30 May 2013

One SOH Opinion: Hawks, Wings and everything that makes NHL officiating cowardly.

One SOH (State of Hockey) opinion posts are to emphasize OPINIONS of the author.  Even if the post speculates on the opinions of other State of Hockey fans, such statements should be understood as speculation.   All readers are welcome to submit posts or ideas for "One SOH Opinion."  Tweet me @SOTSOHockey if interested.

Full Disclosure: It is probably safe to say my rooting interests lay with the Blackhawks in this series.  Not that I had anything in particular against Detroit, other than I simply didn't predict them to win the series.

Just about everything that is wrong with the state of NHL officiating was on display in the incident the final two minutes of the third period of last nights game seven between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.  And this one cost Chicago what should have been the game winning goal when Niklas Kjarlmarsson appeared to score with 1:49 to play in the third.

The goal was waived off because of a neutral zone whistle blown by Stephen Walkom, the very same Walkom that was among the four officials that saw this hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa but judged that no call was needed.

If you want to skip the goal that never was, the first replay of penalty starts at about :40 in the video below.




Walkom is in the lower left corner and from :45 on the video until :53 seconds on the video his arm is at his side as he approaches the scrum.  I must assume he had no intention of calling the Red Wings Kyle Quincey   for dragging Saad to the ground.  In my opinion this should constitute interference, but this is the playoffs, we have all seen far worse let go.  It appeared Walkom was going to look the other way here, again arm is still at his side.

In the video, you don't see any action on Saad's part that would remotely justify a penalty until he gives a shot to Quincey's face at about 1:38.  Shortly after that you see Walkom approach the pile, arms still at his side, but then he blows the whistle.

Now I'm not saying Walkom set out to wipe a goal off the board here.  Once he blows the whistle, that's the end of it I get that.  My problem is with how horrible his decision making process is as demonstrated through his (lack of) signaling.

With Walkom's arm down the whole time until he whistles, it signals that he had no intention of calling anything until Saad provided, in Walkom's mind, an excuse to "even it up."  Comparing the two offenses that were actually called it seems to me, if Walkom wasn't willing to make a call on Quincey on its own merit, he has ABSOLUTELY NO BUISNESS making a call against Saad either.  Play should have continued.

As a reminder, if Walkom did signal the call against Quincey play would've continued with Chicago in possession, unless Saad or another Blackhawk took a penalty.  If Walkom signals the moment he sees it, in my opinion that at least mitigates how horrifying this situation is, because we at least know a whistle is coming.  That signal might even prevent Saad from retaliating, even as minimal as his retaliation actually was.  At the very least a signal means a whistle is coming.

But as fans we must assume no signal means no intent to make the call in the first place.  Walkom deciding to make a call after your arm has been down for what is an eternity in hockey-time until deciding he found an even-up situation is dishonest.

It's easy to pick on Walkom, I certainly feel like I'm piling on.  Howver, being afraid of power plays in late-game situations is something that has been terribly wrong with the culture of NHL officiating for some time now.  Calls should be calls whether or not the official believes there is a reason to even it up.  The fact that he waited for a small retaliation from Saad speaks volumes to Walkom's lack of courage in this example.  But I think this lack of courage is sadly acceptable among the NHL referee bretheren.

Given what we observed from Walkom's decision process in last night's game and applying it back to the Hossa-Torres example, I wonder if from the stretcher Hossa somehow mustered the ability to scratch Torres' nose in retaliation, maybe then Walkom would've called matching minors.



14 May 2013

Justin's NHL Playoff Predictions, Round 2

Time for new predictions as there is no waiting for Round 2, it begins tonight.

I am disappointing in my 4 out of 8 result from the first round, and I needed a Toronto collapse to get four.

Here's hoping for a better Round 2.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(#1) Chicago v. (#7) Detroit

I still think Chicago is the best team in the playoffs and I was probably optimistic hoping the Minnesota Wild would win 2 in the first round., even through they were close to winning game one.  Detroit might give the Blackhawks a little more trouble and obviously aren't that bothered being underdogs.  I'm glad we get this matchup one more time before realignment.  But this one goes to Chicago.

Chicago in 6

(#5) Los Angeles v. (#6) San Jose

I admit I didn't see much of the Sharks-Canucks series, it was over before I knew it.  So both teams enter the series having won four straight (though the Kings dropped the first two to St. Louis.)  If you liked Blues-Kings, I think this series has the ability to live up to that tight, heavy reputation is well.  I'd take seven of these.

San Jose in 7

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(#1) Pittsburgh v. (#7) Ottawa

Like most fans, I was surprised to see the Islanders play Pittsburgh so close in Round one.  Ottawa did a great job containing Montreal and I think they might give Pittsburgh similar fits.  But in the end the Pens will find a way.

Pittsburgh in 6

(#4) Boston v. (#6) New York Rangers

Boy if it took two minutes longer for Boston to figure out how to score they wouldn't be here.  The Rangers also aren't getting the scoring that their lineup would indicate on paper.  As much as I need Boston to win so I can beat Gilles Ferrell from Hockey Wilderness and Team of 18,001  in our NHL.com bracket challenge I think I'm going to switch and get on board with the Broadway Blueshirts.

New York in 7

The rest of the way....

Chicago over San Jose
Pittsburgh over New York Rangers
Chicago over Pittsburgh


13 May 2013

The two most ridiculous types of Wild Chirps....

Oh the twittersphere.  I like it.  I like it's immediacy, I like that it provides a level of access to some of the best bloggers and sportswriters in ways unthinkable 10 years ago.  (And I hope I give back to this in my small way.)  I like that we can all watch the games while tweeting together.

But sometimes, there is plenty of stupidity that can be seen as well.  And people love to kick a team when their down.  I get that's fun, and in fairness I've engaged in it myself.  (Most recently by dancing on the Peoria Rivermen's grave, I will never forgive their fans for cheering Cuma's injury at the X in a game against Houston two years ago.)

Trash talk is part of the game, it's part of the fun, and I'm willing to accept that and engage in it.  (Obvioulsy I got sick of the line when they were handing out "Minnesota Nice" to newborns in this state.)  The danger of trash talk is that it will expose your stupidity.  And I have to say, upon the Wild's elimination there are two types of "chirps" that are incredibly stupid on their face.  I'm pointing out the highest profile example of each, but suffice to say

Ha Ha, $196 Million = 1 Playoff Win.

First, it's not like Parise and Suter are rentals.  They have 12 year deals.  The Wild have missed the playoffs four years in a row before this year, and really were never close in those season.  (The Wild were in until the second to last day in 2009, but otherwise it's been bad.)  Now they're in, even though the season ending was way closer than it should have been.

Meanwhile Nashville and New Jersey were both perennial playoff teams that weren't even close this year.  (Though I'm willing to entertain the argument New Jerey's woes had a lot more to do with Brodeur's injury.)

Oh well it's not like any serious sportswriters would make this remark.  Well I should point out the Minnesota Wild tied the Avs this season for most playoff appearances since the two teams met in 2008.  And it is likely the Wild will move ahead of Colorado next year and build the lead for a couple years after that.

But still, the hockey IQ in Minnesota is higher.  It's not like anyone in the media in this market would say something as abusrd...

Playoff loss means Fletcher failed at Pominville trade

Oh Patrick Reusse.  My favorite of the area curmudgeons.  But this statement only really makes sense if Pominville was a true rental.  The Wild traded him getting another year on his deal.  A year that again should be a playoff run and a higher finish.  When Pominville was in he was the legit finisher that was sorely missed in this series.  He wasn't full speed in the playoffs, but I hope this summer gives him a chance to recover.  (Thank goodness the NHL saw fit to suspend Dustin Brown for two games to prove they care about player safety huh?)

If Pominville were a true rental (meaning his contract is up this summer) this argument is totally legit, and it makes me wonder if Reusse's even aware of that.  Pommer's playing for a contract next year (and I'd like it to be here) we should see his best.  Yes his price was high, but one they could afford without affecting the game day roster.  Again, this is rooted in the faulty premise that the Wild would win the cup on the first try.  It's not like the Wild gave up all of that for just one month.  Seriously what owner would let something like that happen?

I probably had higher expectations than anyone thinking the Wild would win the Northwest this year. (Despite the April swoon ended up just four points short.)  Fear not for one season.  The elimination may have been early, but there's no denying there is one big step taken in the right direction, even met with a harsh reminder there is much work to do.  This team is built to have several more chances in the near future, but if idiots need cheap laughs now, let them.



10 May 2013

Be proud State of Hockey.

The Minnesota Wild were eliminated last night, losing 5-1 to the Blackhawks in Game 5 and Chicago advances to the next round.

I think it's okay to me a little disappointed, but this is a team set up for success long term.

Yes, the stats on the Koivu line are awful, but I can't imagine many other teams' top line had consistent success against Chicago this season.

The Power Play was dreadful, I can only hope this is improved next year.

Bad playoffs aside, Parise absolutely lived up to his contract this year.  Great numbers and a level of hustle this team desperately needed.  A great role model for all players and fans alike.  Suter, after the rough early start, ate an amazing number of minutes night in and night out.  And when healthy, Pominville proved he can be an important weapon for this team, even if his price was high.  Coyle's quick maturation and chemistry with Suter was invaluable to the success this year.

The tragedy of this season isn't the playoff elimination, but the fall from 3rd to 8th in April.  Pominville and Heatley getting hurt certainly didn't help, but the team needs to work on finding the net.

There is a lot higher this team can go, and they found out first hand what it will take by drawing the league's best team in the first round.  After realignment, the Wild know the playoffs are likely to often go through Chicago and they need to build their team to compete for that opportunity.

There were good signs, even in a series lost in 5 games.  The Wild looked good in Game 3, and were a crossbar away from winning Game 1.

The future is as bright as it's ever been in the State of Hockey, the result could've been better, but this wasn't the year they were set up to win it all.  And if Parise and Suter are the cornerstones, the Wild will have 11 more bites at the apple.


30 April 2013

Justin's NHL Playoff Predictions.... Round 1

It's that time of year again,  Time for playoff precdictions, and for the first time since 2008, the Minnesota Wild have made the final 16.

Without Further Ado.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1) Chicago vs. #8) Minnesota

Chicago in 6 (and I think that may be generous.)

Bottom line: Chicago has been good start to finish and Minnesota has won 5 games in April.

#2) Anaheim vs. #7) Detroit

Detroit in 7

Bottom line: Who doesn't want to see one last Detroit-Chicago series before realignment :)

#3) Vancouver vs. #6) San Jose

Vancouver in 7

Bottom line: Both teams will try and choke this away, but Vancouver is deeper up front.  I love it when two filthy teams whack each other.

#4) St. Louis vs. #5) Los Angeles

St. Louis in 7

Bottom line: Another physical series, and I hate LA more than St. Louis now


EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1) Pittsburgh vs. NY Islanders

Pittsburgh in 5

Bottom line: Who wants another brawl in Long Island? I do!

#2) Montreal vs. #7) Ottawa

Montreal in 6

Bottom line: Montreal is probably underrated in the states, but they've become a pretty complete team.

#3) Washington vs. #6) NY Rangers

Washington in 6

Bottom line: These guys again.  If Ovi is as strong as he's shown in the last couple months, I don't know if NY Rangers have an answer.

#4) Boston vs. #5) Toronto

Boston in 7

Bottom line: Well hopefully Leafs fans will get their moneys worth.

The rest of the way....
Chicago over Detroit
St. Louis over Vancouver
Chicago over St. Louis
(wow picking all Norris matchups for the Hawks)

Pittsburgh over Boston
Montreal over Washington
Pittsburgh over Washington

Final
Chicago over Pittsburgh





18 March 2013

One SOH Opinion: Should the team with the injury have influence on how it's served?

One SOH (State of Hockey) opinion posts are to emphasize OPINIONS of the author.  Even if the post speculates on the opinions of other State of Hockey fans, such statements should be understood as speculation.   All readers are welcome to submit posts or ideas for "One SOH Opinion."  Tweet me @SOTSOHockey if interested.

I understand that what I'm about to propose is probably impractical, but hey, if you can't post impractical things once in a while, what's the point in having a blog?

I was listening to Thursday's Marek vs Wyshynski podcast, and Jeff Marek made a suggestion that Corey Perry's suspension for hitting Jason Zucker on Tuesday actually hurts the Minnesota Wild in the sense that Anaheim is about to play several teams that Minnesota would like to see lose.  (The part of the show I am referencing is from about 39:10 to 40:20)

In this particular season it appears that Chicago and Anaheim are pretty much destined to go #1 and #2 in the West. (Sportsclubstats.com currently has Anaheim at a combined 98% to finish 2nd or better in the West. Chicago's percentage is even higher.)  So Anaheim continuing to win doesn't really harm Minnesota in terms of playoff chances, as the Wild will at best finish 3rd in the West if they can find a way to finish ahead of Vancouver.

Back to Perry, he received a four game suspension.  In the instance of a suspension, what if Minnesota (as the team with the player injured), had an option to make the one of the four games of the suspension the next meeting with the Wild?

On the surface this is a thought provoking idea.  But if you scratch too deep, it's frought with problems.  The first of which is there are no more meetings between Minnesota and Anaheim this season, unless they get matched up in the playoffs.  If such an option existed, could it be used for a playoff game?  If such an option existed, could it carry into next season?  If such an option existed what happens if Perry isn't playing for Anaheim next year, is this option a burden of his new team?

Yet a part of me likes the idea that the team that suffered the injury gets some say in it.  On the other hand if such an option existed as a result of the Taylor Hall incident on Cal Clutterbuck I wonder if the Wild would take it, or if they would prefer to make Hall play in their next meeting.  Many Wild fans was disappointed when Taylor Hall found a hamstring injury the day before the March 4th rematch following the Clutterbuck incident.  This put off any on-ice retribution until late April, and at the rate the Oilers are going, they will be well out of the playoff race.

So what say you? Should the team with the injury have some say in when a suspension is served?  If so, how you would address some of the issues this would introduce?




15 March 2013

Wild thing of the month, February 2013


(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.)


Better late than never, but the Wild thing of the month has to go to Jason Zucker for an amazing first NHL goal in what was a very important victory against Detroit.




Congratulations Jason Zucker, Wild thing of the Month for February.


08 March 2013

Zone starts, as in time zone starts under the new NHL schedule formula.

Yesterday white smoke emerged from the conclave that is the NHL Players' Association, signaling that pending the expected approval of the Board of Governors, the new NHL alignment plan and schedule formula appears to be a go.  The Minnesota Wild’s schedule will change dramatically.

The new formula calls for...

29 games against their new Midwest division opponents.
                *4 or 5 games against CHI, COL, DAL, NSH, STL, WPG

21 against the new Pacific division
                *3 games against each of ANA, CGY, EDM, LA, PHX, SJ, VAN

32 games against the new Eastern Conference
*2 games (one home and one away) against each team
Central Division: BOS, BUF, DET, FLA, MTL, OTW, TBY, TOR
Atlantic Division: CAR, CLB, NJ, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT, WSH

(NOTE: There is a quirk due to the odd number of teams in the division playing an odd number of division games that means once every 7 years the Wild will lose one Midwest division game in favor of one extra Pacific division game.  For the sake of simplicity, I am ignoring this quirk in this post as six out of every seven Wild seasons would look like this on average.)

What each half of the schedule looks like...

(more below the jump)

25 February 2013

One SOH opinion: Stop sweating uneven conferences in the new possible realignment.

One SOH (State of Hockey) opinion posts are to emphasize OPINIONS of the author.  Even if the post speculates on the opinions of other State of Hockey fans, such statements should be understood as speculation.   All readers are welcome to submit posts or ideas for "One SOH Opinion."  Tweet me @SOTSOHockey if interested.

In a nutshell...

On Saturday CBC ran with another NHL realignment possibility, that like the plan last year would put the Wild in a conference with mostly central time zone teams.  Minnesota would be grouped with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.  The main difference between the this plan and the one floated last year is that Columbus and Detroit will each be shifted to one of the two new Eastern conferences, and the aforementioned Avs would end up in the conference with the Wild instead of in a conference with the Pacific and Western Canada teams.  (You can read the details of the new plan on Puck Daddy here.)

I believe most Minnesota Wild fans are in favor of any plan that reduces travel to the Mountain and Pacific time zones, and this plan clearly does that if the formula is home-and-home only against the other three conferences.

I still don't like this quite as much as the plan that was floated last year (Puck Daddy link here.) because I think splitting Detroit away would be very sad, especially regarding the Chicago rivalry.  But if that's the worst thing about the new plan, Minnesota Wild fans should still love it more than the status quo.

Revisiting the objection of uneven playoffs

Last year I had this piece about several objections to the four conference format realignment that didn't make any sense to me.

Last week Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne sat down with on Dan Barrerio on K-FAN radio.  Nanne told Barrerio that he spoke with NHLPA head Don Fehr about how disappointed Nanne was about re-alignment not happening for this year and apparently Fehr told him the sticking point is that the PA doesn't like the playoff structure.  (If you would like to hear this exchange, check this link to FAN on Demand. Nanne's comments on Realignment and Olympics from about 40:00 to 42:00)

It seems everyone is worried about how unfair it is to be in a conference of eight teams versus a conference of seven if the format is to be four teams from each conference.  The basic math is that having a 4 in 7 chance (all things being equal) instead of a 4 in 8 chance to make the playoffs gives an advantage to teams in the conferences of seven.  And that is true.  But this advantage is one extra playoff appearance on average every 14 years for the teams in the conferences of seven.  I think everyone raising this as an issue is overreacting.  (I won't dwell on this too long, everything I wrote in the piece linked above still fits with my opinion.)

It isn't ideal, but I don't think it's a big enough problem to outweigh the huge advantages for TV realignment would bring.  And TV scheduling and team travel benefit from keeping the playoffs in the smaller conferences.  There won't be Minnesota Wild playoff games starting at 9pm CT when they draw Vancouver as an opponent.

Think about the follow scenarios as I try to illustrate the benefits of keeping playoffs in the division and then you can decide if this outweighs fairness to 5th placed teams that may have a better record than 4th place teams.

Let's say there are two possible playoff formats for comparison.
Format A - Top four in each of the four "new conferences" qualify.
Format B - Top 8 teams between the two "new Western conferences" as proposed qualify.

Okay let's say Minnesota wins new conference 3 and has the best record between new conferences 3 and 4.  (It'll happen someday.)  Lets say Nashville happens to come in 4th in new Conference 3 that season, and lets say that Anaheim comes in 4th in new conference 4 and has the 8th best record overall in in conferences 3 and 4. (Say two points behind Nashville.)  Which opponent is better for Minnesota to face.  Should they travel two time zones to play Anaheim, with a slightly worse record than Nashville, as in format B, or is the closer matchup with the Predators better, as in format A?

To continue with this example and add an extreme, let's say Los Angeles wins conference 4.  Should they travel to play the what would be the 7th seeded Predators if seeding done by combining conference 3 and 4, as in format B?  Or should they get to play their neighbors, as in format A?

Keeping travel down for the higher seeds seems to me to be better than worrying about 5th seeds in one conference not getting in ahead of 4th seeds in another.  I think the travel and TV benefits in the playoffs make it worth dealing with the disparity of one playoff appearance every 14 years on average.  And you'll notice my position was the same when the Wild were slated to be in a conference of eight.  And it's not hard to imagine that the NHL may eventually grow to where all teams will be in a conference of eight anyway.

But this is just one opinion from the State of Hockey, what say you?

07 February 2013

Wild Thing of the Month - January 2013.

(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.)

Well the Minnesota Wild came back in January, and the Wild would start what was their most promising season in their history.

Unfortunately, things haven't gone as well as hoped and the Wild are floating about the playoff bubble right now.

Still there is a highlight worth to be name the "Wild Thing of a Month." In a tough, high scoring game against the juggernaut that is the St. Louis Blues, Dany Heatley scored a very difficult goal to tie the game late in the 3rd.  Heatley had positioned himself on the doorstep of the St. Louis goal in a scramble.  A floating puck came down and Heatley waited for it to drop just below the crossbar before batting it in from mid-air.




The Wild would go on to lose this game in a shootout.  But this goal saved a point for the team and gave them a chance to get two from the best team in the West.  I know Heatley's critics are right to point out that this is probably the last goal Heatley has scored, and hasn't contributed a lot since this game.

But in this case, I want to award the best moment in the month mor than who was the best performer over the whole month.  So I congratulate Dany Heatley for having the Wild thing of the month.  I hope you find your way back to the front of the net soon.  The team needs you.


18 January 2013

My One Sentence NHL predictions.

Here are my one sentence NHL predicitions.

WESTERN CONFERNCE
(C- Central, N- Northwest, P- Pacific)

1> (C) St. Louis - I believe they are the deepest, most complete team
2> (P) Los Angeles - The defending champs very much belong in the converstaion
3> (N) Minnesota - May be optimistic, love the forwards, like the goaltending, and if the young D improves, they are the best team in the Northwest.

4> (N) Vancouver - Everyone except Russo has Vancouver winning the Northwest.  I think this is a team that's going to play a tougher schedule than years past and under more distractions than ever.
5> (C) Chicago - Could do better than 5th, need to stay healthy, still question in the pipes.
6> (P) San Jose - Should be okay in reg season, but LA is the new front runner in the Pacific.
7> (C) Detroit - I think Lidstrom's retirement raises many questions, but still a playoff team.
8> (C) Nashville - Obviously losing Suter hurts, but Renne is still going to be a force.

9> (N) Edmonton - Wouldn't surprise me if they squeaked in if SJ, DET or NSH have a rough spell.
10> (P) Phoenix - Still have some upside.
11> (N) Colorado - A better year, but not there yet.
12> (P) Anaheim - Might not be a good swan-song for Teemu.
13> (P) Dallas - We'll see about Jagr's impact.
14> (N) Calgary - Not a lot of hope for them.
15> (C) Columbus - Even less hope than Calgary.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
(A- Atlantic, N- Northeast, S- Southeast)

1> (N) Boston - If Rask is solid, this is the best team in the East, and will meet little resistance in their division
2> (A) New York Rangers - I still like the Rangers in the Atlantic, good team front to back.
3> (S) Washington - Even after last year's bad regular season, I can't bet against them in the Southeast.

4> (A) Pittsburgh - They might challenge the Rangers, but their playoff effort was dissapointing.
5> (A) Philadelphia - C'mon who doesn't want to see the rematch against Pittsburgh though fifth feels optimistic with Bryz's issues and other distractions.
6> (N) Buffalo - A very improved team, wouldn't surprise me to see them a little higher.
7> (S) Carolina - Two Staal's are better than one, and this team's future looks bright.
8> (S) Tampa Bay - Goaltending questions key for the bolts, but they're in if they do all right

9> (N) Toronto - The pursuit of 8th place comes up short.
10> (A) New Jersey - Hard to imagine last year's finalist falls this far, but they got troubles.
11> (S) Florida - Another team that's hard to imagine falls far, but more an issue that everyone else in their division is better than last year.
12> (A) New York Islanders - A little improvement for this team.
13> (N) Ottawa - Can't think of too many reasons to like this team.
14> (N) Montreal - Can think of even fewer reasons to like this team.
15> (S) Winnipeg - And their stupid fans will be razzing opposing, yet superior goaltenders every step of the way.


17 January 2013

Revisiting my wild preview.

Well, in case you didn't believe it would happen this year, it turns out there will be a season for the Minnesota Wild, and it is just two days away.

Shortly after the Parise and Suter signings, I had this post, which essentially amounted to an early (OK, it was  apparently six months early) season preview for Minnesota.

I don't think too much has changed.  It looks like Cullen and Bouchard will switch lines at the start.  Again, I think the Wild could have the best top 9 forward core in the West, and think the second and third lines are more of a 2A and 2B.  The Wild are going to be a very tough team to match up against, and should do well very well scoring goals against average defenses.

The defense is still the question mark.  I think most of us recognize that Suter is a total gamechanger for the blue line corps.  I think I was a little skeptical of Spurgeon in a top pairing, but last nights scrimmage has made me a believer.  However, I still think if there's a good deal out there for Fletcher to acquire a second pairing D, he should do it.  Especially with Gilbert's health now being a question.  Fletcher doesn't have to rush a deal.  As I said before Fletch holds a lot of cards in any trade, he should be able to bargain from strength if he makes a deal.  A luxury this franchise has never seen.

I admit for the first time I'm a little concerned about Backstrom, I hope he's in better form Saturday than he was last night.  He's a good goaltender, but I think the Harding signing makes it pretty obvious that this is Backstrom's last season in Minnesota with his deal coming to an end.

I don't know why people are down on the Wild's chances.  I think they are a legit contender in the conference race, and I think should be able to finish in the top four.  It's hard to put them ahead of Los Angeles and St. Louis, but I think they have a good chance to catch Vancouver, and frankly there's more to like about Minnesota's lineup than most of the Western Conference.  Even if they don't finish top four they most certainly should be a playoff team and will be a tough draw for any higher seed in the first round.

Despite signing what the media proclaimed as the two biggest free agents, most national analysts are putting them out of the playoffs or at the bubble.  Somehow I think the Wild have been underrated.

State of Hockey, I emplore you, please dare to hope!  This team is going to be exciting!

I'll have my one line league predictions tomorrow.

06 January 2013

Hooray, the Lockout is over! What do fans do?

I am glad that the NHL is returning.

At the beginning, I believed that neither side wanted to lose the season.  Based on some of my tweets, obviously my faith wavered.  In the end both sides I think got the best deal they could.  It's incredibly frustrating that this deal didn't happen three months ago, and that the lockout could've instead lasted only long enough to cancel the pre-season games.

So as fans in the State of Hockey, where do we go from here?

I can't speak for everyone, but what you want to do regarding your fandom is your business.  I know my place in the blogosphere.  If you're reading this, it's probably because your looking for a little more to read after checking out Russo, Hockey Wilderness, First Round Bust, or any other number of fine Wild fan content available in this amazing world of blogging.

That is to say, if you're reading this, your passion for hockey is probably much closer to strong than casual.  Among my twitter followers, this seems to manifest it self in one of two ways.  The majority want to find a way to further punish the NHL, boycotts, merch, swearing off the game.  Others just didn't want to care about the lockout and wanted to watch games again.

I had some moments in the former category, but honestly, I think I always knew I'd be ready to watch again.   I had one angry night during this lockout, and I tweeted some things I regret. (Something I still plan to address in a future post.)  Inspired by a Puck Daddy post, I decided to stop wearing Wild merchandise.  A decision that cut my wardrobe in half.  But I figured if there was no league, there's no reason I need to promote the team.  (By the same token, part of why I didn't blog a lot either.)

I do hope the league and PA have learned their lesson.  If the league, as they were claiming, lost $20 Million a day, then by no standard was the lockout worth it for them.  No was it worth it for players that probably just torched 10-15 per cent of their career earnings, assuming an average NHL career is about four years.

Both sides have suffered, and I believe it because it is now three times that both leaderships were interested in victory over partnership.  I can hope they learned their lesson, but if they haven't that's their fault, not mine.

I believe the NHL, especially live, is one of the best forms of entertainment in the world.  That said, if they want to torch it and hurt themselves.  I can find other things to do.  I actually reunited my love with the Vikings this year.  Unlike most American sports fans.  The NFL runs a distant second to me, but I was glad to join in and make it number one for a while.

I probably should've gone and supported more High School and College games.  There's still time for that this year though.

So I'm willing to forgive and hope for the best in 8 years.  I'll watch most games on TV, live tweet with everyone, and get tickets for a few games.

If you feel differently that's your right.  If you want to avoid the NHL, and the lockout has truly made you hate the NHL game, that's up to you.  For me, I don't see the point.  If you like the game, watch.  If you don't that's fine too.  In the end that's the only decision that should matter.

If I want to do something positive.  I'll start encouraging players and owners to start talking in four years, just in case it takes them four full years to get an extension done.