Monday, January 23, 2017

And Another Thing: Drive-thrus are not for me, and no, I don’t want a meal

I won’t make it a big secret that I prefer the convenience of picking up some dinner at a restaurant rather than cook at home. I don’t mind cooking; it’s really just the time factor that gets in the way. Oh, and the planning. Trying to figure out what to do for dinner at 6:14 p.m. isn’t ideal for cooking up some creation on the stove.

So anyway, I eat out a lot. Sure it’s unhealthy and isn’t helping me trim my figure, but it’s just a reality. Which brings me to the topic: Ordering fast food.

First of all, I always walk into the establishment to order my food. I park my vehicle in the parking lot, physically exit, walk into the building and step up to the counter to place my order. Is this exhausting? No. But apparently fast food is even more convenient if you order in the drive-thru lane. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but drive-thrus are just dumb to me.

Is it really that much quicker when there’s 10 cars in line? Then you often have to sit there past the window and wait for someone to deliver the food to your car anyway. (I also do not understand why people eating their parked cars in the parking lot is a thing. Just go inside and sit at a table! Or go home and eat!) The other side though, from a person that orders inside, is that the drive-thru can slow things down at the counter. I’ve waited to have my order taken while the drive-thru gets serviced first, or so it seems.

It’s also expanded to drug stores and banks. My family and I make jokes about what else could have a drive-thru setup, making it easier for lazy people to never have to leave their cars. “I’d drive into the building if I could,” we say, in a sing-song voice.

My apologies if you prefer using drive-thrus and don’t consider yourself a lazy human being. Like I acknowledged, I know I’m probably in the minority here.

Here’s the other thing about these joints that really grinds my gears: Meals. The old saying about fast food places was: “Would you like fries with that?” Well, that’s turned into: “Would you like a meal?” I don’t know who started it, but every menu board has a numbered list of meal options, the main food item with a side/fries and then a drink. What a deal! You’ll probably save 29 cents or something, too.

It’s like a reflex for workers to ask this question, even before you’re done ordering in some cases. I know what I want. When I ask for a cheeseburger and a medium drink, it means I don’t want any fries so why would I order a meal? I'm also not completely against these meals; I'll get them sometimes.

My dad ordered a cheeseburger, medium fries and a drink at McDonald’s recently. Right away, the fella asked about a meal. And then: “Well, the meal comes with two cheeseburgers, is that OK?” Um, no. He didn’t want TWO cheeseburgers. One unhealthy patty with melted cheese is enough.

I’m a fan of Arby’s, mostly for the curly fries. I’ll often order a sandwich with the snack-size fries, because it’s only $1 for the fries and there’s less of them, so it’s a way of tricking myself into thinking I’m not being as unhealthy as I could be if I get the larger order with a meal. Of course, ordering this way will usually get me the meal question.

This all may seem super petty and stupid, but that’s why this is filed under the “And another thing” category. Feel free to tell me in the comments why drive-thrus and fast-food meals are amazing.

Full disclosure: I have not worked in one of these drive-thru establishments, so maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about something when I don’t know the process firsthand. More power to those that do this work. But this is a blog, so I’ll share my opinion about it.

Now I’ll go order my single cheeseburger with a small fries. No, I don’t want a meal.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wild Game Day: Debbils at Wild 1/17/2017

GameDay:  New Jersey @ Minnesota, 1/17/2017
New Jersey Record: 18-18-9, 45Pts (7th Metropolitan Division)
New Jersey Captain: Andy Greene
New Jersey Coach: John Hynes
Minnesota Record: 28-9-5, 61Pts (1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference)
10/22/2016New Jersey 2 Minnesota 1 OT

Time: 7PM CT
TV: Frogs Sports Nord
Radio: Kayfabe 100.3FM

New Jersey Lines:
Corey Schneider 13-14-7 .910 2.68 GAA

Wild Lines:

Devan Dubnyk 23-7-3 .940 1.78GAA

Goals Per Game:  New Jersey 28th (2.18)  Minnesota  4th (3.26)
Goals Against:  New Jersey 19th (2.82)  Minnesota 2nd (2.14)
Power Play %:  New Jersey 28th (13.2%)  Minnesota 13th (20.2%)
PK:  New Jersey 8th (83.3%)  Minnesota 6th (84.9%)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Game: Sustainable?

By Nick

It's official: The Wild is for real.

Really, the B2B sweeps against the Habs and Rangers AND Stars and Blackhawks should be all we need to know.  But there's a whole host of other statistics in support of their overall good-ness this season if those don't do it for you.

So, because we're Minnesota sports fans, why aren't we happier?  Because Minnesota sports teams have provided us with a lifetime of failing despite the statistics and other empirical evidence.

Okay, fair enough, right? So let's focus on that: is this sustainable?

I'd say the offense is sustainable.  They are getting contributions from so many different sources that, even if you assume some of them would fall off, it seems unlikely they all will.  I'm prepared to say that Staal will continue to have a positive influence on Coyle, for example.  I don't think Staal is just on a hot streak.  And Parise is still working on getting up to plane.  And Pommer might get hot.  I know, I know.  But, in a season filled with crazy shit so far, why not?

.940/1.78 seems like it can not be sustained.  But he's not making crazy, acrobatic - desperate - saves.  He's economical.  He's not getting rattled.  He's strong mentally.  Nevertheless, last season, the best save percentage (at least 40 GP) in the league was .930 (Brian Elliott).  Ben Bishop put up the best GAA, with a 2.06.  Ironically, both of those guys are struggling this season.  If Duby does continue this play for the rest of the season, we better hope that same fate doesn't await him next season.  In 2014-2015 Price put up the best spct and GAA, with a .933 and 1.96, respectively.  In other words, Duby can come back towards (if not entirely to) earth, stats-wise, and still continue to be the backbone of this team.

I think overall team defense is sustainable.  Last night Dumba and Scandella were a hot mess for two periods, and then got it together.  Even Suter had an off game (LA).  In other words, they're not all playing out of their minds every night - which wouldn't be sustainable.  This team is built on defensive buy-in, always has been.  That hasn't changed under Boudreau.  With the defensively-responsible forwards we have I don't see that attitude changing in the room - especially with all these Ws backing up that mindset.

Coaching is sustainable.  It has to be.  Before the seasons started we all wondered how Boudreau had managed all those division championships, and whether he'd be able to do it here.  To me it seems the answer is that he is a premier in-game bench manager, and he is willing to alter his overall strategy depending on the make-up of the team and it's current macro trend.

Injuries frankly are not sustainable.  The Wild is healthy right now.  Teams just don't go extended periods of time without suffering some injuries.  Odds are that our depth will again be tested before the season is out.

The bottom line for me is that there is no rational reason to doubt the Wild's ability to keep this going.  Maybe not at a .726 pace, but enough to contend for the division title.  Our collective psyche is really the biggest reason we don't think that's possible.  That may be irrational, but it is definitely founded in historical context.  Do we have the balls to set aside decades of disappointment and heartache to get behind this team, raise the expectations and let our hearts run free?  I just don't know.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Game: This Week in the NHL 1/8/16-1/14/16

Standings Watch: The best division last week was the Atlantic, who went a collective 14-10-2. There were five games between the Atlantic and Central last week, with the Canadiens beating the Jets and losing to the Wild, and the Bruins beating the Blues and losing to the Predators, and the Wings beat the Stars and lost to the Hawks.

The Central was the second best division, at 12-10-1.

Then the Pacific, at 10-9-3. LA beat the Jets and Blues but lost to the Stars, and the Jets also lost to the Coyotes but beat the Flames. Anaheim beat Colorado (lol) and Dallas but lost to the Wild.

Oddly, last was the Metropolitan Division, who could be coming back to earth, at 13-12-2. Only one game took place between the Metro and Central last week, and that was the 6-0 thrashing that Washington gave Chicago.

The Big Drama of the week was Andrew Shaw, who decided the best way to celebrate his return after missing 14 games was to go for a blind side hit on Jesper Fast of the Rangers.

It was a blindside hit that was well after the play, and exactly what we don’t want in the game. Shaw is quickly turning into the new Matt Cooke. So expect the Wild to sign him in 6 years and talk about how he’s a changed man.

When the two hottest teams met, we knew one would have their streak ended. What’s fascinating is that since then, in 2017, the Wild are 4-0-1, while the Blue Jackets are 3-4-0. This really shows off Minnesota’s resiliency.

Something else that shows of Minnesota’s resiliency? The Wild are 10-5-1 when the opposition scores first. That’s a 0.625 winning percentage, the best in the NHL. This speaks to the Wild’s attitude when they’re down. I can’t remember a Wild team that could come back the way this one does.

Take those two facts together and you have a team that can be down in the micro sense and the macro, and either way they don’t let mood swings affect them as they did in the past. And considering the two big changes on the team are swapping Tomas Vanek for Eric Staal and swapping Mike Yeo/John Torchetti for Bruce Boudreau, I think it’s fair to put this on the coaching staff(s)

Even though the big streaks have ended, the Capitals now want in, and have won 8 in a row. They’re hot on the heels of the Jackets in the Metro, so that division is still in upheaval and likely will be through the buzzer. If this keeps up, the Penguins or Rangers could have to content themselves with a Wild Card spot.   

Colorado is willing to listen to offers? Even more interesting is that the Bruins are apparently eyeing Gabriel Landeskog. Enjoy that clown out east. But if that happens, I’d hate to play against a Backes-Landeskog line. Keep your head up.

Couple Wild on the leader boards around the league: Ryan Suter (+27), Jason Zucker (+25), and Jared Spurgeon (+24) top the +/- leaderboard, with Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund tied with Michael Grabner (Rangers) tied in 4th place (+22). Matt Dumba is just outside the top 10 at +19.

Want to guess who leads the team in Missed shots? It’s not Pominville, although he is up there with 32. Jason Zucker has missed the net 39 times in 41 games. By contrast, Chris Stewart has only missed 12 times, also in 41 games.

It’s great to think of Luke Kunin captaining USA to the WJC Gold. Know anyone else who captained team USA in the WJCs? How about Jason Zucker? After winning gold in 2010 (Derek Stepan) and silver in 2011 (John Ramage?), he captained team USA to 7th place in 2012. Zucker’s team also had John Gibson, Jacob Trouba, Jarred Tinordi, Nick Bjugstad, J.T. Miller, Kyle Rau, Brandon Saad, and Charlie Coyle.

Wild speculation of the week: Darcy Kuemper will be in someone else’s uniform next season.

Bits and Pieces Round:
  • The Wild have taken the 5th fewest penalty minutes in the League.  
  •  The Wild have taken 7 bench minors, 4th most in the NHL.
  •  One of the 4 teams to have taken fewer penalties than the Wild are the Blackhawks.
  •  The Wild have the fewest hits in the NHL.
  •  The Wild have the second best shooting percentage in the NHL (11.1% - Ranger at 11.6%)

Looking ahead:
  • Three Central Division games this week: Big one is Wild in Chicago tonight.
  •  Also: Blackhawks-Avs and Blues-Jets.
  •  Nerd fight of the week: Stars-Sabres on Monday.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pods:The 5MM - Feeling So Positive It's Disgusting

By Nick

Other than Bergy's audio issues, a fun romp through the current state of the Wild.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

The Game: Wild 7, Habs 1 - Takeaways

By Nick

I just can't deny my feelings any more.  I know, I know, I know, shut up.

But the statistical evidence is just overwhelming.  You know all the numbers.

Okay, yes, the Habs were both tired and injury-depleted.  We had the fortunes of the schedule aiding us.  No doubt.  But, look, in addition to the four B2Bs we've already had, we have nine more this season.  Nine.  We'll get ours.

Ed Rooney knows how many times the Wild plays back-to-backs
You can't control who you're playing on a given night.  Your job is to beat whichever team shows up.  So, with that said, here are my takeaways from last night's game.

1) Should Stewy have put the Habs on the power play at the end?  It cost Duby the shutty.  Yes.  The answer is yes.  Period, the end.  I have been begging for this team to not be soft for years.  Especially when it comes to the goalie, and double-especially when that goalie is the Vezina and Jennings winner to this point, and maybe even gets some Hart consideration.  Could the refs have obviated the skirmish by calling the guys bumping Duby?  Yes.  But even if they had, just sending the message that our goalie is off-limits is something I have been campaigning for from this team - so I'm not changing my tune now.  Good on Stewy.  And I'll fight anyone who disagrees with this.

B) My favorite part of the game was that the Wild didn't sit on their lead.  Well, I guess you could say they sat on the 1-0 lead in the first.  But they just kept coming.  I said it on the ITC twitter account, but I like "keep attacking" Wild so much better than "sit back and hope you don't fuck up".  Confidence, killer instinct, coaching, whatever is behind that, I'll take it.

3) We've all been saying Staal has helped Mikko this year by making him not have to shoulder all the burden of a top line center.  It's plain to anyone who follows this team that Mikko has not been a pure #1 center maybe ever.  He does a lot of things well, a couple things extremely well.  But he has never scored enough to be a legit top line center.  But, thinking about how this team did keep the pedal to the metal, and has bounced back, maybe Staal also really has helped by offering a new take on the leadership dynamic.  We know he's stepping up in the room.  And he has something that no one else in our leadership group (9, 11, 20, 29) has: a ring.  I don't think we can overstate the impact of the Staal signing.  Kudos to Fletcher on that one.

IV) This is irrelevant, but as long as I'm talking about awards prematurely, when the BJs were running their streak to an amazing 16 games, all the talk was that Tortorella would be an automatic for the Jack Adams if the season ended at the half-way point.  But, since then, the BJs are 1-3.  Since the Flyers completed their 10-game winning streak they are 3-6-2.  Since the Wild lost to the BJs, they're 3-0-1.  And those three wins are over San Jose, Anaheim and Montreal - so not like they're beating Arizona, Colorado and the Islanders.  I wonder, now that we're at the actual mid-point, games-wise, if Bruce would sneak past Torts in Adams voting.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Game: One Stat Tells Story of Wild's Success

By Nick

No, I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch.

Yes, I still remember my own blog post from earlier this week talking about how hard it is to just accept that this team is good.

No, I'm not burning the candle at both ends here.

I got to thinking about Duby vs. Price tonight.  And how that feels like the story - the best goalie in the league, versus the best goalie in the league this season.  And you know what, maybe that is the story of tonight.  But it's not the story of the Wild's success this season-to-date.  Not by a long shot.

So, I looked into the stats that backed up my premise.  Because there's another sub-narrative that comes into play if those stats actually do support the premise.  Which they do.  Let me explain.

My theory was that it's not defensive play that is the difference for the Wild relative to its historical performance.  It's offense, and more specifically finishing.  The first part is obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the Wild throughout its history.  The Wild was born as a team that had to rely on defense because it didn't have enough offense to rely on that.  The historical data back that up.  I went to and looked at the Wild's goals against/game ranking for each season since it was born.

Those rankings, in order from oldest to most recently completed season: 12th, 24th, 4th, 5th, 5th, 1st, 8th, 2nd, 21st, 16th, 13th, 15th, 7th, 6th, 9th.  This year Duby and Kuemper (and the defense) have them ranked 2nd in the league in goals against/game.  In fact, the average league ranking for GA/GM before this season was 9.87th.  The Wild has had more completed seasons where its GA/GM ranking was in the single digits (9) than in the double digits (6).  Taking nothing away from Duby, Kuemper, and the defense, the kind of defensive effort the Wild is producing this season is not special within the full context of the history of the Wild.

On the other hand, looking at the rankings for goals FOR/game, the Wild has traditionally struggled relative to the rest of the league.  Those rankings, again GF/GM, in order from oldest to most recently completed season: 30th, 25th, 24th, 25th, 25th, 19th, 17th, 22nd, 20th, 26th, 30th, 22nd, 24th, 12th, 18th.  This season to date, Staal, Coyle and the fellas have been scoring at a rate that ranks....4th-best in the league, as of this morning.  You heard me right: 4th-best. As you can see, the Wild has never had a complete season where they finished in the top 10, let alone top 5.

Put another way, the average difference between the Wild's GF/GM and 15th place in the league, from inception through the 2015-2016 season, was -0.24 goals for/game.  The Wild scored a quarter of a goal per game less than the median team over the first 15 seasons of its existence.  The average difference between the Wild's GF/GM and the 1st place team in the league, for the first 15 seasons, was -0.88 goals per game.

This season, the Wild is scoring 0.41 more goals per game than the 15th-ranked team in the league, and  -0.35 goals per game than the 1st place team in the league, as far as GF/GM.  -0.35, if you hadn't already guessed is the lowest spread to the 1st place team that the Wild has ever had.

So, given that the Wild's defensive performance this season (as measured by GA/GM) is in line with their historical data, clearly the difference this season is that their offensive performance (as measured by GF/GM) is significantly better than their historical data.

But therein lies the rub.

A) We have been conditioned to expect the other skate to drop any time.  Until this season is over, I'll be worried about regression.

2) The Wild's GF/GM performance is so much better than historical that it is practically screaming for regression before the season is over.

Well, to that end, I looked at the top 15 scorers on the roster this season, and compared their season-to-date points/game to their career pts/game.  I was pleased with the result.  The list includes, in order from most points to least (among the top 15): Staal, Coyle, Granlund, Koivu, Zucker, Niederreiter, Suter, Parise, Sprugeon, Dumba, Pominville, Brodin, Haula, Stewart, and Scandella (JEEK has one more point than Scandella, but he's no longer with the team, so...).

Those 15 players have played in a combined 551 man games this season, amassing 305 points, or 0.554 points/game.  Those same 15 players, over their careers through the end of last season, had played in a combined 6,900 man games, amassing 4,057 points - OR - 0.588 points/game.  That means that those 15 players have been producing at 0.034 fewer points/game than they had over their collective careers.  Now, that's largely driven by Pominville, who is producing at 0.33 fewer points/game than his career rate, compounded by the fact that he's played in the 3rd-most games of the players on the list.  But Parise (#4 in games played on the list) is also producing 0.147 fewer points/game  than his career number.  And, while Pominville's performance is now a couple seasons in the making, and thus appears to be trend line-able, it is harder to make the same case when it comes to Parise.

Believe it or not, Koivu is producing slightly lower than his career number (0.718 pts/gm this season, 0.729 pts/gm for his career through 2015-2016).  Stewart and Scandella are also under their career numbers.  Coyle is producing at the greatest spread to his career number (+0.374 pts/gm), so you hope he has turned a corner, but prepare for the possibilty that he regresses.  But, countering that, Staal is only producing at 0.057 higher than his career number - which is more likely to be sustainable.

Among those 15 players, the top 7 players ranked by biggest spread to their career pts/gm are: Coyle, Zucker, Granlund, Niederreiter, Brodin, Spurgeon, and Dumba.  That's very interesting, and one hopes at leat a couple of them HAVE turned a corner and will be able to sustain this improved scoring - assuming a couple others regress.

So there you have it.  You can have all your advanced stats.  They all have their uses.  But you really only need one stat (and that of the non-advanced variety, to boot) to show you what is making a difference for the Wild this season.

The Minnesota Wild is scoring.  Whodathunkit?

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hobby Lobby: What It Feels Like Getting Crushed In Beer League

By Nick

"We all have to go to work tomorrow."  That's a common refrain heard during beer league games when one guy gets a little exuberant with the physical play.  In other words, slow your roll, pal.  Of course one of the great things about the game of hockey is that, should the malefactor fail to curtail his nefarious activities, behavior modification programs can be implemented by the opposition - and the on-ice officials.

Hey, hockey is a contact sport, and even in a no-checking league there is plenty of room for lawful contact between competing players.  And that's one of the things I love about it.  I don't want to watch hockey without contact.  History aside, that's boring.

However, I'm nearly 42.  I stopped playing goalie full-time a couple years back (just slowed down too much to be additive), so now I play wing.  I'm sort of in the middle of my Monday night team, age-wise.  I'm on the lower end of the talent spectrum.

Last night, playing one of our arch enemies, I got completely destroyed.  I was skating across my blue line with the puck on a breakout, moved to skate around a guy (I honestly don't remember if it was one of my team mates or not), and out of no where an opposing player did the same thing but coming straight at me.  Let's just say I took the worst of our collision.  I should take a moment to say that I had no issue with the play.  I don't think the other guy expected me to be where I was any more than I expected him to be where he was.  No penalty was called on the play, and I wouldn't say one was warranted.

My teammates say I was knocked unconscious.  I honestly don't recall that - which probably means I was.  I remember getting hit, and I remember being face down on the ice, with my arms out in front of me.  I remember seeing a yellow streak on my brand new shield and being pissed about that.  I remember being annoyed by how loud my breathing sounded.  I remember pain in my head, and in my back between my shoulder blades.  It was almost like a systems checklist ran through my head.  I remember consciously thinking I should move all my limbs and being happy when they responded, and then feeling stupid for worrying about that.  I remember someone asking me if I was okay over and over again.  I remember saying yes, eventually. I was not thinking "concussion."  I was really just thinking about getting to the bench.  If anything I was a little embarrassed to be the center of attention right then and there.

I made it to my feet, and wasn't too wobbly.  I got to the bench and sat down.  My head was definitely foggy.  That's when I started thinking about concussions.  My back was still hurting.  And my head.  No tingling.  And I did feel a...disquiet in my stomach.  It wasn't exactly nausea.  It wasn't exactly pain.  It was weird.

Maybe ten minutes later, with about four minutes left in the game, we had taken a couple penalties so our bench was both short and in disarray, lines-wise.  We had two guys come off and one guy jump on, and there was a moment of indecision on the bench as no one else thought it was their turn to go.  So, I thought I'd give it a try to see how I was doing.  It was a stoppage.  So I went.  Got to the faceoff circle, we lost the draw, and the other team started down the ice toward our goal.  I took about four hard strides to catch up to the play - and immediately felt like I was going to puke.  So, I just glided to the bench.  (One of our guys told me after the game that the ref was not happy that I'd come back out to play again.  That he said he was going to tell me to get the fuck off the ice and stay off if I hadn't taken myself off.)

I've had a couple concussions throughout my life.  In each case the recovery was pretty quick.  I understand the risks, how the effects are cumulative.  I saw a doc and things checked out as normal.  I've always thought the term "mild concussion" was stupid.  But the doc's point was that I'm not manifesting any serious symptoms at this point, but everything I've said points to a concussion.  So, basically, we'll see.  I don't feel nauseated, or woozy any more.

I'm sore, though.  I'm taking the largest Aleve that I can find.  I don't know how the pros can take that kind of abuse.  Or football players?  My God.  No wonder the average NFL career is 3 seasons.

I suppose I do worry about the cumulative effects of multiple concussions.  I'm not photophobic today, and I'm not getting worse.  I know people can seem okay for a while and then the symptoms can come on.  So I know I'm not out in the clear yet.  But I'm not sweating this one at this point.

There wasn't a point where I was scared last night.  More annoyed.  It hurt, though.  And it still does.  I'll get over sore muscles.  Sure beats paralysis or CTE.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Game: Wild Quietly Good

By Nick

What do the Wild earning 5 of 6 points on the dreaded "Bermuda Triangle" trip through California, and the Spanish Inquisition have in common?  No one expects either of them to happen.

But that's exactly what the Wild just did.  And, more importantly, on the back of seeing their winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Bluejackets.  And that's the piece that has me particularly interested.  What does the 2-0-1 run through California mean?  It certainly means the Wild is resiliant.  And it might mean the Wild is....good.

At some point it becomes impossible to ignore or fare over the statistics.  The ones that count, anyway.

  • How about a +38 goals differential?  That's not just riding the coattails of the 3-straight shutouts anymore.  They had a +13 goals differential after the Dallas shutout on October 29th.  And the Wild doesn't have a 10-0 (CBJ), or 10-1 (MTL) win padding their goals differential. 
  • How about being tied for most ROW in the West, and tied for third-best in the league?  
  • How about a 12-5-5 road record?  
  • How about having four players with at least 10 goals - second-most in the division?  Chicago has five, St. Louis and Winnipeg also have four each.  Nashville and Dallas have three each, and Colorado has two.  

The problem is that we've seen good first halves in the past.  The Wild has salted away the best first half in team history this season, with two games to go before they hit 41.  But, do you know which season they just usurped for best first half?  Last season.

And that's the primary reason why we're not willing to let ourselves believe this team might be good.  Because being good through game 39 hasn't amounted to much in our teams' past.  Just like being 5-0 didn't mean squat this year.  And it's not like we've got those championships (hell, that championship - singular - if we're looking back over the last 25 years) to fall back on.  But we do have a heapin' helpin' of heartache and disappointment.

The numerical indications are there.  And there's a different feeling to this group.  There's a legit number one center, for starters.  Absorbing that loss to Columbus and then doing what they just did in California is a statement.  So why don't we feel better?

Like it or not, the Wild is going to need to produce the rest of the season, and into the playoffs to overcome the cumulative impact of prior seasons' iterations of the team.

Please join us in the message boards to discuss this article, and everything else.

Friday, January 6, 2017

So Much Mine: The Talk, Santa Edition

By Nick

As the calendar rolled around to the Christmas season (which, in our house, starts on November 22nd, which is my wife's birthday and thus the day she is allowed to start playing Christmas music in the house.  This was so-negotiated because, left to her own devices, she would play Christmas music year-round, and I would be the defendant in a homicide trial), we had another opportunity to observe one of the primary personality differences between our daughters (12-, and 10-years old).  The younger (A) was simply excited for the start of Santa-watch.  The older (E) was both excited and touched with some trepidation.  She being more given than her sister to the rational analysis of facts, and - where necessary - the reconciliation of those facts against things observed in life.  Her sister, A, being more given to just accepting something on the face of her immediate emotional reaction to it.

The thing is, she really wanted to keep Believing.  She asked us early on if we were Santa.  We put her off with some pablum about "I don't know how you think we could get around the whole world delivering presents to all those kids in one night", which she bought - albeit grudgingly.  And then she proceeded to traipse through the Christmas season with the same wonder and joy and merriment - and belief - that she had brought to each of her preceding Christmases.

Until two nights ago.

We were just sitting down to dinner, and she said, "So mom and dad, ARE you Santa?"  Uh-oh.

True to form, E had a list of proof points she ticked off that frankly blew us out of the water.  The piece de resistance of which was that E had logged into my wife's computer to do something, and had seen the browser window open to Amazon - and a message saying that some of the items that had been on E's Santa List had successfully been purchased and were being shipped to us.  Busted.

But, as this recitation was going on, my wife and I stole askance glances at A who, while she had clearly been read in on this interrogation beforehand, just as clearly was fighting the cognitive dissonance in her own mind and heart - she was trying to debunk all of these things, or at least explain them away, because - in her world - Santa is real.

My wife deftly tabled the discussion, mostly so A could finish her meal before she lost her appetite.

After A had gone to bed that night, we went into E's room and had The Talk with her.  Well not, The Talk.  *I'm* not emotionally prepared for that The Talk.  This The Talk was the Santa one.  Oof, now I need to sit down for a minute.

Anyway, E took it like a champ.  Our point was that Santa is part of the Christmas spirit, not a literal jolly old elf who has magical reindeer that fly him around the whole world in one night, delivering presents that were made in his non-sweatshop factory by other, non-enslaved elves.  Our little skeptic had several questions.  "Do you also do our stockings?"  "What's the deal with Hermey, then?" (He's our Elf on the Shelf Elf.)  "How does the Santa we see every year at the nursery where we get our Christmas tree always remember our names and what we got last year?" We have no answer for that one, other than the guy is clearly some kind of confidence man.

What made me proud of E, though, was the final part of our The Talk.  That was the part where we told her that she now knows the secret.  And that we can't make her say or not say anything (other than please and thank you because no one lives under our roof who doesn't have good manners), and we won't ask her to lie, but that her sister, two years younger than E, is still firmly in the Believer camp.  That, two years ago, so was E.  And....just sort of an implied "it would be huge of you to let her continue to believe until she gets to where you are now".

E is such a great kid.  I think she got it.  In some way I think she was relieved.  Her rational/analytical mind just couldn't make it work anymore.  It was at odds with her heart.  Even if this is the harder-edged outcome, at least she doesn't have to deal with the internal struggle anymore.

It was a hard The Talk.  My wife got teary.  I did a little bit, too.  It's tough seeing any of the layers of childhood stripped away from your kids - even those layers that aren't more serious.  Except Santa is pretty serious to a kid.  And so is the ability to believe.  And that's the piece that I hope E got.  It's okay to suspend disbelief.  It's okay to find the truth, too.  It's knowing when to do which that is the difference between being a kid and being an adult.

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The Game: The Wild beat the Sharks! (And the funny feeling you get when you climb the rope in Gym Class)

Much like Team USA, the Wild faced a 2-0 deficit against their opponent.
Much like Team USA, the Wild clawed back to even the score.
Much like Team USA, the Wild then faced a 4-2 deficit against said opponent.
Much like Team USA, the Wild fought back to even the score.

Unlike Team USA, the Wild won in regulation rather than forcing overtime or a shootout.

The first period, the Wild didn’t show much rust. I know this because I was actually watching the Wild rather than Important Hockey. The second, they showed that they’d been off for four days by making a couple sloppy plays that led to the first Sharks lead. Fortunately for the Wild, Eric Staal popped one in with a minute left in the period, and that’s the type of goal to marinate on a goalie in the intermission.

Right on cue, the Zach Parise Of Old returned and scored 2 minutes into the third. Wild fans started thinking there was some hope. But then, the Sharks got two quick ones back to take a 4-2 lead.


But this is the Wild, and that’s Bruce Boudreau over there, so you knew something was going to happen. Unlike the Wild teams under Todd Richards or Mike “Put Pominville on the First Line” Yeo, they didn’t roll over. In a span of 5:12, the Wild scored three goals from Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, and Mikko Koivu. Hell of a Game #800 for the Captain, eh?

So what does it mean? If you’re a Wild fan, this should give you hope. I know we reflexively want to throw up when we get this feeling: The Wild are not a team that inspire hope. They are a team who dash our hopes. As Minnesotans, we know this feeling well. We aren’t supposed to have nice things.

Still, I’m feeling something, and it’s not the urge to panic. This is a team that can be down twice in a game, on four days rest, against the defending Western Conference Champs. That's good. It's real good.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

So Much Mine: Duck? Goose?

There are things that you don't think of when you first become a dad, and they can throw you off. But first lets take a step back.

I'm a Minnesotan, that is what my birth certificate says.

I'm as much as a homer (#oneofus) as the next Minnesotan. I cheer for MN sports teams in the sports I don't care about. I taught my son the UofM rouser. We watch the State HighSchool Hockey Tournament.

I have now lived in South Dakota longer than I have lived in Minnesota. I have attended more homing coming football games, parades, etc than I ever did back home. As much as I love standing on the shore of a clean Minnesota lake I am just as comfortable standing on the shores on South Dakota's rivers. I wouldn't miss being in Minnesota for deer opener, just like I wouldn't miss walking a field for South Dakota's Pheasant season.

I still have love for my home state, so when my son was born it was hard not to buy him on of the cute onesies that have become popular.

Because he's a South Dakotan, that is what his birth certificate says.

So when my wife informed me that our son was learning to play a new game at daycare I should have seen it coming...

Duck Duck Grey Duck

I remember when we first moved to South Dakota and we played Duck Duck Goose in PE. How something so simple could throw a kids brain for a loop I'll never know. I don't remember ever being picked on for it, but who knows.

As stupid as it sounds Duck Duck Grey Duck has been symbol of comradeship between myself and Minnesotans I have met working/living in South Dakota. May be it is like growing up in the south where everything is a Coke?

As a dad this was my first realization that he would grow up differently than I did for reasons other than exposure. My father did a great job of taking me to ever sporting event growing up. How else can you explain a hockey play son from parents that had no knowledge of the sport? So that tradition has continue with my son as well.

Currently we have not been able to take him to a hockey game. The local indoor rink is rather loud. The purposely crank music to create an atmosphere which is prohibitive to taking a 2 year old to. It is finally cold enough that our towns outdoor rink is ready. I hope to take him out so he can hear skates on ice, pucks hitting sticks,etc. But I know in the back of my head that he may not like hockey. I don't like basketball or football which are my father favorite sports.

My Father's favorite phrase when I was growing up was "You'll understand when you have kids someday". As I have gotten older and now I have a son I've found that phrase to have multiple meanings. Life is more complicated than you think when you are younger. But also that try as you might, you kids will be your kids and as much as you want to them to do or like something, it may not end up that way.

I'm looking forward to see what my sons finds that ties him to his home state, South Dakota. What ties your home state?

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

And Another Thing: They Forgot Never Forget

By Nick

I lived in Westchester County, just outside NYC, on 9/11/01.  I don't really want to re-hash the day.  I'm fortunate I wasn't in the city yet that morning when all hell broke loose, and that I wasn't more directly impacted by what happened than I was.

All told, I lived in the NYC metro area for six years. I commuted into and out of NYC for five and a half of them.  I grew up in Minnesota, which really couldn't be more dissimilar to NYC apart from that fact that both are in the United States.  I love New York City.  It really is a hell of a town.  While the several months directly after 9/11 were terrible in many ways (the smoking, stinking pit a constant reminder of terrorism and a symbol of impending change in our lives), they were also some of the best of my time there, for one reason: the change in the people.

New Yorkers are not known for their niceness.  They can exhibit kindnesses.  But they cultivate and celebrate their brusqueness and arrogance.  I suppose that's what happens to the native populations of massive metropolises.  For a midwestern kid from sleepy St. Paul, there was a bit of culture shock when I first got to the city (which is another demonstration of the arrogance of New Yorkers.  They refer to NYC as simply The City, as if it is the only one that matters and thus no further specification is required).

The constant cacophonous bleating - of people, of car horns, it's truly omni-present - the congestion, the jaywalking, the incessant assault on one's senses from every direction.  Once you acclimate to it, it's intoxicating and habit-forming.  To tap into the vascular system of a city like New York is to throw yourself into a constant roller-coaster ride of culture, craziness, and action.

But it is still a living, breathing organism.  And it took quite a blow to the system on 9/11.  And it reacted in a very human way: by embracing its own humanity.  People in NYC became nice.  Holding the door for the person behind you.  Saying please and thank you.  Slowing down to look around as if to remind oneself that one does in fact live in this amazing place, amidst a wonderful confluence of history and modernity - at least the parts that hadn't just been reduced to a charnel house nightmare. It was a great time to be in the city - finally a side of New Yorkers that the midwestern kid from sleepy St. Paul could relate to.

Every year since then, when the calendar turns over to September, and the remembrances and tributes marking the anniversary of that dark day start ramping up, New Yorkers are understandably right in the middle of things.  In fact, it's become sort of a rallying cry.  To the point where "Never Forget" is administered as a sort of test of one's patriotism.  Like a challenge coin that New Yorkers carry around in their pockets all year, but only pull out during the first half of September.  If you can respond by showing yours, you pass the test.  If not, you may be a terrorist, and you for sure don't respect and honor the dead, their families, and the still-suffering.  I don't really have a problem with that.  You go through that ordeal, you probably have a right to get worked up about it when the anniversary rolls around.

I do have a problem with the way New Yorkers act the rest of the year, though.  The average encounter with the average New Yorker from October through August is awful. They aren't just back to being tough, brusque city dwellers.  They've gone so far around the bend of entitlement and arrogance as to represent the depths of civilized society on a daily basis.  I saw a woman walking through the city, with headphones on, reading a book.  Like looking down at the book she was reading, while she was walking.  Just stop and think about the level of arrogance and entitlement one must attain in order to get to a place where that kind of behavior is acceptable.  She honestly thought she was the only person in the world.  That everyone else should have to get out of her way for no other reason than she was simply that important.  Fuck you.

It is offensive to me for New Yorkers who act like animals from October through August to then get all frothed up in righteous indignity over 9/11.  You act like you have completely forgotten 9/11 for 364, and then have the balls to yell at the world to Never Forget on the one other day?  You shame the memory of those who were lost.  You shame the struggles of those who lost.  You shame yourselves for taking a horrific, terrible thing, that became an opportunity to do something beautiful and really fight back against the agents of terror, and pissing all over it most of the time and making an absolute joke of it that one other day.

New Yorkers have forgotten "Never Forget", except for the worst possible time: when it's convenient for them.  That's disgusting.

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The Game: Behold The Power Of The Streak

By Nick

The Wild's out-of-nowhere 12-game streak came to an end yesterday at the hands of the Bluejackets.  But, while some in the Twittersphere were quick to jump off the bandwagon(!), others took a more circumspect approach.

What does the streak mean?  I could sit here and tell you it means the Wild has turned a corner, or over a new leaf.  I could try to convince you that it means Boudreau has proven he's the real deal.  I could even try to say that Fletcher's moves are suddenly paying dividends.

I could say all those things, but the bottom line is that none of that is definitive.

What is real though, what cannot be taken away from the Wild, is the points that they accrued during that streak.  Those they get to keep.  They are definitively in the Wild's possession for the rest of this season. So, what do THEY mean?

The Wild has 50 points in 36 games played.  That means they have 46 remaining games, or a total of 92 possible points still on the table.  Let's say 98 points gets you into the playoffs in the west this season.  That means the Wild needs 48 more points the rest of the way, to safely get to a place where they can consider themselves in.  48 out of 92 is 52.17%.  Put another way, the Wild needs to go 24-22 the rest of the way.

Now, the Wild may not finish the season winning 64% of its games, as it has done to this point of the season.  That puts them on a 104-point pace.  Attainable, but let's draw out the worst case scenario here.  Even if a 64% wining percentage is unattainable, is it equally unreasonable to think they could finish with a 52.17% winning percentage?  I don't think so.  Put another way: it better not be.

Of course, the calendar did just flip over into January...

Look, the bottom line is that the streak has put the Wild into a playoff position, if they can just play mediocre hockey the rest of the way.  Think about the possibilities!  We discussed this very thing on the last 5 Minute Major.  If the result of the streak is that the Wild's playoffs don't start in mid-January, and that they're not fighting tooth and nail for every point all the way down the stretch - especially with the bye week making them play 20 games in the final 35 days of the season (which is totally obnoxious), where maybe you would benefit from an opportunity to not overplay some of your vets because you're in a game where it's not totally critical that you get a point or two - those are real, tangible benefits of the streak.

So, no, we don't need to ascribe any greater metaphysical value to the streak than is warranted, for the Wild.  We don't need to stretch credibility by waxing poetic about how great Boudreau or Fletcher is - after only 36 games together.  The streak provided a real live good thing for the Wild, they earned that.  And that's certainly enough.

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