You all know and love Mr. Tom Powers of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. We have all read his "work" and been entertained by just how little about the fans here in Minnesota he knows. We often read his columns, out of boredom or because one our friends says "Did you see what Powers wrote today? Man that guy is a _____."
The question I often wonder with Mr. Powers is this: like many other sports writers in the area, he claims to be writing on behalf of the fans, but how many has he actually spoken to? The fans this, the fans that, this is what the fans think, the fans hate this, the fans love that. To this day, I don't think I have ever seen him quote a fan. You know, the people he supposedly knows so much about how they think.
There were over 5000 hockey fans in the Xcel Energy Center yesterday, and apparently, Mr. Powers knows exactly what each and everyone of them was thinking.
Make the jump. Let's have a little draft evaluation fun.
In his column in the JV paper today, Mr. Powers writes about how the Wild drafted Mario Lucia, trading up to do so, simply because he is from Minnesota. Never mind that at the #60 pick, he was an absolute steal on most draft boards. We here at Hockey Wilderness had him a late first, early second round pick. The Hockey news had him 22nd, not that they are experts by any means.
Looking at Mr. Powers' piece, we start where we should, at the beginning:
The Wild have disappointed their fans in recent years. But they are sorry. And to show it, they sent them the equivalent of a hockey Candygram on Saturday.
What's with this guy and candy? I mean seriously. Before, it was chocolates, now it's candy? If I buy you a Snicker bar, will you promise not to complain about what the Wild are doing to the fans anymore?
Want to send shivers through the State of Hockey? Draft a local kid. The Wild did just that by trading up into the second round to select Mario Lucia out of Wayzata High School. With luck, Lucia eventually will become a second-generation Darby Hendrickson.
Or, draft the best available player on the board, no matter where the heck the kid is from. Maybe we could start there? Chuck Fletcher traded up into the second round last year as well, giving up his third and fourth round picks to draft a kid from... wait for it... Las Vegas. Clearly Fletcher only did so to charge up the fans at Staples Center, right?
No offense to Darby, but does anyone really want the Wild's second round pick to become a guy who never cracks 30 points in the NHL? I hope not, because Lucia can't go back in time and score the first home goal in Wild history. I'm sure the Wild arranged that, though, too.
Especially after Chuck Fletcher's ill-advised trade of former first-round pick Nick Leddy to Chicago for the very forgettable Cam Barker. From Eden Prairie, Leddy could be a fixture on the Blackhawks' blue line for years.
So, are we mad at the trade because Leddy is from Minnesota, or because he is having success while Barker has become the biggest laughing stock in Minnesota since Martin Skoula? I know which one it is for me, and which one it is for every fan I have actually, you know, spoken to.
Although it will take a while for him to develop into an NHL-ready winger, Lucia already holds the title of Most Popular Player-in-Waiting. Fans will be clamoring for him as soon as he turns pro. Coach Mike Yeo, if he's still around then, will learn what Jacques Lemaire learned: It's tough to satisfy the fan base when it comes to a Minnesota kid.
Did the Wild trade Mikael Granlund? What about Jason Zucker? Brett Bulmer? Casey Wellman? Huh. Seems to me fans are more excited about a host of other players, rather than a kid who is headed to junior hockey before he heads to at least two years of college puck with Dean Blais, and then maybe makes the AHL squad before developing further and then, after years of hard work (Sorry Tom) maybe gets a shot at the NHL. Again, this could just be me spouting off, using the knowledge gained from actually speaking with the fans.
There is no question that there was a time when the Wild shied away from Minnesota players.
I'm sure Mr. Powers has multiple insider sources within the Wild's former regime to back up this statement right? I mean, otherwise they wouldn't have drafted AJ Thelen in the first round in 2004, or Erik Haula in 2009 (using the former regimes scouting reports), or Kyle Medvec in the fourth round in 2006, or Chris Hickey in the 7th in 2009, or Mike Erickson in the third round in 2002. Nope, I bet they drafted each of those guys just praying they never made the show.
They never signed Darby Hendrickon or Brian Bonin, either, right?
This has been pointed out endlessly, of course.
Indeed, by people who either don't get it, or don't care to do the research to see it isn't true. Oh... wait.
But instead of being overly critical, the home fans here are overly adoring. They want the local kid in uniform, even if he isn't quite ready. They want him on the power play. They want him leading the team in ice time. If he isn't, then the Wild aren't giving him a proper chance.
Indeed, since the top selling jersey in Minnesota is always one of the players listed above, right? I'm sure Thelen sweaters were flying off the shelf. Seems to me one of the most popular jerseys in team history is Derek Boogaard's, a kid from Regina, Saskatchewan. Last time I checked, that isn't in Minnesota. Marian Gaborik's also sold well. He's from Hibbing, right? That Mikko Koivu guy, he was stellar in the state tourny for Duluth East, right? Oh, and don't forget that crazy Iron Ranger Cal Clutterbuck.
And who did the Wild not give a chance to? Who from Minnesota did they draft and then not give them a chance? Please, I am begging you, inform the masses, because you stumped me. I don't see a list of Minnesota born or even Minnesota connected players that were brought in and never given the proper chance to succeed.
Meanwhile, the kid is pulled in 50 directions. Everybody wants a piece of him. He gets quoted daily in the papers and always seems to be on camera during the evening sportscasts. This often creates resentment among some of his teammates. He is in great demand off the ice, too, and has to be careful of overextending himself. All of the attention inevitably is disproportionate to his contribution to the team.
Even when a local player's ability begins to decline, the organization is terrified of trading him and facing a fan backlash. It's a long-term marriage for better or for worse. So everybody needs to know what they are in for at the start.
Seriously... who is this person? Have I missed something somewhere? Did I miss a player for the Wild being pulled around by his ear? Have I missed the local boy who overcame the hardships of not being wanted or given a chance and made the Wild despite their hatred of Minnesotans, only to get distracted by the constant demand for attention? Did the Wild face pressure from the fans not to trade away a Minnesotan?
Oh wait... I have a feeling this has something to do with baseball. Wrong sport, sir. The Wild play hockey.
Clearly this did not bother Fletcher, who insisted he wouldn't draft a Minnesotan just to draft a Minnesotan. But as Lucia fell deep into the second round, the temptation became too great. He traded two later-round picks to be able to select him, effectively blowing a kiss to the increasingly impatient fan base.
Here it is, where Mr. Powers really goes off track. Fletcher says he didn't draft the kid just because he is from Minnesota. But hey, Mr. Powers knows better than to take a man at his word. After all, after speaking with Brent Flahr, I get the impression he is a guy who doesn't really give a crap about the talent of a kid, but more where they are from. Oh wait... Flahr said exactly the opposite when we spoke to him last Monday.
Blow the fans a kiss? OK, someone needs some candy.
The next time the Wild got to pick, at No. 131, Fletcher took defenseman Nick Seeler out of Eden Prairie High School. That pick sent many of us scrambling through our packet of scouting reports. We didn't come up with much. Seeler was unranked by Central Scouting. No matter - he's another Minnesota kid. That's the pertinent stat. This got some of the locals in the Xcel stands so excited they had to pack themselves in ice to cool down.
Indeed, there were many in the building who knew who Seeler was and is. With a single question using that dastardly Twitter, I learned more than enough to know who he is. He played on the State High School Hockey Tournament Championship winning team. You know, the State Tourny? The most popular event in the state of Minnesota? He was teammates with Mr. Hockey, Kyle Rau. Do I know everything about the kid? No. I don't know everything about Jonas Brodin, do you Mr. Powers? I did, however, know enough about him to be informed. The only people who really matter in this equation knew enough about him to feel he warranted being selected in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Mr. Powers then rambles on about a joke everyone on the press riser thought was funny... that Lucia might go to the Isles and Garth Snow, Lucia's dad's nemesis. You know when we gave up on the joke? About 15 seconds after we heard it. It was funny, and then we moved on.
The column ends with this:
He's sure he can handle it. I hope he gets the chance.
"I'll do whatever it takes to play in the NHL," he declared.
Being from Minnesota, he already has a bit of a head start.
Ah, so he has a head start simply because he is from Minnesota? Sounds to me like someone is blowing a kiss to increasingly impatient readership, Mr. Powers.
The fans who believe the Wild would be better if they had more Minnesota born players are mocked mercilessly by those people who think for themselves. It is fun, maybe kind of cool to have a Minnesota boy on the team. It doesn't make the team better just because they are from Minnesota. We aren't born with DNA that makes us better at hockey, and we don't give a rip where you are from. Put the puck in the net, keep it out of your own, and the Wild fans will love you. I promise.
We want the Stanley Cup paraded down Kellog Blvd, and we don't care what state or country you are from if you make that happen. Anyone who says otherwise, you are welcome to your opinion, but you shall not be taken seriously. Sorry Tom.