1. On a scale from 1 – 10(10 being most important), how important has the signing of Eric Staal been for the Wild?
Kras: Using that scale, I would say that Eric Staal has been an 8 based on importance to this hockey club. Center has been a position of need for the Wild for a few years now and Staal seems to be a good fit for a team that has been looking for an answer. Staal, so far this season, has tallied 5 goals, 8 assists and is a plus 6 in the +/-. He has been a steal so far for the Wild and the switch back to his natural center position has helped him just as much.
JJ Bens: On a scale of 1-10 I think the signing of Eric Staal was about an 8. He currently has 13 points in 14 games and has 2 game winning goals. Every team in the league could use a physical center like Staal although this is his 13th year the former number 2 pick overall of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 is still playing at a high level. Bringing Staal in also allowed the team to move Charlie Coyle to the wing where he has been more productive in the past. As much as the team wants Charlie Coyle to be a center the reality might be he just is a better wing. The reason I didn’t rate it a 9 or 10 is I think it is important to let the younger kids cut their teeth in the NHL.
2. At this point, do you think the Viking will make the playoffs?
Kras: It is hard to believe the way they are playing right now that they will win another game this season. In all reality though, they are tied for first in the NFC North right now with the Lions who have a win in hand over the Vikings already. Chris Long is the latest name added to the season ending injury list and one of several from the offensive line. Sam Bradford certainly has not been the same QB from the first 5 weeks of the season but, again, I think a person can look at the offensive line and the run game to figure out why he is having some problems. I believe that the Vikings still have a shot at the playoffs but it seems that opportunity is fading fast. They have now lost four games in a row and need to find a way to get a win this coming week against the Arizona Cardinals. The D is keeping this team very competitive every week so it is not as if they are getting blown out without giving the offense a chance. The defense is giving up a league low 16.9 points per game but they have not been able to stop teams from moving the ball up and down the field. It will be an uphill climb the rest of the way for the Purple and the D will need to lead the charge.
Nate Leer: I think the Vikings are likely to make the playoffs. Their D looked so good early this season that a return to dominance is not out of the question. If that happens, they could dominate a weak NFC North. Even if the D is only solid as they have been the last few weeks, the Vikes O may improve enough to let them overcome the Pack and Lions. A wild card team may make it from the North as well which would help the Vikes chances. They certainly look like one of the 6 most talented teams in the NFC and I still trust the coaching staff to turn the season back around again.
3. Do you think Tracy Claeys will be replaced as the head coach of the Gophers after the season?
Kras: I personally don’t think that Tracy Claeys should get fired but I believe that it might happen, especially if they go on to lose the last two games this season. The problems with this program runs far deeper than the head coach. I believe it also may be true that Claeys was not ready to be a head coach when he was, given the time and the way it transpired. A new head coach will only take four more years to be able to get “his guys” in place to see if the program is then trending in the right direction. I think Claeys getting another year and the team getting a new QB in place are both things this program needs right now.
Nate Leer: The Gophs are 7-3 so the worst they can finish is 7-5. That means they will likely get a bowl bid. I suspect Claeys will definitely get another year if that happens. He probably should get a little more time to see if he can be the coach to turn around this program. We’ll see…
1. Is this the year that DeMarcus Cousins gets traded from the Sacramento Kings?
Kras: The trade talks about Cousins are starting already and the NBA season is not that old. I don’t know what the Kings would be looking to get for Cousins but I imagine they will want a nice return for his departure. Along with giving up possible players and draft picks, any team that takes Cousins gets his talent and attitude with it. Now that said, I think if Boogie was on a team that was a contender through an entire season versus just the first week of the season, he might have a different attitude on the court. The Kings have been a struggling franchise for years now and the front office of the organization is generally in disarray. Maybe things will change now that they have their new coach in place, Dave Joerger. I think the betting money would have to be that the Kings trade Cousins sooner than later. He is only in his 6th year as a pro and should have at least that many more years left in him before his career is over. It will be interesting to monitor the situation going forward. I want to see what teams will want him and what teams are willing to give up. Cousins is averaging 26.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals.
Nate Leer: It is looking more and more like Cousins could get moved and soon. I think one of the East Coast teams makes the most sense – Philly or Boston in particular – because they have the assets to send a quality package back to Sacramento. I suspect the Kings want to move out Rudy Gay at the same time as Cousins and maybe in the same deal. That may even be a stumbling right now although Kings management should be smart enough to take on one challenge at a time.
2. Who is the best team in the NFL?
Kras: I think the Dallas Cowboys should be considered the best team in the NFL right now. With respect to the Seahawks and the Patriots, the Cowboys have been consistently plugging along and playing well, both on offense and more surprisingly defense, they have been getting the job done. The defense is giving up only 83 rushing yards per game, which is best in the NFL. They are also giving up under 20 points per game which usually gives the offense more than enough room to work with. The offense is led by rookie QB Dak Prescott and rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott both of whom will battle for ROY honors. Elliott has already rushed for over 1,000 yards in 9 games this season and shows no signs of slowing down behind that beastly offensive line. Credit to the offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys who pave the way for Zeke as well as giving Dak a clean pocket to work within. The Cowboys are in a good spot playing good football.
Nate Leer: I know Dallas has the best record but I do not think they are better than New England. Maybe they will end up deciding this question in the Super Bowl.
3. Do you believe the Dallas Cowboys will go back to Tony Romo when he is healthy and ready to return?
Kras: I’m not going to say that it can’t happen but I don’t think it is likely to happen. The Cowboys would be crazy to go away from Dak right now. He has been nothing short of incredible this year. Dak has passed for 2339 yards while passing for 14 TDs. He has also added 4 more TDs rushing the ball but more importantly than the above stats, is the fact that Dak has only thrown 2 INTs. For him to be as composed as he is for a rookie is a great thing for both Dak and the future of the Cowboys QB situation. As much as I like Tony Romo and what he has been able to do in his career, I think we might have seen him take his last snap at the Cowboys number 1 QB.
Nate Leer: It looks more and more like the Cowboys will have Romo back up rookie QB Dak Prescott. That is actually the right move which makes me think that owner Jerry Jones will do the opposite in the long run. Jones also has a history of being too loyal to veteran players so I suspect he will push Romo back down head coach Jason Garrett’s throat. The Cowboys should ride the hot hand as far as he will take them and, if Prescott doesn’t crack under the pressure, the Cowboys can move on from Romo in the offseason. Getting any picks for Romo would be great but even just the financial gains from getting rid of him would allow them to help bolster the D.