When I wrote my last post here, the Avalanche had a >99% chance of facing the Chicago Blackhawks in their opening playoffs series. As the astute reader may have observed, that is no longer the case. Following a flat-out incroyable 8-0-1 stretch, and buoyed along by an equally impressive collapse by the St. Louis Blues, our boys in burgundy and blue have claimed the division title and instead secured a matchup against the Minnesota Wild.
And boy, do I hate the Minnesota Wild.
More than any other in the league – Detroit Red Wings included – I loathe this franchise with a fervor normally reserved for war criminals. From the days of yore when hitmen like Aaron Voros and Stephane Veilleux roamed the ice, to the present day with Craig Leipold revealed as the Antichrist, they have drawn my contempt like no other.
If I’m being honest, I don’t even take issue with their players. The Decision-esque confluence of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter was annoying, but certainly I wouldn’t be complaining if they had landed with the Avs. And while Matt Cooke’s unpalatable reputation needs no introduction, his days of attempted murder are incongruous with his stint in Minnesota. Save for the ghost of Veilleux, it’s hard to muster up the white-hot hatred for their roster that I’m used to.
In the present day, it’s their owner who has my ire – he who signed Parise and Suter for a combined $196 million and immediately began pushing the lockout because NHL teams supposedly couldn’t afford to pay the very deals he had just agreed to. The same man who, three months prior to free agency, told reporters: “We’re not making money, and that’s one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we are spending.”
Leipold helped cost the NHL half a season at the negotiations table despite blatantly working to circumvent the salary cap – both deals taper off to a combined $4 million over their final three years. The unapologetic dissonance between flagrant dismissal of the fiscal principles he purported to stand for and hawking his own newly-signed mercenaries over the terms he had just promised them is almost worthy of a cartoon villain. For his ham-fisted hypocrisy, I hope his team crashes and burns forever.
This is an eminently winnable series – the Wild are by my estimation the worst playoff team in the Western Conference by a decent gap, with injuries to their top three (!) netminders and a negative goal differential at even strength. By any stretch, hopping from the superior Blackhawks to the relatively tame Wild is a massive coup that has most analysts predicting a decisive Avalanche win.
If there is any justice in the world, they’d better be right.