I only caught the last 2 periods of the Wild game on Saturday, and you've already read far more about it than you probably want to. So I'm not going to re-hash the game itself.
The "Richards goes bananas, pulls a Herbie" (wink wink) in practice on Sunday story is a little more interesting to me. It smacks of desperation, although I'll paint it as "on behalf of the coach to get his guys to buy in." But it's a little pathetic and a lot telling. I mean, now that Richards has used the "nuclear option" where does he go next? Back to being a "players' coach"? Hard to see how he'd ever be able to go back to the nuclear option in that case. But does he keep the hardass routine in play? Doesn't seem to be his preferred M.O. I'm just concerned that he's painted himself into a corner and, as desperation tends to do, he's trying to come out of it fists swinging. Seems a short-term solution.
It also amazes me that a group of so-called professional athletes would require that kind of motivation. I know it happens in all sports, but it amazes me when it happens nonetheless. You wonder if there's just the dreaded lack of "chemistry" in the room, if the coach's message isn't getting through, or what.
The owner is on record as expecting a playoff berth this season. Having just played to the first non-sellout in regular season history, everyone can see why. If it's a personnel thing then I'm not worried that Fletcher will do what's necessary. Regardless of whether or not he decides to excise the coach or the players. However, until the team negates "effort" as the issue, it's harder to see it as a player issue than a coaching issue.
I took in my first AHL game of the season, my wife and our kids joining me at the Amerks game against the Phantoms last evening. The Amerks prevailed 5-2, with ex-NHLer Michael Nylander sparking the offense (2-2-4) and Jacob Markstrom playing pretty effectively (albeit against either a bad Phantoms team or a Phantoms team having a bad night) in goal for the home side.
Markstrom is a big goalie, who plays deep (as I'd presume bigger goalies are wont to do.) But he's surprisingly mobile and he doesn't simply drop down as a default move. He's pretty patient in the net. I'd think that patience plus a reticence to be more aggressively on top of his crease might be an issue if he faces NHL-caliber snipers, but, last night anyway, it was effective. The only thing about Markstrom's game that I saw that I didn't like was playing the puck. Let's just say it led to some adventures for him.
Phantoms goalie Brian Stewart, on the other hand....ugh. The write-up on the Amerks' site says it was Stewart's first game with the Phantoms this season. Maybe he was nervous....or maybe he's just not very good. Terrible footwork, horrible reads, questionable technique, and there are the five goals against. Kid looked like he was way over his head.
Anyway, it was a family four pack night so we got four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $52 (USD). We were in the front row of the balcony level - but it's such a small building that there really aren't any bad seats for hockey. As it was, we were not appreciably farther from the ice than you could be in a NHL building if you were at the back of the lower bowl. It was a nice, cozy affair.