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Game of the Week: Wild at Stars, 7:30pm today, FSN
It's the first game of the new-look Wild. Matt Moulson will be on the ice for Minnesota, and can start proving himself worthy of what his new team gave up for him. Until then, though, we have time to argue about the trade - and for me to tell you that the Wild gave up too much.
Torrey Mitchell, I don't consider too much; he was a third-line forward that ended up struggling on the fourth line, and if nothing else, it was a mercy trade, a chance for Mitchell to start over fresh. His departure also gives the Wild their second-best benefit of the trade - a chance to take Mitchell's $2.5 million salary for next year off the books.
Mitchell leaving is more or less a wash with Cody McCormick, the tough-guy forward who is likely to replace him at the bottom of the Wild lineup. But it's the two draft picks - a second-rounder this year, a second-rounder in 2016 - that make me wonder if the Wild got the raw end of the deal.
If all goes very, very well, Moulson will score eight, perhaps nine goals in a Wild uniform. He is a free agent when the year is up, which - given the Wild's position in the standings - it is likely to be after one round of the playoffs. Minnesota will likely have to play St. Louis or Chicago in the first round, and Moulson or no, they'll be heavy underdogs to either.
Second-round draft picks aren't exactly the crown jewels of the hockey kingdom, but neither are they worthless. The second round is where teams find second-line forwards and second-pairing defensemen, late-blooming goaltenders and future Selke Trophy winners. All draft picks carry the risk of being busts, of course, but the higher you go, the lower the chance.
So here's the trade: two future top-nine forwards for nine goals and $2.5 million, and an ever-so-slightly-increased chance of not exiting this year's playoffs immediately. That seems like a lot of future to give up for a little bit of present, which is the type of trade that Doug Risebrough always used to make -- which is part of the reason that Chuck Fletcher has been frantically digging in the prospect ditch for his entire tenure as general manager.
In other words, I wish the Wild hadn't made this trade. But I also hope that they'll prove me wrong.
What else to watch this weekend
11:25am today: Chelsea vs. Tottenham (NBCSN). Chelsea need a win to stay atop the league; Tottenham need a win to revive their chances of finishing in the top four. It's a game between a team with everything to lose, and one with everything to gain; now, can Tottenham actually score a goal, for once?
Noon today / 7pm today: State hockey championships (Channel 45). There's a short list of events that rise to the level of "cultural touchstone," that are the kind of event that you can ask others about, whether you know they're a hockey fan or even a sports fan. This is one of them. I recommend that you watch.
12:05 Sunday: Twins vs. Phillies (FSN). I'm going to keep putting baseball on the watch list until it warms up around here. Just one 65-degree day. That's all.
What to read this weekend
Kyle Wagner of Deadspin went to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and came away with the truth about the current state of sports analytics: there's great, useful data out there. But people are keeping it to themselves.
NFL free agency starts in earnest Saturday when teams can start contacting players. By Tuesday, they can even start signing them.
What does it all mean? Well, it means a lot of money is about to change hands. And SI.com thinks those who buy on a couple of guys with local connections could regret it.
The site lists former Gophers WR Eric Decker as the No. 1 potential offensive "bust."
It lists Vikings DE Jared Allen as the No. 2 potential defensive "bust."
Eric Decker: Perhaps the most obvious candidate of all, really through no fault of his own. Decker is coming off a career-best 87-catch season, which sets him up to break the bank and claim No. 1 receiver money. The problem, of course, is that he’s not really a true No. 1 receiver — Seattle wiped him off the mat in the Super Bowl and even Decker recently admitted that (former?) teammate Demaryius Thomas is on another level by comparison. Decker will be the top WR available, assuming he does not re-sign with the Broncos. And that status coupled with his 24 TD catches over the past two seasons might encourage some team to deem him their go-to guy. His game may not be built for such responsibility.
Jared Allen: Allen has played every game since 2008 and averaged 14.25 sacks per season in that timeframe. In other words, he’s durable and still can wreak havoc in the backfield. His “bust” potential will grow exponentially, though, if a team asks him to take on more of a role than that of a pass-rusher. Allen, 32 next month, should not be counted on as an every-down force anymore.
Neither of those assessments is overly harsh, but we also see both players as remaining productive years into the future. So busts? Probably not.
That worked great in the NFL, of course, so why wouldn't it be fine in soccer?
On a conference call earlier this week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber expressed confidence that things will be A-OK. That sentiment was echoed on Friday.
MLS said it will start its season on Saturday with replacement referees after an impasse between the league's referees and their employer, the Professional Referees Organization, forced a lockout.
MLS and PRO said the lockout of referees belonging to the Professional Soccer Referees Association took effect at 11 a.m. on Friday, according to Steve Taylor, the union’s vice president.
"Although it is regrettable that the Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected PRO’s offer to continue with the current referees while negotiations continue, we have great confidence in the plan for replacement referees that PRO has put in place," said Mark Abbott, MLS president and deputy commissioner.
The replacement referees come from a group that includes FIFA referees who have moved to North America from overseas, retired MLS referees, and referees from other professional leagues in the United States. In preparation, PRO said that the replacement referees attended a training camp last week.
Name: Rondell White
Claim to Fame, Minnesota: a member of your 2006 and 2007 Minnesota Twins. Like your Craig Monroes and Phil Nevins, White was the budget veteran acquisition who the Twins really hoped would add some pop to the lineup. He did not. In his two years with the hometown nine, he tallied a mere 11 jack jobs. If the Mitchell Report is to be believed, that averages out to $318/dinger for the check he wrote for steroids and HGH in 2005, three months before landing in Minnesota.
Has the Real Rondell White Finally Arrived: no, Minnesota Public Radio, he has not.
Claim to Fame, Everywhere Else: spent the non-journeyman portion of his career with the Montreal Expos (RIP) organization, where he toiled 10 years before being dealt to the Chicago Cubs in 2000. After that, he went everywhere, man: stints with the Yankees, Padres, Royals and Tigers followed, before his final stop here.
Where He Is Now: per Wiki, he lives in Gray, Georgia, near his birthplace of Milledgeville.
Why Have I Heard of Milledgeville Before: because Ben Roethlisberger was there once.
Is He on Twitter: no.
Has He Ever Been in a Twitter Feud with Patrick Reusse: no.
Glorious Randomness: he is Jerry Manuel’s son-in-law.
As if Wednesday's home loss to the Knicks wasn't damaging enough for the Wolves, a halftime interview over on the New York side added another layer of insult to the plot.
Tyson Chandler, interviewed by a sideline reporter in one of those seemingly harmless scenarios where players usually say absolutely nothing, took it upon himself to say that Kevin Love, "Can't play D" (video above).
That's the familiar old rap on Love. At times, it still very much rings true. But ...
A look inside the numbers shows that Love actually has improved quite a bit on that end of the floor. Offense will always be his number one contribution, but right now he has 3.1 defensive win shares -- 18th in the entire NBA and seventh among power forwards. He has the seventh-highest defensive rebounding percentage in the league (30.6). Both of those numbers are better than Chandler.
His defensive rating of 102 is not great, but it's not terrible. And again, it's better than Chandler's (105).
Sure, Chandler should not be anyone's defensive benchmark. But as critical as we all have been of Love's defense at times, it is legitimately better than it has been this year.
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