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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Posts about Wild news

How Chuck Fletcher made me look bad

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 12, 2015 - 6:02 PM

On Jan. 10, the Wild lost a home game to Nashville while looking completely helpless. After the game, I wrote that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should not try to save the season, that doing so would cost him prospects or draft picks and probably not provide enough help to salvage a horrible season in which his team was damaged by illnesses, the deaths of family members, injuries, the failure of young players to develop, and, of course, terrible goaltending.

Fletcher wisely did not listen to me. He traded a third-round draft pick for Devan Dubnyk and saved the season. Even if the Wild failed to make the playoffs from here, Fletcher will have been proved right. He gave his team a chance, a chance I didn't think existed.

I'm going to write about this topic more in the near future: It's heartening when a local talent evaluator makes the kind of move that the average observer could not have envisioned.

Fletcher saw something in Dubnyk that was not readily apparent to most of the population. It might be his most impressive move to date.

I'll be covering the Wild-Panthers game tonight with colleague Michael Russo.

You can find recent podcasts by myself and Michael at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Just don't tell anyone about the stuff Michael says on the podcast. It will get him into trouble.

Also, I'll be appearing every weekday afternoon on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere. Please check it out.

@Souhanstrib

All-Star ideas, plus a baseball tweak

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 26, 2015 - 8:50 AM

The NFL held its Pro Bowl and the NHL held its All-Star game on Sunday.

Part of my job is to consume as much of newsworthy, noteworthy sports on television as I can. I didn't watch a minute of either.

Judging from today's reports, I didn't miss anything.

Here's how I would ``fix'' the All-Star events, or at least make them more watchable:

NHL: Hockey without defense is a bad idea. Goals in and of themselves are rarely pretty. They're exciting because they occured against a bunch of defensive players trying to stop the puck, or crush the shooter. Hockey requires intensity to be entertaining. So instead of paying each player a nice fee for making the All-Star game, throw all of that money into a pot, add a few million to make it enticing, and give all of the money to the participating players on the winning team.

Wouldn't you love to see the best players in the game playing hard for that last goal?

Basketball: Again, make it a winner-takes-all game, and tweak the rules. Install a four-point line to reward extra-long shots. And make dunks worth four points. Nobody wants to see mid-range jump shots in an All-Sar game, Reward the spectacular.

Baseball: This remains the best of the All-Star games, because it is the only one in which the defense is performing to the best of its abilities. One tweak: Allow players to reenter the game. The flaw of the baseball All-Star game is that the subs are in the game for the deciding innings, and it's possible for both teams to run out of players. If the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team trailing by one, would you rather see the manager forced to use the player scheduled to bat...or would you like to see him call Miguel Cabrera off the bench, even though Cabrera left the game in the third inning?

NFL: Football without fully-engaged defenses might be even less entertaining than hockey without defense. My longstanding suggestion: Scrap the Pro Bowl and make the NFC and AFC battle in an old Superstars-style competition.

For the younger generation, Superstars would take star athletes and have them compete in events like sprinting, tug of war and the obstacle course. With the winners taking home loot

This format created one of the great moments in non-tradiational sports history. Here's a recap of it by ESPN and former St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Jim Caple:

``The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings met in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in January 1975, a game that included 16 future Hall of Famers (counting coaches Bud Grant and Chuck Noll), Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters and legendary quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. That game, which the Steelers won 16-6, was not the most dramatic or memorable showdown between the two teams, however. That distinction goes to an epic, 16-minute tug-of-war on the sands of Waikiki held two weeks later as part of ABC's "Superteams" competition. After it was all over and the two teams lay moaning and exhausted in the sand, Dick Button -- yes, that Dick Button, the figure skating guy -- told a Sports Illustrated writer, "Nothing -- nothing, not even my own Olympic victories -- has ever moved me like that."

JEFF SIEMON, former Vikings linebacker: "It was the worst physical strain I've ever been under. It was the most intense, brutal abuse I've ever gone through -- and maybe by far."

DAVE OSBORN, former Vikings running back: "The tug-of-war was the toughest, most physical thing I've ever done, bar none. As far as being tired, I have never been more fatigued. I was always in great shape as a player. Practice was always a breeze. But when you have got to do something for a length of time and don't dare let up, it drains you. It was 16 minutes, but it seemed like 16 hours."

BEV OSBORN, Dave's wife: "You just wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but this was wondering if everyone was going to still be alive when it was over."

=============

I love that incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had the guts to suggest that baseball's defensive shift might be outlawed.

I liked the shift when it was a novelty that rewarded progressive thinking. Now it's a common stratagem that takes away hits. I no longer like it. Make fielders stay in a rough semblance of order. Let's see good hitting rewarded.

=============

Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 105.1 The Ticket's Bob Sansevere and I telling stories about the best characters in Vikings history; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo on the Wild; Twins GM Terry Ryan on his health, past and future; USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero on the Patriots, Seahawks, and the reaction he's received from scientists about the Deflatriots.

Next podcast: Today, 5 p.m. at The Local with Twins president Dave St. Peter.

My podcast network, The Alive&Social Network, now has a house containing a studio, and we're going to start doing live music shows as well as talking about music and sports. Follow @Aliveandsocial on Twitter to keep up to date.

Also, I'll be appearing on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere every afternoon at 3:30.

Thanks.

@Souhanstrib

An actual ``good'' morning in Twin Cities

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 18, 2015 - 10:04 AM

Twin Cities sports fans Let's enjoy today.

We wake to one of the best sports days of the year - NFL championship Sunday - after a day during which the Timberwolves, Wild, Gopher basketball team and Gopher hockey team all won.

While we can, let's cite a few positive developings in our winter of discontent:

-Andrew Wiggins keeps getting better. The Wolves' incompetence has given him and opening, and he has walked right through it, becoming more assertive as an NBA rookie than he ever was at Kansas.

-The Wild's trade for goalie Devan Dubnyk has paid off instantly. I believe the Wild would have been better off losing big this year, securing a high draft pick and resetting for next season, but Dubnyk has been better than expected. Maybe the positive development here is that the Wild gets to give Dubnyk a full tryout and decide whether he can become their goaltender of the future.

-It's been a terrible season for Gopher senior Andre Hollins. Saturday, he hit 7-of-10 three-pointers, and the Gophers won. That link shouldn't surprise. College basketball might be the most overanalyzed game in existence. The team that hits shots usually wins.

-Gopher hockey has been a disappointment. Saturday, the Gophers earned a blowout victory over a bad Wisconsin team.

As I wrote about in the Sunday paper, the four coaches and four quarterbacks in the NFL title games today all offer wildly different resumes. You never know who the next great quarterback or coach is going to be.

Strangely, of the four great or potentially great quarterbacks playing today, I think I'm most fascinated by Russell Wilson. Being a short, scrambling, running quarterback with average receivers is not supposed to be a formula for success in the modern NFL, but Wilson has made it one. He makes the right play at the right time, and is not only the best running quarterback in the NFL, he may be the only one who seems to know exactly how to avoid big hits.

Enjoy today...and yesterday.

--------------

Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Strib hockey writer Michael Russo, former Viking Leo Lewis (who recalled that he and his father were both cut by Bud Grant), Twins GM Terry Ryan...and a lot of other fascinating people.

@Souhanstrib

On Yeo, Manning, NFL

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 12, 2015 - 9:03 AM

A Monday morning three-pointer:

1. Wrote Sunday that the Wild is so buried that there is no easy fix that will make this a playoff team, not even a competent goalie.

My theory is that at this point this team should hope for the best possible draft pick, which means not trying to salvage a lost season.

But, for the first time since Mike Yeo became the Wild coach, I think he's lost his team. His tantrum at practice last week was an indication that he's run out of reasonable tactics to spur his players on. And the last five periods the Wild has played have been  an embarassment to the sport, as well as the perpetually-mediocre hockey club in St. Paul.

HIs players didn't offer much effort in the second and third periods against Nashville, and they were a step behind all night against Chicago.

If I were owner Craig Leipold, I'd fight the urge to salvage a 10th-place finish in the Western Conference, and I'd hope to finish poorly enough to land a high draft pick that could help this team as early as next season.

But if he wanted to fire Yeo, he would now be justified. This team has quit on Yeo, despite his good intentions.

2. I was sitting in the end zone in Miami when Peyton Manning won his only Super Bowl.

Manning is the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history. Sunday, hampered by injuries that left him with little arm strength, he managed 13 points in a home playoff game.

There are two things you should know about his postseason resume:

-He hasn't been as bad as you think as an overall playoff performer.

-He was lucky to earn his one Super Bowl victory.

In regular-season games, Manning has a completion percentage of 65.5, a yards-per-attempt average of 7.7 and a rating of 97.5. In the postseason those numbers are: 64.0, 7.3 and 88.5. The small dip can be explained by facing superior defenses, including many of Bill Belichick's, and not always having a productive running game to keep defenses honest.

But he might have become the new Dan Marino - an amazing passer without a Super Bowl ring - if not for a bit of luck in Super  Bowl XLI.

That day in Miami (well, Miami Gardens), Manning completed 28-of-38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was facing a good Bears defense. He was also facing Rex Grossman.

Manning's one touchdown pass came on a busted coverage that left Reggie Wayne wide open for a 53-yard touchdown. And the game was still in doubt in the fourth quarter, with the Colts leading 22-17, when Grossman threw an interception that the Colts' Kelvin Hayden returned 56 yards for a touchdown and a 29-17 victory.

If the Bears don't leave Wayne wide open, and if Grossman doesn't throw a pick-six, Manning's postseason record might be seen as even worse than it already is.

Overall, Manning's play didn't take a huge statistical dip in the postseason. But unlike Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and even Joe Flacco, he didn't raise his level of play when it mattered most.

3. Dez Bryant's sideline antics have been intriguing us for a long time. Sunday, he walked onto the field holding his head in disbelief, then slumped on the bench in utter depression.

That was the appropriate response.

You saw the play - Bryant made an amazing catch that may have won the Dallas Cowboys a playoff game on Sunday. After he leaped, caught the ball, secured it, landed, dove for the end zone and had his elbow hit the ground, the ball came loose. After Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, the officials ruled that he had not ``completed the process'' and ruled it incomplete.

This is the problem with NFL officiating; Even when the refs get one technically right, they can be utterly wrong when it comes to the spirit of the rules and common sense.

Everyone knows that was a catch. And Bryant still had the ball secured when his elbow hit the ground, which should end the play. He shouldn't have to carry the ball all the way to the team bus for it to be a catch.

The NFL should want to reward brilliant plays like Bryant's, not parse them out of existence with verbose language and bureaucratic excess.

A catch is a catch, and that was a catch.

=========

On a recent podcast, Twins general manager Terry Ryan told me that he used to have long, red hair and ride a Harley. And that he still rides a Harley. Next podcast is 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Local, with my guest Leo Lewis, the former Viking who is now the athletic director at North High. Leo is not only a fellow Mizzou grad, he's the rare person in this market who knows what life is like inside the Vikings, the University of Minnesota (where he used to work) and on the high school scene.

All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thanks.

---------

I've picked seven of the eight NFL playoff winners correctly. I missed on the Broncos.

My pick for the NCAA title game tonight: Ohio State, maybe big.

I love everything about Oregon football, but Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. His team is more physical and has plenty of speed. Oregon has lost several key players to injuries and suspensions. My guess is Ohio State 34, Oregon 22.

@Souhanstrib
 

RIP, JP; my lunch with the former North Star

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 8, 2015 - 9:25 AM

Met with JP Parise before Zach returned. We talked at a restaurant near his house, and he told me that his son had given him a Cadillac. Parise was living in Zach's house at the time.

Here's our conversation:

March 28, 2012: Souhan: J.P. Parise has hockey in his blood and in his heart

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • September 27, 2014 - 7:32 PM
When the North Stars hold their reunion starting Thursday, former players will gather to reminisce about their hockey lives. Of course, J.P. Parise does that every day.

Parise, retired and living in his son's old house in Prior Lake, played and coached for the North Stars. He married the woman honored as the 2-millionth fan to pass through the Met Center's turnstiles. He recently visited Moscow as a member of Team Canada that played in the Summit Series in 1972, and dined with Vladmir Putin.

His hockey life gave him a son, Zach, who became a star at North Dakota and in the NHL, and brought him into contact with half of the Minnesota sports Hall of Fame. The man can tell stories about Lou Nanne, Bud Grant, Herb Brooks, John Mariucci, Bill Goldsworthy and the days when the NHL featured six teams, and on a recent weekday at a restaurant near his home, he did just that.

He remembered his buddies making fun of a slow-witted North Stars teammate, saying, "He's strong like bull, and smart like tractor.'' So one day Brooks called for "Deere" to take the ice, and the players gave him a funny look. "Deere?" Parise remembers thinking. To which Brooks said: "Yeah -- John Deere.''

He remembered Mariucci running a Stars practice, and telling players to "work on what you're good at.'' So one of Parise's teammates skated to the bench, sat down, and practiced opening the door.

He remembers leaving a North Stars luncheon and being stopped by Grant, who praised Parise's gritty style. "That, I can tell you, was the greatest compliment of my life,'' Parise said.

He remembers his friend Tom Reid, then a North Stars defenseman and now a Wild broadcaster, listening to the National Anthem before a game and telling Parise, "You know, every time I hear that song I have a bad game.''

Parise can tell stories about the time he was arrested when a teammate got into a late-night fight at a Philadelphia Denny's, and the time he locked himself, naked, out of a Pittsburgh hotel room, but he also thinks deeply about how hockey changed his life.

He grew up in Ontario, and at 16 was playing for a men's team when an opponent smashed Parise's skull with a stick during the playoffs. The next game would decide the series, and Parise's coach begged him not to retaliate. "We won, 6-5,'' Parise said. "I had four goals and two assists. There was a Boston scout in the stands. If I had gone after that guy, I don't know what would have happened.''

During expansion, Parise was drafted by the Oakland Seals. When his coach upbraided him for a mistake, Parise popped off. The next morning he was traded to Rochester, which later traded him to the North Stars. He would become a two-time All-Star and eventually an assistant coach in Minnesota before working as the hockey director at Shattuck-St. Mary's, where he'd oversee the likes of his son and Sidney Crosby.

His most powerful memory involves not a goal but a conversation. Early in his North Stars career, he boarded a team flight with teammate Ray Cullen. The flight attendant asked if they wanted anything to drink.

"I gave her some wise answer,'' Parise said. "She leaves and Ray says to me, 'Who do you think you are? Why do you have to be such a jerk all the time?' I was like, 'Whoops.' This is my best friend. So I swallowed it, and it totally changed my life.

"I started being nice to people. I learned it really doesn't take much to be nice.''

Parise's manners might have paid off a few years later. The Stars were in Boston, and Parise entered a restaurant to find a teammate sitting at a table with two sisters, one of whom had won a trip with the team by becoming the North Stars' "2-millionth fan.'' Parise was invited to join them, and four years later he and Donna were married. They're still together.

At 70, reunions are not all beer and giggles. Parise misses Goldsworthy and others who have passed. He also fondly remembers the days of old-time hockey.

"We should call these Wild the North Stars, shouldn't we?'' he said. "I remember our team being a bunch of guys who were happy to be there. There was no jealousy. Money was never an issue because we never made any. Now it's kind of changed. It's, 'After me, you're first.'

"Zach wasn't brought up like that. He's a team player. Hey, I was a team player because I had to be a team player. I depended on my guys.''

Thursday, he'll get to see them again.

-------------------------

Doing a live podcast with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo from the Xcel Energy press box at 3 p.m. today. We'll talk about Zach, JP and Mike Yeo's meltdown.

Last night, I did a podcast with Terry Ryan at Kieran's Irish Pub downtown, and Terry talked about the managerial search, his formerly long hair, his battle with cancer and his rambunctious youth. All podcasts can be heard live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thanks.

@Souhanstrib

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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