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.
Find him on Twitter
Here's today's highly irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Ranking:
They're not just the best team in town (in comparison to the competition they face), they're the most entertaining and endearing team we've seen in this town since the 2001 Twins.
Like the '01 Twins, the Wolves are not only good, they are unexpectedly good, and young, and charming. (Can I call professional athletes charming?)
Last night was the rare night I covered a Wolves game without being restricted by writing on deadline, so I got to work the lockerroom at my leisure. It's hard not to like Derrick Williams, Kevin Love, Martell Webster, J.J. Barea and Nik Pekovich. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and each other.
Rick Adelman is positioning himself for coach of the year honors. I picked the Wolves to win 28 games this year and they're much better than that. And as the Wolves rise, the Western Conference suddenly looks vulnerable beyond the No. 1 seed. Oklahoma City is excellent. The Spurs are admirable but hardly spry. The Mavericks are suffering a predictable championship letdown. Who else scares you?
The Wolves have learned how to beat Portland, the Clippers and the Rockets. I love the way Memphis plays, but the Wolves are not overmatched against them. And the Lakers are a mess. Mike Brown might be the only defensive coach who can hold down Bryant, Bynum and Gasol.
If the Wolves can make it to the playoffs without burning out Love and Rubio, they could be dangerous. Now that they're in the 8th slot, they need to make a move so they face someone other than Oklahoma City in the first round. Even moving into the 6th seed would mean a matchup with Memphis or one of the LA teams.
The Wolves are the most interesting team in town, and they're growing more interesting by the day.
2. Gopher hockey
Don Lucia is having a good year. He has a team that seems to be peaking at the right time. But he still needs to prove he can prepare a team for the postseason and guide it to big victories, like he did in the old days.
I'll give them this: They're better than they were last year. But they could improve by 10 games and still lose 89 and finish fourth. Which, after spending time at spring training, is about what I expect.
If only they had lost that silly game at Washington, they'd have the No. 2 pick and a couple of wonderful options: Drafting Robert Griffin III or trading him. I've thought for months that Griffin has more upside than Andrew Luck. He's a greater risk, but I was not impressed with Luck's throwing motion this season, and I wouldn't want to spend the first pick in the draft on a so-called game manager.
5. Gopher basketball
The coach should be fired, and yet the Gophs rank ahead of two other teams in town. That's sad.
6. Gopher football
Nothing new here.
7. Minnesota Wild
I like Yeo. I like Fletcher. I think they're both sharp. I think Fletcher has a credible plan for rebuilding with dynamic young scorers. But right now this is the most pathetic team we've seen in this town since...last year's Twins.
Congratulations to Glen Perkins. He's shown great humility and flexibility while rehabilitating his career and his relationships within the Twins' organization since filing a grievance against the team.
Twins signed him to a contract extension today because he's become a dynamic pitcher while proving that's he's grounded, and a good teammate, and that he's invested in the organization. It's remarkable how quicky he's gone from problem child to franchise cornerstone.
Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will host a rare double-headed, live-and-in-studio version of Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Lots of talk about all of the above, including Tom's look at NFL free agency and the Vikings' plans, and my thoughts on my trip to spring training and a week with the Wolves.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Today's LPR, my Local Power Rankings of revenue sports, sees little change. For good reason.
1. Minnesota Wild
While most local sports fans were reveling in the Gopher basketball team beating a mediocre, unranked opponent at home, the most impressive victory on Wednesday night was the Wild coming back from a 2-0 deficit in Edmonton to win in a shootout.
Now the Wild needs to survive a stretch of the schedule in which 20 of its 29 games are on the road. They won't have the best record in the West at the end of that stretch, but if they can remain in the middle of the playoff pack, they'll be set up well for the stretch run.
Mike Yeo has got to be the coach of the year in the NHL right now, and Chuck Fletcher has to be among the leading candidates for executive of the year, given that his trades improved the Wild's prospects for the future as well as improved the team this year.
2. Golden Gopher hockey
Time for this team to prove it's not going to fade away like so many other Lucia products. They've proven they have plenty of talent; now they have to show some grit.
3. Golden Gopher basketball
Nice win on Wednesday, but the level of cheerleading among local media members is a bit embarrassing. It's our job to put things into context, not do backflips over every victory. Yes, there were positives, like Julian Welch playing well at the point and Elliott Eliason showing great court-sense, and Rodney Williams looking comfortable at power forward.
Here's the proper context, though: Tubby Smith has beaten highly-ranked teams from Louisville and North Carolina during the non-conference schedule during his tenure at Minnesota, and those victories did not catapult his team to great heights. Beating Virginia Tech at home doesn't prove a whole lot more than this team can beat Virginia Tech at home.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
I don't like to see arena workers losing paychecks, so I can't be thrilled that the NBA went through a lockout and will play a shortened season. But from a selfish standpoint, this is perfect. Early-season NBA games can be horrid and meaningless. Now we get a 66-game season that will really get rolling right about the time football wraps up, and any winning streak the Wolves can muster could actually make a difference in the standings.
I'm most intrigued not by Ricky Rubio, but by how Rick Adelman will coach a bunch of players with a certain amount of skill but no real idea of how to play the game.
5. Minnesota Twins
Terry Ryan, Wayne Krivsky and Gene Glynn are all good hires, and Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit were good, subtle, acquisitions. But the pitching staff is a mess, and without Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel the outfield will be, too.
I'm highly intrigued to see if Ryan make a bold move or merely hopes for improvement within the current roster.
6. Golden Gopher football
They haven't lost in, like, two weeks. Is that some sort of record?
7. Minnesota Vikings
I wrote about Leslie Frazier and the Vikings' front office for the Sunday paper. If you really care about this team, all you should be hoping for now is positive developments in the stadium chase, a healthy end of the season for players like Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, and the highest-possible draft pick.
In other words, lose, baby, lose.
A follow-up to my column today on the ills of high-profile college coaching: I prefer pro sports to college sports. Pro sports are inherently honest. You win or you get fired. You produce or you get cut. No one is pretending to be Mother Teresa. I admire high school and small-college coaches who obviously aren't in it for the money, who actually do have a positive effect on their kids and sometimes their communities.
Only in large-revenue college athletics do you have the disconnect of rich, domineering coaches who, when they lose, want to tell you that they're molders of young men. Only in large-revenue college athletics on insular campuses could men like Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine be able to use the auspices of a program to lure victims, and not get caught.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today for my regular appearance on Reusse & Mackey, then I'm filling in for Joe Soucheray on Garage Logic on the same station from 3-6. I'll also be on Tom Pelissero's show at about 6:15.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Enjoy the weekend.
The Wolves really are cursed. They finally inspire hope with the hiring of Rick Adelman, and now they might not have a season.
My knee-jerk, Twitter-enabled reaction to the NBA players union shunning the owner's latest offer was that the players are being foolish. They're giving up huge money that they'll never make back while fighting over terms many of them don't even understand. (I'm not insulting their intelligence; I don't understand most of these deep financial negotiations, either.)
But I should be more even-handed. The owners are just as much to blame as the players. They were on the verge of a great deal for them, and by trying to wring the last dime and concession out of the players that they could, they did the worst thing they possibly could have done: They pushed the players into shutting down negotiations and lawyering up.
Whether it's divorce or sports negotiations, it's never a good sign when one or both sides invest heavily in power lawyers. Because power lawyers aren't there to get a fair deal. They're there to prove their worth by crushing the opponent. They're there to rack up billable hours.
I could still see a deal getting done in the next three weeks, could see the owners realizing they pushed too far and working to save the season with a reasonable deal. But now it's a long-shot, and David Stern is just as much to blame as the players.
It's nice that the Gophers basketball team keeps beating overmatched opponents, but the measure of a Tubby Smith Minnesota team is whether they can win a close game against a decent Big Ten team by running a real offense in crunch time. Until I see that, I'm not going to be impressed.
If you enjoyed watching the Lynx, like women's basketball or just like to watch a talented athlete of any gender or age develop, I recommend watching the Gopher women and freshman point guard Rachel Banham.
She's a dynamnic ballhandler who can shoot, finish and set up here teammates. She's the most talented player the Gophers have had since Lindsay Whalen left.
With the NBA locked out and the football teams stinking it up, we're pretty close to becoming a hockey town. (Or hockey cities.)
What's encouraging about the local hockey teams is that the Gophers look like they're much tougher physically and mentally than they've been in years. They don't wimp out around the net or in the corners, and they bounced back from a tough loss at Wisconsin with an impressive victory.
And while it's always risky to jump to conclusions at any point of the long NHL season, it appears Mike Yeo has the presence of a winning coach. It's funny, too, that the way they're playing now reminds you a lot of the way Wild played under Lemaire - responsible defensively, and making the most of the few goals they score.
You are entitled to be underwhelmed by the Twins' signing of shortstop Jamey Carroll, but this is the kind of reasonable, subtle, important move that the Twins need to make.
No matter what their payroll, they're not going to outspend big-market teams for premier talent. They have to use their money wisely, and Carroll, while limited, is a great upgrade over everyone who played shortstop for the Twins last year.
Now the Twins need to sign someone who can either catch 140 games if needed, or can move around the diamond and sub at catcher for Joe Mauer.
If only Trevor Plouffe could catch....
Aaron Rodgers is so good that, for the first time since I started writing about the NFL in 1989, I'm startled when a pass falls incomplete.
He completed 23 of 30 passes on Monday night. The web site Profootballfocus.com reported that of the 27 passes he tried to complete (wasn't spiking or throwing away), he completed 23, and his receivers dropped three of his four incompletions.
I know a lot of Minnesotans love to hate the Pack, but I like watching greatness no matter what color it wears. This is greatness.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
It's silly to pretend that a city or state's sporting teams are all somehow linked by anything other than geography. The Twins don't affect the Vikings who don't affect the Gophers who don't affect the Wolves, and so on.
But this is getting a little creepy.
The Wolves are on one of the most remarkable five-year runs of ineptitude in NBA history. The Twins are headed toward 100 losses. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and, I believe, TC Bear are all done for the season. The Wild has fired two coaches since it last made the playoffs. Gopher football lost last week to New Mexico State, which just lost at home to UTEP.
Sunday, the Vikings blew a 17-0 halftime lead to lose, 24-20. They've now been outscored in second halves this season, 41-3.
Since Brett Favre threw that fateful interception, the Vikings are 6-12, including 3-5 under Leslie Frazier.
In an easier division, starting 0-2 might not be such a big problem, but the Vikings probably have the fourth-best team in the NFC North.
I'm not sure I've ever seen two poorer performances from a quarterback who didn't throw an interception than I've seen from Donovan McNabb the last two weeks. He's the anti-Tarvaris: He isn't making killing mistakes, he's just a little off, whether in timing or accuracy.
He threw for 228 yards and no interceptions on Sunday, but made so few positive plays in the second half that the Vikings lost again.
It's hard to lose when you run for 186 yards, throw for 228 yards and commit zero turnovers. But an inability to pick up the occasional first down under pressure is almost the same as committing turnovers.
Maybe I should be more sensitive, but I have a hard time believing that Joe Mauer couldn't play another game this season.
Let me ask you one question: If Derek Jeter had the same illness as Mauer today, do you think he'd take off the rest of the season?
I said this on Twitter earlier, and I believe it: The Wolves' hiring of Rick Adelman makes them the biggest winner of any sports team in town this week.
How often, over the last few years, could the Wolves have said that?
Given the state of disrepair of all the other teams in town, I could see Adelman making the Wolves one of the most popular draws in Minnesota. I believe he can immediately improve the Wolves from 17 wins to 30-some wins, and this town will embrace a young, fun, up-tempo team in the heart of our downtown.
I went to see the Gear Daddies at the Fine Line on Friday, and, as someone who doesn't spend a whole lot of weekend nights downtown, I was stunned at how many people were on the street around midnight. (Or later.)
That's the Wolves' demographic. I've gotten the feeling the last couple of years that there are tens of thousands of people who will pack Target Center if the Wolves can just give them a little hope. And I think Adelman represents hope.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. weekdays, plus on at 6:15ish on Monday and Friday (Twins schedule permitting) with Tom Pelissero, my Sunday Morning Sports Talk partner, who will be hosting a nightly show from 6-8 p.m. on the station.
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