Some Random Spots Thought For The Holiday Season

Marc Elliott

TWIG…. After last nights stinker in the Music City, the Minnesota Wild find themselves in 4th position in the NHL Western Conference Central division, trailing Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago while holding games in hand on each of them. Coming right up behind them, and by no means out of the hunt for a playoff spot are Nashville, Colorado and Winnipeg. After a horrendous start, the Avalanche are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the NHL going 8-2 in their last ten. Having expected more from the Jets this year then they are showing currently, they are one of the most enigmatic clubs so far.

But the Wild, from the get-go in last nights 3-2 loss appeared to be not as ready as did the Predators and they paid for it early. Netminder Devan Dubnyk didn’t look good on the goals he gave up, but on the other hand made some huge saves that probably prevented the game from being a blowout on the scoreboard. For the week the team went 2-1 in besting two struggling teams in Vancouver and the NY Rangers fairly handily before dropping the tilt to Nashville. Prior to last nights contest the Preds were 4-11 in their last 15 so you could almost make the case that this was a trap game for the Wild.

And as much as I hate to say it, the Wild usually drop those type of games this year. However, after 31 games the team is at 17-8-6 in the bizzaro world of NHL standings calculation and they are 17-14 in mine. That is good for 5th place overall in the West and 10th overall in the league. With a bit more then a third of the season past us that’s not bad, and I don’t want to highlight any negatives here, but in the quest for a shot at the Stanley Cup this team concerns me in many ways. They are 5-5-5 or 5-10 on the road. You can’t win a Cup with a poor road record unless you have home ice all the way through AND you win all of the home games. But, you aren’t going to get home ice with a lousy road record and that’s where the club is right now.

Here is a quick thumbnail of where the team is going into the Christmas week; they play the NorthStars and Les Habitants on Monday and Tuesday respectively and then Pittsburgh on Saturday after the league holiday break. In three home games I look for them to go 2-1. They will beat the struggling Pens and Habs, I don’t like the outlook versus the high flying NorthStars.

Quick stats pack;
 Goals For/14th-2.74, Goals Against Avg,/8th-2.33, Power Play/8th-20.6%, Penalty Kill/24th-77.9%, and Faceoffs/4th-51.8%. Goalie Devan Dubnyk is 17th in GAA, but is tied for 2nd in shutouts with 4. The Captain, Mikko Koivu is 20th in the points race with 8G and 21A for 29 pts. If the team can improve their PK and road record, hockey logic would dictate that they would increase their lot in NHL life. Can they do that? That’s the million dollar question at this point. In my humble opinion they are where they are right now without big contributions from players that you would think would be farther along at this point in their careers.

I am alluding to some of the clubs younger players who you may believe would be farther along at this point. Mikael Granlund has only 3 goals. Charlie Coyle has only 14 pts in 31 games. Nino Neidereitter, 12 pts, Justin Fontaine, 7 pts in 18 games. Matt Dumba is a minus 1 in 31 games. Veteran Jason Pominville has only 4 goals in 31 tilts and so on. Can the team “correct” course and make it into the elite level with this roster? We shall see….

ODDS & ENDS…. In the old AWA, Kenny Jay may have been the best and most popular loser (jobber) in it’s history. From my viewpoint he must have been about 3-3145 in his career, but in pro wrestling it takes talent to be a “loser”, hence this quote from the great Harley Race; “Kenny Jay is the best overall talent in wrestling. He was what we called a “job guy” but he could work with any human being and get a good match out of them. He would go in the ring with a big name who really couldn’t do much and make him look good, and he could get in there with a Danny Hodge or a Verne Gagne and make them look even better then they were. He was just an incredibly talented guy. That’s high praise from an all time great…

THE TEAM USA U20 WORLD JUNIOR entrants departed for Finland today for the upcoming tourney. Before departure they trimmed the roster to 24 players. Players of note locally to be named are; D-Will Borgen from St. Cloud State and D-Ryan Collins from the University of MN. Team USA will play Team Finland in an exhibition tilt on Tuesday evening in Lahti. The tourney begins on the 26th…

THE 5-7 U OF M GOPHER  football team is bowl bound (The Quick Lane Bowl) and there are any number of folks involved in the game that are promising rules changes in the off-season to prevent teams with losing records from obtaining a spot in a bowl game going forward. Personally I wouldn’t stand in the way of such a rule, and as much of a Gopher gridiron fan that I am, any self respecting coach in my opinion would have turned down the invite. I get it that you receive extra practice time, an extra game and so forth, but really. The Gophers graduated some big time talent in the off-season and it was reflected in their results. In order to get into the elite 8 teams in NCAA football today, you have to have the coach and you have to have to have the money. Most schools don’t have that and that’s why the same teams are in the hunt for the National Title every year. The Gopher chances of ever getting one of those 7-8 coaches are next to none…. PEACE & HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!