1-16-09: The DFTU Is Back!

Hello again everybody...

Congratulations on making it to the end of another work week. And special congratulations to those of you who survived the Arctic blast here in the upper Midwest (those of you who copped out and worked from home don't count - not that I blame you).

But we're here. We've made it. And 48 hours of rest and rejuvenation loom. (Sorry Josh, I'm not trying to rub it in. Honest.)

So for the last column of the week, I've decided to bring back everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update! Admit it, you've missed it. Well it's back. I'd like to say it's better than ever, but given some of the results from last night, that may not quite be true.

Off we go...

"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
- Arthur C. Clarke (1917- ), British author, inventor and futurist.

I've bypassed the entire measure by not having a bathroom scale. Much easier, and less destructive to the ego.

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Okay, it's been a little while since I've done this, so let's see if I remember how this goes...

It's time once again for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 22-18-3, good for 47 points and third place in the Northwest Division.

It's been about a month since I last discussed the Wild and what a shaky month it's been. The Wild lost 9 of 11 games during a stretch in December. Things have turned around a bit lately with 5 wins in their last 8 games, but they're still mired in 3rd, 11 points behind the Calgary Flames who've grabbed a fairly firm hold on first place in the Northwest.

We also learned in that time, that Marian Gaborik's recurring "lower body" injury was more serious than first thought and required surgery which will keep him out a total of 10 weeks, or the bulk of the season more or less.

Strangely enough, it was around the time that the club learned that Gabby would be out for an extended period of time that they started to turn things around. Are those two things linked? Or is it a mere coincidence?

I'm sure the end of speculation about Gaborik's injury ended a distraction for the rest of the club, but I think it's an oversimplification to say that's what led to the turnaround.

Instead, I think it really boils down to their offensive production. In the last two games the Wild have scored a total of 11 goals. In the 6 games prior to those two? Yup, they scored a total of 11 goals. That kind of "feast or famine" approach to offensive hockey isn't going to put your name on the Cup any time soon.

Yes, the Wild have always been a "defense first" team, and that's led to a fair amount of success. But if the other team gets one, you have to get two. And if you're struggling to get two, you're requiring your goalie to pitch a shut out more often than not. Nik Backstrom's good, but nobody's that good.

Obviously we can't expect the Wild's recent scoring binge to continue. I just hope they're able to balance things out a little bit. I'll give up a little bit of the feast, if we don't have to try and survive so much of the famine.

The Wild host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night as part of "Hockey Day in Minnesota" (check your local FSN listings). Then it's off to Chicago Monday night, followed by a return to the X to face the L.A. Kings on Tuesday.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 12-5, 3-2 in the Big Ten and in 4th place in the conference.

I didn't want to have to write about this. But I'll man-up and take the hit. The Badgers blew a 14-point lead at home last night, losing 78-74 in overtime to the Minnesota Gophers.

Long-time readers of The Sports Take know that the Gophers hold a special place in the "Pantheon of Hate". As much as I try to mitigate my distaste for all things Maroon and Gold, I'm constantly and consistently reminded of why they've earned my loathing.

No sooner had Minnesota hit a last second shot to send the game to overtime, then my cell phone started buzzing with text messages from Gopher fans worshiping at the altar of Tubby. Really folks? You win a game in Madison for the first time in 15 years, and your response is, "ha ha, badgers suck"... really?!

And why is it the folks who've never spent a minute in a University of Minnesota classroom are the most vociferous in making these comments? No, you don't have to be an alumnus to be a fan, but you may want to dial the volume down a notch. Just a thought.

I tried very hard to be humble and congratulatory, but dammit, a man can only be pushed so far!

But kudos to the Gophers for walking through the door after the Badgers threw it wide open. Their press worked wonders in the second half, and they hit some critical shots down the stretch to send it to overtime and eventually win the game. Tubby Smith is a fantastic basketball coach, and clearly out-dueled Bo Ryan in the second half.

The game really was a microcosm of the Badgers season so far. They've looked really good (see: 74-45 win over Northwestern and the first half of last night's game), and they've looked lousy (see: 76-57 loss vs. UConn and the second half of last night's game).

I guess I'm surprised that their season has been that volatile, since it seemed to me that they had a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. And you'd expect a team that has been this up and down to be young and inexperienced.

To me, it seems that a lack of floor leadership should then be blamed. Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes are leading the team in scoring, but that doesn't mean they're actually "leading" the team. Landry especially seems tailor-made to set the tone for the rest of the club. But based on their performance last night especially, it's clear that something's lacking. You can't blow a 14-point lead at home. Leader's don't allow that to happen. But it did. And if that's not a wake-up call for the veterans on this team, then I fear for their prospects in the post-season.

The Badgers face a couple of stiff tests next week as they travel to meet the Hawkeyes in Iowa on Wednesday, and then head to Illinois on the 24th. Time to step it up boys!

Okay, that puts a bow on this week. Enjoy your weekend. I'm going to go weep silently in a corner somewhere. But I'll be back and over my depression on Monday, I promise! Until then stay safe, and thanks for reading!

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