There's a Calgary Flames fan message board that I hang out on. Lots of very smart hockey fans post there regularly. But I've had to endure years of trashing the Wild on game days because of the perception of the Wild as the Lemaire trap team that still persists. It is what it is, but it does wear on you a bit. I want to be all "Hey, we're really not that team anymore." But the fear is that the reaction will be "Yeah you are. And in any event shut up and let us wallow in our misery."
When it comes to the Wild and the BJs, it's a little different. The Wild has had the better performance history since the two teams came into the league, the Wild didn't have to try to sign flashy players to appeal to the home fans. The Wild has only had to deal with one horrendous GM and one "out of his depth" head coach, the BJs two bad GMs and a couple ill-suited head coaches. So it's been easier to be smug about being a fan of the Wild in terms of that expansion year.
But both teams are on the up-swing right now. The Wild is undeniably a better team. Some might even say a good team. They've upgraded their talent in all three zones, and they have a coach and GM tandem that appears to be moving the team and the organization in the right direction. So, too, the BJs. John Davidson did a very good job in St. Louis putting together a very tough Blues team. And, paired with Jarmo Kekalainen, there's no reason to think he can't replicate that success in Columbus. And, ironically, the one "out of his depth" head coach with the Wild is now thriving in Columbus, in the person of Todd Richards. The BJs are playing good hockey right now, particularly at home, and are right on the cusp of the playoff line for their efforts. In fact, they're only 5 points behind the Wild.
The Wild got a couple days off, adjusted their travel schedule for maximum rest, and even worked in a practice since the Kings game. The hope is that will get them back on track. It better, because Nationwide Arena is sure to be as hostile a work environment as it's ever been for the visiting Wild.
Marian Gaborik makes his home debut tonight for Columbus. Getting out from under Tortorella has to make Gaby feel like Andy when he finally fell out of that sewer pipe and into the pool of shit outside Shawshank. He certainly had a good debut the other night, he will need to be watched. It will be interesting to see if the BJs have figured out the stretch pass, or Demitra's old lob pass to Gaby sneaking through the defense for the breakaway.
This has been a season of exorcising demons for the Wild. Wins in Vancouver and Detroit stand as proof of that. It would go a long way with fan and, you suspect, player psyche if they come out and win tonight in Columbus to place another brick in that wall that they're building between them and the Wild that Flames fans dread seeing.