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Astute copy desk/layout maven Randy Johnson passed along a photo shot by our own Marlin Levison last night at the Wild/Jets game. And we now present it without comment, asking for your captions. In case you weren't certain, those are empty beer cups:
Game of the week: 7pm today (FSN): Wild at Chicago
For years, the NHL tried various ways to promote old-school, 1980s-style rivalries in the league. They tried weekend series, kind of like college hockey; they tried making divisional opponents play each other roughly 22 times each per year.
All this led to was fifty million Calgary-Edmonton-Vancouver road trips for the Wild, with rivalries nowhere to be seen -- except for Vancouver, a rivalry bred by the playoffs. And Colorado, a rivalry bred by the playoffs.
You can, of course, see a theme developing here. Rivalries happen because of the playoffs, and because of proximity, and not just from sheer repetition. It's like baseball trying to set up the Padres and the Mariners as an interleague series; no matter how many times MLB makes the teams play six games every year, Seattle and San Diego will never see each other as rivals. It just won't happen.
The NHL has finally figured this out. Let the Central Division rivalries begin anew -- starting tonight, when the Wild visit Chicago for the first time this year, a series that happens to be a rematch of a playoff series from last year, and a rematch of a thousand North Stars-Blackhawks battles.
I couldn't be more excited. Let's get this thing going again. And in conclusion: Secord sucks.
What else to watch this weekend
6:30pm today, 7pm Sunday (FOX): World Series: Listen. Pretty soon there's going to be no baseball and 10 feet of snow on the ground. Take some time out to enjoy there being baseball and no feet of snow on the ground.
7pm today (ESPN): #12 UCLA at #3 Oregon. Somebody may slow Oregon down this year. It could, theoretically, be UCLA. In the soon-to-end extended playoff of college football, we need to keep our eyes open now, because Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State have playoff games every week.
8:25am Sunday (NBCSN): Manchester City vs Chelsea. Friend of the blog Dana Wessel insists that these are the Premier League's two best teams, making this one of the marquee games of the season. Given that Chelsea is involved, it'll probably be a dull 0-0 draw, but you never know.
1pm Sunday (FSN): Gophers vs. Boston College. Something about afternoon hockey usually gets the Mariucci Arena crowd going, and Sunday's game -- after Friday's 3-3 tie between the #1 and #5 teams in the nation -- should be a barn-burner.
What to read this weekend
If you missed Mike Bates at SB Nation absolutely destroying the Twins, their front office, and really everything the franchise stands for, then I encourage you to take time out and read it, because unfortunately he is right about everything and the truth hurts.
We asked you on Twitter to rank the four major men's pro teams in town in order of LEAST dysfunctional to most dysfunctional. (The Lynx are not part of the discussion because they are CLEARLY the least dysfunctional organizatoin in town).Here are the results (and our thoughts below):
Of 29 Twitter votes among those who voted for all 4:
*21 picked the Wild as the LEAST dysfunctional
*7 picked the Wolves as the LEAST dysfunctional
*27 of 29 picked the Wolves either No. 1 or No. 2
*26 of 29 picked the Wild either No. 1 or No. 2
*18 picked the Vikings as the MOST dysfunctional
*9 picked the Twins as the MOST dysfunctional
*28 of 29 picked the Vikings No. 3 or No. 4.
*25 of 29 picked the Twins No. 3 or No. 4.
If you want another shot at voting, you can go to our startribune.com poll.
Our order, which is based primarily on problems that surfaced (or continued) two years ago and each team's ability or inability to solve them:
1. Wolves. The Timberwolves won just 17 games in the 2010-11 season, and while there were many problems, a big one that continued to vex the team the next two seasons was the lack of a reliable true shooting guard. That problem appears to have been corrected with the free agent signing of Kevin Martin, and the Timberwolves -- with their roster assembly and head coach -- arguably have the most potential of any of the four.
2. Wild. The glaring weakness? Well, basically the objective of the sport: scoring goals. The Wild offense struggled in 2010-11. The next season, 2011-12, the team scored 166 goals, by far the fewest in the NHL. Despite the additions of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and others since then, the Wild entered play Thursday ranked 25th in the NHL in goals scored with just 21 in their first 10 games. Based on scoring chances and potential, however, the Wild could be on track to fix things as the season goes along.
3. Next we have the Twins, whose starting pitching was a major problem in 2011 when the team went from 94 to 63 wins. The team ranked 26th in starters’ ERA that year. Modest attempts to fix that have flopped, with the Twins ranking 29th in starters’ ERA in 2012 and 30th – dead last – in 2013.
4. And finally we have the Vikings. They entered 2011 knowing they needed a quarterback of the future. They drafted Christian Ponder in the first round and floundered in 2011 with a 3-13 record. Even a 10-6 playoff season in 2012 didn’t quell skeptics, and rightfully so. The team is right back where it started, at 1-5 in 2013 and with no discernible quarterback of the future.
Piggybacking a little off a successful similar promotion put on by the Twins in recent years, the Wild gathered media types and allowed them to have a look -- and taste -- of some new options inside the arena this season.
A chili cheese sausage, a Reuben sausage, loon sausage, brisket with mac & cheese, pork torta, plus the cheese and steak quesadillas are available on both the 100 and 200 levels to the general public.
The walleye BLT, jalapeno bacon burger and cowboy burger are on the 100 level in the Bud Light Fan Zone (formerly Iron Range Grill).
The chicken and green chili sausage, Midwest harvest salad, braised pork and chicken parmesan sandwich are available only on the club level.
We had a taste of the braised pork, chili cheese sausage, loon sausage (not made with real bits of loon) and the pork torta, and it was a delightful sampling.
Honestly, we have never gone to a Wild game thinking of the concessions. That might change this year.
Please also see the video above we shot with Jason Steidle, executive chef at Levy Restaurants, who helped overhaul the menu. He took us on a tour of the sausages (stop that!) which are from Husnik's in St. Paul.
Justin Bieber unwittingly committed a hockey no-no by standing on the Chicago Blackhawks' logo in their dressing room at the United Center, where he performed Tuesday night.
The 19-year-old Bieber, from Canada and a known hockey fan, was posing for pictures with the Stanley Cup, which the Blackhawks won on June 24. There was also a personalized Blackhawks jersey with Bieber's name on it in the background. But what upset some Blackhawks fans on Twitter was a picture of the teen pop star standing on the team's Indian head logo while he was taking his own picture of the Cup.
The Blackhawks, like most NHL teams, have an unwritten rule that no one is permitted to step on their logo in the dressing room. The logo is often roped off throughout the playoffs.
Players have been known to scold people for accidentally or purposely stepping or standing on it.
This is one of the very few things we have in common with Biebs, aside from our all-leather wardrobe and uncomfortable large clan of tween admirers.
We had no idea about the "rule" one time in the Wild locker room and planted ourselves on the logo before being scolded. Dumbest unwritten rule in the history of unwritten rules.