Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What to think?

What to think of all this?

Derek Boogaard is dead, the Minnesota Wild still need a head coach, and the NHL Draft is less than six weeks away. Sometimes, you just need to step back and see what the big picture is. And sometimes, you just can't see the forest for the trees.

The untimely death of the NHL's Gentle Giant, Boogaard, will be the fodder of speculation for years. Not days, not weeks, not months, but years. The bespectacled, dapper son of an RCMP family, would turn from the kindest man to fans (especially kids!) to the absolute beast of pro hockey, the undisputed heavyweight king of the NHL, the one man that you, as the enforcer for another NHL team, knew you never wanted to face down mano-a-mano on the ice, for he would, literally and figuratively, beat the hell out of you. Not even helmets would save you, as several enforcers (Jody Shelley, D.J. King, Raitins Ivanans, just to name three) found out, as Boogaard destroyed their helmets, en route to destroying THEM.

The way he died is unknown. We may never know. He was found by family in his apartment in Minneapolis' Warehouse District last Friday, shortly after returning from Los Angeles, where he was preparing to join the Twitterare with his own Twitter handle. Boogaard, who just completed his first season of a four-season deal with the NY Rangers, had been concussed in a December, 2010 fight against the young buck Matt Carkner, of the Ottawa Senators, and had been held out the rest of the season.

A concussed Boogaard was an unhappy Boogaard, staying in his in-season Manhattan apartment, unable to do what he was brought to Manhattan to do; stand up for his teammates. He said it himself: the best thing he did was stand up for his teammates. He did it for five seasons for the Minnesota Wild, until his limited minutes could not be justified with the Wild's limited amount of talent, on the 23-man roster. As his Wild career waned, his minutes diminished. But he was still the good soldier, always the fan favorite, the first one to show up at a hospital to cheer patients -- big AND small -- up. It's no surprise that Boogaard's #24 jersey was one of the all-time best-sellers at the Wild's Hockey Lodge team stores.

How to sum it up? Do I really care to? It's tough when a life so full of promise is cut short. I always thought that Boogaard would have gone into law enforcement when his playing days ended (after he had that back surgery), as kind of a 'goodwill ambassador' for the RCMP. He probably would have scared Saskatchewan straight, all by himself. Alas, we'll never know.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The long and the short of it

NHL's second playoff round may not have long to go

The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is almost over, except in Nashville, where they may end as soon as Monday.

Seems as though the contenders -- especially in the Eastern Conference -- have turned out to be pretenders, as both the regular-season leaders in the East were summarily dispatched in four straight games by Tampa Bay and Boston, respectively. The Eastern Conference Finals will be between the No. 3 seed Bruins (who will have home ice advantage) and the No. 5 seed Lightning, who bounced the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Washington Capitals in successive series.

The Washington Capitals management even sent an e-mail to their fans apologizing for their lack of success right after the four-game sweep.

The Bruins, after a grinding, seven-game series against Montreal in the first round, then went into uber-hostile Philadelphia and took two from the Flyers, then went back to TD Garden and finished off what some have dubbed, 'the new America's Team', in four straight.

In the West, the San Jose Sharks, following their six-game series win over the Anze Kopitar-less LA Kings, are one win away from throttling the Detroit Red Wings, who closed out the Phoenix Coyotes faster than the Goldwater Institute. Red Wings vs. Sharks will play tonight (Sunday) in Silicon Valley.

The other Western series, Nashville vs. Vancouver, is very surprising, considering the Predators did not know they were even IN the playoffs, until the last week of the regular season. That the Preds are playing even to the much more talented Canucks, is a testament to the system used to perfection by head coach Barry 'Uncle Fester' Trotz and his staff. Game Six in Music City will be Monday night, as the Canucks will have to travel the 2030 miles (3,270 Km for you Canadians) yet again as I write this. How many times will the Canucks be able to face comeback after comeback before they are eliminated, once and for all?

Should the Canucks survive somehow (again) whoever plays them will be facing a team which will be bloodied, beaten up, but as yet not unbowed. That will be for some other team to do. I really wonder how much Vancouver fans know their team is hated across North America. Sure, some who take a less opinionated view say that they are a great team, and that they are -- they have the talent, and the skill -- but do they have the will to win?

I haven't seen it from the men in those hideous blue uniforms yet. Nor in the end do I think we will.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

That's what Minnesota Wild fans are doing right now. Waiting. Waiting. And, more waiting.

While the rest of the NHL plays on in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Wild sit on the sidelines (or at the tee box), like 22 other NHL teams. Waiting for the right person to become available to be named the team's third head coach. Waiting for June 24th and 25th, when the NHL Amateur Draft takes place at the 'X'. Waiting for July 1st, the start of NHL Free Agency, when the Wild can shed themselves of more of the dead weight that permeated the 2010-2011 club, dragging Wild fans thru the 'March to Hell' stretch drive. When we can finally end the charade that has been the James Sheppard era (sorry, Russo, you and I disagree here. Shep needs a change of scenery. For his sake, and the sake of the club) and clear him off the books, once and for all.

When the Wild can also split up the 'Finnish Mafia' and say 'kiitos' and 'adios' to Antti Miettinen and his lack of goal-scoring ability. Artists with broad sides of barn paintings all over Minnesota, are weeping as the date approaches.

Although he should be offered a community job in the organization, Andrew Brunette's days on the Wild playing roster are, indeed, numbered.

Buh-Bye, Chuck Kobasew. Your presence these last two seasons are now costing us a top-40 draft pick. Hope all will be well, wherever you wind up.

Sorry, Josh Harding. You got caught up in a numbers game. You'll find a job somewhere. You're too young and too good to be cast aside, but the $$ money numbers caught up with you.

Also skee-daddling off the roster will be mid-season pick-up Jed Ortmeyer, the former Nashville Predator, who really wishes he was still on THAT roster right about now.

The Wild need to get more talent on the big league roster. Fast. Otherwise, there will be more than shoes dropping at 317 Washington St., St. Paul.

Maybe even a few heads.