Monday, May 27, 2013

The Funk

The first thougth through my head when someone mentions "Funk" is something by Bootsy Collins, maybe this rendition by Toots and the Maytals, assisted by Bootsy Collins and the Roots. But this time of year, I think about the pile of Wild gear: A couple player tees: 2 Koivus (one old, one new), a Parise one, a couple giveaway Setoguchi tees, and a handful of jerseys. They're in the corner, and my wife has decided to wash them, but I can't bring myself to fold them and put them back into regular rotation. It's the post-playoff funk.

My son seems immune to it. As soon as the Wild were eliminated, he started talking about how he wanted the Kings to win it all. Makes sense, since that was my team last season once the conference finals brgan. When you're five, the whole world is before you. As a nascent sports fan with the prospect of 50 or more years of fandom ahead of you, losing in the first round doesn't seem so bad. There's always next year. As a middle aged adult, and one who has lived through having my team taken from me, a loss every year hurts.

Perhaps we were spoiled by the hiring of Jacques Lemaire to be the innagural coach of the Wild. As a genius, he easily took a bunch of has-beens and a couple never-will-bes and made it to the Conference Finals. He took the Wild into the playoffs three times in eight seasons. Enough to sate the masses: whet our appetites enough to want more.

And then the dark ages began. Lemaire never went more than two seasons out of the playoffs, lockouts notwithstanding. So three years without May Hockey in Minnesota hurt. A lot. One coach was brought in, ostensibly to change the culture of the team. He failed, and another young gun of a coach was brought in. This one had a disappointing season, but last summer, his - and the team's - fortunes changed with the free-agent acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Expectations were raised - and justifiably so. Parise is an elite winger and scorer and Suter is a Norris candidate. Both made the team better in the time it took them to put their John Hancocks on their identical contracts.

Then the Wild limped into the playoffs and did their damnedest to back out. Playing against the Blackhawks was akin to sending an Ewok into battle with the Rancor. (And I don't mean a bunch of Ewoks equipped with ropes, logs, and boulders either. They might be feisty in groups, but alone...)

So the Wild went without much of a fight. All I can take from this experience in the way of a silver lining is that they learned something and they'll be ready next year. With a full training camp, and hopefully a blueline that includes better than Tom Fucking Gilbert, they have the chance to show what they can do.

Until then, I'm going to settle in and enjoy my funk.

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