Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now THAT's what I call a 'Wild week!'

WRT's This 'n' That takes a look at the week that was Minnesota Wild

Good morning, Wild world. Had a good week? You've probably had a better one than now ex-President/GM Doug Risebrough has.

After all, when 91% of those polled on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website say that your boss did the right thing for his business by firing you, I think that even you'd get the hint.

Wild owner Craig Leipold did. For once in Minnesota sports history, the owner actually listened to the 'stakeholders' -- i.e., we the fans, who pay really good money to support this franchise -- and actually started to correct the single largest problem facing the Wild, that being the blatant arrogance and the 'We know better than you do' attitude emanating from 317 Washington St., St. Paul.

Maybe it's not always that you know more, folks. Maybe it's that you think you know more, when you really don't.

And now, after DR has been sent packing and the rest of the staff waits for whomever gets to occupy the big chair, the stories come out in the media of how arrogant this Wild administration really was.

The Brent Burns stories told by his agent, Ron Salcer (who also happens to be the agent for Marian Gaborik, UFA-soon-to-be) are almost beyond belief. You play six weeks with a concussion? How Burns even functioned at all, day-to-day, is a testament to his character, as he played 20% of the schedule after getting his bell rung in the first practice following the All-Star break. The amazing part to me is that no one on the Wild medical staff stepped in on the player's behalf with DR or Jacques Lemaire and said, 'enough of this. He's got a concussion. Don't play him.'

At this rate, I wouldn't have listened to the medical staff, either. Maybe Gaborik's timing for his hip surgery was not all that bad, after all; maybe telling DR beforehand was the big mistake that Gaby made and what set DR off (again).

Gaborik and DR were like oil and water; they were never going to see eye-to-eye on anything, regardless of how one side or the other might be able to bend somewhat towards the other's position. The irresistible force (DR) indeed met the immovable object (Gaborik) and the collisions occurred. Quite frankly, I wouldn't blame Gaborik for never wanting to play in a Minnesota Wild sweater again, except for the fact that now the dynamics have drastically changed following the firing of DR and the resignation of Lemaire. Although it might be too late in the process to do anything, there still is time to play 'Let's Make a Deal', if both sides feel it would be in their best interest. But time is, indeed, running out. Leipold, in the role of Monty Hall, better show up soon with that 'Big Deal of the Day', or Gaborik goes away for absolutely nothing.

Leipold has made it quite clear that he wants to keep Gaborik; let's see if the Wild's owner can get done what his Hockey Operations staff wouldn't.

Protect his largest single asset, while the Wild still have it.

How does this affect other parts of the Wild organization?

Good question. A lot depends on who they bring in to replace both Risebrough and Lemaire. Although the ideal candidate is Detroit Asst. GM Jim Nill, the Red Wings are loathe to let him go. The candidate who's made the most noise is ex-Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster. Feaster, who was fired after the 2007-08 season, watched as the team which had won the final Stanley Cup prior to the strike/lockout 'lost season' of 2004-05 crashed and burned following the end of the dispute. Other 'name' candidates include Chicago Asst. GM Rick Dudley (formerly with Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Florida; originally, a former Buffalo Sabres' defenseman), Pat Quinn (formerly with Vancouver and Toronto; at one time, was a beat cop in Toronto) and ex-Columbus GM Doug McLean. Also in the mix is TSN (and NBC) hockey analyst Pierre McGuire; current Wild Asst. GM Tom Lynn is also under consideration. Leipold plans to start interviewing next week, as the NHL draft is less than 10 weeks away, and both GM and Head Coach need to be hired by that time.

For the sales staff, what they get to sell now is simple: When you have nothing else to sell in sports, you sell hope. Hope that a change in administration brings about new ideas, new attitudes, new players (Leipold isn't afraid to spend money, and the Wild generate more revenue per night than any other NHL team, save for Toronto) and new results. Leipold was not pleased when the Wild missed the playoffs earlier this month, and that dissatisfaction was strongly let be known throughout the Wild complex. Minnesota has never seen a pro sports team owner who has been like this. This guy actually wants to win, not only at the box office, but on the ice as well. Now that Leipold has a 'lay of the land', he wants to be the proverbial earth mover.

Wild fans like major improvements to their landscape. So, will the Wild get another honeymoon, with years of more Xcel Energy Center sell-outs as the team re-tools and the philosophy changes to fit the style of the new management staff? Probably. Already, the Wild exodus of season ticket holders stopped, virtually overnight. Some people are still skeptical, but most are willing to give the new regime (whomever that may wind up being) at least one chance to improve on this past season's woeful record. The sniping of the Wild on various message boards across the Web has also stopped. Now, can the new management keep it stopped? Will they actually improve? How long until they can actually compete at a higher level? How long will it take to get above the '20 or so in the middle', as DR called the majority of NHL clubs, that are all together as they come down to the wire in late March and early April?

It will, indeed, be an interesting next few months. Enjoy the ride, Wild world.


Anonymous said...

What statistics do you have to back up the "Wild generate more revenue than anyone save Toronto" statement?

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

The Toronto Sun did a survey of average revenue by team during the 2007-08 season (the last year for which figures were available) and the Leafs came out as No. 1, Wild at No. 2.

I believe the number for the Wild was something in the neighborhood of $6.1 million dollars every time they opened the gates to the 'X'. (Leafs were, I think, $6.8 million/game.)

the Cunning Linguist said...

As a hockey fan, I hope this team re-signs Gabby and he finds a way to stay healthy.

As a Canucks fan, I hope Gabby signs with a team in the East.