Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for four years, starting in 2008. In addition, he covered college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Wild owner Craig Leipold, general manager Chuck Fletcher and the rest of the Wild decision-makers deserve a ton of praise today for winning the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter free-agent sweepstakes.
Leipold was determined to make bold moves this offseason and he's accomplished that in a big way. He committed nearly $200 million today to sign Parise and Suter. For Wild fans -- or any team's fans -- that's all you can ask of your owner.
Do whatever it takes to try and build a winner. Go after top free-agent targets. Don't be afraid to compete with the big boys in your sport.
Leipold is a diehard fan. I watched a preseason game in his suite last season and I can tell you he lives and dies with each shift. He wants to win badly and today's news demonstrates that.
Expectations for this team suddenly change now. This team has a core of Parise, Suter, Koivu, Heatley, Backstrom, Setoguchi and a crop of talented youngsters coming in. Fans will look at this team differently now.
Fletcher has put together a talented roster and it will be interesting to see how Mike Yeo makes it all fit when the Wild comes together in training camp.
The Wild has some life and energy again. It has some buzz. They still have to prove that they can win on the ice, but their moves Wednesday show this team is determined to make that happen.
Rick Spielman is presiding over his first NFL Draft as Vikings general manager and the final authority on personnel decisions, and it's hard to imagine him having a better start.
Spielman played the information misdirection game perfectly leading up to Thursday's first round, which resulted in three extra draft picks and the guy the Vikings wanted all along, USC left tackle Matt Kalil.
All those rumors and speculation about their interest in LSU cornerback Mo Claiborne and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon created the desired effect: Cleveland gave the Vikings three picks to trade spots, with the Vikings moving down to No. 4.
The Vikings made the most sensible choice in taking Kalil, who gives them a long-term answer at a critically important position.
Don't get me wrong, Claiborne is a tremendous talent, but all that speculation never made sense to me. Yes, the Vikings secondary was a mess last season and they desperately need to address that area in this draft, sooner than later. They absolutely must upgrade their talent at corner and safety.
But elite left tackles are harder to find that elite cornerbacks, and they had to make sure they surround second-year quarterback Christian Ponder with enough pieces to be successful. Kalil does that.
The scouting report on Kalil is that he's extremely athletic, has great feet and long arms.
"He's just a premier pass protector who will play for a long time," USC coach Lane Kiffin said.
Ultimately, Kalil was too talented to pass up. Yes, left tackles are not exactly a glamorous position but who cares? Kalil was a safe choice and the best choice.
The Vikings likely will shift their attention to cornerback and wide receiver now. Spielman set off enough smokescreens to keep everyone guessing the past week, but in the end, he made the right call.
Nobody should have been surprised. It was a pretty easy decision.
I knew all about Pat Summitt before I first met the legendary University of Tennessee women's basketball coach as a student reporter in 1990.
By then, her program was a national power and she had become a powerful presence in my home state. My high school gym teacher Zandra Morris played for Summitt so I heard many stories about how tough and demanding she was on her players.
I witnessed that firsthand on one of my first assignments at the UT student paper. I was working on a feature on a player, I can't even remember who now, but I do remember that Pat didn't like the tempo or energy at practice so she kicked her team off the floor early. She was not happy. I sat in the stands nervously wondering if I would get my interview or what kind of mood she would be in even if I did.
Summitt pointed at me, asked me to follow her and we went to her office. She proceeded to give me a wonderful interview. She was engaging and funny and insightful. It was, in essence, classic Summitt.
I recalled that story today after hearing news that Summitt has stepped down as coach after being diagnosed with early onset dementia last August. The news was not unexpected but it comes with great sadness for anyone who loves college basketball, or, like me, understands the impact Summitt has had on the Volunteer state.
Too often in sports we use the terms legend and icon loosely, but in Summitt's case it absolutely applies. She served as UT's head coach for 38 years. Think about that for a second -- 38 years.
She won eight national championships and 1,098 games. She led her team to 18 Final Four appearances and, according to the AP story, every player who completed her eligibility left UT with a diploma.
Pat -- that's what her players call her even -- made women's basketball popular inside my home state at a time when the sport received little support or fanfare elsewhere. She always conducted herself with class and her teams reflected her personality: they played incredibly hard, were tough and defense came first.
She is a straight shooter who expects a lot and gives even more. She cares deeply about UT and our state. She's a winner in every sense.
We always said that Pat could run for governor in Tennessee and win in a landslide because people admire everything that she stands for. Case in point: my mom isn't much of a sports fan, but she loves Summitt, Lady Vols basketball and tries to watch any game that's on national TV.
I always enjoyed watching her coach. She'd pace the sidelines with that look on her face, an intense stare that could burn a hole through you. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the Lady Vols were winning or losing. But her players love her. That's evident and it shows that coaches can be both incredibly demanding and caring if they're fair.
Summitt also has a playful side. She once dressed up in a cheerleader outfit, grabbed a microphone and sang Rocky Top at center court during timeout of a men's game. Can you imagine another coach doing that, much less a Hall of Famer?
People always have wondered whether Summitt could have coached men's basketball. Why stop there? In my opinion, she could have coached other sports too because leaders are leaders and the great ones know how to get the most out of their players. That's what Summitt did.
I haven't seen or talked to Summitt since I left UT, but I've remained a big fan over the years. Her presence in Tennessee remains larger than life and I'm certain there's a great deal of sadness back home today.
It's sad that her career ends like this, but the impact she's had on so many people and the pride she brought my state will last forever. For that, we're grateful.
Does the Wild have a brewing goalie controversy on its hands? It’s sure starting to look like it.
Josh Harding provided another strong performance Tuesday in a 2-1 overtime victory at Detroit. Making his third start this season -- all against the Red Wings -- Harding finished with 36 saves. He has stopped 110 of 114 shots in his three appearances.
The Wild practice this afternoon and it will be interesting to see if coach Mike Yeo announces whether Harding or Niklas Backstrom will start in goal Thursday at home against Vancouver.
How do you switch gears now after the way Harding has played the past two games?
Yeo attempted to temper the goalie speculation after Monday’s practice when asked what he considers the ideal split in playing time. Mind you, this was before Harding played well again Tuesday night.
“I’m not even really going to think about that right now,” Yeo said. “We’ll let [Harding] play that game. We can’t lose sight that Backs has played some good hockey for us. There were a few games in there that I don’t think we get points or we don’t get even wins without Backs in the net. So obviously it’s great what Hards did [Saturday vs. Detroit] ... and we’ll evaluate it game by game. But by no means does that mean we forget about what Backs has done for us as well.”
The Wild considers Backstrom a cornerstone of their franchise. They gave the former All-Star a four-year, $24 million contract extension in 2009 that has a no-trade clause.
With that contract, they want him on the ice as much as possible. But then what do they do with Harding? What if he starts Thursday and continues to play at a high level?
Harding has shown no rust or health problems after returning from major knee surgery. He’s playing with confidence. He went into a difficult situation Tuesday night and gave his team a chance to leave Detroit with two points.
Every player and goalie wants to play. I’m not sure a platoon system is the way to go either. That certainly worked when the Wild had Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson. I don’t think either goalie particularly liked that arrangement, but they made it work. They seemed to thrive off that internal competition.
It’s a delicate situation because you never want to pull a hot goalie, even if the other guy is making $6 million a year. But you don’t want the backup collecting dust either. It’s hard to stay sharp when you’re in the lineup once every five games.
These kinds of situations tend to work themselves out, but I’m curious to see how Yeo handles it going forward.