1-29-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Once again we've made it. The week is once again coming to a close and rest, relaxation and recreation are just around the corner!

First off, thanks to those who responded to Wednesday's column. To quote Brad Childress, I wrote it in sort of a “stream of consciousness” fashion. That's not always a bad thing, but sometimes it means you think you're expressing a thought, and yet it doesn't come off fully-formed on the page.

Thankfully, when I went back to edit the column, it turned out I didn't have to change too much. And given your responses, it came off about as well as I'd hoped!

That you all take the time to read is a mitzvah in and of itself. That any of you take the time to send me a note responding to something I wrote (good or bad), truly humbles me. I can't thank you enough!

That being said... I'll move on!

It's Friday, so we've got some Updating to do. And since the list of Favorite Teams seems to keep growing, there's no time to dawdle!

Off we go!

”Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down.”
- Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869), French Composer

Granted, I'm not normally fond of the French. But if I could somehow magically recall every idea I've had for a bit or a column which I've subsequently forgotten, I'd have material to last me until Opening Day!

I've actually parked a pen and notepad on the nightstand to try and catch some of those ideas as they slip my mind. Unfortunately, if you've ever tried to read my chicken-scratch, and then throw in late-night fatigue and a lack of glasses, you'll understand why that doesn't always work.

C'est la vie! Wait, that's French... dammit!

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The end of another week means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 27-23-4 (back to .500!), good for 58 points. They're fourth in the Northwest Division, and 10th in the Western Conference, two points behind Calgary for the 8th seed and final playoff spot.

Well, well, well. Just like that, the Wild are hot on the heels of the playoff squads. Since we last Updated, Minnesota's gone 3-0 with victories over Columbus, Detroit and Colorado - two of which are ahead of them in the standings - all three of which came in regulation. That's how you go from six points out of the playoffs to two points out in one week.

That's the good news.

The bad news comes in serious and not-so-serious forms.

The serious? The Wild are beat up at the position a hockey team can least afford to be beat up at. Their top goaltender, Niklas Backstrom has a lower back injury. And it's serious enough that the Wild have shut him down for a few days. He wasn't available last night, he's not scheduled to be available Saturday night in San Jose, and he'll be re-evaluated on Monday.

Josh Harding, who played brilliantly last night in Colorado, has been fighting a hip injury he suffered last week and which he might have tweaked again last night. Late in the third, as he was fending off an Avalanche surge, he had to make a twisting, sprawling save, and it took him several seconds to get back on his skates.

To make up for Backstrom's absence, the Wild recalled Wade Dubielewicz who WCHA fans will remember from his run with the Denver Pioneers. Dubielewicz (wow, is that difficult to type) is 11-10 with a 2.42 goals-against average in 24 games with the Houston Aeros. Previously this season, when the Wild needed goaltending help, they called up Anton Khudobin. But Khudobin was starting in Chicago last night, so the Wild asked for Duber (screw that, I'm calling him Duber for the rest of the column).

Now if Harding's injury got aggravated last night, who knows what they're going to do? If they need a longer-term solution, I'd imagine it'd be Khudobin. But they may have to look outside the organization for help too.

Hopefully, Hards is okay and Backstrom's back troubles are only temporary. Without at least one of those two guys healthy, this march towards the playoffs may end quickly.

The not-so-serious bad news is that ever since I officially declared Guillaume Lattendresse to be my favorite player, he's been all but shut out on the score sheet. 48 has had 1 goal and no assists in the 5 games since I professed my man-love for him. Compare that to the 10 points he had in the 5 games prior to my pronouncement, and I'm forced to wonder if I've created yet another form of the Sports Take Whammy?

Must I abdicate my new-found allegiance? I guess I'll give it at least another week. But if I have to choose between Gui being a strong part of a playoff push, or him being my “official favorite player”? Well it's not much of a contest!

The Wild are en route to San Jose, where they'll challenge the conference-leading Sharks Saturday night. After that, it's a Tuesday night game deep in the heart o' Texas against those evil, back-stabbing, good-for-nothing Stars. Then it's back home for games Thursday against Edmonton and next Saturday against the Flyers (which is penciled in as my triumphant return to the X - is it really possible that I haven't been there in over a month?!).

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 16-5 (6-3 in the Big Ten). They're in second place in the Big Ten and ranked 16th nationally.

The good news is the Badgers are managing to hold their own without John Leuer in the lineup. Though he's not the same inside presence that Leuer is, junior Keaton Nankivil has stepped up to help fill the hole. Scoring in the double-digits in each of his last three games, Nankivil set a career-high last night with 25 on the road at Purdue.

The defense is still being exploited inside. And Wisconsin is forced to rely far too much on their outside shooting to generate offense. But so far, the Badgers have been managing those problems well enough to stay in in the upper tier of the Big 10.

The bad news is that up until last night, they'd caught some of the Wild's “come from behind” disease. They were down early to Michigan before coming back for the win. And they were down by 15 at one point to Penn State before coming back for the overtime victory against the Lions.

They corrected that problem last night as they traded leads with Purdue in the first half, and never trailed by a significant margin before losing by three points in West Lafayette.

If they've corrected that problem long-term, fine. But given the upcoming schedule, if not, then they're going to have a serious problem on their hands. We all know basketball is a game of runs, so being down by 6 or even 8 on the road against a good team is to be expected. But at home, against lesser competition, you're not going to come back from 15 each night.

Looking at the upcoming opponents, the Badgers are home against the number one team in the Big Ten, the Michigan State Spartans Tuesday night. It's a nationally televised game on ESPN, and tip-off is at 8pm. So if you have a chance, check it out. It ought to be a doozie. The following Saturday they're on the road at Michigan before returning home to face Illinois. Not an easy stretch.

And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you that the Badgers travel to face the Gophers in their only match-up of the regular season on Thursday, February 18th.

Yes folks, the very same Gophers whose football brethren just hired a brand-spanking-new offensive coordinator. Jeff Horton, late of the Detroit Lions, joins Tim Brewster as the third new offensive coordinator in Brewster's three years. The difference between Horton and his predecessor Jed Fisch is his extensive experience... as a quarterbacks coach. Because if your head coach has never been a coordinator before you hired him to run the program, why not hire a quarterback coach to run your offense?! (No, that's not it... wait for it...)

Okay, the truth is Horton's had two runs as a college head coach. One at UNLV and one at Nevada. And we both know what college powerhouses those two programs have been! (Nope, still not it... wait for it...)

Ultimately, I think the best way to look at this hire is as follows... if you're looking for a great offensive mind to turn around your moribund college offense, why wouldn't your first thought be to hire somebody from that offensive juggernaut, the Detroit Lions!

(And THAT ladies and gentlemen was this week's “Golden Gopher Cheap Shot” brought to you by Badger fans everywhere and Coke Zero... you know, Zero, like the number of New Year's Day games the Gophers have played in over the last decade... or Zero, like the number of NCAA Tournament games the Gophers have won over the last decade... or... well, you get the idea. *Special thanks to Michele Tafoya for bringing that stat to my attention!)

Minnesota Twins: It's the off-season, silly! The Twins don't have a record. But they are the defending American League Central Division Champions.

So why are the Twins making a January DFTU appearance? Two reasons. Jim Thome and Twinsfest.

This week the Twins announced that they'd signed the 39-year-old Thome to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million in base salary, and with an additional $700,000 in possible incentives. While I'm going to attempt not to gush about this signing - Thome's not going to be the make-or-break player on the 2010 Twins - I do like it a lot.

First off, I do like a solid veteran. Thome's got 19 seasons under his belt, and he's a proven performer. 564 career home runs, 1565 career RBI, and a .961 career OPS are evidence enough of that. And while he's clearly closer to the end of his career than the prime, he still hit 23 home runs with 74 RBI with the White Sox last year before being traded to the Dodgers for their playoff run.

Second, Thome's one of those guys who you love to have in your locker room. Not that the Twins lacked for veteran leadership, but that's one of those qualities it's impossible to have too much of.

Third, even though Thome's fielding days are long behind him, he still provides the Twins with some flexibility. Not only does he fill the role of “late inning power threat off the bench” - something the Twins have conspicuously lacked in recent years - but he can fill in as DH, freeing Jason Kubel to play outfield which can not only give Cuddyer and Young days off, but it can free Cuddy to play first to give Morneau a day off here and there.

So welcome, Jim Thome. Twins fans would've loved to have had you on the squad five years ago. But better late than never!

Twinsfest is the other big news of the week. The Twins annual fan festival kicks off this afternoon at Metrodome and runs through Sunday. Yes, even though the Twins have left the Dome behind as a playing venue, it's still the most ideal location to hold Twinsfest. Target Field's concourses are wide, but they're also open, which makes them less than ideal for a late-January weekend.

I'll be headed down tomorrow to check out all the various displays and see who's milling around. There are bountiful opportunities to collect pictures and autographs. Perhaps you'll remember last year's Photo Post? Personally, I don't get much into the autograph craze. Patience has never been a virtue I've been able to master. And the lines for autographs tend to be long and slow-moving.

But there's plenty of other things to see and enjoy. And if things go right for me, I may have a fun announcement for you all on Monday.

How's that for a tease?!

Maple Grove Crimson: The Crimson Women's Basketball team is 15-2 (9-0 in the Northwest Suburban Conference).

Another week, another two wins for the Crimson.

Last Friday it was a 56-34 dismantling of the Park Center Pirates (sorry Mary). Junior guard Ellen Edison led the way in scoring with 20 points for Maple Grove, while senior Julie Kruse and junior Anna Gerdes dominated the glass with double-digit rebounds. You want a dominating defensive performance? How about not allowing a double-digit scorer? Park Center rolled 6 players out on the floor, none of whom were able to score more than 9 points. Impressive.

Then this past Tuesday night, it was an opportunity to avenge one of Maple Grove's two losses this season. Back in December in the Dicks Sporting Goods Classic, the Crimson came up short against arch-rival Osseo 55-53. Tuesday it was an official conference game, and Maple Grove turned the tables. Osseo jumped out to a 28-27 first half lead, but Maple Grove cranked it up in the second half and finished with a 57-54 victory. This time it was Kruse leading the way with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Edison was right behind her with 12 points and 5 boards. Junior guard Stephanie Davidson also broke the double-digit scoring barrier for the Crimson, racking up 11 points to go with 3 rebounds and a pair of assists.

That win kept Maple Grove perfect in the conference, a game ahead of Centennial (who they've already beaten once) and now two games ahead of arch-rival Osseo.

The players are performing. The coaches are scheming (including legendary assistant Kurt Maus, whom I egregiously neglected to mention in last week's column - my bad). The Crimson are on a roll, and the home stretch is dead ahead.

Nine games remain in Maple Grove's regular season and then the road to the Sate Tournament begins.

Tonight, the Crimson travel to meet the Coon Rapids Cardinals. The Cardinals are 3-12 on the year, but all three wins have come in-conference. Maple Grove should be confident (though hopefully not cocky) as they dismantled Coon Rapids 72-34 in a mid-December meeting.

Coming up Wednesday, Maple Grove hosts the 8-9 (5-4) Blaine Bengals. In their last meeting, Maple Grove scored a comfortable 55-41 victory.

But there's no complacency on this club, right Coach Cook?!

Okay, that'll about wrap things up for this week. Hope you enjoyed the Update. Have a safe, enjoyable weekend. I'll be back on Monday with news and notes from the weekend.

Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. This Cook guy really knows what he is talking about when he talks about those lady Crimson basketballers. This is the best blog I have ever seen!!

  2. And it doesn't get any more objective than that, folks!

  3. And watch for a certain Logan at the Twinsfest. He is so excited to be going!