Team Guy Eulogy – Is the Magic Crusade Over?

Team Guy Eulogy - Is the Magic Crusade Over?

If it’s over, I enjoyed every second of it!

Exactly 4 years ago today, I received a call from Scott Meyer asking if I had time to write up a press release announcing Shane Wagner as the new head coach of a struggling Minnesota Junior Hockey League franchise, the Hudson Crusaders. Scott had just taken over ownership of the Crusaders and my junior hockey career was about to begin.

At the time, I didn’t even know what junior hockey was or that it even existed. Junior hockey was never really a big deal in Minnesota or, at least, big enough for me to notice up until that point. I’d heard of the St. Paul Vulcans but never took an interest in them or what they were about. Minnesota was known for it’s high school, college and pro hockey because, first, there’s a lot of it, and second, because it gets the most coverage.

Once I had seen junior hockey, it made perfect sense as a way for players to continue their careers after high school, develop into better players and advance to college hockey. If you think about it, the majority of players need junior hockey to keep playing competitively so, it’s sad that junior hockey doesn’t get more coverage in Minnesota. It can be very good hockey with very good players who can go on to play at the highest level of college hockey and even go on to have careers in the pros.

I was asked what I wanted my title to be, Director of Media Relations? Equipment Manager? I was willing to take those jobs but wanted to know what those jobs entailed before saying yes. So, not worrying about a title, I would just start helping the Hudson Crusaders wherever they needed.

I was soon given the name of Team Guy since I would end up doing a lot of different jobs for The CRU – game presentation, helping on the bench making sure the players had water, backup sticks & various supplies for the game, driving to away games (sometimes quite the adventure), keeping score online, updating the social media sites, writing articles for the website, updating player stats (players LOVED that), going to league meetings & conference calls as The President (El Prezidente), etc… I was almost the announcer for one game but he showed up just in time. Who knows where I might be if that happened? Haha. Did you think it was a “legal hit?”

The next season, the Minnesota Magicians would embark on their inaugural season and once again, I would get the call to see if I was interested in being the Team Guy for the newest NAHL team. This was a different animal, though. After spending a season with a Tier III Junior Hockey team, I would find out quickly that Tier II hockey is a much more serious deal.* This was big time to me. We’re talking about a league with players that regularly go on to some of the top teams of the Division I college level.
*That is not to say Tier III hockey isn’t serious. A lot of those players are working just as hard to make something out of their hockey careers. I just don’t think it is every player on every team, though.

I would learn a lot that first year with the Magicians, mostly about laundry but also about what it takes to be an equipment manager. There’s a lot of things you need to know how to do and how to do fast to do the job right. The players are there to perform and their equipment needs to be ready for them by and during practice and game time.

I was the Team Guy for both teams in that second year and that made it pretty tough since the majority of junior hockey games are on Friday & Saturday nights. It was difficult to be there for one team while at the same time knowing I couldn’t help the other team and the players as much as I wanted to. They knew I’d be there if I could but in my opinion, it still wasn’t enough.

For four seasons I was the Team Guy/Equipment Manager for the Hudson Crusaders and/or the Minnesota Magicians and I always did it for the players. I did the best I could to make sure when it was game time, they could concentrate on playing the game. They shouldn’t have to worry about any of their equipment. Their mind should be on the task at hand, playing the game and winning. I hope I succeeded in showing every player how much I cared about helping them achieve success.

The end of every season is difficult because you most likely won’t see a lot of those guys ever again and you spend more time with them than anyone else in your life. That’s why they say it’s a family because that is truly how team sports are and, I believe, how they need to be to do something special. Every player has to care about every other player and they have to play for each other.

“We’re a family, Herb!” – Miracle

So you can imagine how difficult it is if this is the end of my career in junior hockey. I had the best seat in the house (standing room only, though) and I enjoyed every second of it. It was very fun to be a part of a team again. I made some friendships that I hope will last the rest of my life. It’s cool to be able to see players currently playing college hockey that I know and had the pleasure of doing just a small part in helping them get there.

Thank you to everyone I’ve met along the way and, always….

Bring The Clutter!!!

Every Day In Every Way!!!

P.S. – I still work at the Richfield Ice Arena so if you are there, look for me and say hello!

Team Guy Eulogy - Is the Magic Crusade Over?

This says all you need to know about the importance of helping out the team!
Thanks, CJ!
“But, Robb, the light’s still green…”

Yeo Fired – Minnesota Wild Fire Head Coach Mike Yeo

Minnesota Wild Fire Head Coach Mike Yeo

Minnesota Wild Fire Head Coach Mike Yeo

The Minnesota Wild have told Mike Yeo he’s no longer their head coach. After losing their 8th consecutive game and their 8th consecutive home game Saturday afternoon, General Manager Chuck Fletcher had very little choice to make a change now. Firing the head coach is the easiest change an organization can make to put a little fire into the players, no pun intended.

Players not performing or playing “the right way” can only go on so long before a move has to be made. Mike Yeo seemed to be trying anything and everything to motivate his players. The Wild gave the impression it was working as they showed signs of breaking out against the top teams in the league in their last few games, the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals. They would always find a way to lose though, which is what happens when teams and players lack confidence in their game.

It’s surprising the Minnesota Wild are in this situation after ending the first half with 52 points in 41 games, on pace for a franchise record season. At first glance, that’s very good but a deeper look reveals this team has been anything but consistent this season. Their monthly records are 7-2-2, 4-5-2, 9-3-2, 3-7-3 and 0-5-1 so far in February. Remarkably, their longest win streak is only 3 games. They’ve won 3 straight 4 times.

What does it mean when a team has their worst stretch of hockey after their best stretch of hockey? It could be many things and coaching might not even be on the list. Is it the team leadership? Is there a problem in the room? Do they not like the system? Do they not like each other? Is it possible they didn’t like the coach? Did bringing in Adam Oates rub the coaching staff & the organization the wrong way? Was it ever talked about and buried? Whatever it is, they need to figure it out, talk about it, fix it and bury it and move on. With 27 games remaining and 5 points out of the last playoff spot, literally The Time Is NOW!!!

The 2015-16 Minnesota Wild has enough talent to be in the upper echelon of the NHL. They’ve shown how good a team they can be many times this season. They’ve dominated some of the best teams in the league for stretches but they always find a way to lose in the end. They’re a very fragile team. Players are now trying to do too much individually thinking they have to do more to get out of this slump.

The greatest hockey player ever wouldn’t be the greatest player ever without the rest of his team. It is a team game, not an individual game. Players have to trust their teammates to make the plays that are best for the team. Play as a team! Play for your team! Play for each other! Start small! Win battles! Win shifts! Win 5 minute stretches! Win Periods! Win Games! WIN NOW!!!

We’d love to hear your thoughts so Bring The Clutter in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

AND….always…

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day!!! In Every Way!!!

If you don’t know what that means, go HERE to find out!

Dennis Wideman, The NHL and the Definition of Deliberate

Dennis Wideman suspended 20 games for hitting linesman Don Henderson

Apparently, the NHL needs a dictionary

The National Hockey League suspended Dennis Wideman for 20 games without pay yesterday for his alleged hit on linesman Don Henderson in a game against the Nashville Predators on January 27th, 2016. At first glance, it looks very bad but, you don’t make a decision on your first glance or the hit alone. Watch what happened before and after the play to make a sound decision on if Dennis Wideman should’ve been suspended.

Here’s the play in question:

Gotta See It: Wideman plows into referee after scary hit

If you haven’t seen the play, your first impression could easily be shock and thoughts of it being a dirty hit but you may also think why would he just hit a linesman? Now watch the replay or watch it again.

On the replay:

Dennis Wideman Suspended 20 games for violating Rule 40.2

Nashville RW, #20 Miikka Salomaki checks Dennis Wideman, spinning him into the boards and Wideman’s head hits the glass. Wideman falls to one knee then gets up, puts his left hand to his head then starts heading for the bench. He calls for a change raising his stick. Don Henderson, the linesman, is skating backwards following the play on the ice. Wideman has his head down and sees the linesman at the last second, tries to veer to his right and puts up his hands to defend himself, collides with Henderson and keeps going to the bench.

You know he’s trying to avoid the hit because he starts to stop and tries to move out of the way but it’s too late. He also puts his hands up which is a natural reaction to being surprised when something or someone is coming at you. Also, Wideman never looks back. He just keeps going to the bench, sits down and hangs his head.

If he meant to hit the linesman because he was angry about a call, he would have hit him harder and talked some trash to him after the hit. He doesn’t do that. He goes to the bench and it’s obvious he doesn’t feel right. Also, if he was in his right mind, he would’ve hit or defended the Nashville player coming at him with the puck right after he collided with Henderson.

Here’s the transcribed call from the game’s announcers:

“…and then…linesman down at center ice. There was a collision there between one of the Flames…and Don Henderson is down, getting slowly back up…to his feet so…looks like he is going to be okay. Dennis Wideman looks a little shaken up as well, Kelly.”

“Yeah, he wo…yeah, Salomaki and then he is banged up and he’s going to try to make his way to the bench and there’s the collision with Don Henderson. He doesn’t even see the…uh…linesman.

I think Peter Laviolette is calling for a call. He’s talking to…the linesman…right now. No.”

“So Wideman was clearly woozy after that hit in the corner.”

“Yes he was. Absolutely!”

Now, the NHL is saying he violated Rule 40.2 – Physical Abuse of Officials. Here’s how the Rule reads from the NHL Rulebook.

Rule 40.2 - Physical Abuse of Officials

The key word is “deliberately” which means he intended to hit the linesman. If he didn’t know the linesman was coming and accidentally collided with him, then it wasn’t deliberate.

We can say it was wrong and that the NHL has to protect their officials but none of those reasons make it deliberate and they can’t prove it was deliberate. Wideman’s statement after the game said he didn’t see him and he apologized to him after the hit.

The National Hockey League is making an example out of Dennis Wideman to protect their officials but they’re not even reading their rules correctly, rules written by lawyers and agreed upon by both the league and the player’s association.

This isn’t something that happened on a playground with the NHL being the biggest kid there and punishing Mr. Wideman for hitting their little brother too hard in a game. They really showed him. Dennis Wideman will never accidentally hit an official again. Wait. How can he know he’ll never do anything accidentally again? It’s an accident!

Is that how it works in the NHL? They apparently think so. The NHLPA doesn’t agree and has filed an appeal on Dennis Wideman’s behalf. The first stage of the appeal process is commissioner Gary Bettman. He will look at the play and decide to to leave the suspension at 20 games, reduce it or overrule it to no suspension at all. If he leaves it at 20 games or reduces it, the appeal will go to an independent arbitrator. That will be interesting. It’d be a big surprise if the commissioner changes anything.

We’d love to hear your thoughts so Bring The Clutter in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

AND….always…

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day In Every Way!!!

If you don’t know what that means, go HERE and find out!

Minnesota Wild – Broken at the Break? What do they do now?

The Minnesota Wild will try to get out of a scoring and winning drought as the NHL All-Star break ends.

Are the Minnesota Wild broken? If so, can they be fixed?

The Minnesota Wild have 6 points in their last 10 games (2-6-2), 9 points since the calendar turned to 2016 (3-7-3) and have scored only 23 goals in those 13 games (16 in the last 10). The lack of scoring (and winning) has them out of a playoff spot with 33 games left in the 2015-16 NHL season.

A scoring slump or a slump of any kind always gets fans asking for a coaching change. Minnesota Wild fans are very familiar with a slump in the middle of the season as it’s happened pretty much every season since Mike Yeo has been here. Does that mean he should get fired? Is it the system? Is he putting the players in situations where they can have success? Or is it the players squeezing the sticks too hard and letting their minds screw with their confidence, making them think twice about how they play the game?

I subscribe to the latter. We’ve seen this team go on a tear before so we know what they are capable of doing against any team. It’s amazing that players who get paid millions of dollars can still have the confidence in their game swayed by a lack of success. The big question is how does the coach get them out of this mental funk they are in?

Almost every team & every player goes through a slump at some point during a season. Look at the Montreal Canadiens, who were dominant at the beginning of the season. They won their first 9 games and 18 of their first 22 games. Now they are 24-22-4, 3 points out of a playoff spot. The Dallas Stars are currently struggling a bit, 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.

The only teams that seem to have avoided a slump are the teams at the top of each conference, the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks, or maybe only the Capitals? The Blackhawks had a somewhat rocky start to the season adjusting to some new teammates but have righted the ship with great leadership and the league’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane. A 12-game winning streak will solve a lot of problems but…that streak was followed by 3 losses in 4 games so…what should we take from that?

Even one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hockey players in the last 10 years, one Sidney Crosby, has struggled this season. In his first 9 games of the season,  Sidney Crosby had only 3 points on 1 goal & 2 assists and those points came from one game so in 8 of his first 9 games he didn’t register a point. This is a player who has averaged 1.33 points per game for his career. He didn’t even make the All-Star game which seems unfathomable. The Sid also appears to have gotten his game back with 41 points in 47 games or since those first 9 games, 38 points (16G, 22A) in 38 games and on a current 7-game scoring streak.

I’ve been around hockey for a long time and usually a team and/or a player in a slump needs to go back to basics and simplify their game. They need to free their mind so they just play the game, not thinking about it too much. In my opinion, you never want a player thinking twice about what they are doing during a game. No “Should I go? Should I pass? shoot?” or any question in what they’re doing. That causes hesitation and then the play is past you or the shooting/passing lane is gone.

This is why I don’t think it’s a coaching problem with the Minnesota Wild. They just need to get back to their game and trust what they are doing, trusting their game as a team and as individual players. Shoot the puck! Be the Wild team you know you can be! The Time is Now!!!

One thing that might need to happen is breaking up that top line. Mike Yeo seems to have the utmost confidence in Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Nobody can really complain about #11 as he brings his game every night but the lack of scoring from his two linemates is affecting his production. If they, the line or just 64 & 29, don’t start producing, Mr. Yeo will have to make some changes. There’s just no way around it.

Pominville, Granland used to sound like an exciting place to visit, where goals were achieved and apples were available for free. Now, Bring It On Down to Pominville sounds like some sort of punishment and Welcome To Granland doesn’t sound as welcoming of a greeting as it used to.

One player who seems to be Going Wild is #3 Charlie Coyle. Did you think Charlie would Go Wild this season? I did!

No matter what, it should be an interesting 33 games for the Minnesota Wild.

Will the Wild get back to winning or will this slump continue to the point where we may see the end of the Mike Yeo Era in Minnesota?

We’d love to hear your thoughts so Bring The Clutter in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

AND….always…

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day!!! In Every Way!!!

If you don’t know what that means, go HERE and find out!

2015-16 Minnesota Wild Preview – The Time is NOW!

2015-16 Minnesota Wild Preview - The Time Is NOW!

For the Minnesota Wild, The Time Is NOW!!!

The most anticipated season in Minnesota Wild franchise history is about to begin. They have a bunch of pieces in place to be a contender for the Stanley Cup. They just have to put all those pieces together consistently night after night, get home ice advantage and take it from there. Sounds easy enough, right? Yeah, easier said than done.

There’s a lot of pieces to put together for this Wild team. The good news is most of those pieces haven’t changed from last season. Usually teams get better as they play together more often and this team was the top team in the National Hockey League from January 15th to the end of the regular season last year with a record of 28-9-3. Can they be put it all together and be one of the top teams in the league for an entire season? That’s the big question.

A foundation of leadership was set when the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year/$98 million contracts on July 4th, 2012. Most people expected those signings to provide immediate results but it was the beginning of a team developing into a contender with that leadership combining with the depth the organization was building through the draft and trades. The time is now for that combination to become a Stanley Cup contending team.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter had tough seasons last year, both losing their fathers during the season. Zach still put up decent numbers with 33 goals. Suter said himself after the season that it was “just a bad year.

Mikko Koivu had his worst season since his rookie year but he got it going in February & March. Thomas Vanek’s 52 points (21 Gs, 31 As) was his lowest point total since his rookie season back in 2006. Jason Pominville only scored 18 goals and missed on a lot of great chances.

There was a few young players like Nino Niederreiter, Jason, Zucker, Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba that had good seasons. For the most part though, there wasn’t any great performances by Minnesota Wild players last season and they still took this team to the postseason and to an upset of the St. Louis Blues in the first round. Getting swept in the 2nd round by the Chicago Blackhawks gave us a bad feeling on the season but it was another step just because of the way they performed in the second half and what they overcame. They aren’t looking to take any more steps.

The Minnesota Wild are ready to win this season. They have their number one goalie in Devan Dubnyk and capable backups in Darcy Kuemper & Niklas Backstrom. They have the leadership in the room and on the ice in Parise, Koivu and Suter and they have a bunch of young players ready to breakout and provide scoring and the depth a contending team needs to hoist the Cup.

Almost everyone on the team can be better this season, save for maybe Devan Dubnyk. We know Parise will bring 30+ goals and 60+ points. Pominville is good for 20+ and 60+, Suter had a bad season with 2 goals and 38 points when his career highs are 8 goals and 46 points. Vanek had a disappointing season and still had 21 goals. Is it completely out of the question that those players could all have better seasons in 2015-16?

Now pair that with better seasons from Mikael Granlund (8 Gs, 39 pts), Nino Niederreiter (24 Gs), Jason, Zucker (21 Gs), Charlie Coyle (11 Gs, 35 pts, +13), Marco Scandella (11 Gs, 23 points, 4 GWGs, +8), Matt Dumba (8 Gs, 16 points, 2 PPGs, 2 GWGs +13), Jonas Brodin (3 Gs, 17 pts, +21) and there’s still Justin Fontaine, Erik Haula and up and coming prospect Tyler Graovac.

This team was already one of the best defensive teams giving up the 4th least amount of goals, 4th least amount of shots against while having the best penalty kill in the league. The 27th ranked Power Play will change in scheme and in personnel. This team is ready to Go Wild in 2015-16!

Fun Fact:

Mike Yeo has coached the Minnesota Wild to a better record in each of his first 4 seasons.

Avoiding the streaks of bad, inconsistent play will go a long way into making this season the best in Minnesota Wild franchise history!

Do you believe The Time Is Now for the Minnesota Wild? Will they contend for the Stanley Cup in 2015-16?

You’ve…Been….CLUTTERPUCKED!!!

As always, THANKS for reading! Please let us know your thoughts by commenting or interacting with us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

Don’t forget to…..

Bring The Clutter!!! Every Day!!! In Every Way!!!