In sports, I despise quitters.
We all know this season's over for the Wild. We all know it's been a demoralizing experience. We know it's over at least in large part because they're under-skilled relative to the legit teams in the conference and league.
And, to an extent, I can understand (which is not the same as saying I can accept) listless performances. I frankly didn't expect anything else last night in Vancouver. Vancouver is certainly one of those aforementioned legit teams.
But what I did expect was for the guys to continue to show some heart and some balls - for each other, if for nothing else - through the end of the season.
Heart and balls were nowhere to be found on the Wild side of the equation last night. And that is shameful.
Justin Falk, big defenseman, rookie, trying to break in on the team. I have major concerns about him now. Seems a little thin based on the one game, right? Not when that one game included his two utterly disgraceful acts of spinelessness. In a game where the Canucks were only playing for their fans, Bieksa - a defenseman - runs Backstrom (Canucks were leading 2-0 at this point and everyone knows that might as well have been 27-0 given where the Wild is right now) with Falk, all 6-5 of him, standing right there. Not even a blink of an eye.
That ought to have been the type of situation Falk was dreaming of. A chance to show you've got some balls, and are willing to stick up for your guys. Intead? Nada. Nathan.
That would have been bad enough. But when Hansen nailed Butch with, if not a dirty hit, at least one that put young Puddin' Head in danger, Falk was in a position to be a first responder and again, we saw nothing.
Presumably Falk is aware of Butch's recent struggles with the effects of post-concussion syndrome. You'd like to think Falk was feeling shame from completely wimping out earlier when Bax got run. So, his lack of reaction to Butch getting nailed (again, the score/situation itself ought to have rendered Hansen's hit on THAT particular Wild player egregious enough to draw an adverse reaction from the Wild) was simply inexcusable. Unless, of course, he doesn't WANT to show the team he deserves a legit chance at a roster spot.
Obviously, it wasn't only Falk who failed to step up last night. There were other guys on the ice with him and Backstrom and Bouchard during those respective incidents. And the rest of them are just as guilty of not showing up for their team mates.
And that's what's so shameful and telling here. This team has quit. They've quit on the season. They've quit on the coach. They've quit on the fans. They've quit on the owner who pays them. And, most shamefully, they've quit on each other. There's no "we band of brothers" in that room. I don't want to hear any bullshit rhetoric from anyone on that roster about "we have to prove to ourselves" or "we have to play for ourselves" or any of those other trite lines that teams at the end of losing seasons tend to pull out from this sorry collection of athletes.
Minnesotans will put up with a lot of mediocrity. It's what we do. In many ways, we celebrate that leniency amongst ourselves. "Pretty good" is good enough for Minnesotans, even though it's a qualifier for "good" which is something short of "great", much less "exemplary", in most people's minds.
But we put up with mediocrity from our sports teams because most of the time they can still make us proud with their effort and professionalism. The Twins try their little butts off most of the time. We all know they'll lose to the Yankees in the playoffs this year, if they make it. But they're still lovable at least in part because they effort so damn hard.
This Wild team has none of that.
We've taken their measure on the effort and professionalism scale, and found them all (individually and as a team) woefully lacking.
In sports, I despise quitters.
You can break a rule, earn a suspension, hit a guy late, spit on an ump, run around your house in a Nazi outfit and crash your Ferrari (as long as you don't crash it into another human being) and, as long as you play hard, you're still not as bad to me as a quitter. Those other things are bad. But quitting? That's inexcusable.
The '10-11 Minnesota Wild is inexcusable.