Friday, April 17, 2009

Winds of Change

“Nuh uh…you’re foolin’, right?”

Loosely translated, that was my reaction when one of my coworkers told me Doug Reisbrough had been fired. I thought there was no way. He insisted, and I check out the interweb (sorry IS team, I’ll do an extra 5 minutes of work this weekend) and sure enough, Wild owner Craig Leipold pulled the trigger and surprised everyone by firing DR. I am still in shock. Never saw this coming. I’m so used to hearing about the T-Wolves and Glen Taylor’s “country club” and the other pro teams here in Minny doing just enough to be almost competitive…I just never thought this was possible.

So, I did what any other tech-savvy fan would do…I posted the Strib story to Facebook. Within minutes I had comments from friends expressing their “Like” for the news. No surprise here. DR had worn thin with the Team of 18,000 and I was one of them.

I welcome the change. Whoever Leipold brings in, Reisbrough never had the guts to pull the trigger on a deal. I give him credit for building a playoff contender out of an expansion team, but it is time the Wild become a Cup contender.

What Does it All Mean?
Suddenly this summer which a week ago was going to be filled with fan uncertainty on has new drama. Sure, we don’t know what the new philosophy will be, but there is a new enthusiasm, a new hope that the new regime can bring in new talent and put together a winning product. I have hope that Leipold will bring in a well-known hockey man as GM, and a well-known hockey man as coach. I have hope that this change means Kevin Constantine is not the likely successor to Jacques Lemaire. I am prepared for a year or two of rebuilding in order to bring meaningful playoff hockey to the Xcel Energy Center. I have hope of seeing the Stanley Cup in the outstretched hands of Brent Burns and Nicklas Backstrom. I have hope of going nutso in the streets of St. Paul.

Here’s to hope.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

So Long Coach

Jacques Lemaire made it official after tonight’s 6-3 Wild win over Columbus. He will not be coaching the Wild next season. For the first time ever, the Wild will not have Jacques behind the bench.

This is a sad day. While I would enjoy a more offensive style of play, I absolutely loved Coach Lemaire’s French accent, his willingness to actually coach his superstars, and I will very much miss his post game pressers.

Obviously this brings up a ton of questions: Who will Doug Reisbrough hire to replace him? Will the style of play change? Will Jacques coach somewhere else next season? Will a team with little talent bottom out without a good coach? How long into free agency will Marian Gaborik take to find a new team? These things I’ll cover in future posts.

For now, reflect a bit on the Wild’s first 8 seasons of hockey that included a before-their-time run to the Conference Finals, two other appearances in the playoffs, and a Northwest Division title. Appreciate the foundation that a legendary coach has built.

Thank you Coach Lemaire.

Friday, April 10, 2009

All Over but the Cryin and a Meaningless Game in Columbus

Anaheim just finished off Dallas, well sortof, Dallas tried to keep the Wild in it. Steve Ott tied the game with 13 seconds to go in regulation, but it had to be a regulation win and the Wild are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Stupid 3 point games. The OTL point has got to go.

It’s the Wild’s own fault for not showing some sort of moxi over the last half of the season. Marian Gaborik has likely played his last meaningful game in a Wild sweater and Jacques Lemaire may be done as well. Get ready for a summer of teeth gnashing and Doug Reisbrough bashing.

Finally…But too Late?

This enigmatic Wild team finally showed some heart, passion, and life tonight. They played with fire, like a team that was fighting for their playoff lives. Sure wish they would have tried that a couple weeks ago.

The Wild win 8-4 tonight over Nashville, eliminating Nashville from the playoff chase and doing what they could to keep their own playoff hopes alive.

As Dick Bremer said on the Twins broadcast, “How did they score eight goals?” and Bert Blyleven added, “Wow!”

They got down 1-0 early, but Dan Fritsche worked hard on a delayed penalty call and sprung himself on a breakaway. He got the shot on net and it deflected over Nashville G Pekka Rinne (who?). That energized the crowd at the X and fired up the Wild and they went on to score 5 more goals before adding 2 empty netters as the Preds tried all they could to keep their season alive.

Dan Fritsche was rocked with a shoulder to the head by Jordin Tootoo, who I didn’t realize was such an agitator, and on the ensuing play Marc Andre Bergeron scored. I hope Fritsche turns out OK, I’ve liked his game since he came over midseason.

So in a season that has been very disappointing, the Wild finally showed me something and whatever happens, reminded me why I love Wild hockey.

Where We Stand Now
The St. Louis Blues are back in the playoffs, beating Columbus tonight 3-1. Jeff and Gilby have got to be excited. However, this was one of two teams the Wild needed to lose to keep their chances alive. So congratulations to the Blues…

That leaves one spot, and the only chance the Wild have is for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to lose to the Dallas Stars. At time of this post it is 1-1 in the 2nd intermission. This game can not go into overtime…any points by Anaheim eliminates the Wild. So the State of Hockey needs some help from its former NHL identity to keep our hopes alive. I’ll update when that goes final. GO STARS!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Remember that NHL Team…

So I haven’t written about the Wild for about a month now, since UMD started on their run in the college hockey postseason. I think subconsciously I hoped that my lack of interest might spur some sort of run for them…one of those superstitions I have. Yeah, that didn’t work. The Wizzy continued on their win one lose one pace. The Wild still have feint hope, but it all starts with winning both their final games, which tacked on to Tuesday’s win v. Dallas would win 3 in a row. Really, that just doesn’t seem possible. And even if they do pull off said 3-game winning streak, they still need either St. Louis or Anaheim to go into the toilet in their last two games, all against teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs and are looking to hit the golf courses. We’ll know tomorrow night if there is still hope – all three teams are in action. It could all be over or we could have reason to watch on Sunday.

College Hockey Side Note
Bemidji State’s Cinderella run came to an end tonight with a 4-1 loss to Miami (Ohio), the team that ousted my Bulldogs. Miami makes their first ever national championship game and will face top seed Boston University on Saturday. I guess that sort of validates Miami’s win over the Dogs. But I’m still disappointed in that loss too.

Congrats to the BSU Beavers on a great post season, and I’m pulling for you to get into the WCHA next season. Maybe even a little road trip once that new arena is finished.