Hello again everybody...
Well, we've done it. And I mean that in more ways than one...
First off, as usual, we've made it to the end of another work week. For many of you, you're on the brink of 48 hours of work-free goodness. For me, I'm on the verge of 240 hours of work-free vacationing, and I couldn't be more thrilled to get there. As I've said before (far too many times for the tastes of some), tomorrow I wing my way southwestward to visit my folks in Phoenix. There'll be sunshine, warm temperatures, plenty of baseball, and even a hockey game. Hard to top that.
And since I'll be vacationing, that brings me to my second meaning. Today's column is the final Sports Take.
(I'll let that sink in for a moment.)
No, I'm not going to stop blogging. What I mean is I've decided to re-brand the blog a bit. I've considered it in the past, and it was really the "Globe and Mail" article that decided it for me.
See, while the blog got a mention in the article, I wasn't able to maximize the exposure. If someone who'd read that article and saw that the blog was called The Sports Take, and turned around and searched for “www.thesportstake.com”, they'd come up with someone else's blog at the top of their Google search, not mine (though mine would appear fourth). In any case, to maximize the number of hits I could get out of an article like that, I decided that I wanted to purchase a URL that had the blog name in it. And since thesportstake.com was already taken, that meant it was time for a new name.
After bugging the crap out of many friends asking for their suggestions and bouncing various ideas off of them, I finally have my name. And... you'll have to wait til next week to find out what it is!
I've discussed it with several of you, but don't get clever and think you're going to attach a comment to spoil the surprise. I see them all and decide if they get published, so that's a no go.
My plan at this point is to take Monday and Wednesday off (hey, I'm on vacation, cut me some slack!), and then debut the new blog title and look one week from today when I kick off my series of 2010 MLB Preview columns. After all, it was the 2008 MLB Preview that began The Sports Take, so it only seems appropriate that the 2010 version will kick off the new title.
Don't fret. All your favorite segments and features will come along for the ride. And hopefully I'll be able to add some new ideas as well. It'll just be an updated look, and an easier link to remember!
But that's next Friday. And before we get to that, we've got some Updating to do! Especially since we're going to be talking all baseball next Friday.
So let's do this!
”Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
- Robert Heinlein (1907 - 1988), American science fiction writer
An interesting quote from a writer, but depending on the subject, I think I know what he means!
«Read the rest of the column by clicking on the title»
It's Friday. That means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment:
Dan's Favorite Teams Update
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 31-29-6, good for 68 points. They're fourth in the Northwest Division, and 12th in the Western Conference.
Look, I'm not going to put the fork in the Wild just yet. But let's just say it's in my hands, and poised to be stuck.
Minnesota came out of the Olympic break needing a hot streak to put them in realistic position to make the playoffs. And at first, it looked like they had a shot. They came out of the chute with a 4-0 win at Calgary, and things were looking good.
Since then? They're 0-4 and have been outscored 15-6. And it hasn't even necessarily been to quality teams. Sure losing to Calgary and Detroit can be understandable - although since both teams are between the Wild and the 8th seed, they were tough to lose - but losing to Edmonton and Florida... well that's just inexcusable.
When you're pushing for a playoff spot, you simply can't lose to teams like that. It can not happen. But it did. Hence our poised fork.
What's really disappointing is that it seems like the effort has lagged. Pushing for a playoff spot... making large sums of money... I'm not sure what more these guys need to be motivated enough to work hard? It pains me to say it, but they're just not.
Against Florida the Wild had 11 measly shots on goal. Thank about that for a moment. 11 freaking shots. That's a decent period in the NHL. But the Wild only managed 11 shots for the entire game. Are you kidding? Florida's not a defensive stalwart! Only six teams in the East have given up more goals.
That's just a distinct lack of desire and effort. And that's what makes me sad. The Wild aren't the most talented team in the NHL, far from it. But so long as they're out there every night giving it all they've got, then fans will generally give them a pass.
Stinkers like their last four games leave a bad taste in the collective mouths of the State of Hockey. And there's simply no excuse for it. I know it's late in the year. I know that guys are dinged up and worn down. I know that it's been a tough year with the Olympics compressing the schedule. None of that excuses lack of effort. None of it.
Oof. The more I write about this, the more depressed I get. Time to put a bow on this section and move on? You're right.
The Wild are in Buffalo tonight, then return home on Sunday to face St. Louis. After that it's home against Edmonton Tuesday night, and on the road against Nashville Thursday and Columbus next Friday.
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers finished the regular season 23-7 (13-5 in the Big Ten). They're the 4th seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and ranked 15th in the country.
I talked a little about the Badgers on Monday, and since they haven't played since then, there's not a ton to Update you on. But that's not going to stop me, right?
Bucky is the “home team” in the 4/5 match-up this afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, IN. Tip-off should be around 1:30pm central, so by the time you read this, the game may have been decided.
The 5-seed in the 2010 Big Ten Tourny is Illinois, Wisconsin's opponent from this past Sunday. Two teams that know each other? An Illini team fighting for it's NCAA Tournament life? Yep, this one could get a wee-bit physical. Should be entertaining, so check it out if you have a chance. The game's slated to be on ESPN, check your local listings.
It's a game Wisconsin should win (how about that for the final Sports Take whammy!), and if they do, they're slated to take on the winner of Ohio State/Michigan, the game which precedes them today. That contest would take place Saturday at 12:40pm central on CBS. I'll be in the air headed to Phoenix at that point, but I'm sure I'll get a text or two letting me know how things went.
At this point, the Badgers are in the NCAA's, so all they're playing for is seeding. That concerns me only in the sense that Illinois is playing for their life and Ohio State is trying to earn a potential #1 seed. So minus those kinds of senses of urgency, I fear the Badgers may come out flat. It's not Bo Ryan's style to allow that sort of thing, but there's only so much a coach can control.
Sunday night we'll know for sure where Wisconsin will be playing and who they've drawn for the Big Dance. Until then, here's to hoping for a run at another Big Ten Title.
Maple Grove Crimson: The Crimson are 2-0 in the Sectional Tournament and play in the Sectional Final tonight for the right to go to the State Tournament.
Last week I told you about Maple Grove's opening-round win over Spring Lake Park. That brought us to the Section Semi-Finals last Saturday night, a game I got to see in person.
Once again, it was conference-rival Osseo that the Crimson had to handle. And this time it wasn't close.
Maple Grove jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. It was 24-14 Crimson at halftime. And it was 34-16 near the mid-point of the second half when my nephew asked, “Uncle Dan, are we gonna win?” Let's see... how to explain this to a 6-year-old...
“Well, Cade, in order for Osseo to even tie us, they'd have to score more points in the next 10 minutes than they've scored for the first 3/4ths of the game.”
He gave me a blank look.
“Yes, Cade, we're gonna win.”
That produced a smile and a satisfied nod.
I know. The math was probably a bit too complex. But you can't expose kids to interesting math too early, can you?
The final was Maple Grove 58, Osseo 31. Junior Stephanie Field led the way in scoring with 14 points. Senior Jen Field was next with 11, and led the team in rebounds with 5. But it was the Crimson's defense that was the story. Not only did they hold Osseo to 31, but they forced the Orioles into one of the most dreadful shooting performances you can imagine. I'd print the numbers, but it'd be cruel and unusual punishment.
Suffice to say, Maple Grove dominated on both ends of the floor.
Now it's on to the Section Finals. And this time, it's not a conference-rival that Maple Grove will be facing. The Centennial Cougars - the 2nd place team in the Northwest Suburban Conference - lost their semi-final match-up to Mounds View 43-38, in what was described as a “bowling-shoe ugly” contest.
Mounds View finished second in the Suburban East Conference and is ranked 9th in Class 4A. So they're no push-over. But they were the 2-seed in the Section tournament for a reason, and they're a team that Maple Grove should beat.
Sadly, it's not a game I'll get to see in person, as I'll be working well past game-time this evening. But should any of you want to go root on the Crimson, the game's at 8pm at Anoka Senior High School. I know Coach Cook would love all the support they can get.
And that's going to do it for The Sports Take. It's been a helluva run, and hopefully the new incarnation will enjoy the same support.
Thanks to all of you for all the comments (good and bad). It thrills me to no end that people care to partake of my inane ramblings.
I'll be back next Friday. New name, new look, same nonsense and skullduggery.
Until then, thanks for reading!