Stupor Bowl week is here and return of the Wild

Marc Elliott

HIBBING –  We are roughly seven days away from that annual corporate sports orgy otherwise known as the Super Bowl. The game itself is occasionally exciting, there will be an epic TV commercial or two shown during the game that will both amuse viewers and stay in their collective psyche for a few days or more, but for the most part it has become an over-the-top extravaganza of American excess with so much self-love and syrup dripping from it that I can barely watch past halftime. And of course that requires that the game itself be at least somewhat competitive.  

But for crying out loud, many of them haven't been that great or entertaining, so watch at your own discretion. My disposition regarding the event hasn't been helped by the fact that my beloved Minnesota Vikings have lost each of the four Bowls they've appeared in and haven't even been in one for 47 years now. No matter, the fact that I grew up around it has rendered me unable to just let go of it in total and stick with my fave of faves, ice hockey.  

I can recall the very first Super Bowl in 1967 though. I was sitting in the living room of close friend Eduardo Odio Jr. and one other friend and Dr. Eduardo Sr. would duck in every now and then to see what was going on in the game but I honestly don't think he understood American football too much or was even interested. Nonetheless the game featured the Green Bay Packers versus the Kansas City Chiefs. In a game that wasn't that close or entertaining the Pack won going away by a 35-10 final.  

I don't recall much about the production value of the game but suffice it to say it was the very first one and was nowhere close to the event we bear witness to these days. It was akin to watching a really important college bowl game or the like.

And from a competitive standpoint, with the AFL still in its very early years, it was pretty much a pro team against a college team. The Pack would romp in the next year's game too against the Oakland Raiders. (33-14)  

So the Pack were kind of "gifted" a couple of titles and we all know how the NFL and the Super Bowl have evolved since. If I were to watch a replay of one of those games today, I'd probably start laughing. Everything has to begin somewhere though, and it is what it was back in that era. The NFL and the game itself have gone on to dominate the pro sports landscape here.  

This season the big game will once again feature the Chiefs and they will be facing another team with some successful history in the San Francisco Forty Niners. The Chiefs are looking to repeat last year's win and the Niners are looking for their first title since 1995. When San Fran won it that year that elevated their Super Bowl record to 5-0. They stand at 5-2 at this time after dropping Super Bowl LIV (54) to the Chiefs in a 31-20 defeat.

The Chiefs are appearing in their sixth Bowl and stand at 3-2 all-time.   So, who will do what with which to whom? While I believe this tilt could go either way I do feel that the veteran savvy of the Chiefs may prove to be too much for the Niners to overcome. I give a nod to the Chiefs in coaching with Andy Reid going up against Kyle Shanahan. I have to acknowledge the Chiefs at quarterback with Patrick Mahomes versus the relative newcomer Brock Purdy. Don't get me wrong, Purdy is pretty good or his team wouldn't be in the big game but I must give deference to experience. In sports there really is no substitute for it.  

With all other factors considered I simply have a feeling that the Chiefs will pull out a close one to repeat. And whatever you do, don't underestimate the influence that alleged CIA agent, Joe Biden campaign Chair and anti-MAGA provocateur Pop music superstar Taylor Swift will have upon this contest. It's all aligning for the Chiefs. They prevail 27-21.  

The Minnesota Wild literally and figuratively limped into their bye and All-Star break by dropping two very important tilts that they held leads in and ended up losing them in regulation time and went away with no standings points in either. The worst loss of the two came against staunch division rival Nashville in what is known as a "four-point" game. (two points for you and no points for your rival) If you happen to be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, those losses are season-killers.  

As the club embarks on the final 33 tilts of the regular season do they possess any chance at a playoff berth at this juncture? To get a feel for that let's look at the team's performance thus far. Their record at the break stands at 21-28 for 47 points. (21-23-5) Standings-wise they are 7th in the Central Division and sit at 13th in the overall Western Conference standings. As unbelievable as it may be, they are only 7 points removed from the last wild card spot available.  

On the other hand that emphasizes the need for them to go on an extended win streak and for some teams above them to go on a down stretch. What's the likelihood? I'd say that in the NHL it isn't a good thing for your playoff invite to be dependent on any other factors other than how you are playing and controlling your own destiny.  

Injury-wise we know that team Captain Jared Spurgeon is done for the year and will undergo hip and back procedures soon. Other players of consequence out at this time are Pat Maroon, Marc Andre' Fleury and Marcus Foligno. They are all day to day. Connor Dewar and Vinnie Lettieri are still on the IR with return status unknown. I do believe that Lettieri is close to a return though. This has rendered the nightly lineup card into a "who's available" situation.  

No matter, this team doesn't appear to have the juice necessary to pull back into a playoff spot, with or without the injured talent. A few publications had the Wild as a preseason playoff entrant but that has slipped.  

They are currently at 22nd on the list of one publication with only a 17% shot at a playoff berth. For reasons unbeknownst to me The Sagarin rating still has the team at 17th on their listing. They show an 8-9 record versus the top ten teams and a 9-18 record versus the top 16. They do have the 4th-ranked toughest difficulty of schedule. Can the team overcome the seven-point deficit and compete for a spot?  

I'm uncertain. Every time they've gotten close this year they have lost the next tilt that would have placed them within reach.

Does GM Bill Guerin have any Aces up his sleeve? I think not. If he did he surely would have pulled them out by now. I feel that when post-break play resumes on Wednesday eve, (@ CHI) the boys will be playing out the season. PEACE