History Lesson

Before I begin this outrageous comparison I’d like to state for the record that in know way do I actually believe that Gary Bettman or Donald Fehr are close to the evil that was Adolph Hitler.  Hitler was bad in so many ways, while I’m pretty sure Bettman and Fehr have some redeeming qualities somewhere under the surface.  That being said, onto today’s post.

For a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, Germany got hosed at the end of the first World War.  It was slapped with numerous sanctions and penalties that had a direct result on their immediate future.  Besides trying their emperor as a war criminal, Germany also had to give up some territory to France and pay about a zillion dollars in gold to the allied countries.  In short, Germany was relegated to amateur nation status and crushed economically.  (Again, I’m not saying this wasn’t deserved)

For the next 15-20 years Germany struggled.  Like the rest of the world, an economic depression spread and many people suffered.  When people suffer, they sometimes latch on to desperate measures.  In Germany, the people listened to a nut like Hitler who promised their nation that Germany would not be denied again.

Long story short, Hitler galvanized Germany and started World War II.  He was unwilling to compromise on any of this beliefs and many people died.  Only when Germany was crushed by the Allies (and Hitler dead) did the war in Europe end.

Fast-forward to the National Hockey League in 2004.  The league was struggling economically and the players were locked out by the owners.  After a lengthy standoff, the players capitulated and agreed to the salary cap.  Shortly thereafter the players dismissed their chief, Bob Goodnow.

A few years passed and the CBA was expiring soon.  The players, who felt they got the shaft in 2004, decided to employ a negotiating shark to get them a better deal.  Donald Fehr was hired and told everyone that the players were behind him 100 percent.  Unfortunately for them, Fehr doesn’t compromise much and neither does Bettman.  The lockout started and shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

The 2004 CBA Agreement led to Donald Fehr, much like the Treaty of Versailles led to Hitler.  I can’t wait until I get to write about hockey again.

Paul Mont / / hockey

Kneejerk

To be fair, I fully admit I am a kneejerk reactionary blogger.  I was one of the first to call for Jacques Lemaire’s head, I hated the Mikko Koivu draft pick the first two years when he was in the Finnish Coast Guard and I thought “Good Will Hunting” was the greatest movie ever when I first saw it.  As it turns out I was wrong on all three accounts, but I’d still put GWH in my Top 10.

That being said, after the first few games of the season I was ready to release Mikael Granlund.  Ok, not release him, but send him back to Houston for some seasoning.  He looked over his head in the NHL and was coughing up the puck at the most inopportune times.  He looked like my 13 year old son playing with the bantams…not ready for the show yet.

Granlund played better Wednesday night against the Blackhawks.  Sure, he was still guilty of a few turnovers, but I thought he played his best game of the season.  It just goes to show you that a few games does not a season make.

For now, I am saying keep him around a little longer and if after 10-15 games he still looks overmatched, send him to Houston and recall Charlie Coyle.  Coyle is exactly the type of big forward we need on that second line.

Paul Mont / / hockey

Hope for Better Coffee

Warning: this is another bad analogy post. You accept all responsibilities by continuing to read.

I have worked for the same company for nearly 20 years now and the only consistent thing about it is the awful coffee I drink every day. It tastes terrible and seems to have no discernable effect on making more alert. But yet I continue to drink it, morning after morning in hopes that someday it will change. Complaints have led to changes. Management has tried switching coffee providers, used new coffee machines and even introduced filtered water to see if it would make the product taste any better. No difference. Hopes are raised and then dashed. No matter what we do, the coffee still sucks. You can probably see where I am going with this.

For nearly 15 years, the Minnesota Wild has struggled to score goals. Coaches, owners, general managers and players have come and gone, yet the team cannot score goals on a regular basis. Sure, Marian Gaborik was a dynamic player, but even here he had issues. Players who cannot score here go on to other teams and become offensive threats. They bring in the mighty Zach Parise and despite his unrelenting efforts, his line is failing.

What exactly is the issue? I wish I knew. Is there something in the water in St. Paul that makes good players allergic to putting the puck in the net? All I know is that after decades of drinking piss-like coffee at work, I continue to drink it. Why? Because tomorrow it might be good.

Paul Mont / / hockey

Taking It Too Far

The pattern always goes like this:  someone comes up with a great idea, it succeeds, then they try to expand the idea and it makes everything including the original, great idea worse.  The marketing mavens at Taco Bell came up with the Doritos Locos Taco last year and it was met with resounding praise.  It was a perfect combination; I have consumed hundreds.

But now they are taking it one step further.  Soon you will be able to order a Doritos Loco Taco in either the original Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch flavor.  Seriously?  A Cool Ranch Taco.  Another case of tampering with perfection in order to make more money.  Will I try one?  Of course I will, but I won’t be happy about it.

Paul Mont / / hockey

I Was Wrong

On December 31, 2010 I wrote on Twitter that “Richards must go.” It really summed up months of frustration about the team’s poor play and at the time I truly meant it. Fourteen games later, a 10-4 record and with the team currently sitting in 7th position in the Western Conference, I can say that I was wrong.

Wild coach Todd Richards has this team playing at a very high level, especially on the road. He is getting outstanding contributions from young defensemen, coaxing great performances from both goaltenders and even has winger Martin Havlat playing at all All-Star level. This team has come together and seems to be heading in the right direction.

Bloggers (and many other fans for that matter) are often criticized for having knee-jerk reactions to poor team play and unfortunately that was the case for me. Then again, if the team loses tomorrow night in Phoenix I reserve the right to call for GM Chuck Fletcher’s head. It’s a good thing I can’t fire myself.

Paul Mont / / hockey

Do The Wild Need To Make A Trade?

On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild began life without Mikko Koivu. Wild fans know that he will be back in the lineup at some point soon – likely not before three weeks have elapsed – but the question now is whether the team needs to make a move.

For a while, general manager Chuck Fletcher stood by the motto that the return of Guillaume Latendresse would serve as enough of a boost for the team. But with Koivu out, there will be a far greater sense of urgency.

Koivu is a tough player to replace even via a trade. Not only is he the team captain, NHL betting fans know that he’s the team’s do-it-all. He’s clearly a leader, he’s valuable offensively but he’s also the team’s best special teamer as he contributes greatly both on the power play and on the penalty kill.

There are options available to Minnesota, but nobody is uber-excited about them. Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Eric Nystrom could be moved off the wing to play center and the team recalled Cody Almond.

Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards might be an option but the Wild are not typically a team to make a big splash at the trade deadline. They are in a tough spot as they are right in the thick of a playoff race, tied with those very same Stars for the eighth and final playoff spot. Weakening their roster and helping theirs could give them a great boost.

But the bigger likelihood is that the Wild either make a more subtle trade or just ride things out as is. That likely invites even more of a burden on the shoulder of goaltender Nicklas Backstrom, but he is 5-2-1 in his last eight with a GAA of 1.36. Riding his hot goaltending until Koivu is ready to return might be the route that the Wild choose to take.

Stay tuned. The NHL trade deadline is February 28th.

Paul Mont / / hockey

17 Long Days

I started this silly Martin Havlat Beer Strike 17 days ago and it’s really pissing me off. Why can’t the man score a stupid, lousy goal and get this over with? I’d take anything at this point…a tap in empty-netter, a disallowed kick-in, hell, even a deflection of his stick into the Wild’s net would work for me. Beer is something I took for granted in the past and this idiotic stunt of mine has made me realize how much I miss it.

And I’m not talking about the tasteless domestic brews like Miller Lite or Bud Lite either. I miss the Octoberfest beer from Sam Adams. I miss the simple black and white beauty of a freshly-poured Guinness Draught. A Corona with a lime. St. Paul’s Summit Extra Pale Ale. I had a big, juicy cheeseburger the other night and had to choke it down with a Pepsi, an F-in Pepsi for God’s sake! Enjoying a cold beer after a long day at work was something I could look forward to during the day, but no longer.

Until Martin Havlat scores a single goal, that is. The Wild are at home tonight against the Flames and I’m holding out hope that he’ll get one. My basement fridge is still full, waiting for Marty to hit the twine. You can do it, I know you can. Oh, who am I kidding…I may as well stop at the gas station on the way home for some sugared-up soda. FML.

Paul Mont / / hockey

Go Back to NYC

Marian Gaborik (pictured above at Blaine Chuck-e-Cheese) makes his return to Minnesota tomorrow night and I, for one, will not welcome him back with open arms. Marian was this team’s franchise player, he was everything. When healthy, he’s right up there with Alex, Steven and Ilya in goal-scoring ability.
Often when it’s clear that a team’s star is “going to test the free agent waters” the team has a chance to trade this player and get something in return. Not with Marian. When it became clear that he was not going to re-sign with the Wild, GM Doug Risebrough waited a few months and then lost all trade value when Marian injured his groin playing hacky-sack.
An f***ing hacky-sack game kicked this franchise in the groin and put the Wild in the tailspin that they have yet to recover from. Sure, I think they’re on the right track, but without Marian they’re years behind schedule.
Will I boo? No, because I can’t afford a ticket to the game, but I will not enjoy my beer as much when watching the game from the comfort of my basement.

Paul Mont / / hockey

Not All is Lost

Some hockey wonks have the opinion that in today’s NHL a team needs to be bad for a few years in a row in order to get better. To sit at the bottom of the standings, accumulate top draft picks and then make a run. This is how the Pittsburgh Penguins (Fleury, Staal, Malkin and Crosby), Chicago Blackhawks (Kane, Toews and Barker) and some others have been built. Sure, this works, but I don’t really think this is the only way.

Those who think this way tend to believe that the Minnesota Wild need to gut the franchise, sit in the NHL’s basement for 2-3 years and then get better. Yes, this would work, but why throw away those seasons? Why subject their fans to multiple years of piss-poor hockey?

Smart general managers can make it work without the benefits of consecutive Top 3 picks in the entry draft. Examples? Take a look at the Philadelphia Flyers. Their only Top 10 pick since 2003 was James van Riemsdyk at #2 overall and he’s not even among their best 10 players. They’ve built their team through free agency, trades and low draft choices. Are they the exception? How about the Dallas Stars, currently first in the West? The Stars haven’t had a Top 10 pick since 1996 besides Scott Glennie (who?) at #8 overall in 2009. Yet another? I give you the Colorado Avalanche with one Top 10 pick since 1993, Matt Duchene.

These teams became very good teams by other means than sucking for many years and this gives the Wild hope. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher can build a good team without being really, really bad for the foreseeable future. And I for one believe he is on the way. Sure, he blew the Leddy for Barker trade, but the team’s future is getting brighter thanks to top prospects like Marco Scandella, Jason Zucker and Michael Granlund.

Paul Mont / / hockey

2 Posts in 1 Day

Yes, this ties a Wild Puck Banter record; I don’t know what’s got into me. Anyways, I just wanted to announce that I’ll be live-tweeting my drive up to Duluth, Minnesota tomorrow from the Twin Cities. It’s bound to be an exciting read, so be sure and tune in tomorrow around noon. Follow my Twitter feed and learn all you ever wanted to know about this road trip to the Jewel of the Northland.

Paul Mont / / hockey