Paul Allen Proudly Endorses:
|THURS., JUNE 20 (subject to change)|
OPEN: LIVE FROM VIKINGS MINI CAMP
9:33: BEN LEBER/GM RICK SPIELMAN JOIN
|9:55: leber/rick stay|
|10:20: leber stays/chipmunk story?|
|10:33: SPORTS ESSENTIALS/NBA FINALS|
|10:53: PETE BERCICH/WOBBY JOIN FROM WP|
|11:20: see 1053|
Click here to view the WCHT photo gallery.
We celebrate the 1983 Wayzata Club Hockey Team and one of its stars, Jonny "The Mouse" Mikkelson, who once told me "Our team was so good the varsity wouldn't play us." When asked why he didn't play varsity Mouse said, "Too little." Cutest ever. So, we salute the greatest Club Hockey Team ever, a squad so vaunted even Jim Craig's Miracle team wanted nothing to do with it. Trottier, Bossy, Gretzky, Messier ... dead! Long live the 1983 Wayzata Club Hockey team!
follow jonny via twitter
NHL DRAFT B/B ...
Even though we are closer to the 4th of July than Memorial Day, the NHL is still extremely intriguing to hard-core hockey fans. The playoffs have been outstanding. The Cup final is shaping up to be a classic with two classic, old-school squads. Two of the best uniforms in hockey too. Once the Finals are over, the much-anticipated NHL draft is next. Well, it’s probably as anticipated as the new phone books arriving at your house in that plastic bag which 98% of people just toss it into the recycling bin, but I digress….
That leaves Halifax Moosehead Nathan MacKinnon going to the hockey hotbed Florida Panthers. Me and my hockey-playing buddies have gone to visit Halifax for the past 8 years. Through business and friendships with Moosehead owner Bobby Smith (yes, former North Star Bobby Smith), we go up to Halifax, play against Moose coaching staff, trainers, and yes owner. We get our butts kicked. Hitting many of the local watering holes, golf, boat rides, more watering holes and going to Moosehead games is included. The Mooseheads got to the QMJHL finals against Sid the Kid back in ’05. Then got really bad. Then, through multiple trades, this year Bobby Smith got the Mooseheads to win the “Q”, then the coveted (well, in Canada anyway) Memorial Cup. Nathan MacKinnon being the main reason (hat trick in final game.) Smith traded 3 first-rounders for MacKinnon. Worth every penny. Projected to go right after the Shattuck-St. Mary product MacKinnon will be Jonathan Druin. He will go to Tampa Bay. I have seen these guys play in person and they’ve been jaw-droppingly good. (yea, I even have a #22 MacKinnon Moosehead t-shirt…)
I would love to see Chuck Fletcher make a move to get the 2nd pick, but it would cost the farm. The Wild don’t have the farm. It won’t happen. So, long story longer, you have read it here first. Nathan MacKinnon will be the best player in the NHL in a few years. The thing that sucks is it will be for a team nobody cares about, the freaking Florida Panthers.
(I’m guessing this will be the only NHL draft-related material on this website. PA, if you were going to break this down too, I apologize…)
About to jet to day two of Vikings mini camp and prepare to do #92Noon there tomorrow. Saw a bunch of cool things yesterday, and this time of the year always is fun because you see stuff start to develop. Here are some things I still am thinking about post 'camp:
-- CHRISTIAN PONDER and GREG JENNINGS. There were multiple times the first offense would give way to CASSEL et al and 15 and 7 would chat extensively. Jennings would gesture with his hands, kind of slicing through the air and indicating what a certain route looked like.
"Greg has seen a lot," Ponder told me yesterday. "His experience will help us all."
Jennings has climbed to the top in that he won a Super Bowl, and even though he is not as fast as he used to be he'll help (a) loosen things for MVP and (b) stay on Ponder to hold up his part of the bargain.
With Jennings savvy, RUDOLPH'S domination in tight quarters and PATTERSON'S quickness I am not sure how easy it will be to blitz Ponder this season. If they guess right and get through when he goes on a seven-step drop he has the ability to run from it and hit quality stock on "hot routes."
Recognition and poise are things hopefully Ponder is developing this offseason. He seemed brain-boggled and tired when I encountered him yesterday after practice on a hot, sticky day, but it's good MUSGRAVE is tearing him down to make him better. Christian Ponder's improvement may be our key to winning the division.
-- THE LINEBACKERS. GREENWAY, our best 'backer and one of the game's best tacklers, is out until training camp. That means MARVIN MITCHELL is getting starting reps and for sure is trying to win a OLB job. The team also had former Packer DESMOND BISHOP in for a look today, and as KEVIN SIEFERT of espn.com pointed out, he could be auditioning for ILB or OLB. He's off an awful, awful hamstring injury so this may be a longshot he joins, but if he's right it would help.
If Desmond Bishop can change games like he did in 2010 and 2011 we can sit on rookie GERALD HODGES and let him grow at a slower pace. That's the preferred mode of attack for me. Same goes for Patterson, a receiver who can slowly roll up to speed with other legit options around him. I am not a fan of throwing secondary draft selections into the cliched fire right away of you don't have to, so if Bishop joins and/or Mitchell looks the part that's good because we can wait for Hodges to figure it out.
-- TRAVIS BOND. He is a massive OL from UNC we housed in the seventh round. Kid played on a good OL at UNC and is opening eyes at Winter Park. One person in the know yesterday told me even though he's built like a tackle (6-6, 300-ish pounds) he'll be best suited in our league at guard. That means he may pressure CHARLIE JOHNSON or BRANDON FUSCO for playing time if he continues to improve.
Our OL already is the best in the division, and Bond perhaps would upgrade our road-grating appeal. They like him over there and he has cut significant weight to play G in the NFL.
-- ADAM THIELEN. Kid is a stone-cold Rube. Met him yesterday and all he could talk about was KFAN for a few minutes before our interview.
"I grew up listening to you and the 'FAN up in Detroit Lakes, and it's a pleasure to meet the voice of the Vikings," he said.
Me: "Aw, aren't you kind. I am hearing great things about you, so keep doing what you are doing, kiddo."
The Mankato Mavs product stuck out in rookie camp, but I didn't take it seriously. Then an offensive starter complimented him to me during OTAs and I took notice. I went out of my way to follow the undrafted longshot wearing 19 yesterday, and he caught absolutely everything thrown his way. He's sneaky fast and rather reliable from the "slot" against backups. I am hoping today to see him get run against first- or second-team guys, but thst probably will not happen.
He's still a longshot to make the final 53, but after the preferred four, which includes SIMPSON and WRIGHT, that last spot will be a battle, and this kid has a puncher's chance at making memories. I'd love to see him make the team; quality kid.
-- SECOND-YEAR SWAGGER. DC ALAN WILLIAMS, WR Jerome Simpson and CB CHRIS COOK all had unique years last season and for various reasons. Williams was in his first season as defensive coordinator, Simpson was off a suspension, splashed when he kept killing BILL BENTLEY at Detroit, then played hurt the rest of the year. Cook was off the awful off-field transgression.
They all have settled down and big things are expected. Cook was the best DB on the field for the majority of yesterday's camp, and his coverage skills really stuck out to me. He only allowed one pass to be caught when thrown in his direction, and you can tell the young man is maturing professionally and more importantly personally off the EP incident a year and change ago.
Simpson looks sleek and fast and now as a third-option receiver will do some damage. I was very much in favor of the team re-signing him this offseason, and given the best CBs will focus on Jennings and Patterson we should be able to make some money with Jerome Simpson.
That, too, goes for Wright, the Arkansas kid who missed half the season last year, then had to replace the popular-and-talented PERCY HARVIN. Tough debut spot for the kid on a run-first team but he came together nicely as the season dragged on. Jariius will play a bunch this year and will be better than he was last season.
And so will we. Mission: Meadowlands.
Vikings C JOHN SULLIVAN was in studio today and (paraphrasing) said "at times CHRISTIAN PONDER has been awesome" during OTA. John is not one for glorifying anybody if they don't deserve it. I know his tells -- he'll get in and out of a topic quickly if he cannot bring lovefrom the heart.
Too, he will sit up a tad in his chair and look you in the eyes if he really means something, and that's what he did when discussing Ponder #92Noon today. Of course he desperately wants the QB to hold up his part of the deal, and for us to win the division Ponder will have to be more consistent than last year.
Here are some things I hope are taking place when Sullivan sees Ponder acting "awesome":
-- Knows where the ball is going. The good ones look left and right to throw off defenders then whip the sucker into the spot it was designed to go. The good ones know exactly where it's going everytime because (a) they are confident they can look off DBs and that the receiver will do the right thing and (b) they know the plays in and out.
-- Feels the pressure. The three best in the game at sliding from the pass rush are AARON RODGERS, TOM BRADY and DREW BREES. Those three are pass-first cats and all elite. Rodgers keeps his eyes down the field while feeling the heat, and his footwork on the slide I think is second-to-none.
Ponder became better at that with experience but he has to keep his eyes down the field while eluding the pass rush.
-- Leading receivers. Too many completions last year were a result of people bailing out the QB. When playing with confidence and swerve the good ones lead the receivers every single time. They don't make them wait. The passes are chest -high and the skill guys catch them and zip for some YAC. Need Ponder to zip the sucker in there chest-high and on time.
-- Leadership role. The coolest of the cool QBs frequently can be seen meandering along the sidelines and always motivating teammates. Ponder is good at that. What I'd like to see once he strings together some quality games is a sideline huddle with the offensive players and like PEYTON MANNING et al Ponder in the middle of the circle motivating, teaching and leading. That bleep is cool.
-- Run for size. Ponder's best run of his career was the gut-busting scamper against the Niners last year. He looked for JOHN CARLSON on a "wheel route" but the TE was covered by PATRICK WILLIS so the QB took off. I'd like to see him recognize a huge run in front of him and take it. Take it even if the WRs have not had a chance to get open.
QBs running like that give the defense extra about which to think and will help open things for MVP and also with WRs give safeties and LBs will have to eyeball the fast QB.
Ponder has big-time performances in him as we saw in the season finale against Green Bay. The week before he was solid at Houston, too, and that was against an elite defense. Sullivan believes in the kid, and so do I.
Ran from 92Noon today to Rush Creek to bang out four interviews for tomorrow's "Vikings Tonite" show on the Vikings Radio Network. Ran down CHRISTIAN PONDER, BILL MUSGRAVE, PHIL LOADHOLT and JOSH ROBINSON.
The DB is markedly bigger in the upper body. Clearly he's prepping for play on the inside as the "nickle" corner. He also refuses to concede he will not beat out somebody and start.
"You have tio think that way as a competitor," he said.
Josh is going to play a ton and, most importantly, mans the WINFIELD spot. The crafty veteran left for Seattle, and now CHRIS COOK, XAVIER RHODES and Josh will be called upon to shut down passing games. And to do so in maybe the game's most pass-first division.
Robinson had a good season last year and seemed to run out of gas at the end. He certainly has a chance to improve, and with that elite speed and more reps is supposed to help big time given he was a third-round pick.
Josh impressed me today off the mike when discussing the importance of diagnosing plays as the CB closest to the line. And that they are bulking up his body indicates they want three big corners to check players at the line and to mess with running games.
If Cook and Rhodes are going to play big like sturdy CBs RICHARD SHERMAN and BRANDON BROWNER they are going to have to bang you at the line for a second longer than most and get off blocks and jack with running games. SPIELMAN has gone big on the outside, and with strong guys like Cook and Rhodes the hope is they jam so well JARED ALLEN and the gang pester the quarterback.
I am very excited to watch our secondary play next season, and it starts at Detroit against a pass-first offense, MEGATRON and REGGIE BUSH from the backfield. I, too, am thrilled to watch Josh Robinson be put in big spots because as he said "he is a competitor" and STAFFORD, CUTLER and THEGREAT AARON ROGERS will go at him until they know they are making a mistake.
... NBA FINALS: Big effort last night by my pick to win the series. The bit players always will shoot threes better at home, and San Antonio hit an NBA Finals-record 16. Just drained bits from all over the place, and DANNY GREEN hit one from like 28. Well done.
The key to the whole thing the rest of the way is the health of THE FRENCH KID. If Tony Parker's hammy is bad the Spurs cannot win the series and probably will lose all of them the rest of the way. I was shocked when he left the game, limped to the locker room and came back and played a minute at a stage of the game the Heat had no chance to rally and win.
What was the purpose of that? Certainly tweaking the bit late in a blowout would get POP' ripped to shreds, but who are we to question one of the three greatest coaches in the history of the game? He's the man who sits stars during the regular season so they are fresh right now -- see BIG FUNDAMENTAL -- and, funny, it's working.
Pop' is elite and knows exactly what he is doing. But if the bad hamstring in anyway slows Parker and he cannot change games the Spurs are done. Their PG spot behind him is troubled in that GARY NEAL is a tweener and JOSEPH is too inexperienced. The health of The French Kid is the A-Topic the rest of the way.
Ian Kennedy threw at Zach Greinke and the beanballs quickly turned into an all-out brawl in Tuesday's Dodgers-Diamondbacks game. Vin Scully on lead vocals...
If we've learned anything from former Bengals and Patriots wide receiver Chad Johnson, it's that you should NEVER SLAP YOUR ATTORNEY'S BUTT in court! Johnson rewarded his attorney with a quick butt slap for a job well done, but the Judge didn't appreciate the move.