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ST. PAUL… In the business world it demands a certain level of chutzpah and moxie to get to the top, and even more to stay there. There is timing of course, there is the quality of your product or service involved, and then the sheer enormity of getting that out into the public domain if your goal is market dominance for that product or service. Because of the human elements involved in a professional sports venture, it just might be a little tougher than a business where a dependency on machinery, computers and so on makes or breaks you. One thing that is constant though between the two is human decision making. In business the machines or computers do nothing without human input. In sports, athletes don’t really do much either without internal or external human input. And like business, key decision making will make you… or break you.
Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold is a successful businessman. His wife Helen Johnson, hails from a highly successful family. I can only imagine the number of high level decisions they’ve had to make over the years regarding their business ventures, and now in particular, with the management of the Wild. Relative to that process is consistency and dedication. After a couple of seasons transition from the Naegele team to Leipold’s administration the team enjoyed a stretch of consistent competition, proving to be at least one of the top dozen franchises in the NHL both on the ice and off. You can question the price they paid to do that, but few teams go on runs of making the playoffs six seasons consecutively.
And now, after resuming play this Saturday evening past, a brutal 6-1 dismantling at the hands of the Boston Bruins, it’s apparent the club will not make the Stanley Cup tournament for the second season in a row. This begs the question; just how good of a decision maker-business person is Leipold? Sure, all NHL clubs have GM’s, a full staff of people who study the game, the players involved and advise those that ultimately make all of the biggest decisions, but at the end of the day, how has Leipold digested that data? How much influence has he wielded over the major decisions of the club? I can still hear the refrain of him stating that he wasn’t interested in hiring a GM that wants to go into “rebuild” mode with the club during the Chuck Fletcher replacement process. We all know what’s happened since.
Most of us know the models for successful business people, they range from the heartless, ruthless, non-human type-A personality types to those who put the human equation at the forefront of all decisions they make. I’ve studied all of them and lean more toward the human side. What good IS success if you had to run over scores of people to get it? I view Leipold as being of that school. But I also must admit that last summer, when the club was seemingly not going to make any major moves to bolster the roster OR declare that it was time for a rebuild, I had to wonder if Leipold was so dedicated to this roster that he had become incapable of seeing the inadequacies of the team he possessed.
Then the State of Hockey earth tremor producing decision to cut the cord on GM Paul Fenton was made. That was some hard core moxie right there. But, he had no choice other than to repair the hiring error he had made and it was too late to make any major maneuvers with the roster. I had thought that he brought on Fenton because he was a friend, it was an easy hire, and he was seemingly willing to go along with Leipold’s “no rebuild-tweaks only” theory. So does that mean that Leipold’s commitment to the human element of his sports business is too far in one direction? That is how I feel at this moment. I’d like to think Guerin knows what he needs to do and knows it will be a process. I’m still not quite certain if Leipold realizes it yet. There will be no easy way to do what needs to be done here. There are likely to be some unhappy campers in the process. But what’s the old Bob Sugar saying? It’s not “show friends”, it’s “show business”. For the Minnesota Wild it’s time to get down to that business… PEACE
I HEARD A GOOD debate recently on NHL Hockey Radio about the current playoff format. There was a host involved and a former player turned analyst. The retired player stated that the current format was put in place to save travel expenses and didn’t take anything else into consideration. He complained that the way it is setup at the moment eliminates a lot of “great” teams in the first round. Well, to me that means parity has fully evolved or maybe those teams weren’t so great after all. Is there a “perfect” playoff format? Probably not. Someone is assured to get irritated no matter how that playoffs are mapped out. If it was determined that a reboot was needed though, what would be the way to go? If staying with the Conference showdown format, would scrapping the early divisional formatting be prudent? Do fans really care about that? What of a 1 thru 8 seeding format irrespective of divisional rivalry with re-seeding taking place after each round?
What if the league got rid of the Conference formatting altogether and had a tourney featuring the best 16 teams at the end of the regular season? If that were put into effect, just looking at the league standings as of this morning, (of course, with an unequal number of games played to date) there would be 10 Eastern clubs in and only 6 Western teams. Would that be a positive for the NHL? Would it be incentive for clubs to push harder in the regular season for every single point they could get? There are a plethora of questions to be asked and answered if the playoff format was ever put on the table again. For me, I still like the idea of Conference Champions, so I’d lean to the scrapping of divisional consideration. Dump the Wild Card scenario and go with the 1 thru 8 seeding. What say you?
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 22nd, trending for 87 points, 19% chance at the playoffs, 0% chance for a Cup. The SAGARIN, 24th on a 23-28 record, 6-11 vs top ten, 10-15 vs top 16, with a 7th ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; 7th of 7 in the Central on a 23-22-6 record for 52 points. 14-7-4 @ H, 9-15-2 @ A. 4-5-1 in L10, 1-2 in SO, streak of 1L. 17th/GF/156, 27th/GA/170, 13th/PP/20.0%, 30th/PK/73.5%, and 14th in PIM’s at 411… D-man Nick Seeler was waived SUN AM, claimed by CHI this AM… OVER & OUT!