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 player moves

Tebow is the devil, and this week's LPR, with lots of thoughts on Cuddyer, Ryan and Twins

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 16, 2011 - 1:07 PM

OK, as usual, the headline is a little strong. What I meant to say is that Tim Tebow isn't the devil. I just think he made a deal with the devil. All this religious stuff is just cover.

Tebow obviously has sold his soul for a few NFL victories. There is no other rational explanation for him going 7-1 while throwing like a drunk Tarvaris Jackson.

On to today's highly irrelevant Local Power Rankings, which are really just a vehicle that allows me to comment on the seven major revenue sports in town:

1. Minnesota Wild.

Duh. Still the No. 1 team in the NHL. I wrote in today's paper how everything is looking up for the franchise, whether you're looking at the standings or young talent or realignment.

I asked Mike Yeo on Wednesday night if he looked forward to playing more games against teams like the Jets and Blackhawks. Yeo said, yes, ``we already dislike the Jets. And we already dislike the Blackhawks.''

The Wild could be quite entertaining for years to come, and I hope they find a way to land Zach Parise, who owns a home in Minnesota and would the front-line scorer this team needs.

2. Gopher hockey

We're seeing slippage. I love the talent on this team but have to be shown that they can gut through the long season and be at their best in the postseason. So far they've been impressive, but I still don't think they're quite playing to their talent level.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

Yes, the Gopher basketball team has a gaudy record. But just holding intrasquad scrimmages means the Timberwolves have faced tougher competition.

I'll be at Target Center on Saturday night to see the debut of Rubio, Adelman, et al. And I'm as intrigued and optimistic about this franchise as I've been since Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell staged their mutiny.

4. Gopher basketball

Can we please get to the point where the Gophers stop getting praised for playing and beating lousy teams?

The Gophers' nonconference schedule is an embarrassment for the program and an affront to ticket-buyers. I'm not going to take this team seriously until it plays, and wins, a few conference games.

5. Minnesota Twins

While the average ranting fan demands that the Twins make a blockbuster trade or sign a top free agent, realistic observers of the team should be able to recognize that Terry Ryan is having a very good offseason so far.

Bringing Matt Capps back doesn't impress anyone, but Ryan has always believed that competent relievers fluctuate year-to-year, so it's probably a worthwhile gamble. He got rid of Kevin Slowey, which could have the same positive effect on the Twins that the Wild trading Martin Havlat has had. Jamey Carroll is the kind of short-term, inexpensive stopgap that could help the 2012 Twins without busting the payroll or blocking any worthwhile infield prospects. Ryan Doumit is a perfect fit for a team that doesn't know how many games its catcher will catch.

And even for someone who has known Michael Cuddyer since 1997 and thinks very highly of him as a player and a human, the Josh Willingham signing is a winner. Willingham is a similar player to Cuddyer and is less expensive, and Cuddyer's departure brings two draft picks to a Twins franchise desperate to rebuild its farm system.

Ryan has also signed a number of minor-league players who are more talented than their struggles indicate. And remember, Ryan's strength was always finding hidding gems, like Lew Ford, Alexi Casilla, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana.

Also: Bringing back Bill Smith is a winning move for the organization. I don't think he was a natural general manager, but he does good work in Latin America and in Lee County, where he's always had a great working relationship with the stewards of the Twins' spring training ballpark.

Smith is a valuable employee, and it speaks volumes about his selflessness and his relationship with Ryan that he would come back to an organization that just fired him.

A couple of months ago, the Twins' front office looked overmatched. Now the Twins' front office features Ryan as the boss, former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky as a valued adviser, and Smith. Those moves, with the addition of Gene Glynn as the Triple-A manager, should pay dividends. If not this year, then in the future.

6. Gopher football

Jerry Kill hasn't lost a game in a long time.

7. Minnesota Vikings

They need to keep losing and draft Matt Kalil, then land either a speed receiver or quality defensive back at the top of the second round.

The Vikings have a dozen problems to address, but as Jacques Lemaire always said, ``Solve one problem, and two more disappear.''

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Upcoming: I'll be at Target Center to watch the new Wolves on Saturday, then at the future site of Zygiopolis on Sunday to watch the Saints and Vikings.

Today, I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05, and sometime tonight (between 6 and 8) with Tom Pelissero. Tom and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on Sunday before the Vikings game (also on 1500espn). My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Wrapping my head around Mauer-Mijares, BS-Kahn, Wild-Setoguchi

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 25, 2011 - 2:03 PM

Greetings from Milwaukee. It's a beautiful day here, spent the morning walking down to the lakefront, running into dozens of Twins fans wearing their gear.

Milwaukee always feels, to me, like a smaller, slower Chicago.

I've read a bunch of excerpts from the Bill Simmons interview of David Kahn. Where else would Kahn cut open a vein, but on the BS Report?

The funny thing is, if there's anyone who has criticized Kahn more than me, it's Simmons. But Kahn is desperate to appear legitimate and to defend himself, and he can't find a bigger audience than by speaking with Simmons.

What's amazing is that Kahn can change his story from minute to minute. His first year on the job, I wrote about how I didn't think the triangle offense was a good fit for his team, and particularly Jonny Flynn, and he called me to explain that the offense wasn't necessarily the triangle and...well, I dozed off after a while, so I'm not sure what else he had to say.

Now he's telling Simmons that the triangle didn't work with this team, and damaged Flynn's progress, which is exactly the point he was trying to shoot down when I made it two years ago.

Kahn also repeats the ridiculous notion that he's still making a decision on Rambis.

I've had colleagues tell me they find all of this highly entertaining. I don't. I see a guy you can't trust running a team I want to care about.

People in my business use the ``Event X will define Person X's legacy'' line way too often, but I"ll say this: Kahn's decision on his head coach could determine whether he'll have the job two years from now.

If he keeps Rambis, he's in deep trouble. If he fires Rambis and make a ridiculous move like the rumored Bernie Bickerstaff hire, he'll be on his way out. If he fires Rambis and somehow lands a legitimate, quality, NBA coach, that coach could take an interesting group of young players, improve the team's record dramatically in part because there is nowhere to go but up, and make Kahn look like he knew what he was doing all along.

For example, what if the Wolves can land Rick Adelman? He's one of the best coaches in the game. I'm not sure he wants to work for this organization or endure a rebuilding project, but if the Wolves could land him, they'd improve dramatically over the next year or two.

But would Kahn be willing to hire someone who could wind up becoming the primary personnel voice in the organization? That's the big question surrounding the Wolves right now.

-Maybe Joe Mauer and Jose Mijares sniping at each other last night means nothing. These things do happen.

Or maybe Mijares' willingness to challenge the Twins' franchise player is a sign that Mauer, in the midst of a season in which many people in the organization have become frustrated with him, no longer commands unversal respect or receives the benefit of the doubt in the clubhouse.

I've always been told by Twins people that Mauer is not an exceptional pitch-caller. But when you hit .340 and throw out runners, nobody's going to complain very loudly about that.

Now, though, Mauer is swinging weakly and throwing poorly and at least some of his teammates have privately questioned whether he's willing to play with pain or discomfort, and now a less-than-established player like Mijares is calling him out?

Does that seem like a coincidence?

There is also the question of why Mijares didn't shake off Mauer if he didn't want to throw a 3-2 fastball to Prince Fielder. That is a good question. Mijares has final say.

But before that pitch was thrown, where would you have placed your faith: In the franchise player who is a veteran catcher, or in the wildly erratic lefty? Kind of like asking whether you want Brett Favre or Bernard Berrian making a call on third-and-5.

-I like the Wild's trade of Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi for a very simple reason:

I like goals. With Burns gone and Setoguchi at forward, the Wild figure to score more, and allow more, goals, and defensive hockey bores me to tears.

Judging it more objectively, I still like it. Burns was a good guy and a real talent, but the Wild trading him when he was a year away from free agency for a talented winger who is signed for three years is exactly the kind of move the Wild needed to make.

-Still lining up guests for Sunday Morning Sports Talk. At this point I believe we'll have Derrick Williams, Chuck Fletcher and Milwaukee radio star Drew Olson. The Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. on 1500espn followed by SMST from 10-noon.

-I'll be Twittering tonight from the Twins-Brewers game, @Souhanstrib.

 

Another Wild win, and suddenly the Ws are in eighth

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 1, 2011 - 10:50 PM

I thought this might be the winter when basketball clearly surpassed hockey in Minnesota in terms of local popularity and relevance.

I thought the Gopher basketball team could be quite good, and that the Timberwolves had to be better.

I thought the Wild would be mediocre and boring, and the Gopher hockey team would continue its slide.

So, I was 1-for-4. Thanks, Gopher hockey.

I was at the X on Tuesday night to write about Todd Richards and the boys, and while the game was sloppy following the All-Star break, the Wild won in a shootout because of great goaltending (Nick Backstrom this time) and strong D.

Which is the big change in the Wild this year. Last year, Richards wanted to create scoring with strong forechecking, but all that happened was that the Wild became soft on defense. Now, as Nick Schultz told me Tuesday morning, the emphasis is on playing strong defense and letting that create time in the offensive zone.

``Even a strong offensive team like Washington has figured out that you've got to play D,'' Schultz said.

The Wild aren't exactly dynamic, but Brent Burns is playing like a star, and they're mustering enough scoring (on most nights), and they have climbed into 8th place in the conference.

I'm surprised. Except by Gopher hockey.

-Richards said he plans to start Jose Theodore (American translation: Joe Ted) on Thursday in Colorado.

I don't think that makes sense from a competitive standpoint. Backstrom just had six days off and posted a shutout. So I'm guessing this means the Wild wants to market Joe Ted for a trade, knowing that the Dancing Bear Goalie, Anton Khodobin, could be the backup the rest of the season if necessary.

-Love the way Cal Clutterbuck plays. He hits everybody, and takes the cheap shots in return without retaliating and getting called for penalties.

-As someone who loves downtown MInneapolis and likes basketball, I'm in favor of renovating Target Center. I know, nobody wants to spend public money right now on non-essentials...but then I've never heard a politician or a non-sports fan ever say ``Now is a really good time to spend money on sports.''

There is always a creative way to get these things done.

If only the Wolves hadn't been such an embarrassment for the last five years, they might have more support.

If someone told you before the season that Kevin Love would put up All-Star numbers while leading the league in rebounding, Beasley would be an effective scorer and Darko would perform solidly, what record would have guessed they would have through 47 games? 

11-36? No, you would have guessed something like 20-27.

At least Memphis is coming to town, meaning we can celebrate the high point of the last five years for the Wolves: The Love-for-Mayo trade. What a landslide. Kevin McHale should get all the credit for that one.

-Said hello to Ron Gardenhire on Tuesday night at the X, and caught up with Matt Birk, who's living in Maryland these days but came home for a visit.

Two summers ago, Matt and Mike Morris put me through a hellacious workout at Mike's gym. Before that, I always thought projectile vomiting was a myth, or something you saw only in horror movies. Wrong.

Matt and I have a tentative date to reprise those workouts this summer. He wants to torture me further, and I want to prove I can get through an NFL player's workouts without losing food.

(I did finish the workouts last time around, I just didn't finish them with a full stomach.)

 

 

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