Sunday, January 22, 2012

'Mamma Otter' should be ashamed

Steve Ott's mother should call up her son, one of the NHL's biggest instigators, the reigning Western Conference's biggest cheap-shot artist (now that Matt Cooke is a Penguin, and Chris Neil is still in Ottawa), and tell him he gets no more presents.

If I was a Dallas Stars fan, I'd be embarrassed in Ott's performance last night. Now, granted, he was once again a beast in the face-off circle (winning 5 of 6), but the nine minutes in penalties he took last night, trying in vain to aggravate the Minnesota Wild, was one of the dumbest exhibitions of 'me first' hockey even I had seen in a while. (And, as a Wild fan, we've seen a lot of those this last five weeks.)

Ott's antics, which grow especially weary on the offensively-challenged and thin-rostered Wild, need to be reviewed by the League, if they are indeed concerned for 'player safety'. Is hitting a player (Darroll Powe) after the whistle a good example of 'safe play'? Is hitting a player when he is already down after the play has been blown dead (Cal Clutterbuck) an example of 'safe play'? Is hitting a player (Powe, again) in a fight, after the other combatant has stopped fighting, and has been restrained by the official, an example of 'safe' conduct?

Hardly, except in the eyes of the NHL, where 'Sheriff' Brendan Shanahan, will once again turn a blind eye to Ott's antics, based in part to what team it was done to. Shanahan hated the Wild when he played for Detroit, hated them when he was a Ranger, and still hates the Wild today, when he is a NHL pseudo-big shot.

Ott will skate away, to terrorize other teams whom have already been victimized (like Anaheim, the Stars' opponent in each of the next two games) and whose roster is about to be gutted at the upcoming trade deadline.

Saying 'I don't hate your team' is one thing, Shanny. Doing something about the problem of incidiary pugilism, for the sole purpose of personal vendetta, is a whole 'nother can o' worms.

The Wild took this Ott-inspired attack as inspiration for the 5-2 win Saturday night, as the Wild took their vengeance out in the right way, the proper way. The way you should. Scoreboard!

(Maybe Shanahan will have a hearing on the Wild, for taking advantage of the poor, hapless Stars.)

Now, on the other side of the coin, Chad Rau's family should be absolutely ecstatic this Sunday morning. Chad scored his first NHL goal, in his first NHL game, in front of his family, while just 6 miles to the west, little brother Kyle was just leaving Mariucci Arena, after helping the University of Minnesota split a weekend series with Colorado College.

Rau's mom and dad were beaming, like only parents who have their offspring achieve the success they never could, can. There is nothing like this for a parent. You say to yourselves, 'we've done our job'. And so, we congratulate the Rau family on their child's achievements. You done good.

Now, two of the remaining three games between the Wild and the Stars will be at the AAC in Dallas, including one less than two weeks from now, And, more than likely, it will denegrate into a donnybrook, more than likely led by...Ott. The Wild have lost their last 14 games in Texas; will the rememberance of this game be enough to break the NHL's longest visitor's losing streak in the same arena?

And as for Steve Ott's mom? He'd better watch out, or she'll be sitting outside his condo in the 'Plex, rolling pin in hand...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thoughts of the Mound City

Just some thoughts after a weekend trip to St. Louis, where we saw the Wild lose, 3-2 in the shootout:

1. Thank God for the Budweiser tour. And, the hospitality room afterwards. Thank you, ABInBev.

2. Super Smokers in ex-urban (it's 35 minutes from Scottrade Center) Eureka, near Six Flags Mid-America, really did us proud for dragging our group of six out there on a Sunday afternoon. What a barbecue they whip up for you. If you like real BBQ (good kind, no sauce 'til you put it on) this is the place for you. Dee-licious!

3. I am of the opinion that Drury Hotels should be the 'official fan hotel provider' of the NHL. Gotta love their quality. And, the food that they throw in (full breakfast and snack-type dinner) is a plus for your wallet.

4. Lambert-St. Louis Airport should be condemned. Soon. Get terminals that work, please.

5. Stop rebuilding freeways, MoDOT. Every time I come to St. Louis,  I-64 is getting re-done. (Although the new section really is a thing of beauty, if you can call a freeway anything other than an eyesore.)

6. Hopefully the new ownership (whomever that will be) of the Blues will sink a few bucks into Scottrade Center. The old girl is kinda looking down at the heels a bit. And, while you're at it, how about more than 4" of room between my knee and the head of the guy sitting in front of me? (Sometime, I gotta try those club seats, though. They look like someone put a few minutes' thought into making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. And, they might have succeeded.)


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Biting the hand that (helps to) feed you

Well, the Minnesota Wild are, indeed, in outright free-fall now. There is no sugar-coating it anymore. No excuses that can easily be accepted. No way to hide the inimitable fact:

This is a bad hockey team right now.

The last three games (Phoenix at home, at Vancouver, at Calgary) are prima facie evidence as to the 'Limbo theory' of hockey: 'How low can you go'?

The Wild have managed to lose to two teams, which you should have beaten like a drum (Phoenix and Calgary), and one that your talent level should have been able to keep up with (Vancouver), in an eight-day stretch where you returned two of your top-6 forwards and one of your top-4 defensemen to the lineup. Yes, the Wild have had injuries, but what team this season hasn't? The Wild are without Guillaume Latendresse, but other players (Sidney Crosby, Chris Pronger, others) have also been concussed, and their teams carry on without them. (In fact, four of the next five Wild opponents now have players on their rosters who are suffering post-concussion symptoms.) The good teams learn to get along without pieces of their puzzle when players are injured. The good teams find ways to persevere. The good teams find ways to turn adversity into triumph. Good teams find ways to win.

The Wild are now finding different ways to lose. There is no depth as to the embarrassment this team will drag itself into. The 2011-2012 Wild find themselves now inexorably linked to the 1999 Vikings, the 1994 Twins, and numerous Gopher football teams (of the last 50 seasons) as Minnesota sports team public embarrassments, that allowed major milestones by opposing players to happen against them. Jarome Iginla's 500th goal, a double-deflection Saturday night off the skates of Marek Zidlicky and Mikko Koivu, is just another sign as to the depths that this franchise has driven itself into. Like Rod Carew's 3,000th hit, the biggest collapse in NFL conference championship history, and numerous Big Ten and NCAA record football record days (not to mention two losses to 1-AA -- or whatever division they call it these days -- North Dakota State), the Wild have managed to be reminded of the embarassing way they played Saturday night, for all time. The players will be at home in the Czech Republic (Zidlicky) or Finland (Koivu), watching old NHL 'remember when' video, and watching that lack of effort again, and again, and again, and again...

And, then, if you could add injury to the insult that was the last game in Calgary for this season, inexplicably, one of the forwards dissed Minneapolis Star-Tribune Wild beat writer Michael Russo after the game when Russo, doing nothing other than what he was hired to do, asked the player for a moment of his time. The player responded with, 'I have #*$& to get done'.

Uh, excuse me there. Part of your job is to interact with this man. Part of the reason you exist is the excitement in the community from what Russo generates. Part of the reason you have a contract, a contract that allows you a living playing a game, a contract that can feed you, and your family, is the buzz that is reported in the newspaper, on the radio, online, and thru social media. (Including this blog, by the way.) Russo (and Bruce Brothers, at the St. Paul Pioneer Press) are the two people you should least consider to brush off. The fact that you did it at all is bad enough. The fact that it was done, when your team needs all the friends it can get right now, especially in light of a 1-7-2 record in your last ten games, makes it that much worse. The fact that you did it to one of the two people that basically you can't get away from, (as they are assigned by their employers to follow you), makes it absolutely inexcusable.

Can you be disappointed? Yes. Can you be angry? I hope you are! (Might make you play better.) Can you improve your game? I hope you can! But don't take your frustrations out on those who attempt to help keep that lifestyle, which your talent and work up to this point have allowed you to earn, in the public eye. The fact is that without a Russo, this team could have easily been the second coming of the Atlanta Thrashers; a team which played to half-empty houses, garnered no press, couldn't get on TV, generated absolutely zero buzz in the community, and finally packed up and moved out after losing so often, that the fans just stopped coming, and the bills stopped getting paid.

So, dear Wild player, please stop and think, before you blow off the everyday beat writer. He's doing his job, just like you're doing yours. You need him, in order for you to survive and thrive in this environment, more than he needs you. Your environment is a product of your poor play in the last month. Don't like your environment? Change it. Work harder. Play smarter. Start winning again.