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PARK POINT…. Is it me or are a lot of fans, myself included, still waiting for the Wild to get their game together? My inner “hockey being” is telling me that we have yet to witness one game where the boys played three smooth, efficient, dominating periods of hockey in a team victory. There is the possibility that I could be wrong in my assessment, but when I broached this with the Fan Jr. yesterday he concurred with me. He said he had an overall feeling that up to this point of the season that he was still left wanting by the clubs performance. Is there more there to be had by this edition of the club?
I think so, but in contemplating an expectations versus reality scenario the Wild could be the mess that is the Pittsburgh Penguins. (they aren’t) They fired Head Coach Mike Johnston on Saturday, which in my book was both convenient and then lacking in courage since the team was off for the weekend. If I were going to do a piece on that team the headline would have to be “Out of Excuses”. I bring them up though because both Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Head Coach Mike Yeo are Pens alumni. They both had a role in that teams last Stanley Cup win. And I am guessing that both just might be glad that they are out of there.
The short of the long for the Pengwah? Mario Lemeiux was one of the greatest players ever, and in fact, if not for him the team would probably be long gone from the Steel City. But now, I don’t believe he is involved in the team enough to control it’s destiny and he and co-owner Ron Burkle are trying to find buyers for the club. I think Mario wields enough clout over the team business to muck it up but is detached to the point where he can’t have positive effect upon it in a results oriented world. Why does this team have basically a world class core group, but hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations since their 2009 Cup win?
To me, they are the new Ryan Miller Buffalo Sabres, who made people believe for years that they were better then they really were because Miller was so outstanding between the pipes. He was the front man for a band that was playing guitars without a lot of strings. Just substitute Marc Andre Fleury for Miller and there are your current Pens. Certainly they are incomplete on the blue line as of late, but even before free agent D-man losses the team still wasn’t a Cup contender. Some have blamed former GM Ray Shero for the current roster mess, others look at his replacement, former Carolina GM Jim Rutherford as having made zero impact moves since coming in and they are a Cap team to boot.
In addition, what is the theory upon which this team is constructed? After trading for high end offensive winger Phil Kessel over the summer while seemingly paying little attention to their backend, the die was cast. Someone in that organization still believes this is the freewheeling early nineties where you get a few big time scorers and that’s all you will need to contend with. The days of just “outscore” all of your opposition are gone. The Flower cannot make enough saves to rescue this defense deficient group.
If you have the talent of a Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but you are short on the backend, why do you go after a Phil Kessel over the summer? If you were going to make that sort of financial commitment to a player, why didn’t you go after a solid blue liner to bolster your roster? That deal is not on Shero, that’s on Rutherford, who in my book, had his best days as an NHL GM pass him by a few years ago. Back in Carolina this is the guy that gave well known ice slacker Alexander Semin a 5 year, $35mil contract after the Capitals got rid of him and he came in and had a one season rebound of sorts.
Well, in Saturdays purge, Johnston was cut loose along with assistant coach Gary Agnew. What was interesting was who didn’t get pink slipped. That list appears to be made up of guys who are buddies with Lemeiux. Why wasn’t Rutherford let go? How about the coach responsible for one of the worst Power Plays in the league, Rick Tocchet? Again, another bud of Mario’s. When the club drafted Crosby, I paid keen attention to him and then the same when they obtained Malkin. These are two of the best players to come down the pike in a long time. I’m not a Pens fan per se’, but when they were playing a team that was prominent upon my manure list, I pulled for them. Both Shero and former Head Coach Dan Bylsma are likeable people.
The way the team handled the firing of Shero and then Bylsma, letting him twist in the wind for almost a month after the new regime came in was about as unprofessional and amateurish as it could get. That was it for me. I no longer pull for them even if they are playing a team I detest. I just simply watch the game without emotion, and only to keep up with all things NHL. I guess one thing is clear now, the Pens do not have a long term view on anything and Mario and Burkle are set to cash out after just wasting the very finite Cup window of two of the best talents the league has ever seen… that’s detestable.
FORMER NORTHSTARS, SAINTS, AND GOPHERS Coaching Legend has passed on. Former Coach Glen Sonmor has passed away in Ontario at the age of 86. To say that Sonmor was colorful would be as redundant as saying water is wet. Sonmor wore many hats over his years in the State of Hockey, but is probably best remembered for his tenure as the NorthStars Head Coach. The 81’ Cup run and the Boston Bruins “fight night” are probably my most fond memories of him…. RIP Coach & Thanks for all…. PEACE