1. What have the early losses this season taught the young Timberwolves?
Kras: I believe, plain and simple, it has taught them that they might not be ready to compete for anything more than another lottery pick. All that aside, it is still early and the Wolves are still a young team getting to know each other under head coach Tom Thibodeau’s new system. The Wolves have been in the game late in both cases but they have not been able to hit the go-ahead or game-tying shots. I think they will come around yet this season but it is a disappointing start for a team that has so much promise. It’s not like they were going to make a run at the championship this year so I don’t think the losses are anything to get too worked up over.
Nate Leer: Hopefully losing their first 2 games has taught the T-Pups that no one is going to hand them a playoff spot. Older teams that have been perennial playoff contenders – such as the Grizzlies whom the Wolves lost to on Wednesday – are not going to go quietly into that great night (the lottery). And, the Wolves are not the only young team that feels like their time is now – the Kings whom the Wolves lost to on Saturday are a prime example. The West is loaded with talented teams so the Wolves are going to have to battle every night to prove they belong in the playoffs. I think on some level, Thibodeau may even like the air being let out of the balloon as far as expectations for this club after 2 quick losses. For about the first half quarter of the first game the Wolves looked unstoppable. Then reality set in as the Grizzlies’ vets did not panic, stepped up their D and started knocking down shots. Hopefully, Thibodeau is able to use the first week of the season as a teachable moment for the young Pups.
2. Do you think the Wild have shown enough promise to believe they will be a solid playoff contender?
Kras: I have been pleasantly surprised with how well the Wild have started this season. First and foremost, Devan Dubnyk has been brilliant to start the season, most notably having 3 consecutive shutouts. Eric Staal has been a solid addition to the Wild early as well. Staal has 4 goals and 3 assists so far this year for the Wild. If he continues to put up points at that rate, it will bode well for a Wild club who have had their share of problems at center in recent years. If the goaltending keeps up and the Wild continue to find offensive success, they will be a team to watch in the playoffs.
JJ Bens: The Wild have had the hottest goaltender (3 shutouts in a row) so far and have been playing some pretty good defense in front of him. Also, the young players and veterans mixed in every line seem to be gelling together. It is still early and Wild fans know that how a team is playing going later in the season is what really counts but it is nice to see Bruce getting production out of everyone. Only 2 players haven’t scored who have played more than 2 games and they’re both defenseman. Dangerous teams are more than 2 lines deep. If the 3rd and 4th lines can continue to produce consistently, they should be a solid contender in the West.
3. What do you think of the Minnesota Twins new GM hire, Thad Levine?
Kras: Thad Levine was the assistant GM for the Texas Rangers prior to agreeing to the Twins gig. Levine is a 44-year-old from an organization that has had good success over the past handful of seasons. I don’t know what he will be able to bring to the organization but it is nice to see the Twins continue to hire young front office members to develop the future of this organization. He will have his hands full with this team but I hope for the best for him.
Nate Leer: It sounds like Levine is, at best, the Twins 2nd choice. However, after over a decade under John Daniels with Texas, Levine looks like a good hire. The Twins are hiring smart, young professional GMs and trying to ride the wave of numbers-driven decision makers. It makes as much sense to try this approach as any other considering where old school baseball guys have gotten them. We can only hope that this front office team can flip the assets the Twins have into a relatively quick rebuild. The team should be stripped down and rebuilt around a few high-end young players and some young line-up depth. If they get serious about rebuilding, about the best us fans can hope for is around .500 and showing improvement in 2018.
1. Do you think that the influx of young talent in the NHL is good for the game?
Kras: I personally think it is a good thing for the game. Hockey isn’t a sport that gets an overwhelming amount of attention nationally, unless they are talking about a huge game performance or a high-light reel goal that a player has recently had. With a lack of point production, it is hard to discuss the game without getting into deep detail and I feel that is where the average sports fan gets lost. I think that Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Jack Eichel are the future and will be the stepping stones for many other young players to take the step to the NHL right away. If the players have the talent and teams are willing to play the 18, 19, & 20-year-olds, there will be no reason to change. As a college hockey fan, it stings when a player leaves after a year or two to go pro but that is the nature of the beast.
JJ Bens: It has to be. In baseball they say chicks dig the long ball and in hockey chicks dig the hat trick and these young guys score goals in bunches. It might be better for the NHL in Canada with the last 2 1st overall picks shining bright above the border. Also, it is good for the NHL to have 2 of the original 6 teams be relevant. The NHL is always looking to increase scoring – changing net sizes, goalie pads, etc. The best way to improve scoring is to increase the talent on the ice.
2. With week 8 of the NFL season passed, who are your top 10 teams?
Kras: Kras’s Top 10 NFL Team Rankings:
- New England Patriots
- Dallas Cowboys
- Denver Broncos
- Oakland Raiders
- Minnesota Vikings
- Seattle Seahawks
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Atlanta Falcons
- Houston Texans
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Patriots – Clearly the class of the league.
- Steelers – Might struggle until Ben is back but will be a serious playoff threat if D matures.
- Falcons – Like most of the teams on this list, the Falcons are very strong on one side of the ball, for them it is the O.
- Cowboys – The Boys will have a young but poised Dak Prescott OR a healthy Tony Romo at QB down the stretch and into the playoffs – just keep LB Sean Lee healthy!
- Cardinals – Age and injuries seems to be catching up with them but having MVP candidate David Johnson makes them a threat.
- Broncos – John Elway’s team is going and will go through more growing pains but could mature in time to compete.
- Eagles – The Eagles are up-and-down but seem to be a developing threat.
- Vikings – O-line needs to improve dramatically but D makes them legit playoff team.
- Packers – QB Aaron Rodgers makes them a threat until eliminated.
- Seahawks – D is still pretty good and I expect Russell Wilson to come around but the O-line is atrocious.
Kras: It won’t be impossible for the Cubs to win it, but it will be a challenge. Going back to Cleveland to finish out the series won’t help since it’s on the road but it will be nice for them to be able to bat Kyle Schwarber in the DH spot. In game 6, the pitching matchup is slated to be Jake Arrieta vs. Josh Tomlin – advantage Cubs. If necessary, game 7 starters are slated to be Kyle Hendricks vs. Corey Kluber – advantage Indians. I believe that the Cub batters must come alive in the last two games. The Cubs will have their work cut out for them and I think, in the end, Cleveland will prevail. This is the first time I have gone against the Cubs so far these playoffs but I think Cleveland gets it done in game 7 with a strong outing by Kluber and an Andrew Miller showing late. Regardless of how things play out and the Series ends, it will be good baseball.