GOPHER bid for perfection falters, WILD woes continue

Marc Elliott

Gopher receiver Tyler Johnson comes  up short in bid for late score versus Iowa
Gopher receiver Tyler Johnson comes up short in bid for late score versus Iowa

MORGAN PARK… The Football Gods giveth, and the Football Gods taketh away. And so it was and is no more. Over the course of 3 hours and 16 minutes this Saturday past, the Minnesota Gophers dream of an undefeated season was vanquished in a place that has been relatively harsh and unkind to the Gophers for several years standing. The Iowa Hawkeyes had a dominating 1st half over the maroon & gold taking a 20-6 lead into the half and then held off a 2nd half onslaught by the Gophers to capture a 23-19 win thus sending the Gophers to a 9-1 season record and dropping them from a #7 National ranking to #11 this week. Since the contest came to an end I have heard quite a bit of chatter about the game and why the Gophers came up short, but at the end of the day the best explanation is that they weren’t the better team on the field Saturday. 

That’s the simplest, most honest answer available. I heard talk of this being a “trap” game for the team, and that the chance for them to lose was ripe. That’s nonsense from my view. Even late in the game when it appeared that the Gophers had an opportunity to pull ahead and leave Iowa City with a win and a protected undefeated record I was saying to myself that it would feel like a hollow victory. As much as I would have liked the streak to continue, it would have been hard to say that the Gophers deserved to win the game. They didn’t. They beat themselves and the worst thing I could say would be to not acknowledge that. They did play to their capabilities in the 2nd half, and that only leads me to believe that if they had played both halves like that, they would have won the game. No matter, Iowa has a strong team, and if you don’t show up to play 4 quarters they will hand you a bad afternoon.

They have a pretty good team, but not a great team. Just as the Gophers do. As much as I despise the lack of a real tournament to decide a D1 NCAA Football Champion, what is in place works as I believe that every season there are about 4 teams that few, if any other teams are going to beat. The Gophers and Iowa aren’t one of those four. However, the way it’s constructed now, with a computer ranking methodology taking the place of real games, there is no possibility of that odd “upset” game, no chance for Cinderella to go to the big dance and leave as royalty. That’s the way it is and the NCAA is showing no desire to change it. The FBS and the Final Four drive the overseeing bodies bank deposits and so long as they do, no “real” tourney is on the horizon. 

So, I had to do a perception check on Sunday morning and remind myself that the Gophers are still in line to finish strong and have a tremendous season. The team and the program are most definitely on the uptick and after watching years of malaise and struggle I have to engage in some gratitude and enjoy the ride, because it’s been some time since Gopher football fans have been on one like this...

THE MINNESOTA WILD had a 1-2 record from last week and while showing an occasional flash of solid play are still inconsistent and as of this writing are dead last in the NHL standings. Of course that’s based on an unequal number of games played, but as far as reality of play goes, it’s a fact that the club is likely one of the bottom 6 teams in the league. The club had a chance to finish their west coast roadie with a 3-1 record, but lost the 4th and final game of the trip 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings, a team that is very much like the Wild at this time. In fact the only thing keeping the Kings off of the bottom of the standings is their win over the Wild. Once again the Wild gave up a 2-0 lead and were playing from behind yet again. They returned home to face a much rejuvenated Arizona Coyote team on Thursday eve and in a game most analysts thought they would lose, eked out a seesaw 3-2 game that saw the Yotes’ tie them up twice before big Jordan Greenway got the GWG at 12:11 of the 3rd frame. 

I just saw the Yotes’ defeat the Kings tonight for a 3-0 win and that has propelled them into 6th place in the league standings. Go figure. The Wild followed that up with a Saturday matinee against Carolina and former Wild players Nino Neiderreiter and Eric Haula. The club was down by 2-0 and 3-1 before actually tying the game up at 3 each before succumbing early in the extra  period for a 4-3 OT loss. The point gained will hardly do much for the team in the scheme of things. All indications are that the club will finish last in the Central, close to last in the West, and most likely in the bottom 3-5 league wise. The Parise-Suter window is officially closed (if it wasn’t already) and was short lived.   

Those 13 year deals will continue to haunt the organization for a while unless another team was substantially interested in some kind of deal for either one of them and that would surely include the Wild subsidizing some of their salary. The salary cap “recapture” is such that the club is handcuffed in most any buyout or trade scenario. If anything this should demonstrate just how difficult it is to put together a Cup winner in the NHL. While it is true that during the team’s 6 season playoff run they were probably one of the top 10-12 organizations in the show, they never got over, and seemingly will now pay the price for having tried for an indeterminate number of seasons ahead. I don’t fault team owner Craig Leipold for trying, but failing to calculate how this was going to work out over a 13 season timeframe is a head scratcher. If a super-accountant were to quantify the value of the two signings to the team, I’d believe Leo is smiling away. If only the fans were… PEACE

WILD DATA; THE ATHLETIC; 25th, trending for 85 points, 19% chance for the playoffs, 1% chance for a Cup. THE SAGARIN; 27th on a 7-13 record, 2-4 vs top 10, 4-8 vs top 16 with the 4th difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; 7th of 7 in the Central, 7-11-2, 16 points, 53 GF, 69 GA, -16 Diff, 4-1-2 @ H, 3-10 @ A. 4-4-2 in L10, streak of 1 OTL. 9th in West Wild Card race (2 qualify), 15 of 15 in the West, 31st of 31 in the league. 27th/GF/53, 25th/GA/69, 18th/PP/17.7%, 9th/PK/83.6%, 16th in PIM’s with 175… OVER & OUT!