Dave LeGarde: Wild doing well, but they're still erratic
There's no questioning the popularity of the Minnesota Wild, the most well-run professional sports organization in Minnesota. Having sold out the Xcel Energy Center for every home game in team history, they've put themselves among the National Ho...
There's no questioning the popularity of the Minnesota Wild, the most well-run professional sports organization in Minnesota.
Having sold out the Xcel Energy Center for every home game in team history, they've put themselves among the National Hockey League elite when it comes to successful franchises.
Season tickets are very difficult to obtain, with a waiting list established should any become available. Those remaining for single games are gobbled-up months in advance.
The monetary success is undeniable, and it's hard to fathom the Wild meeting the same fate as our previous NHL team, the North Stars.
You remember the North Stars, whose greedy owner moved the whole operation to Dallas some 15 years ago because he couldn't make enough money here?
This year's edition of the Wild appears to fit right in with Minnesota's other pro sports teams: one that drives fans insane with brilliance, followed by inconsistent play.
The personnel make them worth watching every night. Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston are two of the more exciting players in the league, and Minnesota natives Mark Parrish and former Duluth East standout Sean Hill bring local flavor.
With skilled forwards like Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Pavol Demitra and Mikko Koivu, the lineup looks daunting with potential to contend for a Stanley Cup championship.
Even the arena is among the best. The Xcel Center was rated by players, fans and media as one of the country's most outstanding sports venues. The atmosphere on game night is tremendous. With more than 19,000 fans making downtown St. Paul their destination, there's a special electricity.
This season started with a flurry. Five straight wins and seven out of eight captured the attention of the hockey world.
Many national publications and Web sites took notice, reporting the Wild had arrived as one of the league's best teams. There was much premature talk about the playoffs, with some Twin Cities media outlets offering opinions on what opponents the postseason will bring.
Looking back, it's easy to see the absurdity in such discussion. This was October, with roughly 70 more games to be played.
Ever since, there's been a multitude of momentum swings as the schedule nears its halfway point. Just when things seem to be going well, an inexplicable stretch of disappointing performances brings them back to mediocrity.
A couple of four-game winning streaks have given hope, only to be followed by losses to teams with seemingly inferior talent.
Most maddening is the tale of Gaborik. His immense talent has led to spectacular play, making him one of the NHL's most dangerous forwards.
His five goals scored against the New York Rangers ranks among the great feats in league history.
The problem is that he often will not exert much energy on the defensive side, which ultimately hurts his team.
This lack of effort has to be tough to accept for head coach Jacques Lemaire, who knows that championships are won by teams that are solid on both ends.
It also has to be frustrating for his teammates, who see a gifted player who's not always willing to sacrifice for the good of the group.
As it stands now, this does look like a team that will qualify for the playoffs, but any success beyond that isn't likely. The same result as last year looms, when they were physically manhandled by the Anaheim squad that eventually won the title.
Perhaps they're still a year or two away from reaching the greatness of teams like the Detroit Red Wings, who are the class of the league this year and the odds-on favorite to capture the Stanley Cup.
Hopefully they can right the ship and be playing their best when the spring rolls around. There's still a lot of hockey to be played.
As we learned a few years ago, there's no place like Minnesota when the Wild make a run deep into the playoffs.
Dave LeGarde is the Duluth Central basketball coach and a sports aficionado. Readers can e-mail questions and comments to email@example.com .