Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thoughts on a 4-point weekend

Back-to-Back wins leave Wild fans wondering, 'Could this be for real?'

Two down. And only 46 to go.

As the abbreviated NHL season of 2013 unwinds across North America, three things are becoming apparent:

1. The Vancouver Canucks are in serious trouble. As are the Detroit Red WingsNY Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and any team whose games are shown on NBC twice in one weekend.

2. The Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues are as good as advertised. And, the Calgary Flames are as bad as feared.

3. The Minnesota Wild are living up to the lofty expectations to which the franchise is being held to by their fans. So far, anyways.

The Wild, having dispatched the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Saturday night, then turned around and then made Zach Parise's first goal with the Wild stand up to a 1-0 win Sunday night against the Dallas Stars, in no small part due to the shutout work of Josh Harding, backup goalie extraordinaire. Harding's 7th career shutout came with 25 saves against a Dallas team who had won at home the night before.

So, what to think? Or, is it just too early to have any opinion whatsoever?

The next six games should separate wheat from chaff, as the Wild play the Nashville Predators, Red Wings, Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, and Anaheim Ducks. In the next ten days. With three of those six games in St. Paul. After eight games, or 1/6th of the schedule having been played by then, the cream should rise to the top in the Western Conference.

At least, we HOPE it will. The contenders and the pretenders will sort themselves over the first half of this abbreviated season; then March and April should be about playoff positioning.

All this, while teams are still trying to sort things out. The lack of a real pre-season has not helped any team. The West, especially, is already starting to sort itself out. That's why winning early is key. Every win now is worth two (or more) in April, in my opinion.

So, Wild fans, sit back, and relax. Until the next game. Because it will come sooner, much sooner than even WE are ready for.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Grudge? WHAT grudge?

Overwhelming support for Minnesota Wild return runs Ticketmaster out of seating for Wednesday night inter-squad scrimmage

What would happen if the Minnesota Wild held a scrimmage, one where they actually flew in the Houston Aeros on a charter, opened it up for free, and then no one showed up to see it?

We definitely won't know this week. And, we may never know.

The Wednesday night scrimmage, the second (of two) scheduled this week at Xcel Energy Center as the Wild start their abbreviated training camp, has run out of General Admission tickets. Literally.

The Wild announced shortly after 7:00 PM Sunday night, that there were no more tickets available for the public, as they were holding the rest back for Season Ticket Holders, many of whom would not be able to get to their Wild accounts until they arrived at work on Monday.

The fact that the Wild ran out of seats for the public, might show that 'all is forgiven' for the 113-day lockout, which officially ended late Saturday night as the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to a new, 10-year (hopefully) labor agreement. Then again, it just might be the $10 food voucher that attendees will receive upon entering the arena.

So, with a full house of 18,000-plus expected, the Wild enter the shortened 48-game season with unbridled optimism, as this season features the most talent this team has seen in its' 13-year history.

So we will see what will actually happen on Wednesday. We may see you there. If you're lucky enough to grab a seat.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

We're baa-ack! (Sort of...)

The lockout is over.

Labor peace has washed over the contentious relationship between the NHL and its' players. But as many others already this morning have mentioned, there are no winners in this protracted, farcical scenario. Only losers.

The NHL Owners have lost the trust of the players, the very employees that they make their obscene amounts of money off of, possibly forever. The turning of the owner-player relationship at the highest levels of the sport, into an adversarial exercise in 'He said, He said', dragged the dispute into rarely-seen levels of discourse.

The NHLPA have also lost the trust of the owners, to help build and expand the reach of the game thru their own efforts, and the fact that the game was taken away from North America's hockey fanbase with very little apology or rancor has little, if any, effect on any player or players' agent.

And the fans? Those who pay the freight for both sides to enjoy the record revenues of the last five seasons?

BOTH SIDES ignored the fans. BOTH SIDES ignored the facts. BOTH SIDES ignored reason, and all sort of common sense.

And the fans are the ones coming out the worst in all this. Yes, we hockey lovers are a very gullible lot; we will return whenever they throw open the gates. But we are, indeed, jaded about the sport we love as we wait for the revised, 50-game schedule to be released (sometime today or, more likely, tomorrow). "Oh, this will be the BEST hockey."

Yeah, right. Now show me that you care. Show me that you want me back. Show me that you, Craig Leipold, Wild CEO, want me to keep spending my entertainment dollar at your establishment.

Or, just let me get my money back after the season ends, and let's go our separate ways.

Time to put up, or shut up, Minnesota Wild.