Herald Journal Columns
July 10, 2006, Herald Journal

Wild good, Wolves are not so good

By Aaron Schultz

These past few weeks our two winter professional sports teams – the Timberwolves and Wild – have been busy with their off-seasons.

Neither of them were all that good last year, and really needed to improve this off-season in order to compete next year.

Well, one of them has done everything, and maybe even a little more, than it needed to do; while the other team has been stunningly silent again, and looks to be even worse.

I’ll start with the positive among the two; of course, I am talking about the Wild.

The Wild started their off-season with a bang at the NHL entry draft, trading their second, first-round pick and top prospect Patrick O’Sullivan for an elite player by the name of Pavol Demitra.

Demitra has been a very productive offensive player over his years in the NHL, and also takes care of his own end defensively.

Getting Demitra just for his hockey ability would have been reason enough, but take into account his good friendship with Wild star Marion Gaborik, and it was a no-brainer.

Gaborik and Demitra played on the Slovak national team together, and are good friends.

This move just makes so much sense that one would think it might be something even the Wolves’ front office would have pulled the trigger on.

Enough of that, I am not going to start ripping the Wolves until later in this column.

Another big reason it was a great move was the fact that Gaborik had just one year left on his contract, and if he would have opted, could have become a free agent and left the organization from which he began his career.

I say “could of,” because just this past week, the Wild signed Gaborik to a three-year contract extension, worth a reported $19 million.

I couldn’t have been happier when I found out that news.

Between the signing of Gaborik and the trade for Demitra, the Wild continued to be active and signed several key free agents, which should put the Wild in the middle of the playoff picture in 2006-07.

Those free agent signings include defensemen Kim Johnsson and Keith Carney, along with forward Mark Parrish.

The two defensemen are very different, but are exactly the type of players our squad needed.

Johnsson is a finesse, puck-moving, goal-scoring guy, while Carney is kind of like a Willie Mitchel type – gritty, strong in his own-end, a defense first, second, and third kind of defensemen.

These two additions were great; then you throw in Parrish, and you have one heck of an off-season.

Parrish, for those of you who maybe don’t follow hockey as close as some of us do, is from Minnesota, and won two state high school championships with Bloomington Jefferson in his day.

From Jefferson, Parrish went on to play college puck at the hated St. Cloud State.

While no one dislikes St. Cloud State hockey more than I do – he is still a Minnesota guy coming home to play for his home state.

One note from me – while being a Husky is bad, at least he didn’t go out east to a college like Maine, or Boston University, or head north to the worst of them all, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux (maybe we should just start calling them the Canadians).

Back to my point – the Wild made a number of great moves, now if just one or two of these young guys, like Mikko Koviou, Brent Burns, or another, can step it up, it is going to be pretty fun watching hockey this year in Minnesota (at least professional hockey, I’ll get my mighty Gophers some time in the future).

Now, taking a turn to negative town, I will take a look at the hapless Timberpuppies.

How in the heck did this franchise become such a mess?

They have one of the best players on the planet in Kevin Garnett, and are just two years removed from making the Western Conference finals, yet they are now one of the worst teams in basketball.

Should all of the blame be dumped on President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale, or how about owner Glen Taylor?

I’m not sure, but one thing I am pretty sure of is that if McHale wasn’t such a hometown hero, he would have been shown the door by now.

The only real move the Wolves made this off-season was on draft day, when they drafted Brandon Roy, and traded him for Randy Foye and cash.

I like the pick of Foye, a senior guard from Villanova, but that is not going to be enough to make the Wolves any better.

Besides, with the injury to last year’s top pick Rashad McCants, they are basically replacing McCants with Foye.

Throw that into the mix with probably losing point guard Marcus Banks (one of the players obtained from Boston for Wally Szczerbiak), and there isn’t much optimism in Timberpuppy town.

Looking at every NBA web site and blog I can find, there just isn’t anything out there for the Wolves to do to get better.

Of course, I have been staying away from one move they could make, and while many may disagree, I think it is time.

That’s right, McHale should get on the horn, find a deal that blows them away, and trade Garnett.

Garnett is, by far, my favorite basketball player, yet, in order for the Wolves to get back to the elite status they were at a few years ago, they need to trade him.

I don’t even like to think about the Wolves without Garnett, but right now, with Garnett, they are bad, and there are no moves to make to get them better.

By trading Garnett, the Wolves should be able to get multiple first-round picks, two to three younger, talented players, and some much needed cap relief.

Sure, it will take several years of rebuilding, but what the heck. Right now, they are just treading water at the shallow end of the pool.

Hopefully, Garnett could get a championship with another team, which I think he deserves, and the Wolves will be able to compete for a championship in four to five years.

Who knows, maybe Garnett would come back, end his career with the Wolves with a young, talented team, and help them win a title.

One thing is for sure, with the current group the Wolves have, it would be a pretty big accomplishment just to make the playoffs, and I think all of us Minnesota fans are looking for something more.

One Orphan left out

Last week, the Herald Journal ran a center of attention that featured the Howard Lake Orphans.

While I didn’t write the story, or set it up, I did look it over and missed something.
I probably should say someone, as long-time Orphan Chad Burau was omitted from the roster.

No, Chad has not hung up the spikes and catcher’s equipment just yet, and is still a member of the Orphans.