Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No really, you can call this season a success

What metric do you use to determine if your team's season is a success?

I admit, I've struggled with this. In my gut, I see this season as a success, but how to put it out there as an unassailable point?

Well, I can't. All I can do is make the case as best I can, and here it is:

This season's Wild team earned the second highest number of points that any Wild team has earned (98) and won the third most games ever (43). Sure, scoring went down, but here's what I think is an important metric: For the first time since Jacques Lemaire coached the team, the Wild scored more goals than their opposition.

Only four times have the Wild allowed fewer goals. (I'm not counting 2013, because that would have been 217 goals against over a full schedule.)

But, statistics shmatistics. Metrics shmetrics.

This Wild team has grown this year, and that's what I've been feeling in my gut. When the Wild were in a swoon and Mike Yeo could hear Craig Leipold sharpening the axe, Yeo basically called in his team and said "Fuck it." He didn't want them to win for him. Instead, he let it all hang out and he let his team figure it out while he pulled the strings in the background. And that's what a great magician does, he distracts you while quietly pulling a hamster out of his ass.

And it's not just Mike Yeo that's been successful this year. Yeah, he did a great job with what he had, but it wasn't just Yeo that grew this year, it was the players and "the team" that grew.

And I'll grant you that the Wild should have competed with Chicago and St Louis for domination of the Central Division. Sure, the Wild should have done better than another wild card berth.

But that's why the play the games, right? And maybe if the Wild had steamrolled the division without having the setbacks of December, the team wouldn't have had the necessary growth and gotten bounced in the first round again. (Not to say it won't happen tonight, but I'll take a 7 game loss in a great, tight series over a 5 games and out over a team that vastly overpowers the Wild.)

So, yeah, I'd call this season a success.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Not Much Game 6 History For Wild


The Wild has made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times now, over their thirteen-season lifespan. Their all-time series record is 2-4. So, when looking for trends, or historical tidbits, or (okay) blog filler, there just isn't a whole hell of a lot to draw on. The Wild has only been swept in one of those series (Western Conference Finals, vs. Anaheim, 2003), but how have they done in game sixes?

The Wild been in three game sixes, all-time, and has amassed (using the word loosely, I know) a 2-1 record in those three games.

The first two were during the magical run in 2003. In the Western Conference Quarterfinals they dispatched Colorado (Richard Park) in game six at the X in thrilling 3-2 OT form, and put a pretty good hurting on Vancouver (Cloutier) in game six (5-1) of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Then, in 2008, they lost game six in Denver 2-1, as the Avs finished off the division champion Wild in the Western Conference Quarters.

The current team has.....absolutely nothing to do with that 2003 OR 2008 team, so this is truly an academic exercise. But it is also sort of interesting how much of the Wild's (meager) playoff history is tied to the Avs. They have a 1-1 all-time series record against Colorado. That comeback series win in 2003, given the perceived disparity between the two rosters, and ending Roy's career, is one that any franchise would relish for a long time (and to think they turned around and did it again against Vancouver - truly a special run). And then the disappointment of losing to the Avs after winning the first and, to date, only division championship. And, of course, last year going to Denver to win game 82 to submit to the beating by Chicago sneak into the playoffs.

The Wild has also played two series against Anaheim (0-2) so this series will put Colorado in the lead for most playoff series against the Wild. And they have a 1-1 record against Colorado in game sixes, with a rubber game coming tonight.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wild Youth Being Served

by NiNY

Do not be surprised if the Wild fails to win the Stanley Cup this season. Sorry to be a downer. In the first place, there are some teams that are likely to be in their way that actually have a viable defense, unlike Colorado.

But I am still giddy this morning, and here is why:

Granlund, Coyle, Haula, and Kuemper.

You have to lose to learn how to win. Last playoffs the Wild lost alright, but the losing effort began before the playoffs even started with the way they backed into the dance. This year they took a step forward, they learned from that experience and went into the playoffs playing their best hockey of the season. But it wasn't until early in game three that I felt the Wild, as a team, really started playing playoff hockey. That nasty, ugly, growling, spitting, playoff hockey.

They got there - following none other than Matt Cooke, who came out and set a tone early in game three with some hits and grit (unfortunately we all know where Matt took it to, and that sucks, but...) - and they have stayed there. Okay, the goals have not come, but that is even more encouraging: they have not become disheartened or distracted. Indeed they have buckled down even further; applied themselves even more. This collection of players is now fully aware that they are capable of playing playoff hockey. That represents another step in the right direction.

These kids, with the Ninos, and Brodins, and Zuckers, and Folins, and Dumbas, etc. with or behind them, are increasing their appreciation of how they need to play when it counts, and building their confidence that they can perform to that level. That is huge.

So, what if they lose a gut-wrenching game seven? Well, if we accept that they were not going to win the Cup this year anyway, then that becomes the touchstone moment that they can go to in their memory over and over again. "We could have beaten those guys." As they rip off another set in the gym over the summer. Again, and again, and again, until they tear the picture of that loss off the mirror, or finally emerge out of the sewer pipe, a stronger, more-focused group of individuals, laser locked on that goal, and filled with the confidence that they can achieve it. I do not think the Wild is that team yet. But they are becoming that team, and that makes me very happy. The only indication we had that they were on the road to becoming that team under DR was him telling us they could. Actually seeing it, that is considerably more preferable and meaningful.

I have to think this is what got Parise and Suter so jazzed up about signing here. That these kids were but a short distance from becoming the younger element of a core around which true contenders are built. Zach and Ryan signed for 13 years. That tells me they were willing to accept that it might be a couple years of continued growth before they achieved contender status, which is pretty much exactly how it is playing out.

Thinking back to the start of last season, watching Granlund struggle to acclimate to the NHL game - to where he has been the past two games (not to mention the second half of this regular season) - is astonishing. Obviously he had it in him, physically and skill-wise. But confidence can be harder to build up than muscle tissue.

Coyle's personal arc this season has also been remarkable. He struggled this season from the early injury, got bounced around a fair bit, but has ascended out of that to where he is now a bona fide threat in this playoffs. We have been dying for a power forward on this team since Latendresse gave us that one great stretch. Charlie looks like that guy.

Haula gets a little too much love from the provincials for my liking, but that does not take away from what he can do. His speed is a singular weapon on our team. But it is also his nose for the net, and his head for the game that has me thinking he could be our version of a Detroit late-round diamond in the rough.

And Kuemper. From the Toronto game early this season to when he took his turn at saving the season in goal, to how he has come in and played over the past three games against Colorado, is just tremendous. I am not sure I would say the Wild has ever had an elite goalie. They have had average goalies who have played well, and benefited from a goalie-friendly system aplenty. Kuemper might be that elite goalie we have never enjoyed here.

I have said all along that I expected a first-round series win this season, but that I would not necessarily panic if that did not come to fruition - depending on how it played out. Seeing the growth and maturation of our younger players, and the steps the entire team has taken toward contention, I do not have any reason to panic, regardless of how the season ends for the Wild.

TDI 042514


The Wild won. We podcasted about it.

Ok so about 20 seconds got cut off at the end. It was mostly me wondering what happened to the other guys who got cut off. You didn't miss much, in other words.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stuff and Stuff 4/24/14


*The home team is 13-1 so far in the Western conference quarterfinal series (where you at, LA?).

*Say this about MA Fleury: anything worth doing, is worth doing right. Ugly game last night, kid.

*League discipline issues: stop being surprised when they continue to be inconsistent or even downright hypocritical. This is how it is. Going nuts about it every time is just a waste of energy.

*That Jamie Benn goal last night was a thing of beauty. What a goal.

*The league needs Canada to have something break its way in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In unrelated news, the Habs swept the Bolts.

*Speaking of that, Ben Bishop definitely earned some team MVP votes simply by not playing in the playoffs.

*We've been discussing this over at but, is there such a thing as too much rest in the playoffs? I wonder if the Habs coaches are wishing they had less than ~10 days to keep their team sharp before they take on the Bruins (sorry, Red Wings fans)?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Dump In Returns - 5 Minute Podcast!


We took a hiatus. I know you were crushed. But now we're back, and with a new, more-digestible format!

We set out to attempt a "You give us 5 Minutes, we give you the Wild!" thing, but it ended up coming in at 14 minutes. The topic (hint: rhymes with Flat Book) was just too juicy. We'll try harder to hit that 5 minute mark next time.

Anyway, here you go:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

They're In, Now Win!


The Wild locked in their minimum 53rd percentile performance for this season last night. Yep. That's all we learned: they can't finish worse than in the 53rd percentile of the league. Okay we have also learned that they can play with the very best in the league. That they can come back on the very best in the league, even. And that is really my point here.

We should not, as fans, be satisfied that they made the playoffs. That should be the perennial minimum expectation. To be fair, I have not read anyone saying they are satisfied with just making the playoffs. But I have said from the start of this season that my expectation was that they would take the next step, and to me that would be demonstrated by winning a round this playoffs. I have also said that I was prepared to have that expectation not be met, and I would not automatically fall into a "they suck, blow it up" mind frame if that came to pass. But my expectations have been about progress. They took the step of getting back into the playoffs last season and did not deliver a significantly diminished roster coming into this season. I felt, and still feel, like taking that next step should be the expectation - whether it takes one or more seasons to do so.

I am happy that they have put themselves in a position to meet my expectations for this season. I am very impressed with how they turned it around the past couple of weeks. That tells me that my expectations are reasonable.