Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The Cooler, where our reward for all this better be a glorious Memorial Day Weekend. Let’s get to it:
*Of all the years for the Wild to miss the playoffs … this was a bad one.
It doesn’t happen every postseason, or even most postseasons in the NHL. But every few years or so, the NHL playoffs turn into a ridiculous free-for-all where seeding doesn’t matter.
When the opportunity for upsets is so prevalent, being a team consistently good enough to squeeze into the playoffs is a decent strategy for trying to win a championship.
Unfortunately for the Wild, it couldn’t take that strategy far enough in its six consecutive seasons making the playoffs from 2013-18. Minnesota advanced twice to the second round as a lower seed, but each time the Wild was stymied by Chicago. In the 2017 playoffs, the Wild was bounced early as a higher seed while Nashville emerged from the bottom of the Western Conference.
This season, though, is the widest of wide open. I could take you through the entire postseason spectrum, but here’s all you really need to know:
After the games of Jan. 2, the St. Louis Blues had 34 points. They had the very worst record in the NHL, as no team had fewer points than that. Even the Wild had 39 points. But the Blues on Tuesday defeated the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals and are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals to face Boston.
The Wild missed out on all the fun in the worst year possible.
*MLB prospect Carter Stewart is reportedly eschewing the draft system and instead will sign a six-year professional contract in Japan for $7 million.
Stewart could then be a free agent after six years when he’s 25 — after making more money in Japan than he presumably would have made via a signing bonus and salary in MLB. It will be interesting to see if more baseball players test this strategy as a work-around for MLB’s tight salary restrictions around service time.
*The Orioles have allowed 100 home runs already this season (with the Twins contributing mightily to that total). MLB continues to be on a record pace for home runs. At the current rate, there will be 6,346 home runs hit this season. That’s 200-plus more than the record-setting year of 2017 (and 2,000 more than in 2014).
*If the All-NBA teams are announced on the same schedule as a year ago, we will find out Thursday who is on the three teams.
This is of particular interest to Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves because if he makes one of the three teams this season, it will trigger a significant raise in his contract extension.
His salary next season would jump from $27.2 million to $32.7 million, a boost of $5.5 million. Over the length of his five-year deal, he would earn $189.7 million if he is named All-NBA this season. If not, he will earn $158 million. Both are unfathomable sums of money, but it’s still a difference of almost $32 million over five years — both for Towns and on the Wolves’ salary cap.