The Minnesota Wild fired Mike Yeo on Feb. 13, 2016. On Saturday, 434 days after the firing, the Yeo-coached St. Louis Blues completed a five-game elimination of what was alleged to be the best team in the Wild’s 16-season history.
This is one of the most-embarrassing events in the half-century since Minnesota became a full-service major league sports market with the arrival of the North Stars (and the ABA) in 1967.
An organization quits on a coach, after the veteran stars of the team decide to quit on him, and then he comes back with an underdog team and takes you out in the first round … in FIVE, and with a 3-0 record in your arena.
“Oh, well,’’ the lemmings on the season-ticket list say, ‘’when do you want our next payment for 2017-18, and when do the new jerseys go on sale?’’
Out in Woodbury, the center of Wild fever, it wasn’t the fault of the players or the coach, Sir Topham Boudreau. They just ran into a hot goalie.
That’s the one I find hilarious. The New York Rangers figured out a way to beat Montreal’s Carey Price, the best goalie in the world, in six games, but Jake Allen was a mystery too great for the Wild to solve.
Here’s an idea that might have worked, fellas: Stop hitting him with the puck.
The reaction to this five-game debacle was rewarding in a way for me as a hockey observer. For decades, I’ve been downplaying hockey with this claim:
“Two teams skate around for 57 minutes, it’s 1-1, then the puck hits someone in the rear end, bounces in the net, and everyone leaves the arena talking about what a great game they have witnessed.’’
Hockey: too much reliance on bounces and not enough on making actual plays. That’s been my mantra forever.
For this, I’ve received much ridicule – first in the mail, then in e-mails, and now in other message forms.
“You don’t know anything about hockey; stay away from writing about it,’’ come the screeds, often with added commentary on my bulk and alleged offensive personal habits.
And now the Wild has gone out in five, vs. Yeo, and rather than disgust, the faithful followers are tracing it to facing a hot goalie and a lack of “puck luck.’’
In other words, if only the puck had hit one of our boys in the rear end and caromed past Allen early in overtime of Game 1, it all would have turned out differently – meaning, I’ve always had this hockey figured out.
AT THE END OF THE DAVID KAHN ERA, we took a look at the Timberwolves draft history and reached the conclusion that – over the 24 years from 1989 to 2012 – they had nearly always done the wrong thing.
The clear exceptions were taking Kevin Garnett at No. 5 in 1995, and flipping O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love in a draft night deal with Memphis in 2008. You could also make a case for Wally Szczerbiak at No. 6 in 1999, although the Wolves screwed up that draft so badly by following with couldn’t-play-a-lick William Avery at No. 14 that the ’99 remains a half of a success.
Now, four years later, objectivity demands that Flip Saunders’ first draft on his return in 2013 also belongs in the “wrong thing’’ category, making it a full quarter-century of mostly draft screw-ups for our traditional local losers.
The Wolves had the No. 9 choice in that draft. The selections fell so that C.J. McCollum, the marksman from Lehigh, was the projected pick as the Wolves went “on the clock.’’
Flip’s words were that he was a fan of McCollum but not his actions. He wound up choosing Trey Burke (a bust) for Utah, and received two later selections: taking Shabazz Muhammad at No. 14 and Gorgui Dieng at No. 21.
Shabazz has been an erratic contributor and probably will leave after this season. Dieng has been OK, although he should be a backup and not a starter.
McCollum was hurt early in his career, but has turned into the second part of a dynamic duo with Damian Lillard – the 42 percent shooter from three that the Wolves have needed.
And here’s the worst part of the 2013 draft:
Once Flip decided to make the trade, it seemed more as though he got stuck with Muhammad at No. 14 rather than being sold on him. As it turned out, Milwaukee was choosing 15th and came up with a much-better option than Shabazz:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, a k a, the Greek Freak.
Flip did OK with his bold selection of Zach LaVine at No. 13 in 2014, and you couldn’t mess up with Karl-Anthony Towns as the clear No. 1 in 2015, and now there’s a strong possibility that the Wolves returned to doing the wrong thing when Tom Thibodeau took Kris Dunn at No. 5 in his first try last June.
(Who else? How about Jamal Murray, the kid from Kentucky, who wound up at Denver and could become another McCollum?)