Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Fillers

  • The Strib's Roman Augustoviz put to rest any rumors to the contrary, but Gopher super-sophomore hockey player Jordan Schroeder will return to the team for the upcoming season. Some blogs in Western Canada had him leaving the Gophers to sign with the Vancouver Canucks and play in the WHL next season to continue his development. However, the Canucks, who drafted Schroeder in the first round of the 2009 NHL Draft, were comfortable with him playing at least one more season in Minnesota. Good news for the Gophers.
  • St. Cloud State goaltender Jase Weslosky was dismissed from the Huskies' hockey team by coach Bob Motzko this week because he was academically ineligible. The 2006 NY Islanders' draft pick played 33 games in each of the past two seasons and sported identical 16-13-2 records during his sophomore and junior seasons. Huskies' beat writer from the St. Cloud Times Kevin Allenspach speculates that Weslosky will transfer to Bemidji State, but he must sit out a year before transferring to another Division I school, and the earliest he could play at BSU would be when they enter the WCHA in 2010-11. In the meantime, junior Dan Dunn and freshman Mike Lee will fight for playing time for Cloud this season. Dunn has played in 18 games for the Huskies his first two seasons, and Lee is a highly-touted freshman who performed well at the US Junior Championship Team's evaluation camp earlier this month. In Weslosky's wake, Islanders Point Blank proprietor Chris Botta posted a text message from a SCSU captain here - ouch!
  • On my Examiner WCHA page, my WCHA team previews will debut the week of Labor Day. We'll do two-three per week leading up to the first weekend of October, which is opening weekend. It's hard to believe we're five weeks away from dropping the puck on another college hockey season.
  • Gopher hoops' beat writer Myron Medcalf from the Star Tribune has a new-look blog which launched this week. It's a lot nicer than the Strib's other writers and apparently will be able to host more of his video links, including his informative "MedCasts" during the season. Check it out.
  • On the site, Medcalf reports that the Gophers are no longer in the running for 2010 national #1 recruit Harrison Barnes. The stud from Ames, IA apparently crossed the Gophers off his list and narrowed his choices to Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA, and hometown Iowa State. That the Gophers were even considered for the overall #1 this far along (be it a Minnesotan or not) is testament that things have changed in a good way for the Tubby Smith-led Gophers on the recruiting trail.
  • The Ricky Rubio saga continues for the Timberwolves. Jerry Zgoda reports that Rubio is close to signing with Barcelona in the Spanish league for 6 years, with a buyout clause after 2 seasons, meaning that the earliest he can join the Wolves is in 2011. In the article, Basketball Ops President David Kahn denies the rumor, saying that no team has negotiated Rubio's buyout with his current team, DKV Joventut. Zgoda also points out, importantly, that the NBA collective bargaining agreement may change regarding maximum salaries for rookies in two seasons, meaning that Rubio may be losing significant amounts of money by remaining in Europe for 2 more seasons. This is bound to get even more interesting.
  • The Minnesota Wild's third jerseys were leaked via the internet this week before their scheduled unveiling at the State Fair this weekend. The jerseys are boring and awful (similar to the All-Star Game design when it was here a few years ago), just like almost all other third jerseys (see Atlanta, Colorado, Nashville, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, for starters). Notable exceptions are present (see Boston, Buffalo, and NY Islanders). The team looks fine with its current set, and there is little reason to incorporate a third jersey other than to sell more sweaters. Of course, 100% of Wild fans already own jerseys, so where's the market?
  • Also on the Wild, Michael Russo takes a stab at the team's current 2009-10 salary cap situation. Assuming it signs free agent forward Alex Tanguay, a player will almost certainly have to be removed from the current roster.
  • A reminder to check out my Twins page for and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. It should be a busy month of September as the hockey season approaches and the Twins go for another division title.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fillers

  • Did you hear the Vikings signed Brett Favre? I'm surprised!
  • The University of North Dakota dismissed junior forward Matt Frattin from the team after he violated team rules. You may remember that Frattin and former Sioux defenseman Joe Finley decided to make a busy Grand Forks street their personal garbage dump after a night of socializing back in July. Frattin was given a 10-day suspended sentence from that incident, was fined $225, and put on probation for a year. UND coach Dave Hakstol suspended him for two games and reduced his scholarship money. Early Wednesday morning, Frattin was charged with driving under the influence and was kicked off the team. Good for Hakstol for getting this one right. He's been a bit lax over the years with his treatment of violations of team rules, but he got this one right.
  • In more positive news, the United States under-20 hockey team which will compete in the World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan at the end of the year recently concluded its evaluation camp. Coach Dean Blais got together 40 prospects for a few days of drills and intersquad scrimmages before trimming the list to 29. This group participated in four games against the Russian entry in the WJC, and the US team dominated this series. They won three games convincingly (8-1, 6-1, and 6-0) and lost only one. U of M incoming sophomore Jordan Schroeder was the camp's leading scorer (5-9-14), and other Gopher players also appeared in the scoring sheet including Nick Leddy (3-2-5), Aaron Ness (0-3-3), and Zach Budish (2-0-2). As my linked Examiner article notes, WCHA players are all over the scoring leaders in this camp and will figure prominently on this team. It's great that the Gophers will be represented prominently at the WJC again this year, but will be forced to play hamstrung in the Dodge Holiday Classic (January 2-3) and the next weekend against Harvard. Hopefully, nobody gets hurt, because North Dakota comes to town on January 15-16.
  • Speaking of the WCHA, this article explains that the league is close to deciding on a schedule format for 2010-11 when Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha come into the league to give it 12 teams. It's no surprise that the biggest decision will involve the conference tournament format, which currently is the Final Five. They'll likely make it a Final Six and eliminate the worthless third place game.
  • Moving to the hardwood, this is certainly not good news for Trevor Mbakwe or the Gophers. Look, jurisprudence will need to play out here and the University's rules certainly aren't different for athletes or non-athletes (hold your laughter). However, being charged and convicted are two very different things. If Mbakwe's attorney is correct that there are four different people who support Mbakwe's alibi, it seems possible that charges will be dropped - or at least reduced. The public facts in this case are sketchy at best. AD Joel Maturi can intervene in the interim, but the article seems to suggest he won't. The court date is August 26, so we'll see.
  • Star Tribune Gopher Basketball beat writer Myron Medcalf has a great interview with coach Tubby Smith on his blog, in which the coach covers a lot of topics as the season approaches. The Gophers have a great recruiting class - easily the best this decade - and should be a factor in the Big Ten.
  • The Gophers hoops' schedule will also be better this season, with an early season matchup against Butler as part of a tournament in California which also includes UCLA. They also have non-conference games scheduled against St. Joseph, Miami (FL), and Stephen F. Austin. This will help Minnesota's RPI - especially if they win those games.
  • TCF Bank Stadium will open to the public Saturday for a scrimmage. It's hard to believe that the stadium is complete and it will usher in an exciting seven months as we await the opening of Target Field. I cannot wait!
  • In Minnesota Wild news, Michael Russo opens the notebook on a number of Wild-related topics, including the potential signing of free agent forward Alex Tanguay. He would be a mid-level forward to compliment the existing core in coach Todd Richards's up-tempo system. Russo also speculates on the roster and the team's third jersey hints. His description of the third jersey sounds like many of the other teams' third jerseys - simply awful. Why this team needs another sweater when the ones they have are perfectly fine (the red home is a league classic and is considered among the gold standards) is beyond me. Of course, anything to sell a few more jerseys. I'll do a jersey rant sometime soon - maybe after the Wild unveils theirs officially.
  • Over at the country club, nothing really is going on. They have a coach now in Kurt Rambis, and their roster has been completely re-made. As Jerry Zgoda writes, "The Meerkat" David Kahn has now turned his attention to signing Ricky Rubio for this upcoming season, although that remains a tall task. With Rubio, they will be a bad team worth watching every night for highlight reel plays. Without Rubio, they will be a bad team worth watching every night to see how the core develops and how Rubio will improve the core once he arrives.
  • Keep checking out my Examiner pages for the Twins and the WCHA. I'm also on Twitter and Facebook, so check those out as well. Have a good weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Favorite Moment of the QRich Era?

The Wolves sent newly-acquired Quentin Richardson packing on Thursday, dealing him to Miami for former Wolves' center Mark Blount. This was another pure salary cap move by David Kahn, as he continues his remaking of the roster. However, it appears unlikely Blount will ever suit up for Minnesota in 2009-10, as they can either buy him out for $1.4M or send his expiring contract somewhere else in yet another trade.

Sorry I couldn't get to the links this morning, but we'll have a "Friday Fillers" version most likely next week. Have a good weekend.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wolves Finally Tap Rambis

The Timberwolves finally have a new coach, and it's LA Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis. The deal is set to be announced this week, but it's believed he received a 4-year, $8M contract to coach the Wolves.

The Jerry Zgoda article explains that new Wolves' basketball ops head David "The Meerkat" Kahn wants to play more up-tempo ball, and Rambis's track record with the Lakers demonstrates that philosophy. Don't look for the triangle offense to be employed in Minny, but the Wolves will be much more of an up-and-down team with the new coach.

The naming of Rambis doesn't excite me like signing Ricky Rubio does, but it finally puts the coaching question to rest. It's refreshing that the team elected to go after Rambis instead of a coaching novice like Mark Jackson or an NBA retread like Terry Stotts. The Wolves will struggle mightily this season, but there is hope for the future with the young talent. Having Rambis on the bench for all four years of his contract, plus many more, will only help the development of an emerging team.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday Fillers

  • Three more recruits for the U of M hockey team, as Roman Augustoviz reports.
  • Also from Roman, it looks like the U will be short-handed again this year for the World Junior Championships, which take place around the Christmas holiday. Jordan Schroeder makes a bid for his third tourney, joined by incoming freshmen Nick Leddy and Zach Budish. College hockey should take a page out of the NHL's book and consider stopping play during the Championships. At bare minimum, it should at least suspend league play in order to not penalize those who are short-handed due to the valuable international experience.
  • The Timberwolves released their schedule yesterday. My initial guess is 20 wins - anyone take issue with that?
  • Personnel-wise, the Wolves signed free agent C Ryan Hollins to an offer sheet. He is a restricted free agent who played last season in Dallas, averaging 3.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game with the Mavs and the Charlotte Bobcats. Dallas has until August 10 to decide to match the offer, which appears to be likely, as Mavs' owner Mark Cuban posted the move on his Twitter account with the message, "congrats to Ryan Hollins; wish him the best w twolves."
  • No word on a Wolves' coach yet, but it appears Kurt Rambis, LA Lakers' assistant, is the favorite.
  • A reminder to follow my Twins and WCHA pages on the Examiner portal. Also, I'm on Twitter and Facebook, so be sure to check those out as well. A programming note on Twitter; that tool was very valuable in covering last week's MLB trade deadline.
  • I'll be away from the grid the rest of the week, so check back again next week.