Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK.
This really is the state of hockey. It's not just a self-serving slogan.
There are two Minnesotas when it comes to winter sports. There are regions of the state where basketbal rules, and there are those where every backyard holds a homemade rink.
This winter, this is the state of...you know.
The Wild is on a remarkable run that will lead to a bound-to-be-compelling playoff.
Gopher men's hockey has righted itself and made the NCAA tournament, where it will face Minnesota-Duluth and share a field with No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State.
Gopher women's hockey won its third title in four years on Sunday at Ridder Arena. (My piece on goalie Amanda Leveille is here).
Meanwhile, the Gopher basketball team did not make even the NIT, and the Wolves, for all the promise of Andrew Wiggins, are currently unwatchable.
So, until further notice, this is the state of hockey - a state filled with great arenas and great teams.
Tonight my guest will be former St. John's quarterback, keen football observer and relentless world traveler Tom Linnemann, at 5 p.m. at The Local on SouhanUnfiltered.com. We're going to talk about Peterson, Bridgewater, Zimmer, the draft, Melrose's state title in basketball (Tom's an alum), and what it was like for him to surf in Australia, or slum in Viet Nam, or live in Toronto, or return to Minnesota. I guarantee a great conversation.
You can drop by or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Devan Dubnyk wasn't the problem in the Wild's 3-2 loss to Washington on Thursday night.
Alex Ovechkin made one stunning play to score a goal, and scored another off a faceoff on a shot that Dubnyk never saw.
In general, it was typical of the Wild's recent losses - by one goal, at home, to a physical team.
Wild coach Mike Yeo has played Dubnyk relentlessly since he arrived. I don't think Dubnyk looked tired on Thursday, but I was curious about Yeo's philosophy, so I asked if he has seen any signs of fatigue from his goalie.
Yeo's full answer:
``I thought he was really good tonight. I don’t think we could fault him on anything tonight. I know there’s a lot of talk about this right now, but looking at the minutes he’s played…
``We just played a goalie of a team that’s been battling for first place in the conference, (Nashville's) Pekka Rine, and they played him four games in six days. They’ve been playing him every day. Carey Price is playing every game. That’s where the league is at right now.
``The game means something so you're going to go with the guy you think is hot and the guy you think gives you the best chance that night. Certainly it's something to keep an eye on, But I haven’t seen anything. For some reason, it’s a story that keeps coming up, and I haven’t seen any reason for it.''
For the record, I'm not actually second-guessing Yeo on this. He has one goalie playing exceptionally, and two who can't be trusted. I'd do the same thing.
I do wonder if Dubnyk will wear down, and whether playing every game will catch up with him in the playoffs, if the Wild makes it.
The gap between Dubnyk and the backups is so immense right now, Yeo has little choice but to keep playing Dubnyk.
Last 3 podcasts this week on SouhanUnfiltered.com: Quincy Lewis, Peter Killen and Michael Russo. Friday night, 6 p.m. at O'Gara's, my guest will be Gophers senior associate athletic director Dan O'Brien, who was born in Winthrop and attended St. Thomas.
Stop by or use SouhanUnfiltered.com like a radio DVR. It's radio on demand, available any time on any computer or device.
Tonight's Series of Random Thoughts, from an enclosed press box at Target Field, watching umbrellas sprout like dandelions...
-I understand that owners want to appear sympathetic as possible during the lockout. But the idea that they will cut the average NFL employee's salary by 12 percent to save money during the lockout should embarrass each of them.
These are billionaires who make huge profits with their latest plaything, an NFL franchise. The average fan might not realize this, but an NFL team's offices contain lots of mid-management and grunt types who are not being paid all that well. To cut their pay as a way to save a few thousand bucks or to make the owners' plight seem worse than it really is, is the height of arrogance.
Zygi Wilf shouldn't engage in this stunt. He's been a good and generous owner for the Vikings. He should be better than this.
-I ordered an IPad2, and Michael Cuddyer was gracious enough to show off his original Ipad to me in the clubhouse.
Friday afternoon, having returned from a road trip to Baltimore, he was using it to show me pictures he took of Camden Yards (he's a pretty good amateur photographer) and the weather radar. He also watches other games live on MLB.com, and said sometimes his son will ask to watch a West Coast game on the IPad when he's going to sleep.
Just about then, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel came over to Cuddyer's locker to tease him about his inability to hit Fausto Carmona, the Indians' scheduled starter for Friday night.
Cuddyer has made another for-Twins-only t-shirt. It shows the father figure from the movie ``The Incredibles,'' with his lantern jaw, as Jim Thome. The caption reads: ``Jimcredible.''
-The St. Paul Pioneer Press ran a feature on Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie playing tennis with the Williams sisters. I love it. What could be better for McKinnie than a sport that requires conditioning and footwork? Plus, it shows that he's dedicating himself to improving, even during a lockout. Maybe there's hope for McKinnie after all.
-I've never seen a team as depleted as the current Twins. Think about the caliber of players they're missing right now: Two former MVPs (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer), a Japanese league All-Star (Tsuyoshi Nishioka), one of the best run-producers of 2010 (Delmon Young), an All-Star closer (Joe Nathan, who is effectively without a role right now) and Kevin Slowey, who could have helped this team as a versatile righthander.
They are lucky the White Sox and Tigers have played almost as poorly as the Twins have so far. I still don't see the Indians or Royals lasting long. I did get a chance to chat with Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who raved about the influence of Orlando Cabrera on the young Indians.
Cabrera is one of those players who seems to have a greater impact on teams than his statistics and limited range would suggest. The Twins loved him when he helped them win in 2009. He is a highly competitive personality, something the Twins could use right now as they shrug and shiver their way through April.
-Great to see bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest-tenured coach in Twins' history, back in the cliubhouse on Friday. He missed spring training and the beginning of the season with a series of retina surgeries.
-Kevin Slowey has altered the Twins' plan for his rehab work in Florida. I don't know if I've ever seen a player work harder to alienate everyone in an organization. The Twins regret not trading him this spring when they had the chance.
-Upcoming: I'll be covering the Gophers spring game (or scrimmage, or practice, or whatever) on Saturday, then the Twins' game on Sunday. Tom Pelissero and I will host the Gardenhire Show at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk from 10-noon. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
Received a number of interesting emails in the wake of our Joe Mauer package in today's paper. (Yes, we still print a newspaper.)
The most interesting came from a reader who noted that a position change wouldn't necessarily keep Mauer off the disabled list. After all, players at positions other than catcher get hurt, too.
While that's true, I'm basing my premise - that Mauer needs to shift positions to be an everyday offensive force - on years spent around Mauer, observing his routine and his habits. I see a guy who invests an incredible amount of time and thought in catching. I see a 6-5, 235-pound man with a long history of leg ailments. I also believe that modern athletes over-train.
While we all make fun of the odd pro athlete who proves to be an irresponsible slacker, most modern athletes are remarkably dedicated. They spent 12 months a year working on their bodies and their jobs. Mauer is such a modern athlete, and I think getting out of the crouch, and spending fewer hours every day, all year, would allow him to fulfill his offensive potential.
Here's a guy (to borrow a phrase from Frank Caliendo mimicking John Madden) who has won three batting titles and an MVP without even concentrating on his offensive capabilities. His current numbers are remindful of Rod Carew's, and I believe that relieved of the burden of catching, Mauer would become one of the greatest average/on-base-percentage hitters in baseball history, and he may even increase his power production.
What's fascinating about all of this is that noone knows. Not Mauer, not the Twins, not his teammates, not us. Noone can predict exactly how his body will react either to continued catching or a position change. But I'd rather see him change positions than continue to be worn down. And, of course, I get into all of this in today's column.
-Congratulations to Kevin Love on winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
He deserves it. What's strange about Love as a phenomenon is that I don't think I've ever encountered a player who is more celebrated nationally than locally. It usually works the other way around.
ESPN loves love. The Dan Patrick Show loves Love. And yet locally, he's more of an oddity than a celebrity.
This is, of course, another example of how far the Wolves have fallen in the public's eyes. If I had told you a few years ago that a white player would win the rebounding title and run off a remarkable string of double-doubles for the Wolves, you would have thought that the guy would be our No. 1 celebrity.
He isn't, and that's because nothing trumps winning in pro sports. I covered Kirby Puckett in his prime, Dave Winfield and Terry Steinbach near the ends of their careers, and Paul Molitor as he pursued 3,000 hits and a berth in the Hall of Fame, and those Twins teams didn't draw, because they didn't win.
Until Love becomes part of a winner, he will remain, locally, more a pleasant oddity than a star.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn today at 2:40 p.m. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk on the Target Field plaza at 10 a.m., right after the Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. Feel free to visit, but the woman who pressed her chest against the window is not welcome back.
The elderly man who walked up to our poster and shook his cane at our faces, however, is welcome to come in the booth and join the show.
This weekend, I"m covering the Gopher spring football game, where I believe Gopher fans will induct him into the Hall of Fame, and covering the Twins on Sunday. I know, it's Easter, and my kids are mad at me for working, but it's the first-place Indians!
Today's Series of Random Thoughts:
-Carlos Gomez just made an amazing running catch against the Phillies. If only he could have learned to take a decent at-bat...
-For those emailing today, asking why my column didn't recommend firing David Kahn...well, I've actually recommended that often over the last few months. Today's column was an attempt to figure out how the Wolves could improve if he is retained, which is what I expect to happen.
-I also received a bunch of emails asking why I didn't include the Twins in today's ``prescription'' column. C'mon, can't we have a little perspective? The Twins stink right now. They're awful right now. They've been similarly awful at various points over the last 10 years, and being lousy for a couple of weeks, or a month, or half a season, hasn't prevented them from being very successful overall.
They stunk for half a season in 2003 and won the division. They stunk for two months to start the 2006 season and won the division. They stunk for much of 2008, and much of 2009, and wound up in Game 163s. And they went through a midseason slump last year and won the division.
They have lots of worrisome problems. Right now they don't know what they're going to get from their three best players - Mauer, Morneau and Nathan - or the entire bullpen. But they've been in far worse straits than this and survived. I'd just wait a while before burying them.
They have played as poorly as can be imagined, and yet are just two games behind Detroit and one behind Chicago. That's not exactly a crisis. It would be if the Twins played in the AL East, but they don't.
-Interesting that the NFL seems to have front-loaded its schedule with intriguing games, and rivalry games. Either the NFL brass expects the season to be played in full, or wants to pressure the players by making the public hot for those early-season games to be played on time.
-OK, this is purely selfish, but couldn't the Vikings play in Detroit in September and San Diego in December? Please?
-As I wrote today, Ken Hitchcock would be a godsend for the Wild. He's smart, funny, personable, accomplished and shrewd. He might be able to squeeze a playoff appearance out of this mediocre roster.
If the Wild hired Hitchcock and the Wolves hired Rick Adelman or Sam Mitchell, those franchises would be in far better shape.
-Watching the Sharks-Kings games last night, it occured to me that hockey is at its best when defenses are disorganized or inept. I'll take a wild shootout over a conservatively-played 1-0 game anytime in this sport.
-Been debating with Patrick Reusse on 1500espn how many pitchers the Twins will use this year. He originally said 18, and I said 20, and we might both be conservative. I see frequent callups and a trade or two before the end of August.
-There is a reason NBA players don't play this hard on defense during the regular season: None of them would be healthy for the playoffs. The level of defense in this league's playoffs is ferocious.
-As for the rampant Gopher-fan enthusiasm over the hiring of Jerry Kill, can we at least wait until he proves he can win the spring game?
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