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Wild and Blackhawks: A Story Three Years in the Making

Wild vs Blackhawks

As I exited Xcel Energy Center after the game six victory over the St. Louis Blues last Sunday afternoon, I overheard a couple of younger looking guys grumbling among each other; “Great, now we have to play the Blackhawks…” I turned around and thought about engaging in a long conversation about why we are going to beat the Blackhawks, however, I passed as I wanted to stay in the moment and celebrate something the Minnesota Wild have only done four times in 14 years: Win a playoff series.

But now is the time to look ahead and dissect what it will take for the Wild to move one step closer to the Stanley Cup.

Allow me a recap the brief history. The Wild are set to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs for the third straight year. Elimination two years in a row at the hands of the same team is a tough pill to swallow, but I firmly believe that the Wild are now fully prepared to go to battle with Chicago and here are some facts to prove it.

As the number one seed, Chicago knocked out Minnesota in round one back in 2012-13 on their way to winning a Stanley Cup Championship.

In 2013-14 the defending champions were a heavy favorite, made the playoffs, but slipped to the third seed in the Western Conference, finishing with 107 points. Minnesota finished with 98 and settled into the seventh spot, defeating Central Division champs Colorado in seven games, before being eliminated by Chicago in six games in the second round.

The 2014-15 Minnesota Wild improved to 100 points, breaking the triple digit threshold for just the second time in team history. The Blackhawks “slipped” once again, totaling 102 points in the regular season. For the second consecutive year, the Wild knocked off the Central Division Champion, this time in the form of the St. Louis Blues, while Chicago took care of the Nashville Predators in their first round series. And so we meet again.

There is a pattern in those numbers. Chicago has slowly declined every year since 2012, while Minnesota has done nothing but trend upwards. Simply put, the Wild have a better chance of advancing past Chicago this year than they have ever had.

But I don’t like to leave things to mere chance so here are a few more reasons.

Goal-tending

You must have goal-tending to win in the playoffs, much like the Twins must have pitching if they ever plan to lose less then 90 games in a season again. It is essential. But the Wild haven’t had it the past two playoff runs. In 2013, injuries hampered the goal-tending. First, Nicklas Backstrom, then Josh Harding, leaving the Wild with only Darcy Kuemper, who was thrown to the wolves without preparation. Against the Blackhawks. Super.

Last year, time was split between Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov. Spring time in the NHL is no time for a goaltending controversy, and Chicago is coming into this series with one. Corey Crawford and rookie Scott Darling both had their up and down moments in the first round, but patched enough good hockey together to win four games. Devan Dubnyk on the other hand is the clear number one, and has played magnificent, with the exception of a total breakdown in game four against the Blues. However, his ability to bounce back should gives his teammates and us fans all the confidence in the World.

Young, fast, developed talent

The Wild have a boat load of it, and most of them have been a part of this match-up. Watch for Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Marco Scandella, Nino Niederreiter and Jared Spurgeon, among others, to give Chicago fits with their gritty, fast, puck possession style of play. What could be the biggest threat to the Blackhakws, is the forming of these young players and the intangible desire to win.

Veterans

Zach Parise has a young core around him that is buying into what he is selling; hard work. By setting an example for the young guys, not only does he make them better, it benefits his own game by having his teammates playing the same style of hockey. His feet never stop moving and he plays an in-your-face game that rewards him with goals by putting him in the right spot at the right time, or just plain out-working his opponent.

Mikko Koivu in his 10th year here is playing some of the best hockey of his career. Although Thomas Vanek’s best years may be in the rear view mirror, he is still a threat to score or put a pass right where it needs to be to result in a goal, which will demand Chicago’s attention whenever he is on the ice opening up offensive possibilities.

Back on July 4, 2012 when Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed on with the Wild, I predicted we would have a Stanley Cup Championship within two years. While that was a bit aggressive, and I am clearly wrong and never claimed to be Nostradamus, I don’t think I am too far off. I believe the Wild will win the Stanley Cup this year, but for now I’ll predict the Wild take this series in six games, and we’ll discuss the rest later.

Photo: blackhawks.nhl.com

 

Odin's 2015 NFL Draft, LIVE from Asgard

NFLDraftImage 1.large thumbCourtesy: draftinsiders.com

As I walked the grounds recently in Asgard, I thought of several possible scenarios that someway, somehow, Dealin' Rick Spielman would pull something off. Something stunning, revolutionary, and widely lauded as a great move. It's not hard to argue what we've done to Cleveland the last couple of years. The Percy Harvin trade was a coup. This guy, Rick, he knows how to play the game. He has a swagger back to him. He should after the Christian Ponder Experience debacle. Always remember, that was Rick too.

jameis-winston-nfl-combine2-850x560Courtesy: fansided.com

Fortunately, Rick has done an overall, great job with the draft these last years. That's my opinion. The team is heading the right way now, and now that AP is back in the fold, the future is very bright. Then I got to thinking of this years picks and I agree with Rick's take on his approach this year when he said “it's preferable to trade back if possible”. So, then I got to thinking about all the jostling around that always takes place, the live drama, the screaming announcers, the picks all over the place, the uncertainty, and yes, Mel Kipers' sweaty forehead. The hair though, is as always, just right.

kiper1Courtesy: seahawksdraftblog.com

Then I took another stroll in the moonlight and thought with all this uncertainty heading into NFL Draft night, someone must know what will happen. So I consulted with the other Gods of Asgard in the halls of Valhalla. The general consensus was also uncertain. They suggested I sleep on it, and I would have the answer I seek in the morning. I did just that. I went to sleep and dreamed for answers. When I awoke, the answers were clear.

And here's how the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft will unfold.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB: Jameis Winston

  2. Tennessee Titans: QB: Marcus Mariota

  3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE: Leonard Williams

  4. Oakland Raiders: WR: Amari Cooper

  5. Washington Redskins: OLB: Dante Fowler, Jr.

  6. New York Jets: OLB: Vic Beasley

  7. Chicago Bears: CB: Trae Waynes

  8. Atlanta Falcons: OLB: Bud Dupree

  9. New York Giants: OG: Brandon Scherff

  10. St. Louis Rams: OG: Ereck Flowers

  11. Minnesota Vikings: WR: Devante Parker

  12. Cleveland Browns: WR: Kevin White

  13. New Orleans Saints: NT: Danny Shelton

  14. Miami Dolphins: CB: Marcus Peters

  15. San Fransisco 49ers: DT: Arik Armestead

  16. Houston Texans: WR: Breshad Perriman

  17. San Diego Chargers: RB: Todd Gurley

  18. Kansas City Chiefs: OT: Andrus Peat

  19. Cleveland Browns (in trade w/Dallas Cowboys): RB: Melvin Gordon

  20. Philadelphia Eagles: CB: Kevin Johnson

  21. Cincinnati Bengals: WR: Dorial Green-Beckham

  22. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB: Byron Jones

  23. Detroit Lions: OT: D.J. Humphries

  24. Arizona Cardinals: OLB: Randy Gregory

  25. Carolina Panthers: OT: La'el Collins

  26. Baltimore Ravens: WR: Nelson Agholor

  27. Dallas Cowboys: (in trade w/Cleveland Browns: DT: Malcom Brown)

  28. Denver Broncos: C: Cameron Erving

  29. Indianapolis Colts: SS: Landon Collins

  30. Green Bay Packers: ILB: Eric Kendricks

  31. New Orleans Saints: WR: Phillip Dorsett

  32. New England Patriots: DT: Eddie Goldman

Soon, the 2015 Vikes will be ready to hit the fields with a new outlook, a new optimism, a bright future!

SKOL!

Odin

Devan Dubnyk for Vezina

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I am going to attempt to make a splash with my first contribution on WhatWouldBudDo.com. I would advise you to get behind me, Minnesota, because if not you, then who? The rest of the world writes us off as “Minnesotan”, picturing all of us as some Billy Bob Thornton-esque character with adventurous bangs, and have already stopped listening when we politely attempt to remind them that Fargo is actually in North Dakota. End rant.

Back to the topic at hand. Devan Dubnyk.

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Should You Be Happy or Sad About Kevin Garnett Coming Home?

flip-saunders(Courtesy: makingthecall.wordpress.com)​

Prepare yourself...this is a lengthy one. But it's filled with tons of juicy nuggets, so you should be able to savor the flavor. Take a break and come back if need be.

The 2015 NBA trade deadline passed this afternoon, and it left a helluva mark on the league, the players and the fans. If you were around Twitter during the closing minutes of the deadline, your brain may have blown a fuse. If you weren't around Twitter for the deadline, well, you may want to try that on some time....it's madness (some times).

People in Minnesota know by now that "The Kid"..."The Franchise"..."The Big Ticket"....Kevin Garnett, is back home. Those of us that are Timberwolves fans (many of whom won't admit that unless they are winning), prefer to call him "KG." Which is how I'll refer to him throughout this piece.

Now, if you were able to enjoy the lost art in which Twitter was created for, you missed out on reactions that ranged from "KG to the Wolves is the greatest thing of all time!" to "KG looks like he could play the ACTUAL 'Uncle Drew' in those Nike commercials!"

For those of you that know me, I'm a Timberwolves fan. Always have been, always will be. I was a kid during the early days when the Washington Generals would have been double digit favorites, to the "glory" years when KG was in his prime. I love basketball. I appreciate how good players in the NBA are...and I desperately want the Wolves to be good.

I also understand how difficult it is to win in a market like Minneapolis in the NBA.

There's a reason the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors of the World aren't good for 10-15 years at a time. I know, you're probably thinking, "Whoa, did he just say the Pacers and Raptors aren't good?! They are/were in the playoffs!" Correct. Because of super stars they got by being bad for so long...(See how bad the Pacers are without Paul George? Have the Raptors REALLY ever been better than the Wolves ever have? No). Blame David Kahn for the majority of the reasons the Wolves aren't currently good. But I've chopped down that tree many times before.

My point is this: Yes, the Wolves have been embarrassing for many of their years since joining the league. That said, making the playoffs eight consecutive years in a row, during a time in which the Western Conference was a power house (once Michael Jordan left, the East was awful) is nothing to laugh at. In fact, the Wolves fell victim to some bad luck with fixed games (yes, look it up...the Kings were victims too), to injuries, to the league extending the first round to best of seven so teams like the Lakers could get more TV time...etc.

THAT said, KG and the Wolves never delivered outside of their run in 2003 when they got shafted in losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (with injuries to key players by the way). That doesn't help the average fan when it comes to supporting "their team."

Let's focus on KG for a minute before we get in to why Thursday's trade was/wasn't good for the Wolves.

First off, KG was a raw talent out of high school who was chosen as the fifth overall pick in the 1996 draft. At the time, drafting a high school kid that high was unheard of for the NBA (man, how things have changed).

KG was a raw talent. Swatting blocked shots eight rows in to the stands, a flat jump shot, an energetic kid who just wanted to dunk the snot out of the ball every time he touched it. As raw as they come.

But he was driven. Driven to succeed.

KG wasn't great with his english when speaking to the media. As if he didn't really know how to do it...like no one prepared him for it. But he was likable...and it was something an extremely boring franchise needed after the "the golden child" Christian Laettner experience quickly went South.

Something changed with KG. He straightened up. Literally, he did...he got braces (google it). He learned how to properly speak to the media (for the most part), he learned to block shots to his teammates, how to play defense, how to hit open jump shots that he knew would be key to being a potential all-star in the league. He figured out post moves, but most importantly, he figured out how to make his teammates better.

KG can thank Kevin McHale for a lot of his on-court improvements. He likely can thank veterans like Sam Mitchell, Terry Porter and others for helping him on, as well as, off the court too. But no one can argue that many of KG's teammates benefited from him being on the court.

Without getting to specifics, just consider names like Stephon Marbury, Terrell Brandon, Wally Szczerbiak, Fred Hoiberg, Troy Hudson, Trenton Hassell, Anthony Peeler, Sam Mitchell...and so on. Many of those guys had the best years of their careers while playing along side KG. They were open because KG demanded so much attention, but also knew the importance of those players being open...and hitting big shots.

The Wolves haven't had that player since KG left. Kevin Love wasn't that guy. No one has been.

KG4MVP(Courtesy: nba.com)

Now, before you start thinking this is some sort of lovefest of Kevin Garnett, it's not. He's one of the main reasons this team didn't have more support around him. He signed the biggest contract in the history of the NBA, yet never took a pay cut to help a cash strapped team improve it's roster. Maybe he felt he didn't need to because he made everyone better, which was obvious when declining veterans like Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassel would come hobbling in and play out of their minds.

But KG was also responsible for giving the front office his two cents on who he'd like to see them sign, and who he wouldn't. Examples like Joe Smith (yup, that one hurt), Troy Hudson and Trenton Hassell were all guys that KG demanded. If you go back and look at the numbers, those contracts absolutely killed this franchise for many years.

Even with the negatives that surround KG (who wasn't always the nicest guy to his teammates, but neither was Michael Jordan... no, I did not just say KG was as good as MJ, so cool down), the positives on the court outweighed the negatives.

This brings me to the trade that went down at the deadline.

There's really two common opinions to this trade. You either hated it, or you loved it. If you hated it, you are likely rolling your eyes thinking this is just a marketing ploy to sell some tickets the rest of the year. And you might be right. But please don't compare this to Torii Hunter signing a $10m deal with the Twins when he's really worth $2m, because that's way different (Torii is added payroll, KG is expiring payroll...more on that in a minute).

If you hated it, you likely also believe that KG is washed up and has nothing left in the tank. Again, that could be true. And, although I'll argue he's now the best defensive threat we have near the rim on the entire roster, which is sad, there's no arguing his career is coming to an end.

Oh, but what if you loved the trade? What if you are digging though your parent's garage looking for that size 44 replica KG jersey that you wore during college parities before "throwbacks" we're a thing? You, my friend, need to cool it...KG isn't the answer to a glorified dynasty of NBA Championships that's about to take place. You are, however, welcome to join the rest of us along an intriguing journey of what could become the new nucleus of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Let me explain.

As mentioned before, KG was a raw talent who grew to become one of the best players in the history of the NBA. He did it in a smaller market that no free agent wants to come to. He did it by working hard and proving everyone wrong. The people in Minnesota (and really across the league) grew to love him.

KG did it. He lived it. And he did it while the current roster of Wolves' players were in diapers and up through the time they learned to love basketball...and the way KG played it.

Spend 20 minutes looking at the videos of Andrew Wiggins and others' reactions to the KG news Thursday after practice. They could hardly contain themselves. I know for a fact that guys like Shabazz Muhammad are beside themselves at the chance to learn/play with KG.

This roster is full of young, but potentially highly talented basketball players. They are raw, just like KG was. Outside of Ricky Rubio, they don't speak the media all that well, and they don't appear to have much direction on how to be a team leader. That guy on the floor who takes control and gets in the faces of his teammates to encourage them to get better. Who says "don't worry guys, I'll take it from here." They don't have that, because they've never been around it. Kevin Love did none of that.

Let's assume for a second that KG finishes this season with the Wolves, retires, and starts the process of becoming a minority owner of the team. For those who say that is the only reason he agreed to this.....come on, he didn't have to spend a few months here to buy part of the team...he knows he can serve a purpose here.

Sure, KG may be buttering the bread a bit before he becomes more involved with the franchise as a partial owner. But he also is one of the best competitors to ever play the game. The Brooklyn Nets are a one and done playoff team, in the junior varsity Eastern Conference, at best. KG was going to get let down no matter what he decided.

Coming home to Minnesota allows KG to serve a role he's never really had to play. Mentor.

He had Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo in Boston. He had Pierce, Deron Williams and a bunch of non-rookies in Brooklyn. He's getting a chance to take a bunch of talented players under his wing, and help them become what he became. And each one of the young players on the Wolves' roster would kill to become what KG is today.

KGBKLN(Courtesy: newyork.cbslocal.com)

Thaddeus Young's time in Minnesota was a failure. The Wolves found themselves in a tough spot when they traded Kevin Love (for Andrew Wiggins, so let's not bitch about that part of this), so they made a risky move trading what likely will be mid to late 1st round pick (Miami's) for Young. **Please note, Miami made a massive trade to obtain Goran Dragic today, making their team better...that 1st round pick could be in the 20's, which isn't like trading away a top 10 pick). To see Young get traded straight up for KG has many seeing this trade as a 1st round pick for KG...but that's not the case. Here's why.

KG has a $12m expiring contract at the end of the year. Young has a $10m player option for 2016, which he likely would have opted in to had the Wolves kept him, as he should, because he's not worth $10m.

So, instead of paying Young $10m in 2016, they don't have to pay anyone anything...unless they re-sign KG, which is possible, but it won't be for $10m. Not even close. That's a win for the Wolves, because they need all the money they can get for the free agent frenzy of 2017 when the big TV contracts increase the salary caps.

And by then, the hope is at least, that players may actually want to come play with this group of Wolves who are about to hit their stride....like Wiggins, Rubio, Muhammad, Lavine, Dieng, etc...hopefully all who have learned a thing or nine from KG during his return home.

Young is a poor man's Kevin Love. He's a tweener small-forward/power-forward. He doesn't play defense. He doesn't rebound that well. He shoots from the outside too often, thus limiting said rebounds, and he plays aggressively when he wants to.

The Wolves also have 11 wins. ELEVEN. And Young has been healthy the whole time (for the most part). Sure, he's only 26 and "hitting his prime" as some would say, but he's been in the league seven years...long enough to essentially know what you're going to get. His career averages are 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. Tell me that's worth $10m a year to a team with eleven wins and tons of youth. Even if Young blows up in 2016, you're then forced to pay him even more or watch him walk for nothing. In which case, the Wolves lose anyway.

There are some who think the Wolves could have gotten more, as if they left more on the table just to have a marketing campaign with KG coming home instead. Guess what? That's not the case. No team in the NBA was giving up any sort of decent value for a guy who could walk after this year. They also aren't giving up talent so they can pay Young $10m next year. The Nets are doing it because they are one of the few teams who can afford the potential of Young actually helping their team.

If Flip had a better deal on the table that would improve this team, he would have done it. And to be honest, KG probably would have preferred he do that if he's going to be part owner in the near future. This leads me to believe that the rumors we heard of other teams jumping in this KG for Young deal were true. If KG wasn't interested, he would have said no right away. But it's entirely possible he said "I'll do it, but lets see what else we can get before we finalize this thing."

Of course, there's no guarantee Young stays in Minnesota or Brooklyn. He could promise that all he wants...and back out last minute. It's the NBA, it happens multiple times every year. Why not bring in a guy who can talk the talk because he walked the walk? Like KG.

To conclude (and thank you if you're still with me here), there's more reasons to be pleased with the KG for Thad Young trade than many bandwagon fans are giving credit for. They're bandwagon fans, they don't fully understand things...they read headlines and make assumptions.

This trade doesn't hurt the Wolves. If anything, the trade for Young hurt the Wolves...well, maybe, if they were to actually land a good player in back half of the first round in this Summer's draft with that Miami pick. The current team can benefit from having a leader, a veteran, a guy like KG who can once again be worshiped in the Twin Cities.

This time, however, he can be worshiped for a different reason. And maybe, just maybe, we're able to look back on this trade and reflect on the impact it had on this young team.

And maybe, just maybe, KG will be on the court, hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy as part owner of the team, with the very guys he helped grow.

It'd make for one heck of a dream come true...

(then again, maybe that's all it is...a dream)

#HowlAtchyaBoi #TypingOutLoud #GrammarNerdsAreNotWelcome

Psychics, Gypsies, Fortune Tellers, Palm Readers and the Big Game

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It's funny isn't it? Every year we hear all about it. The wild and outlandish things people will do or say in an effort to get a correct prediction to the Super Bowl. We see it on the evening news, with TV crews scurrying around their own backyards or nearest state to find the most original or unique animal or person to make a Super Bowl prediction. And why not? It is, after all, one of the most watched TV programs every year. Can it get worse?

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Bud Grant Quotes

  • Handle Plate: "I've got more on my plate then I can handle."  --Bud Grant
  • Leadership: "We have no leadership.  They rule by a herd.  Nobody is in charge...  It reminds me of a bunch of cows."  --Bud Grant