Blog Entry

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

Posted on: October 18, 2009 6:28 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2009 8:25 pm

premature articulations:

Officially, the NHL preseason ended a couple of weeks ago, but with Todd Richards keeping virtually all starters out of the lineup (and thus robbing them of the chance to get used to playing together with new teammates in a new system) the Minnesota Wild did their finest impression of sports fans everywhere -- paying a regular season price for preseason games.  But now that it looks like the good guys are getting ready for actual regular season play, it's time to fire up the Warpy Psychlotron and get some quarks flying.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  There's not much in the way of Top Quarks for the Wild after an 0-fer road trip.  The most Top Quark worthy performance warped minds witnessed this week was the defensive play of the Anaheim Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks.  These teams have no trouble keeping the front of their net clear of opposing players -- and making said players pay a hefty price any time they venture near the crease area.  The same can't be said for the Wild defense; tapes of the Ducks and the Nucks playing D should be mandatory viewing for all Wild blueliners not named Schultz or Hnidy.  All too often, opposing players collapse into Niklas Backstrom's crease, and the Johnssons, Zidlickys and Zanons of the world are only too happy to let them set up shop there for as long as they please.

Up Quark(s):  Fellow Wild fan cmc18v (who has a damn funny blog on this site) has turned me on to Benoit Pouliot.  #67 has been doing a fine job of getting in front of the net and creating trouble for opposing goalies; if he adds a finishing touch to his scoring chances, Pouliot could put up some damaging stats this year.  James Sheppard has also picked up his play; #51 took a big step backwards last season after impressing the year before, but Sheppard looks to be returning to the form that made fans see him as a very promising up-and-comer.

I also have to give a shout out to #34 Shane Hnidy.  It took warped minds a few games to connect Hnidy's name with the TV commentators' constant references to "nightie" so I kept wondering what the hell kind of hockey name "nightie" was.  Turns out that it belongs to a solid defensive player who uses above-average size to push guys away from the Wild crease area.  As regular Warpy readers already know, warped minds pay special attention to defensemen, and dissect their play in far more detail than that of the forwards (heck, anybody can talk about goal scorers and recap their points, eh?) and I've gotta say that I'm warming up to Hnidy pretty quickly.

Nick Schultz hereby gets a permanent Up Quark for his reliably steady defensive play.  Schultzie seldom makes spectacular plays that garner media attention, but he almost always makes the routine plays correctly in any given situation.  And with the possible exception of Brent Burns and Shane Hnidy, #55 is also one of the only Wild defensemen who shows a willingness and ability to play the man on a regular basis.  Keep it going, Nick!

Down Quark(s):  Lots of possible choices here, but I've gotta give a Down Quark shout-out to Brent Burns for a continuing series of sub-standard defensive games, paired with less than stellar offensive plays that often as not leave his blueline partner hung out to dry in transition.  Burnsie's skating appears to be a tad slower as well, which makes warped minds wonder if he's as healthy as advertised.

Greg Zanon is getting dangerously close to entering permanent Down Quark territory.  I'm still seeing too much of the Martin Skoula-like "stand in front of the net facing the wrong way so it looks like I'm taking a leak by the left goal post" style of defense to get much in the way of warm and flocculent feelings when #6 is on the ice.  The fact that you can see his jersey number on TV when the other team is in our zone says it all for warped minds: unless he leads the league in blocked shots because he takes 'em all off his kiester, Zanon (and the fellow crease campers who allow opponents to crash Backstrom at will) need to turn around and see what they're missing.

Bottom Quark(s):  In order to reduce the amount of typing I'll need to do on future blog entires, I hereby award Kim Johnsson (a.k.a. "I don't wanna touch another guy because then people might think I'm gay") the Bottom Quark on a premanent basis, and will just fill in the necessary details on the next line(s) after each game.

News flash!  The Five Million Dollar Salary Cap Boat Anchor goes quarkless in the last three games!  After an absolutely brutal first week, Johnsson actually played three pretty good games in a row.  Nothing spectacular (after all, he did botch a handful of power play chances by allowing the puck to get by him at the point -- a common occurence when #5 is on the ice) but Johnsson also goosed out enough "attaboy, Kimmer, nice play!" shouts from the Warped One to escape this week with a total wash.

I still say a "break even" type of player isn't worth anything close to $5 million a year, but it is what it is, and this is the final year of Johnsson's contract, so there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  Besides, Wild fans are used to seeing far worse play from Johnsson, so if he keeps the Warped Johnsson Meter from going down too much farther, I can live with it.

Strange Quark(s):  Slowly but surely, the Wild are getting the hang of throwing pucks at the net willy-nilly and getting guys down low to sniff around for rebounds, deflections, and the occasional garbage goal.  The Wild keep reverting back to old habits of spending too much time along the boards (three forwards all behind the goal line on the back wall?!) and constantly bypassing shots in favor of the tic-tac-toe highlight reel goal (especially on the power play) but warped minds are still optimistic that it's only a matter of time before our goalies get the luxury of regular goal support.

Charmed Quark(s):  Nobody can accuse the refs of being homers lately; the Wild got more than their share of PP chances on the road trip, but seemed less and less inclined to shoot as the games went on.  Considering how many pucks were finding their way in earlier, I really can't figure out why the Wild don't just throw the puck at the net every chance they get -- junk goals count the same as pretty goals on the stat sheet, and there's nothing like traffic in front of the net to turn a low percentage shot into a goalie's nightmare.

Earth to Wild players:  SHOOOOOT!!!  And shoot some more!  Who cares if ya can't see a good shooting lane to the net?  If you can't see the goalie, he probably can't see you either (and is most likely praying that you'll pass the puck somewhere else so he can see the damn thing again...)

The Warped Kim Johnsson Meter:  Three consecutive games of Even Steven performance keeps the season total at minus 4.  His +/- numbers may have gotten worse in the official NHL stats, but the Warped Johnsson Meter counts goals that Kim Johnsson directly costs the team (minus) with credit points (plus) for goals he either scores or directly enables (or *gasp* actually prevents with his defensive play, tho I don't expect this part of the equation to come into play very often.. ha hah) 

For those folks who might've thought Warpyland was nothing more than a Kim Johnsson haters blog, I've got one thing to say:  good game, Kimmer!  Keep it going!  OK, that's technically two things, but Johnsson's improved play lately calls for two pats on the back.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  The unofficial regular season kicks in Wendesday at home against a red-hot Colorado Avalanche squad.  Warped minds weren't expecting too much on the road trip that just ended (tho a point here and there would've been nice) but now that the guys have had some time to gel, the Wild will need to avoid settling for 4 or 5 shots on goal per period in order to keep the sellout streak alive in a post-Bush-but-thank-goodness-it's-not-a-McCain economy.  Personally, I'm seeing enough progress in the right direction to give the good guys a few more mulligans for early season growing pains; methinks it's too early to write this season off as a lost cause yet.  LET'S GO WILD!!!!!

...and now, a word from our spawn's heirs:

If my wife-to-be (or not to be) is watching, it probably wasn't meant to be.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: if at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

quando omni flunkus moritati


Since: Aug 13, 2007
Posted on: October 20, 2009 2:01 pm

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

4) Those blogs I wrote in back-to-back years asking to trade Josh Harding while his value was still high is looking even better right now, isn't it?
Yep.  And from what I've been able to glean, the Sens were ready to send Heatley our way if Burnsie was part of the deal.  The way Burns has been playing lately (and most of last year) Burns and Harding for Heatley sounds like the mother of all steals.  The Blackhawks are probably coveting a guy like Harding right now after Huet's last coupla games, so maybe Chuck Fletcher can pull off a deal for a player with a name that'll actually ring a bell with Wild fans.

I've always liked Eric Belanger, and have posted many a blog entry where I say he's the best defenseman on the team not named Schultz.  Not bad for a forward -- warped minds wonder how an excellent defensive forward like Belanger managed to spend so much time in Lemaire's doghouse in the good old days.

Somehow, I don't think Kobasew is the answer -- methinks he'll score about as often as Warpy in a bar full of chicks under 40.  I hope I'm wrong on this, but that's what my gut tells me (and trust me, I know a thing or two when it comes to not scoring:)  On the other hand, Bruins fans seem to think that their team got hosed in this deal, so maybe I'll get a chance to at least score on some crow.

Since: Sep 13, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2009 12:43 am

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

Yeah, I have one...but your last paragraph on subatomic particles has given me a brain aneurysm and, consequently, I forgot what I was going to say.

Quick hits:

1) I was also on the Benoit Pouliot bandwagon this season, check your earlier blogs. I think it's his new beard. He's like the Samson of facial accoutrements.
2) Chuck Kobasew should be a good fit. I think we gave up too much for him (eating his $2 million-plus salary doesn't sit all that well with me) but frankly we're out of options. My guy Butch is still out with a head problem (maybe he just realized he's bald) Sykora picked up the Marian Gaborik glass groin syndrome (who knew it was contagious?) and the Havlat/Richards love connections just isn't working.
3) Random stat of the day #43: You know you have a bad team when your plus/minus leader is at 1 - he's the only person above zero. If our defensemen were golfers, we'd be set for life with all those under-par stats.
4) Those blogs I wrote in back-to-back years asking to trade Josh Harding while his value was still high is looking even better right now, isn't it?

Since: Aug 13, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2009 6:33 pm

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

I think Todd Fletcher gets two years to make his system work.  He got dealt a bad hand thanks to DR getting rid of virtually all of our scoring talent while getting zippo in return.  Richards would've been awesome for the Wild a couple of years ago when we had the Gaboriks, Demitras, Rolstons, Parrishes, Fedoruks, etc. to work with.

I never doubted Lemaire's ability to get the most out of non-star players, but his down-tempo style of offense with good scoring talent didn't work much better than the up-tempo style with lack of said talent is working now.  Methinks JL and DR weren't on the same page in terms of what kind of talent and playing style would work best (which is ironic since they spent so much time together with the Habs..)  At any rate, having Johnsson off the books next year should free up enough cap space to upgrade our scoring a notch or three.

As for Kobasew, quarks are not given away by the Warped One: they're earned.  So he'll get as many (or as few) quarks for good or bad as his play calls for.  BTW, do you think the universe is binary or tertiary?  I'm not sure if all particles are positive or negative charged (with neutral particles simply being a combination of smaller particles whose charges cancel out) or if there is indeed a tertiary neutral particle at the bottom of it all.  The fact that there are six different quark types doesn't settle the issue, since they could be made up of three combinations of two "final sub-quark" fundamental particles (binary) or two combos of three in the positive/negative/neutral (tertiary) scenario.

In either case, there appears to be one more level left to go, meaning that quarks aren't the final answer in terms of fundamental building blocks for matter/antimatter.  Thoughts?

Since: Aug 10, 2006
Posted on: October 19, 2009 3:15 pm

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

How long before we see Mr. Kobasew on the official Quark list? :)

Since: Oct 10, 2006
Posted on: October 19, 2009 3:32 am

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

I was telling you too look out for Benoit Pouliot and James Sheppard this year, so far they are looking like the only pleasant story of the season so far if you can call it that. I want to cry watching my boy Burnsie crapping his pants in the defensive end Cry. I bought tickets to the Avalanche and I'm hoping I didn't waste 150 bucks but I think I did. How long do you think Chuck Fletcher is going to put up with Todd Richards if this going rate continues. I think were all seeing first hand what a great coach Jacques Lemaire is by getting the best out of his players (exept the hated Yawn-son).

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or