So here we are again. Another hockey season is upon us, and all the not-so-familiar faces start to creep out of the woodwork at the office. The kind of people who the only thing they really know about you, is the fact that you enjoy the game of ice hockey on a regular basis. These are the types of guys or gals who fancy themselves a fan yet don't know too much about hockey, but who are also just trying to enjoy a little water-cooler jam session about that local sports team.
Analyzing the everyman-fan is a simple way to gauge the pulse of town. After playing just 4 games in 11 days to open the season, and not playing their 5th game until a full half month into the season has made for some interesting talk around the old water cooler. I thought it would be fun today, to take a look at some conversations some of us can probably relate to. When that, not-quite-a-superfan starts talking shop, it can be painful, and a great chance to start flexing that muscle behind your eyes.
The following conversations are not direct quotes, but examples of some of the conversations I've had on a regular basis during hockey season at the office. (IM= My Inner Monologue)
The Rollercoaster of hockey-fandom
Guy: "Them Wild are lookin pretty good there in the pre-season, eh?
Me: "I suppose, really isn't too much to get excited about yet beside that hockey is back, sort of."
IM: (I wonder if this guy is #teamnino or #teamzucker)
Guy: "That Vanek guy, he used to play for Gophers, ya know? He's from here!"
Me: "Yeah, technically he was born in Austria, but he was a Gopher for sure."
Guy: "Ya, I sure hope he makes the team. You think he's got a shot?"
IM: (The fu......?)
Me: "I think it's safe to assume he'll make the final cut."
IM: (Please tell me we're done with questions today)
Guy: "So, the Wild play tonight, don't they?"
IM: (Why don't you ask Russo on twitter?)
Me: "Yup, sure do."
Guy: "That Avalanche, they got a good team this year?"
IM: (scanning for sarcasm, none .... really?)
Me: "Na! They're no Oilers, but I wouldn't worry too much. What you have to watch out for is them getting a good couple line rushes on you, they can be dangerous on the move, and have a tricky power play. But slow things down a little and they're toast."
Guy: (blank stare)
After Game 1:
Guy: "Wow! That Wild certainly did put one over on the Av's huh?
Me: "I wouldn't say 'put one over', but yeah, that was fun to watch!"
Guy: "Oh, I just read about it in today's paper."
Me: "How exhillerating..."
IM: (He really should have asked Russo on twitter.)
Guy: Who do they play next?
IM: (So by reading the paper you mean, skimmed it, gotcha!)
Me: The Av's, again. I wouldn't count on a similar outcome, but who knows ....
After Game 2:
Guy: "How about that! The Wild are undefeated!"
Me: "Yup, through 2 games against the same bad team."
Guy: "We shut them out both games?"
IM: (YEEEEEEEEEE-HAW!!!! Wait, was that a question?)
Me: "Sure did! Can't get one past Kuemper!"
Guy: "Kuemper, he's that guy who had the contract thing before right?"
Me: "Yes, was much ado about nothing really. He's here now and showing us he's ready."
IM: (Please don't ask about Bryz, please don't ask about Bryz, please don't ask abou....)
Guy: "What happened to that 'Bryzeee-galov' guy?"
IM: (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! At least he pronounces Mikael right.)
Me: "He's gone, waiting for a job to open up on another team while he collects a small pittance each year from Philly."
A slight pause in hockey talk, as the team did not play all week.
After games 3 & 4:
Guy: "That Wild looking mighty bad this weekend, eh?"
IM: (deep breaths)
Me: "Just a little bad luck, can't win them all ya know."
Guy: "Can't score on the PP either!"
Me: "That can be a bit frustrating, but they'll get one soon enough."
Guy: "Better hope so! Isn't that why they brought in Vanek?"
IM: (Wait!? Just 2 weeks ago you "hoped" he'd make the team, now you're questioning him?)
Me: "Well, yes and no. He's supposed to score, but that's not going to happen all the time either. He's still finding chemistry with this team as well, so just give him time. Just need to work a little harder on those PP's and we should be good."
Guy: "Well they had better turn it around quickly, or it won't look to good around here for the people in the suits."
IM: (Uhhhhhhhh, probably not. If the PP unit goes 5 for their next 14 we'll be right around Yeo's career PP% average which isn't great at a smidge over 16%, but it's much better than 0% we're shooting this season. Factor in he's still juggling the PP units around and hasn't quite figured out the number 1 and number 2 unit should be flipped. Really it's just tough to totally understand where this team is right now with this horrendous schedule to start the season. They won't play in their 5th game until the 15th day of the season when some other teams will be playing their 9th game already.)
Me: (blank stare)
Now it's not that I don't enjoy talking puck with the folks at my office, I'm not snobby with the bit. I just find some of these kinds of interactions humorous and they really do help you to understand the hype around some of the situational stuff with Wild these days. Sometimes it still comes as a shock to me that people can know so little about something they claim to enjoy. I guess that's why we are here. It's not to belittle, or embarrass somebody who hasn't got a firm grasp on something.
So really, before you start breaking down the Wild for everything they are and everything they aren't, it would serve a great purpose to realize despite being almost half a month into the season, the Wild have yet to play their 5th game, or face their 4th different opponent.
That's right, the Wild still have 78 games left to play. That's 40 home games, and 38 road games. Thats 27 teams they have yet to play this season. That's any number of PP goal-less streaks, or player draughts. That's a season full of Pomminville point streaks, or Kuemper shutout streaks. That's nearly a full season of #fireyeo and #RiptheC talk. That's nearly a full season of the roller-coaster ride we all ride as hockey fans.
So really, what do we know about the Minnesota Wild?