12-30-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

And welcome to the final Sports Take of 2009. When I started writing these columns nearly two years ago, little did I know I'd be wishing you a happy New Year come the end of '09. But here we are!

Once again, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you all again so much for taking the time to read my rants and ramblings. It's an honor and a pleasure to keep trying to entertain you! Here's to hoping for even more success in 2010!

As I mentioned on Monday, this will be the last column for this week. Friday, of course, is New Year's Day and I fully intend on gorging myself on the NHL Winter Classic and plenty o' Bowl Games. The regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule will resume on Monday.

But before we get to a weekend of fun and relaxation, we've got some updating to do! A Champs Sports Bowl here. A West Coast swing there. Lots to get to, so let's do some Updating!

”I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him.”
- Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642), Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher

Clearly Galileo never answered phones at a radio station! (Yes, I'm glad I'm looking at a 3-day weekend!)

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With that, it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 20-17-3, giving them 43 points. They're 4th in the Northwest division and 11th in the Western Conference.

Okay, first the positives. The Wild are one win away from setting a new franchise record for most wins in a month. They've won 10 times in December and have one more game remaining on New Year's Eve. That night the Wild host a Kings team they just beat two nights ago on the road. So they certainly have a shot at setting a new mark.

Another positive... new players are stepping up to lead the way in scoring. It seems that Martin Havlat has finally found his stride. Sure, he's still a -12 on the year, but he's climbed up to tie Marek Zidlicky for third on the team in points with 22. Kim Johnsson has goals in his last three straight games. And Guillaume Lattendresse has 10 points since coming over in a trade from the Canadiens.

But for all the progress this team has made - and let's be honest Wild fans, even though they're not in the playoff position we'd all like to see, there HAS been a tremendous amount of progress since the start of the year - they're no closer to making the playoffs than they were last week, or the week before that, or... well, you get the idea.

Sure they're only 4 points behind Vancouver for that 8th spot. And for the glass-half-full crowd, the 6th, 7th and 8th teams are all tied at 47 points. So you could say the Wild are 4 points out of 6th! Sounds great, doesn't it?

Now for the reality. As I've reminded you in the past, it's not the point disparity that makes it difficult, it's the number of teams between you and a playoff spot that makes things a little hairy. As it stands, if you include the current 8th seed, there are three teams between the Wild and the playoffs. And Vancouver, Dallas and Detroit are not going to be easy to pass. Since the Canucks are a division opponent, the Wild have more chances to gain ground on them. But Dallas and Detroit? Those are good clubs whom the Wild have limited opportunities against.

I'm not saying they can't get it done. If the Wild keep playing like they have been, they have a great shot. But it's not going to be easy.

Especially if they lose some players. For those of you who didn't stay up to catch the game in Anaheim last night, there are some questions about fines and suspensions coming from that game.

The first incident came courtesy of Derek Boogaard who accidentally drilled a linesman in the ribs as he was engaged in a fight, which said linesman was trying to break up. The blow was devastating enough that the linesman was sent to the hospital for x-rays.

Checking the replay, it's pretty clear Boogey wasn't trying to deck the linesman, so I doubt he'll miss any games over the incident. But he does have a reputation in the NHL, so a fine isn't out of the question.

The second incident came moments later when John Scott tried to drop the gloves against a member of the Ducks. This time, the linesman jumped in before they could even get going. Or at least he tried to. After initially jumping between the players, the linesman was tossed aside by Scott, and had to re-insert himself between them in order to actually stop the fight.

In Scott's defense, it's an odd occurrence when a linesman jumps in before a fight can even get started. And in the adrenaline-fueled heat of the moment, he reacted and put his hands on an official. That's a no-no. The fact that he wasn't tossed from the game shows that the officials didn't think he meant any harm towards them. But the NHL may not be so forgiving.

There are some lines in sports that you just can't cross, even when it's an understandable lapse in judgment. And putting hands on an official is one of them. I fully expect a fine is headed Scott's way, and if he isn't suspended for a game or two, I'll be mildly surprised.

Admittedly, neither Boogaard or Scott is essential to the Wild's success. But when a team is as beset by injuries as the Wild has been, losing any players to disciplinary measures is a hassle they don't need.

The Wild finish off the 2009 portion of their schedule tomorrow night as they host the Kings in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center. Then Saturday, it's the return of Jacques Lemaire to the X as the Devils come to St. Paul for their sole visit of the season. Then next week the Wild play back-to-back games at 1st place Chicago on Tuesday, then home to division-rival Calgary on Wednesday.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Champs Sports Bowl Champions finished the 2009 season 10-3 (5-3 in the Big Ten).

As you may have guessed if you didn't see the game last night, the Wisconsin Badger football squad won their bowl game with a 20-14 win over the Miami Hurricanes.

I'll admit, I was scared to death by Miami's athleticism. After watching the Badgers getting run off the field in last year's Champs Sports Bowl by Florida State, I was terrified of a similar result this year. And at the start of the game, it appeared that fear was well justified.

The 'Canes ran a reverse on the opening kick-off and housed it. Okay, technically it was called back on an illegal blocking penalty, but they scored on the next play anyway, so for all intents and purposes, the play stood.

But I have to give the coaching staff, and yes Bielema-haters that includes the head coach, credit. There was no panic. There was no “oh lord here we go again” looks on the sidelines. The offense went right out on the field and put together a solid, professional drive and John Clay punched it in for the tying touchdown.

And after that, it was all Wisconsin til the final two minutes of the game. This was perhaps the best effort I've seen out of the Badger defense all year. Senior DL O'Brien Schofield was his usual disruptive self. But you can't gloss over the effort of his counterpart, Freshman J.J. Watt who made a statement towards being the anchor of the defense next season. Their harassment of Miami QB Jacory Harris played a large role in his inaccuracy, and Miami's overall ineptitude on offense. Freshman LB's Chris Borland and Mike Taylor also made several big plays defensively.

On offense, Sophomore RB John Clay was a beast carrying the ball 22 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Junior QB Scott Tolzien was steady, though not spectacular, throwing for 260 yards and just one interception. And Junior TE Lance Kendricks had a break-out game with 7 catches for 128 yards.

Maybe that was what was most enjoyable about this game, aside from the win. The knowledge that most of the key pieces (besides Schofield and TE Garrett Graham) are coming back next year has to give Badger fans a lot of confidence for the club's chances in the future.

I did mention the last two minutes not being so great for the Badgers, so let me address that. I don't fault the defense much for that last touchdown drive from Miami. The game had been fairly well decided, and though you hate to see a let down with only a two-score lead, they're not the first club to suffer that kind of malaise.

Now the onside kick attempt? That was a debacle. I've said it before. I'm not one to bash Bret Bielema. But this nonsense about being the head coach and the special teams coach? That has to stop. You don't have to prove your credentials, Bret. And being the special teams coach isn't going to get that done even if you did. Hire a guy. Let him focus on the special teams, and clean that mess up. No Less than four different Badgers managed to get their hands on that onside attempt and somehow none of them came up with the ball. That's just ridiculous.

Fortunately, the defense bailed them out and forced Harris into several more incompletions (seriously Jacory?! 16-29?! I bragged you up at the beginning of the year. Just one more thing I got wrong this year) and forced Miami into a four and out to end the game.

So all in all, I feel pretty good about the 2009 version of the Badgers. Funny what a win over a ranked team can do for your perspective. But 10-3 is hard to criticize. No, the Badgers weren't really in contention for the Big 10 title late in the year - and I think that's a fair expectation for the program after the overall success of the last 15 years - but they were certainly in the upper tier. They won their Bowl game over a decent team and have a lot to look forward to in 2010.

Which brings me to another tangentially related subject... the Tim Brewster extension.

Are you serious Minnesota? You're going to extend this clown after back to back 6-6 seasons? Granted those look pretty decent after the 1-11 stinker he delivered in his first year. But “he's earned an extension” as athletic director Joel Maturi put it? Really?

I understand that you want to give the guy a fair shot at a recruiting class. And if you leave him dangling on the last year of his deal, other schools will hammer recruits with the possibility that Brewster won't be there for their full four years. So if you want to give the guy one more guaranteed year, and then tack on a few that you can easily get out of, that makes a certain amount of sense.

But what are you really expecting? He can sell it, no doubt. But there hasn't been any evidence whatsoever that he's a good coach. And after three years, I think it's fair to say he's had plenty of opportunities to show us.

Me? I'm thrilled. Extend him 5 years, Minnesota! It just means that Bucky's streak of winning the Axe will extend to 11 years in a row, and 18 of the last 20. Not that I'm counting!

I can't wait for September 4th, 2010 when Wisconsin kicks off next season at UNLV!

That's going to wrap things up for this week. I'll be back with you on Monday. I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Years. Enjoy some football. Check in for that NHL Winter Classic Friday at noon on NBC. And take it easy on the roads!

Until Monday, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff as usual...Being a Goph tho, I skipped the Badger part!! hehe