.  I am anti-shootout, but I wouldn’t mind if there were a few more penalty shots called in NHL games.  One instance that I would consider would be allowing teams to opt for a penalty shot when they would otherwise get a power play in the final two minutes of the 3rd period or overtime.

Penalty shots have about 1 in 3 success rating, whereas power plays are about 1 in 5.  So maybe this idea would backfire because that would make refs less hesitant to call penalties at the end of the game.

Maybe a compromise would be to allow a defender to chase the shooter from outside the center circle on these penalty shots as we see when the Wild put on free scrimmages.

This would definitely put more drama in the final minutes of close games.  It also seems a better way to compensate for a minor penalty commit with 8 seconds left, than giving a team an 8 second power play.

I am glad to share my views with you.  I will have the third installment tomorrow, but what say you, State of Hockey?

29 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Three NHL Issues on which I am conservative

This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  (And we have another lockout to prove it.)

This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Three NHL Issues on which I am conservative.

In the politics of politics, everyone likes to frame the words liberal and conservative into definitions that suit themselves best.  For my purpose in this piece, I am defining a belief as conservative if it represents something thin the NHL that I would not like to change, or the rejection of a major change in the league.

1      Standings/Shootout
This is probably the single change of the past decade the NHL has made that I hate the most.  And there are so many things to hate about it. 
First thing to hate, the introduction of the shootout following the last lockout ushered in an era in which the actual league standings, which determine actual playoff teams, were actually going to reward the winner of a tie-breaking contest that is not actually much like hockey.
Second thing to hate, the idea that the two points for a win and one point for forcing overtime motivates implicit collusion.  It’s hard to say if the statistics prove collusion.  In the first four seasons of this system, there were 281, 281, 272, and 282 games that went to overtime or a shootout in ’05-06, ’06-07, ’07-08, ’08-09, respectively.  In the three following season, there were 307, 297, and 300 overtime or shootout games in ’09-10, ’10-11, and ’11-12, respectively.  It’s hard to say if the jump in the past three seasons represents teams figuring out it’s logical to play not to lose.
Actual numbers aside, the appearance itself that it’s logical for teams to collude would lead to dead 3rd periods I think is problematic.  I could do a whole post on alternative standings, but suffice to say, just about any system I’ve seen out there is better than the one in place now.

      Realignment and Playoffs
I would define my position as conservative on this issue because I favor a return to a four division setup.  (Though I would say I’m ambivalent about naming the divisions and conferences after important names in hockey as was done before 1993.)  I think the plan that the board of governors passed this year would have fixed a lot of what is wrong with the current setup.  I have done many other posts on this if you’re interested in specifics.  To summarize, particularly in the Western Conference, there needs to be a more geographic division, and one that would place Minnesota with more traditional rivals.  And keeping playoff matchups within a division (at least for one round) again would only bolster rivalries in all division games.

Fighting
I am aware that my support of the continued place of fighting in the NHL is as hockey-politically incorrect as it gets right now.  There is still something about the notion that players can hold each other accountable where officials fail that seems logical to me.  The further the NHL gets from this idea, the more cheap shots that the league’s rats are going to get away with.

Head-shots are a very sensitive subject right now, and that is why fighting is in the cross-hairs.  However, I still like to think fighting is a deterrent to dirty hits during full speed play, but I understand this view is finding its way to the minority.  But until the NHL gets its act together on headshots, I’ll hope there’s still a place for it in the league.

Well I've set the definition of three beliefs on which I believe I am conservative.  There will be another piece tommorow, but in the interim State of Hockey, what say you?

24 September 2012

The first impact of the lockout on this fan, missing ticket on-sale.


I’ve done my best to worry as little as possible about the possibility of a lockout-impacted season. 
However, I cannot deny a little melancholy this weekend as it was supposed to be what has become my favorite Saturday in September, single game ticket on-sale day.  It was supposed to be this past Saturday.  I’m not hardcore enough to camp out for a few days to be first in line, but I enjoy that the Minnesota Wild still has fans that do this.  Usually tickets go on sale at 9am, and arriving an hour or two before that is usually good enough to ensure the tickets I want to get.  I’ve never been a season ticket holder, and I probably will never be, but this day is the gathering for people like this.

Thinking about why I enjoy this day, I can trace it back to the year 2002.  I would be a Junior in college in Winona (or as this year would eventually be known, the year before the first of my three senior years), and it would be the start of the 3rd season in Minnesota Wild history.  After settling for what I could watch of the Minnesota Wild on TV (remember this was before every game on TV was the norm it is today), this was the year I decided I needed to see an NHL game in person.

I was 11 years old when the North Stars left and the one and only game I saw in person at the Met Center was in their final season in 1993, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Red Wings. (I remember Dave Ganger being the lone goal scorer by the way, and goaltender Jon Casey made a puckhandling error behind the net that led to the Wings’ 3rd goal.)

Even with two unremarkable seasons, Wild tickets were a tough get then, much tougher than today.  But I had determination, and I had an aunt and cousin willing to come along for the ride.  Even though my aunt hadn’t been to a game since the 70s and her daughter, well had never been at all.

Online ticketing was still a relatively new, and it seems like the best way to ensure seats on the first day of sales.  I had a list of dates, and after not being able to get seats for the first few games, we got seats in section 107, row 23 for a game on November 2 against Vancouver. (By the way these were only $60 each then.)  After winning something like 9 of their first 11 games, this matchup would prove to be an early test of the Northwest Division leaders.  The Wild would get ahead on two early goals only to squander it and fall 4-2, but the three of us were hooked then.  We managed to scrounge tickets for another game in March against Nashville (which the Wild won) and playoff tickets for game six against Vancouver.  (A 5-1 trouncing  of the Canucks which I’m convinced is the reason Roberto Luongo sucks in St. Paul to this day.)

There would be one more season after this before the lockout took the 2005-06 season away.  After the lockout, my aunt and cousin would work their way through the Warming House and eventually become season ticket holders for a season during my last year at college.  It’s been a point of personal pride that I’ve made every home-opener since the lockout season, and a tradition I’d like to continue.

My affinity for ticket on-sale day took a turn for the better in 2009.  I had a 3rd shift job in Inver Grove Heights working 10:30pm until 7am.  After leaving in the morning, instead of driving home, I thought I’d just drive through downtown St. Paul to see the fans lined up.  Well I couldn’t resist the call.  Armed with decent wad of cash in my pocket from winning at Canterbury Park the night before going into work, I decided I could hang out with my fellow Wild fans until the windows opened at 9am.  The team does right by the folks waiting in line, free coffee, soda, and muffins are always nice, and despite the fatigue of being awake nearly 24 hours, I found the experience quite enjoyable.  The next year my mother decided to join me, and then of course in 2011 when my mom and I were in line this happened (:28, right after what seems now to be an unfortunate prediction.)



Television is nice, but the game will always be best when seen with your own eyes.  Buying tickets on the first day just builds that excitement.  Given the current circumstances in labor, I am glad the Wild postponedthe on-sale until a deal is in place.  I’d hate to buy home opener tickets only to find out I should’ve bought tickets for the 3rd or 5th scheduled home game instead.  However, I am a little sad that yesterday I missed out on a day on which I’ve enjoyed.  A day that now has tradition in my family, and it is the first day that signals to me, that hockey is near.


I’m still trying to remain optimistic that a deal is made soon.  When it is, the team will name a date, and I’ll again be in line a couple hours early.

10 July 2012

With Parise and Suter, where SHOULD the expectations be?

Well so this happened last week:




Like just about everyone else that's a fan of the Minnesota Wild, my level of excitement when this news broke was just indescribable.  Certainly the highest since beating Vancouver in the 2003 Western Conference Semi-finals.  October (or whatever month the season actually starts, sorry for the cold water folks) can't come soon enough.

I gave some of my thoughts to Jeff Ponder on the Storm the Crease podcast last week.  (Jeff told me there were some audio difficulties, sorry if my gushing is garbled, but seriously check out his site.)

I'm glad I've waited a bit to write this piece, if I wrote this right after the signings, I'd probably predict the Wild would win the Stanley Cup.  The last few days have tempered those expectations a bit, but not all that much.  What should people really expect going forward?

1) Fletcher has the assets.

Look at the depth chart that Star Tribune Wild Beat Writer Michael Russo put out this week. (note nothing should be taken as gospel until camp, but some remarks at today's presser confirm some of these potential lines.)

Parise-Koivu-Heatley, is an excellent top line.  I'll entertain the notion that there may be a few other top lines in the NHL that are better, but not many.  Then second and third lines are almost a 2A and 2B.  Setoguchi-Granlud-Bouchard, Cullen-Brodziak-Clutterbuck.  These lines will be tough to defend.  Obviously it appears Grandlund's line has more talent, but Brodizak's line drawing more favorable defensive matchups, could kick in serious production.  Yeo won't feel the need to shorten his bench often.  As for the rest of the forwards, everyone else, even most of the scratches are NHL ready.  Even if the injury bug hits again, it won't be nearly as devistating.

On defense, I think Suter being that crazy-minute against top player guy is huge and makes everyone else better.  This lineup is tough without a top guy (and frankly, they could probably use one more #2-#4 type guy, but not a need I would consider urgent post-Suter).

The point is the lineup is the deepest it's ever been and if Fletcher needs to make a deal (not that I necessarily think he should) he will be doing so from a position of strength.  He's in the enviable position of waiting for the price he wants, or sticking with the lineup.  As long as he deals (or passes) smart, this is a can't lose situation.  This team will be strong for the next few years, and able to rebuild itself.

2) Pressure's on Yeo

I'm firmly in the camp that Yeo certainly gets a pass from responsibility for the 12th place finish last season.  However, with this lineup and reasonable health, I can't imagine a scenario in which the Wild miss the playoffs and he remains head coach.  (Don't worry, I think it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Wild miss the playoffs.)  Richards only got two years, and though I believe Yeo is making the more of this opportunity than his predecessor, it's hard to imagine his leash is much longer.  I hope Yeo is the coach for years to come, but a good season this year seems very important.

All right fine, let's talk about what you REALLY want to talk about.

3) Playoffs, you wanna talk about playoffs?

Yes, yes I do, and I'm going to be a little bolder about it than former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora.  It's probably too much for me to say the Wild are the best team in the West, though I admit it's tempting.  I look at the way the Blues, and Kings are built, it's pretty similar, and they probably are still the two sides to beat.  Vancouver will be a little more tested in divisional play this year, so I imagine their point total will be down with fewer easy points against the Wild. (Not to mention other Northwest teams that are on the rise, namely everyone except Calgary.)  But really, the top seeds in both conferences combined for a hilarious level of disappointment during last years playoffs.  There are no guarantees, but seeing how wide open and tight the Conference was last year, the Wild most certainly belong in the conversation with the Blues, Kings, and Canucks.

I think a top 5 finish in the West for the Wild is a reasonable expectation.  Given good health, anything less I would find disappointing.  Anything can happen in the playoffs, but this team is in the best position to win a round since the upsets in 2003.  Here's to hoping for the first playoff series victory in what would be 10 years.  It wouldn't shock me if the Wild finished first in the West, and it wouldn't shock me if it were any of the four teams I named.

One thing is for sure, this will be the most interesting season in Minnesota in a long time.  Well, whenever it starts.




30 May 2012

Stanley Cup Final prediction in five lines or less.

So this is it.  Enjoy the break in hockey for the last five days? Me either.

So my original bracket is busted.  And I'm guessing very few people had New Jersey and Los Angeles in the final, but that's where we are.  Who knew these were the two best teams in their respective conferences?  I'd like to say at the very least I knew Vancouver wasn't any good, but even though losing to LA in round 1 was a stretch.
 
STANLEY CUP FINAL
(#6) New Jersey v (#8) Los Angeles

Both teams have good goaltending.  Despite my prediction that Marty eventually has to slow down, he's looks like stellar 90s Brodeur backing the Devils, and has failed to become a liability.  In the end, LA will score more goals, but interestingly enough, New Jersey is probably going to bring more aggression than any of the Kings' opponents so far. (By the way the Kings opponents were allegedly the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seeds in the Western Conference).  This one will be interesting and close, but in the end my guess is...

Los Angeles in 6.

13 May 2012

Conference Finals Predictions in five lines or less...

At least I still have the Rangers, after surviving game sevens in each of the first two rounds.  They were my original pick for the cup, but the other three of my original final four are no more.

Maybe I get some brownie points for picking the Devils in round two in a series between two teams I did not pick to get out of round one.

So basically starting from scratch here.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) NY Rangers v. (6) New Jersey

The Rangers end up playing the three lowest seeds in the East in their path to the Stanley Cup finals.  That should be easy, but I am not reassured that they have been pushed to seven games by both the Capitals and the Senators.  New Jersey made relatively easy work of the Flyers in the last round.  If Brodeur's A game lasts one more round, the Broadway Blueshirts are in trouble.  On the other hand, I think the Rangers can find a level missing from the first two rounds.

New York in 6

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(3) Phoenix v (8) Los Angeles

There is no sleeping on the Kings.  They are as legit as any other team in the Western Conference playoffs.  I find great goaltending quite exciting, so I am not going malign this series like many authors.  It's going to be Smith v. Quick.  On the surface I like Quick, but I admit, I've underestimated Smith as well.  It should be tense and all the games should be close.  This is a guess.

Los Angeles in 7

The rest of the way...
New York over Los Angeles

27 April 2012

Round 2 - NHL Playoff Previews in five lines or less.

In my first round predictions I correctly picked 5 of the 8 winners.  Better than even.  However if you peek at the end toward predicting all rounds.  I'd like to point out that both of my finalists are still in (unlike everyone that picked Pittsburgh and Vancouver), and three of my final four are still in. (Bruins let me down.)  So I'm excited that I didn't buy into the Pittsburgh healthy and Vancouver has an awesome record hype.

So short and to the point, here are my Round 2 predictions.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(#2) St. Louis v (#8) Los Angeles

I'll admit, I got a little nervous about picking the Blues to go all the way to the final after dropping game 1.  But in the next four games, they shown they are as complete a team as there is in the West.  I am thrilled for the Kings beating Vancouver.  It may not have shown on the scoreboard, but the Kings showed a lot of hustle and outplayed the often lackadaisical Canucks. I don't imagine the Blues will be asleep at the switch the same way, but if the Kings put forth the effort and Quick is superhuman again, this could be very interesting.

St. Louis in 6

(#3) Phoenix v. (#4) Nashville

Phoenix definitely one their first round series mostly because of the massive mismatch between the pipes.  As good as Mike Smith is, the Preds boast Veznia finalist Pekka Rinne on the other end and they are a deeper team in front.  Despite not having "home-ice" I think the Preds will do just fine in this matchup.

Nashville in 6

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(#1) New York Rangers v (#7) Washington Capitals

The Rangers were my pick before the playoffs started, but I have to be honest, they got outworked by Ottawa in a few games.  This makes me rather nervous because they face a Washington team that seems to have found its stride at the end of the regular season, and squeaked out a series victory over Boston in gritty fashion.  I'd really like to see if the Rangers can kick it into a better gear this serious, but I'm a little nervous for them, and I think they get pushed to the brink again.

New York in 7

(#5) Philadelphia v (#6) New Jersey

This is going to be another great series to watch.  Should be hard hitting.  But also, this could be a tough one on the goaltenders.  For the Flyers, Bryzgolov and Bobrovsky were only marginally better than Penguins counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury.  For the Devils of course Brodeur is a legend, but this is the Devils first appearance in round 2 since 2007, and therefore the longest his season has been since then.  If he struggles this could get ugly for the Devils.  On the other hand, if Philly's netminders underperform, we could see (yes I'm going to type this) a pretty high scoring Devils team.

New Jersey in 7.



The rest of the way...

New York over New Jersey (I hope TBS airs "The Face Painter" episode of Seinfeld all week if this happens)
St. Louis over Nashville

New York over St. Louis (sticking with it, despite my reservations about New York).

Enjoy the playoffs, and I tend to tweet while watching games @SOTSOHockey if you care to chat.


11 April 2012

NHL Playoff Previews in five lines or less.

One of these days, the Minnesota Wild will get into playoff preview posts.  Unfortunately, this is not that season. But I never let that stop me from enjoying the NHL playoffs, and a lot of my t

Still a lot of my Twitter followers had lots of thoughts regarding for whom they are going to root.  I retweeted most of them so check out my timeline if you're curious.

As I have done for the last several seasons, I'll be doing previews of each round.  But because there are a million blogs doing the same thing, I am going to try and keep mine short and to the point, five lines or less.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(#1) Vancouver v (#8) Los Angeles


I am not too high on the President's Trophy winners.  I think their total is inflated because they share a division with four of the five worst teams in the Western Conference.  The disaster scenario for Vancouver is that pressure on their goaltenders turns out to actually cure Los Angeles' scoring woes.  Even though the Kings lost their last two to the Sharks, this is a better matchup than the Blues would've been.  A lot going for the Kings here if they can figure a way to score goals, but that's been their season long problem.

Vancouver in 7.

(#2) St Louis v (#7) San Jose


St Louis is probably the most complete team in the West from back to front.  Their goaltending is dominant (even if Elliot isn't able to go).  They score goals and play tough.  All things the Sharks were built to do, but have had nothing but disappointment.

St Louis in 5.

(#3) Phoenix v (#6) Chicago


Yes, this is one of those situations everyone freaks out about because Phoenix was a division winner they get seeded higher than other teams with more points.  I still think Chicago's goaltending is awful and certainly not playoff ready.  If it gets to average, the Hawks might hang around.

Phoenix in 6

(#4) Nashville v (#5) Detroit


Nashville it a team built very much like St. Louis.  They play stifling defense and Pekka Rinne is among the best goaltenders in the game.  A lot of Original Six Snobs (I should really get that term trademarked) are hoping the Wings have just underachieved this year and were saving their effort for the playoffs.  I'm not buying it.  The Preds are for real, and are going to out muscle, and wear down the aging Wings.

Nashville in 6.


EASTERN CONFERENCE


(#1) New York Rangers v (#8) Ottawa


It's hard to believe the Rangers lost the season series 3-1 to the Sens.  However, there's still a lot to like about the Rangers.  They have the better goaltending and most scoring punch.  It will be very difficult for the Sens to ever have the upper hand in this series.

New York in 5


(#2) Boston v (#7) Washington


There's a lot to like about the big bad Bruins in this one.  They are tough on the blue line, and they boast six 20-goal scorers, which should give a team with defensive issues like Washington some trouble.  However, the Caps played hard enough down the stretch to avoid the wrong side of the bubble, and if they can improve on that effort, they could make this interesting.

Boston in 6


(#3) Florida v (#6) New Jersey


The big question from the last New Jersey exit was did the Devils ride Brodeur too much.  This year he played in 59 games and has a save percentage of .908.  Decent numbers considering he often looked out of place this season.  The Panthers won the Southeast Division, but did not look good down the stretch.  I think the Devils find their way into Round 2 this time.

New Jersey in 6


(#4) Pittsburgh v (#5) Philadelphia


From a personal standpoint, it's hard to name two teams I like less in the East.  The last two games between these teams were great to watch, and I would like this to drag into a seven-gamer.  But Pittsburgh's just got more weapons offensively.  If Philadelphia doesn't contain them, this could actually be over pretty quickly.

Pittsburgh in 6.

THE REST OF THE WAY
Nashville over Vancouver
St. Louis over Phoenix
NY Rangers over New Jersey
Boston over Pittsburgh

St. Louis over Nashville
NY Rangers over Boston

NY Rangers over St. Louis


My picks are available on cuppick.com, a very easy site to use.  You can register with e-mail or facebook and join as many groups as you want.  I started a group "SOTSOHockey" for my readers, if you want to compete with me directly.

Enjoy the playoffs!

07 April 2012

Final Day Playoff Scenarios...

Well I hope someday the Minnesota Wild will be part of this post, but unfortunatley, this is not the season.

Still all 30 teams today play in 15 games today, these 9 games have impact on playoff seeding:

Home - Away, Time (CT), TV

Detroit (2:3 SO) Chicago, 12:00 (NBC)
New Jersey (4:2) Ottawa, 2:30
NY Rangers (1:4) Washington, 5:30 (NBCSN)
Florida (4:1) Carolina, 6:30
St. Louis (3:2) Dallas, 7:00
Phoenix (4:1) Minnesota, 7:00 (FS North)
Nashville (6:1) Colorado, 9:00
Edmonton (0:3) Vancouver, 9:30
San Jose (3:2 OT) Los Angeles, 9:30 (NBCSN)

The 16 playoff teams are known, but the order of finish leaves much to be determined.  Before we spell out the scenarios, here are the the current standings among the playoff teams.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Team - Pts (ROW) > Possible Finish
1 **NY Rangers - 109 (47) >  1
2 **Boston - 102 (40) > 2
3 **Florida -  94 (32) > 3
4 **Pittsburgh    - 108 (42) > 4
5 **Philadelphia  - 103 (43) >  5
6 **New Jersey - 102 (36) > 6
7 **Washington -  92 (38) > 7
8 **Ottawa -  92 (35) >  8

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Team - Pts (ROW) Possible Finish
1 **Vancouver  - 111 (43) > 1
2 **St Louis   - 109 (45) > 2
3 **Phoenix   -  97 (36)  > 3
4 **Nashville - 104 (43) > 4
5 **Detroit - 102 (39) > 5
6 **Chicago -  101 (38) > 6
7 **San Jose -  96 (34) >  7
8 **Los Angeles -  95 (34) >  8

Legend
Pts: Points, ROW: Regulation or Overtime Wins, Possible Finish: Possible conference seeds.
*Game Currently in OT, guaranteed one point included
**All 82 Games Played

Tiebreakers
1) Regulation or Overtime Wins (ROW)
2) Points in Head to Head Games

Today's playoff Scenarios in order of today's schedule...

(I will attempt to update throughout today with underlines, when scenarios match final results, and strikeouts, for scenarios that do not match final results)

Detroit clinches 4th seed in West with
Win with Nashville Regulation Loss

Detroit clinches 5th seed in West with
- Win (with Nashville finishing 4th)
- OT Loss 

Chicago clinches 5th seed in West with
- Regulation Win

Ottawa clinches 7th seed in East with 
- Win
- OT Loss
- Washington Reg/OT Loss
- Florida Reg Loss

NY Rangers win President's Trophy with
- Win
- OT Loss with Vancouver Reg/OT Loss
- Vancouver Reg Loss

Washington wins Southeast Division (3rd seed in East) with
- Win with Florida Reg Loss

Washington clinches 7th seed in East with
- Win with Ottawa Reg Loss (With Florida winning Southeast)

Florida wins Southeast Division (3rd seed in East) with
- Win
- OT Loss
- Washington Reg Loss/OT Loss

Phoenix wins Pacific Division (3rd seed in West) with
- Win
- OT Loss with Los Angeles Reg Loss/OT Loss/SO Win

St Louis wins Western Conference and 1st seed with
- Win with Vancouver Regulation Loss

Nashville clinches 4th seed in West with
- Win
- OT Loss
- Detroit OT Loss/Reg Loss

Vancouver wins Western Conference and 1st seed with
- Win
- OT Loss
- St. Louis Reg/OT Loss

Vancouver Clinches Presdient's Trophy with
- Win with NY Rangers Reg Loss/OT Loss
- OT Loss with NY Rangers Reg Loss

Los Angeles clinches Pacific Division (3rd Seed in West) with
- Win with Phoenix Reg Loss
- Reg/OT Win** with Phoenix OT Loss

San Jose Clinches Pacific (3rd seed in West) with
- Win with Phoenix Regulation Loss

Los Angeles clinches #7 Seed with
- Win (with Phoenix winning Pacific Division)

San Jose Clinches #7 Seed with
- Win (with Phoenix winning Pacific Division)

Note: 
"Win" means Regulation, Overtime, or Shootout Win except where otherwise specified 

(**Los Angeles must defeat San Jose tonight in Regulation or Overtime to win the tiebreaker with Phoenix in the event of a tie at 96 points.  This scenario would give both teams 35 Regulation/Overtime victories, with Los Angeles winning the head-to-head series tiebreaker, 8-7. A Shootout win for Los Angeles in a tie at 96 points, would leave Los Angeles with only 34 Regulation/Overtime victories and Phoenix would win the tiebreaker at 35.)

"OT Loss" means Overtime or Shootout loss.

Phoenix can finish no worse than 7th in the West because they will finish ahead of the loser of tonight's Los Angeles-San Jose game, regardless of tonight's results.

08 March 2012

One SOH Opinion: The real cost of the Wild's slide...

The Minnesota Wild continue to find ways to lose games horribly, outscored 15-1 in their last 3 outings.  Their playoff chances (according to SportsClubStats.com) are down to 0.2%. (On an aside, they were as high as 97% after their last game in Phoenix on December 10, a 4-1 victory.)

Even for me, who previously described myself as "probably the playoff-optimist of the Wild blogosphere," I have let my playoff hope get buired.  The 0.2% is pretty much reliant on winning all but two, maybe three, of the Wild's remaining games.  Not happening.  The last optimist has left the building.


So what's at stake for the Wild the rest of the way?  To me, it's one of two things, the Wild can either tank for a better draft position, or they can try to make the playoff race close for the sake of free agency.


(which option do I favor? below the jump)

28 February 2012

State of Hockey trade reaction...

Three big trades in the final weekend before the deadline, and the Wild now have a very new look, particularly on defense.

Zidlicky for Veilleux, Foster, Palmeri, 2012 2nd rounder, possible 2013 3rd rounder. [Russo's Rants]

The State of Hockey was rightfully excited about this news.  Zidlicky's value in Minnesota had almost dissapeared, and the Wild got 4 or 5 pieces in return.  Granted, two of the pieces are rentals in familiar faces Foster and Veilleux, but honestly, with all due respect to everyone that's come up from Houston and played hard, I'd rather have these two in the lineup to hopefully keep the callups to a minimum.

As for the other pieces, I liked what Palmeri brought with Clutterbuck and Cullen on Sunday.  These guys won't score many pretty goals, but they all forecheck hard and win battles on walls.

My early comparison to the Twins trading Frank Viola was a little premature given two players are rentals, but still Fletcher made a very good deal here.


On the other side, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello only benefits here if Zidlicky can become the threat he was early in his stint with Minnesota, and not the gun-shy player he has been over the past few months.

And to think I thought fans suggesting we get more than a 3rd rounder for Zid was crazy talk.  I stand fully corrected.

Schultz for Gilbert. [SB Nation]

The news seemed gut-wrenching that the Wild have chosen to part ways with their longest-tenured player.  I admit this is the most baffling trade to me.  It's not about age (both 29), and not too much about salary or term either. (Gilbert's cap hit is $400K Higher, both deals end after next season.)

Fletcher's comments seem to indicate he believes Schultz and Gilbert are of similar value, just different styles.  Gilbert being more of a puck-mover than Schultz would benefit the Wild.

But to be honest, I'm just not sure about this deal.  I hope Gilbert ends up a better fit, but if he really is of similar value to Schultz, then is it really worth the risk of pulling Schultz out of the locker room?  Gilbert's, even being a Minnesota native, is going to be under some pressure from the fans, becuase of the player he replaced.

Then again, there are plenty of Edmonton fans not sure about this deal either, so that in itself gives me reason to be hopeful.


Perhaps it is sentimentality for Schultz that is in fact clouding the evaluation of this trade.  But I think it is risky without a lot of upside.

Zanon for Kampfer [Star Tribune]

I am a big fan of Zanon.  I am sorry to see him go.  I like his grit, I like his willingness to block shots, I think he's a good NHL defenseman.

That said, when fans complained about Doug Riseborough's refusal to make certain deals at the deadline, this is precisely the type of trade Riseborough failed to make.

I like Zanon a lot, but I can see that Yeo might not consider him a fit much longer.  If there was no plan to sign him, this trade is a win for the Wild, from the standpoint of it's better than getting nothing in return.  This trade is a win for Boston as well, they gave up a prospect in Kampfer that had a good rookie year last season, but the numbers haven't been there this year.  Zanon can help them win now, the jury is still out on Kampfer, and I think there's enough potential to motivate the Wild rolling the dice.  The Wild get another guy that can at least compete to become part of this new look defense, instead of letting Zanon walk for nothing.

If there's anything bad that can be said about this trade, it's that I think Zanon could've been valued higher.  I think his bad +/- number is attributable to being often paired with the offensive-minded Zidlicky, which I think resulted in a lot of goals against where he was the only guy in the frame.  Still, I think the Wild got an okay piece in return, and Boston made a good rental here as well.

Overall I think fans are generally pleased with two of the trades, the Schultz deal being the most controversial.  But I think Fletch has molded this team closer to his plan and away from his predecessor.

I am probably the playoff-optimist of the Wild blogosphere, but even if they don't get in, it should still be exciting down the stretch, as we get a better glimpse of the contending team we've been promised for the last few seasons.

23 February 2012

The State of Hockey shouldn't give up yet...

It's hard. The Wild have won just five of their last 20 games. I get it.

I've seen a lot of pieces like this one at First Round Bust being written saying its time to "pull the plug," as they put it.  I do agree with many of the reasons why.  But I guess I'm just stubborn.  I don't want to give up yet, and I think I have some good reasons why you shouldn't either.

There are a couple reasons I see pop up in the blogosphere now about the desire for fans to give up.  One, it provides cover for Fletcher if he wants to make trades for the future. Two, fans, just simply don't want to feel obligated to watch what has seemed to be incredibly atrocious hockey night in and night. (For what it's worth, I tend to get this in personal conversation and looking at comment sections more than in actual blog posts.)

To the first reason, I mostly agree.  At the trade deadline everyone wants to divide teams in terms of buyers and sellers.  Those that buy have a goal to reach (make the playoffs, deep run, win it all, etc...).  Those that sell have given up.  The odd thing about the Wild, is the high expectations didn't hit until after the season started.  It's been frequently reported that Fletcher is not entertaining trades for core prospects (Grandlund et al).  And if you really think about it, Fletcher is making available many of the players he probably would have at this point in the season anyway, especially concerning players coming to the end of their deals anyway.  The only difference is just disappointing performance won't yield as much in return for these trades.

(more after the jump)

20 February 2012

One SOH opinion: Peters' Suspension is justified...

Editor's Note: "One SOH opinion" posts solely reflect the views of the author.  This is to draw a distinction from the implication from the blog's title that all posts reflect the general views of average Minnesota Wild fans.  Still what's the fun of maintaining a blog if you can't use it as a personal soapbox once in a while.  All readers are welcome to submit "One SOH opinion" posts if you want to be published here.  On twitter DM your email address @SOTSOHockey if you would like more details.

As my readers know, approximately 68.2 per cent of the respect I had for supplemental discipline under Brendan Shanahan went out the window after the ridiculous, indefensible, inexcusable actions he took against Pierre-Marc regarding an alleged high stick in the opener against Columbus.

It certainly didn't take long for Shanahan to lose the other 31.8 per cent after that.

But I have no problem whatsoever with the action taken against Warren Peters for his high stick on Saturday against David Backes.

(video after the jump)

09 February 2012

Wild thing of the month - January 2012

(Editor's note: The Wild Thing of the Month features the one story, performance, or event that, in the opinion of this blogger, made Wild fans the happiest.  Feedback always welcome.)


January was another very tough month for the Minnesota Wild, as the skating W's managed only one win in their first eight games.  The ninth game of the month, fell on Hockey Day Minnesota.  For all the hockey played at all the levels that day, it would be the pro team mired in a losing streak that managed something amazing against the franchise that used to call Minnesota home.


It would start with unlikely fighter Darroll Powe taking on the gutless Stars' winger Steve Ott. (Here's a good summary from Russo's Rants)





While hockeyfights.com scored this bout decidedly in Ott's favor, it appears this sparked the Wild to set a new franchise record.  


Cal Clutterbuck, Chad Rau, and Kyle Brodziak would score 3 goals in 59 seconds (a new record for fasted 3 goals in franchise history).


Clutterbuck's Goal (from Cullen, Setoguchi):



Rau's Goal (from McMillan, Ortmeyer)





Brodziak's goal (from Heatley, Spurgeon)





For Chad Rau it is his first NHL goal, three days after his 24th birthday.  His parents we in attendance after attending younger brother Kyle's game for the University of Minnesota earlier in the day.  Rau and Ortmeyer have since been been sent to Houston, but I imagine Fletcher won't have any problem bringing them back again when needed.


So we have 12 joint winners, Darroll Powe, Cal Clutterbuck, Chad Rau, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Carson McMillian, Jed Ortmeyer, Dany Heatley, Jared Spurgeon, plus two winners from the Stars.  Brendan Morrow for his assist on Rau's goal, and of course Coach Yeo would want me to credit Steve Ott as well.   Congrats to all, for being part of the three goals in 59 seconds for the Wild, and part of January's Wild thing of the Month.


(For my Wild thing of the month image reference, here's a picture of a roller coaster that opened when Chad Rau was nine years old.)







Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 
Attribution to: Drbcoaster at en.wikipedia

19 January 2012

Stay positive! Yeo, Fletcher saying the right things, and hope in the playoff race...

Voice of optimism (stop laughing at me)

I'm starting to feel like the lone voice of optimism in the Wild blogosphere.  The State of the State of Hockey is one of general despair.  If we take a step back from the horrible games we've been watching.  I know many people will find my optimism foolish.  But I mean the following sincerely:  Despite this horrible losing the streak, I see the Wild are still very much in the playoff race.

It doesn't matter if the team won a bunch of games first, and then lost a bunch any more than it would matter if it happened the other way around, or if the big winning streak and the big losing streak were instead a bunch of shorter streaks mixed in.  However it happened the Wild are about where any reasonable person expected them to be if they stayed healthy. (And certainly they are above where unreasonable person Harrison Mooney at Puck Daddy predicted in his season preview.)

(more below the jump)

11 January 2012

Victory over the Sharks! Results, Opportunities, Controversies, and Congratulations...

1) Results

Yes it was an ugly collapse, yes the Wild still had to fight through several stretches where it seemed they were never going to get out of their own end.  But without Setoguchi or Bouchard, the Wild managed to score four goals against the Sharks, and hold on for a shootout victory they may or may not have deserved.

After losing to a beatable Calgary team on Saturday, the Wild bounced back and found a way to win what is probably their toughest matchup in January.

2) Opportunities

Yes, yesterday's win is only the 2nd victory in 13 games, but it helps ensure they stay on the right side of the playoff bubble for now.  This weeks games at Chicago and St. Louis are both going to be challenging, but the Wild can show a willingness to take their fate in their own hands, victories here will put the Wild back toward the top of the West and away from the bubble.

With only two home games left in January and plenty of tough road tests, points will be hard to come by.  However, if last night proved anything, it is that there are ways to win every game, just a matter of finding them.

3) Controversies

So apparently Setoguchi missed a meeting yesterday which resulted in his being scratched last night.  For everyone that has lamented the absence of offense in the lineup, I am yet to see anyone criticize Yeo for this decision.  I shouldn't be too surprised by this, my frustration with Richards (which I believe was shared by the fan base at large) is that he was unable to motivate the team, which led to the collapse at the end of the season.  So I think on some level, the fans understand that to not hold Setoguchi accountable would invite the potential that Yeo's principles can crack when tested.  This would jeopardize Yeo's ability as a leader.

Obviously, it's much easier to support Yeo's decision because the Wild found a way to win the game without Setoguchi, but I imagine, the fans would still generally respect Yeo's decision even if the result were different.  It's hard to know for sure, but I don't think my respect for fellow Wild fans is misplaced in issues like this.

Also glad to see Russo tweet that Setoguchi did apologize to the team, and take responsibility himself.  I hope this never happens again.  I'm willing to forget until it does.

4) Congratulations

Of course I'd like to congratulate Matt Cullen on his 1000 NHL games, becoming the seventh Minnesotan to do so.  Cullen has struggled to find the next since his quick start, but I love the way he moves with the puck and I love the way he forechecks, he has always been a positive player, regardless of his role and whether or not it shows up in the box score.  Cullen's number should rebound now the the Wild are becoming healthy .(though I think with Setoguchi's return Thursday, this is as healthy as the Wild will be for a while.)

Speaking of Richards, I am glad he is getting the chance to be a head coach again (albeit with the "interim" tag).  Richards replaces the fired Scott Arniel in Columbus.  As little as I like the Blue Jackets and Arniel, I do hope Richards learned from mistakes here and will do a better job this time around.

10 January 2012

Would a play-in round please the PA?, thoughts on Cullen's comments to Russo

I was glad to see Minnesota Wild player rep Matt Cullen spell out the Players' Association's position a little better on Sunday regarding their stance on the realignment plan.  Cullen told Star Tribune Wild beat writer Michael Russo,
"There's going to be realignment. It's just a matter of trying to actually do it right instead of rushing to get it done. I don't quite understand why the league imposed a deadline."
As always I recommend clicking over to Russo yourself to read the full article for more info from the players' mouths.  Cullen's remarks indicate the PA's issue is more they were not involved in the discussions and they felt they should be.  The issue is not necessarily that the PA opposes it, they just want more information before approving it, and I don't think its to big a stretch to read into Cullen's remarks that in the end, the PA wants to approve it.

It appears to me Players' Association leader Donald Fehr is using this to remind the league that the PA is ready fight on everything, even if players, particularly those on Western Conference teams (such as Calgary and Minnesota), do want the plan in the end.

The other issue mentioned is some players are concerned about the inequity of the playoff format.  That it isn't fair that teams in a conference of eight only (on average) have a 4 in 8 chance of making the playoffs, while teams in a conference of seven have an 4 in 7 chance.

I do think this is the most overblown issue in the realignment discussion, as I mentioned in my post following the BOG's announcement of the new plan's approval.

To summarize my opinion...
  1. The difference amounts to one extra playoff appearance every 14 years for teams in a conference of seven.  This difference takes longer to experience than most players' careers.
  2. A crossover rule would increase the travel of the top seed in the smaller division in the name of fairness to a fifth seed (furthermore, imbalanced scheduling means teams in different conferences play very different schedules, rendering any comparison quite meaningless).  I don't have a problem with tough love for mediocre teams.
  3. The conferences aren't etched in stone, there is potential for relocation and expansions that would change which conferences have eight teams and which have seven.  This in itself serves to balance some of this inequity.
But I do have an idea that might help and might provide a win for the Players' Association.  What if we consider a short #4 seed v #5 seed play-in series for the conferences of eight?

(I expand on this idea after the jump)

09 January 2012

Introducing NHL Standings with a Points Behind column...

I am very exited to bring a new, exciting NHL standings feature to the blogosphere.

It's often frustrating to rank NHL teams that have played a different number of games during the season.  One has to look at how many points a team has.  But little attention is paid to how many games a team has played, that must also be a factor, right?  Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have an easy method to deal with this, the games behind (GB) column, which factors in both wins and losses when ranking teams.  It has long been assumed that NHL standings, because they deal in points instead of wins and losses, cannot do the same thing.  Today, I show that it is possible to do this in a (hopefully) easy to understand manner.

First, to make sure everyone's on the same page, let's establish how games behind works in other league's standings tables.

Games Behind
In leagues that only count wins and losses (such as MLB or the NBA) in a given division/conference/whathaveyou any team can be measured against the first place team by averaging the difference between the teams records.  For example, two teams in a division might have a standings table that looks like this (team names have been changed):


New York has won two more games than Boston, and Boston has lost three more than New York, average that together and you get 2 1/2 games behind.  Fans of baseball and basketball understand this intuitively.  It's helpful in situations like the one below:


Boston has won two more games than New York, but they have also lost three more games.  We see New York has a higher winning percentage and we would calculate Boston as being 1/2 a game behind, despite having won two more games.

Even in the NFL, where they still have (gasp!) tie games, fans know a team that is 10-4 is two games behind a team that's 12-2.  The NFL has a definition of ties that is quite helpful, counting a tie as 1/2 in the win column, and 1/2 in the loss column.  The last tied game in the NFL was in 2008, some of you might remember Quarterback Donovan McNabb had something to say about his Eagles' 13-13 result against the Bengals.  The Eagles would finish the season 9-6-1 and take the 6th seed in the NFC, finishing slightly ahead of three teams at 9-7 (because 9.5 > 9, and 6.5 < 7).

Back to hockey

The NHL counts points instead of wins, so it's been long assumed the NHL can't have a column similar to games behind.  I say the time has come.  The standings table should no longer rank teams on points alone, instead let's create a "Points Behind" column for the NHL Standings.  Here's how it's done...

(how it's done, after the jump)

04 January 2012

Wild thing of the month - December 2011

(Editor's note: In October, when this feature debuted I listed the definition as "A new feature here at SOTSO Hockey! Shortly after the end of each month we will name one highlight, story, whathaveyou." I have decided on a definition that is a little more, well definitive.  The Wild Thing of the Month is now going to feature the one story, performance, or event that, in the opinion of this blogger, made Wild fans the happiest.  Feedback always welcome.)


So after returning from the family visits and what-not over the Christmas holiday, I realized there were only about five days left of the month, the Wild had lost six straight games, the Department of Player Safety has spit on the Wild three times, and nothing memorable enough happened to overcome that malaise.  The Wild would go on to lose two more games, including a hard fought shootout defeat at the hands of the Nashville Predators.  On the afternoon of Thursday, December 29, the word was out that Matt Kassian has been called up for the matchup against the Oilers.


I attended the game against the Oilers on November 25, and watched in disgust as Oilers goon Darcy Hordichuk, who called Brad Staubitz out in the media, hit Staubitz high twice, and then turtled when challenge.  Hordichuk baited Staubitz into taking two double minors, and the grease had their way with the Wild that evening.



02 January 2012

Torres suspension only exposes flaw in NHL discipline.

The word is out that Raffi Torres has been suspended 2 games for a hit on the Wild's Nate Prosser.

Here's the Department of Player Safety's video:



I'm glad the NHL decided to punish this hit, but I must bring up the Eric Johnson attempt to hit Matt Cullen in the Wild-Avs game on November 17. Click over to Hockey Wilderness to find a good animated gif of this hit.

(more below the jump)