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 coaching

I was wrong

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 4, 2012 - 11:59 AM

I've been saying on the radio for days that I didn't think Zach Parise would sign with the Wild. I thought the lure of playing with Sidney Crosby, or staying with the Devils, or joining the Red Wings, would be the deciding factor.

I was very wrong, and I'm very happy about that.

This is a rare day in Twin Cities history, a day when one of our tent-post sports team lured the No. 1 free agent on the market to Minnesota.

Craig Leipold emailed me last night, hinting that this was going to be a good week for him and his franchise, and today he and general manager Chuck Fletcher pulled it off, signing Parise and Ryan Suter.

This is a win for Leipold because his franchise is now an NHL player and a local draw. It's also a win for Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo, If Parise and Suter didn't feel either was competent and promising, they could have easily gone elsewhere.

So, to recap: Congratulations to the Wild on creating one of the most stunning days in Twin Cities sports history. I was wrong, and I'm glad I was.

 

Not a Bloody Sunday

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 19, 2012 - 8:52 PM

Kevin Love is embracing his role, perhaps embracing it better than any Wolves player since Sammy Cassell.

Against a good team, and a good defensive team, Love struggled for three quarters against Philadelphia. Then he won the game. He took over offensively, and he took the ball with a little more than three seconds left and his team down one, drove, drew the foul, hit the free throws and won the game.

As he has improved almost monthly over the last two seasons, Love has erased the reasons for doubting that he can be a superstar.

He's scoring like a superstar. He's rebounding like a superstar. He passes better than most superstars. He's improved defensively. And now he's leading his team.

This was a big victory for the Wolves, who only a handful of days ago looked like they had hit a wall.

Love, Rubio and Pekovich have all exceeded expectations this season. That's quite a compliment to Love, who faced high expectations coming in.

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Covered the Wild game today, and wrote about Chad Rau's crazy day and his game-winning goal for the Monday paper.

I was left with this impression: Mike Yeo is not crazy. Sometimes he sounds a little wacky because he's so talkative and during this losing streak he's been so desperate to change his team's fortunes.

But every time I've been around him, I've liked him, and found him to be honest and blunt. Let's face it, no coach sounds good when his team is losing. This was an impressive win today, though, beating the defending Stanley Cup champs a day after looking like dogs in St. Louis.

I don't see this as a playoff team anymore, but I still believe, despite all of the struggles the last two years, that the braintrust of Leipold, Fletcher and Yeo has a chance to produce a winner in St. Paul sometime soon.

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The reactions to my Joe Mauer column today were predictable. Many emailed to say they liked it. Some even took it to an extreme and attacked Mauer in ways I never would. Some criticized me for writing it, or for the way in which I wrote it.

I appreciate the feedback, and I'll answer a few FAQ's here:

-I don't write headlines. I didn't call him ``Clueless Joe,'' the headline writer did.

-No, I couldn't get anyone to go on the record criticizing Mauer. So I went through the team media guide, counting all of the people I've spoken with about Mauer since last summer. I counted 18 people who are either in key positions or who know Mauer well. Of those 18 people, 15 were either disgusted or confused by Mauer's demeanor. Three defended him, by saying he didn't know how to deal with his ailments or how to explain his predicament to the public.

But the people I've known the longest and trust the most expressed severe disappointment with Mauer, both because he did not seem in a rush to take the field, and because he didn't see anything wrong with his approach.

I think one possible excuse for Mauer could be that he feels he was misled or given poor advice by medical people employed by or used by the Twins, and was worried that playing with pain would cause reinjury. But he's never said that.

Maybe he can't say that.

But for every person who tried to find a way to defend Mauer, a bunch of other people just thought he didn't understand how important he is or how symbolic he is, now that he's a $184-million player.

-Thanks to all the people who wrote to say ``You'll never get another Joe Mauer interview!''

I don't think newspapers do a good job of explaining the different roles of different writers. Beat writers are employed to cover teams, to provide news and analysis. Sometimes they write opinion, but usually it's their job to simply cover the team.

I'm an opinion columnist. It's my job to write opinion, to write bluntly. Not always: I also write features and soft stories and nice columns. But I feel I owe readers my honest opinion, whether that opinion will please my editors or alienate readers or not. After talking with people about Mauer all winter - and in light of conversations I had myself with Mauer - this is a perspective I thought was important for our coverage of the Twins.

True, Joe probaby won't want to talk to me now. That's OK. If I wrote opinions only to endear myself to athletes and coaches, I wouldn't be doing my job.

-No, I don't hate Joe Mauer. I generally like him. I've been covering him since he was in high school. I like his family and friends a lot, although I'm sure they aren't pleased with me right now.

-How do I think he'll do this year? My guess is he'll bounce back and hit .330 and catch about 110 games. He's very capable of doing that for the next five years.

But that won't change the fact that, in my opinion, he did not fulfill the requirements of being a franchise player last summer.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday. I'm heading to spring training this week and will be in Fort Myers for a while. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Today's LPR, plus Cris Carter, and the truth about the Wild and Gophers

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 15, 2012 - 8:58 AM

Today's Local Power Rankings, my irrelevant, transparent device for commenting on the local sports teams:

1. Vacant.

I've ranked the Wolves No. 1 for weeks, but I can't keep them in this spot after a four-game losing streak. They should win tonight against Charlotte, perhaps one of the worst teams in recent NBA history, but then the schedule gets tough again.

I picked the Wolves to win 26-28 games this season, and I still think that's about right. They're still the most entertaining team in town, but those who thought they were bound for the playoffs might have been ignoring the fact that most of the roster is a mess.

They have three worthy NBA starters right now - Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nik Pekovic - and two were drafted by Kevin McHale. There are too many talented but unreliable players on this team, from Michael Beasley to Anthony Randolph to Wes Johnson to Martell Webster.

David Kahn likes long and athletic guys, but he has had trouble acquiring long and athletic guys who know how to play basketball.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Not playing games has elevated the Vikings above all the teams currently losing games.

My reason for elevating the Vikings today: Clarifying roles in the front office, with Rick Spielman running the show and able ot retain righthand man George Paton, should make this a better organization. And while the Vikings have lots of needs, I think Christian Ponder will show marked improvement in his second season, and I think the Vikings' ability to draft high in a talented draft should dramatically upgrade the talent on the roster.

3. Gopher hockey

Yes, they got swept in Denver, and yes, there are signs that this could be another disappointing Lucia squad, but they still have a chance to make a postseason run, which puts them ahead most local teams.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

See above, under ``Vacant.''

5. Minnesota Twins

They will be better this year than they were last year. They are almost guaranteed to be healthier, to catch the ball better, and to have a better bullpen. Will they contend? I doubt it. But they should be respectable, which would be an upgrade.

6. Gopher basketball

When I watch the Gophers outplay Wisconsin and Ohio State for long stretches, I see a team with plenty of talent that doesn't always play hard, doesn't always play smart, and is often hamstrung by Tubby Smith's substitutions. Subbing in five players when the players on the court are having success is just silly.

7. Gopher football

Ran into Jerry Kill at the Gopher basketball game. He says he's healthy, and he sounded fired up. That's all I've got.

8. Minnesota Wild

This team doesn't score enough goals. It doesn't score enough goals because it lacks talent. That was my assessment entering the season and it's proven true. This franchise is still digging out of the Doug Risebrough era.

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A reader suggested this name for Minnesota athletic director, and it's an interesting one:

Darrin Nelson.

Nelson has Twin Cities ties from his days as a Viking. He's worked as an assistant AD at Stanford, the rare school capable of combining high academics, ethics and winning sports teams. He's currently an assistant AD at the University of California, Irvine.

I don't know if he's the best candidate out there, but he's a smart, experienced man.

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Cris Carter is right. Randy Moss, even if physically capable of making a comeback, has hit the wall that all diva receivers hit: He's not good enough to make up for the headaches he may cause.

I'll be writing more about this in the near future.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn from 6-8 tonight, spending the first half doing ``Talking Twins'' with Phil Mackey.

I'll be doing Sunday Sports Talk (10-noon) from the Golf Show at Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday, with Tom Linnemann co-hosting. Come by and we'll fix your slice. Or not.

Have to admit, watching Phil whip Tiger at Pebble Beach has made me want to play golf again, which is bad news for people who own houses along the right side of the fairway at any course I may visit this year.

I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Tired?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 31, 2012 - 10:38 PM

I like Mike Yeo. I'll take his side in his flare-up with Marek Zidlicky. I don't think he had much to do with his players choking against Nashville on Tuesday night,

I will take issue with this: He shouldn't have blamed the loss on his players being tired. The home team, playing with a big league, coming off the All-Star break, can't use that excuse.

Pressed on that matter, Yeo said that professional athletes, after a five-day break, are likely to be lacking in conditioning. I don't buy it. Hockey players who have been skating hard since last summer should benefit from a break, should come back with fresh legs.

Also, this is generally a young team. Fatigue should not be a factor with them.

Tuesday night, the Wild absolutely choked. No further explanation is needed.

 

Beasley at the 2? Or at the 6?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 31, 2012 - 5:37 PM

I'm at the X tonight, writing about the Wild resuming its schedule and Marek Zidlicky complaining about Mike Yeo. Congratulations to colleague Michael Russo for breaking the story. We'll both have much more on this developing situation throughout the night and in tomorrow's paper.

Right now I'm sitting next to Michael and he's wearing all kinds of brown. Brown loafers with lighter-brown shoes with some kind of brown-check pattern, all of which mesh nicely with his brown jacket and pink shirt.

So, I'm jealous.

Fashion aside, I wanted to touch on something I tweeted last night while watching the Wolves dominate Houston.

I've always thought that Michael Beasley's best role would be as a Microwave-style sixth man who could come in with the second unit, jack up shots and be pulled if the opposing coach started running plays to victimize his defensive weaknesses.

But maybe the easiest solutions are the best. Maybe Beasley, a gifted shooter and driver who also can be a gifted passer when he wants to be, is the Wolves' solution at shooting guard.

No, he's not a perfect fit. He's not very good defensively, he sometimes shoots too much and holds the ball too long, and he's not really a guard.

But I'd rather have Beasley as an oversized shooting guard who can dominate opposing shooting guards on offense and give the Wolves another primary offensive option, than keep seeing Wes Johnson stumble around.

Beasley, despite his size, is a better ballhandler than Johnson. And he's a better passer. And if last night was any indication, he's learned that in Rick Adelman's offense, if you move the ball there will be plenty of quality shots for everyone.

Beasley's a likeable guy. Watch the way he interacts with Kevin Love and his other teammates. They're fond of him. And he is too talented for the Wolves not to explore just how good their lineup can be when he's playing correctly.

Having Adelman in place simplifies a lot of personnel decisions for the Wolves. If someone like Darko or Beasley can't perform well in this offense, with Rubio passing and Love spreading the floor with his three-point shooting, then the Wolves won't have to have any regrets getting rid of those guys.

But I think Beasley could find a niche here, soon.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday, and Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon at the studio for a change this Sunday. I have a special guest planned, and we'll do our last NFL pick and speak with ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

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