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"Season Ticket Holder; Writer"
Twin Cities, MN • United States • 38 Years Old • Male

The Downward Spiral

Posted 5:15 PM ET | Comments 3
There was a time, not so long ago, when the Minnesota Wild were very protective of their team, when they did all they could behind the scenes to see to it that their brand was untarnished. The last thing anyone in the offices on Washington Street wanted was a player, a design, an advert, or a product that would form a negative opinion of the franchise, especially one that was so devoted to its ties to community and youth hockey.

It would seem that in one fell swoop, general manager Doug Risebrough ended the protection era for the franchise at the very same time he insists he's bringing in protection for his boys on the ice. Risebrough has defiled the once proud State of Hockey with a singular move so boneheaded and incomprehensible that even hockey minds greater than mine are shaking their heads in confusion.

For all of the bluster and the hype that surrounds Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, complete with the whinings and wimperings from opposing teams and their fans, the one thing Boogaard has never done is found himself sitting in a press box because he was tagged with a suspension. Yes, Boogaard is a fighter; a pugilist extraordinaire, but he has not gone the rout of thuggery or cheapshot artist a la Brad May. Or Todd Bertuzzi.

Or Chris Simon.

It was only last week that Wild centerman Pavol Demitra publicly outlined the team need for a strong center. One that could move the puck, could score, and could win faceoffs. It was also suggested in talks that another mobile and reliable defenseman could be useful, but the team is fairly overloaded on the blue line.

As the trade deadline loomed, and as the hours ticked by yesterday, many a Wild fan was eager to see what move Risebrough would make to help shore up the team and move them to more solid footing heading toward the playoffs. A playoffs which is not guaranteed even now. At 3:00 PM Eastern, Pittsburgh snagged Marian Hossa from Atlanta. Peter Forsberg had previously agreed to terms with Colorado. Sergei Fedorov was had for a song by Washington. It was rumored that Risebrough had offered Wild prospect and resident head case Benoit Pouliot to Florida in a package for Olli Jokinen, but Florida reportedly had "zero interest" in any Wild prospects. Which doesn't say much for our slate, does it?

But at 3:10, the ears began to tingle as it was announced that word had come down that the Wild had made a move. Who could it be? While I never expected a marquee name, I did expect that needed centerman. "The Minnesota Wild have sent a 6th round draft pick to the New York Islanders for..."...Islanders. Hmmm. Centers on the Island. Can't be Comrie, he just signed an new deal. Josef Vasicek, maybe? The big Czech. Good numbers this year so far but a 6th rounder seems too light. Who could it be....."winger Chris Simon."


The string of expletives that escaped my lips at that moment was really, when you get down to it, quite glorious. What on Earth was Risebrough thinking, if at all? He seems to think the only reason we lost the division last year or that we failed to advance past the bigger and tougher Anaheim Ducks was that we were too small. It wouldn't at all have anything to do with not being able to put the puck in the net. With Boogaard riding pine nearly all season with a bum back, this is Risebrough's way of staying tough. And so it seems that in order to beef up a roster with more meatheads who can't score (which fails to solve the not scoring problem, you see), Risebrough thinks this ramshackle squad has the goods to get 'er done.

Sorry, Doug, but your Montreal Cup Magic vanished decades ago.

How soon will it be before Simon snaps and goes ballistic once more? Sure, I completely buy into the opinion that people deserve second chances. I also think it depends on the severity of the infraction. Second chances for Simon seem to be a dollar a dozen. Okay, a slight exaggeration, since he's only been suspended EIGHT times.

Forgive him for calling Mike Greer an impolite synonym for African American.

Forgive him for cross checking Petr Popovic in the throat.

Forgive him for elbowing Anders Eriksson.

Forgive him for cross checking Ruslan Fedotenko and then jumping on him and beating him.

Forgive him for kneeing Sergei Zubov.

Forgive him for doing his best Reggie Jackson home run swing on Ryan Hollweg's face.

Forgive him for pulling the feet out from under Jarko Ruutu and then stomping on his ankle.

Absolutely, keep forgiving him and letting it all go. "He has had his issues," says Risebrough. Tag that line for understatement of the year. Perhaps Risebrough is willing to let it all go because, as Simon likes to point out, none of the people he has attacked missed games or, in his estimation, even missed a shift because of what he did to them. That makes all of it okay. That makes perfect sense.

Simon doesn't want people to see his on ice tantrums and rages as the person he is. Well, he calls them "mistakes." No, Chris. They're not mistakes. They're intended actions for which you were punished. You're not the victim here. "The way I am on the ice is the complete opposite of the way I am off it." That's all fine and dandy, I suppose, Chris. But it doesn't erase the fact that on ice you are a menace and a thug. After all, Ted Bundy was a great guy and very charismatic. If you ignore the 30 murders he admitted to.

In the process of furthering the thuggery they can produce, the Wild still have glaring issues that went completely unresolved by Risebrough's mismanagement. They still lack that necessary center, they still can't score goals (note: they scored 1 goal in a 4-1 loss against Washington last night, and that goal went in off the player's leg.), they still get beaten to every available puck, they fail to show any heart or desire to compete, and they play 20-30 minutes out of 60 minute games, blowing leads in the process. They barely beat what are perceived as weaker teams and generally fail to show up at all against the elite of the League. Their once proud 1st place standing was never more than a shadow which hid the fact that they were a weak team that was barely getting by, and now they're not even doing that. And the supposed answer was Chris Simon?

Chris Simon is not the answer to the problem, even in the short term, as he is an unrestricted free agent come July 1st. No, Simon is nothing more than a short term problem, and one that the Wild should never have even considered.

Reaction in the State of Hockey has been largely negative. What did the Wild expect? Both major newspapers featured pictures of Simon standing over the prone body of Hollweg after he chopped his face. This is the face of Minnesota hockey now. In publication after publication, questions abound as to why the Wild would sully their franchise by dipping into the Simon cespool. After all, it was always enough of a mark that the team employed Matt Johnson for as long as they did. If you don't remember, Johnson delivered a blindside punch to the back of the head of New York Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom which ended Beukeboom's career.

It seems Risebough does not understand the concept of team toughness as opposed to goonery. Or criminality. It was fitting that Simon was employed by the Islanders because the orange in their jerseys was a strong reminder of the uniform he should be wearing...that of the New York State Correctional system. As for Risebrough's contention that Simon can also play hockey, which no one can prove aside from a fluke season with Washington, I don't see how his 1 goal and 2 assists in 28 games this year will be an offensive boon. And we should just completely ignore the fact that he has served more games of suspension (55) than he has played on the ice (28) since this same time last year.

What of the future, though? If the past is any indication, Simon will, hopefully, go the way of other stellar trade deadline pickups Adam Hall and Dominic Moore. But what about Pavol Demitra? Risebrough clearly could give a rats ass what one of his top players has to say about team needs since he so clearly went in the exact opposite direction to get Simon. As an unrestricted free agent, I would not blame him at all if he refused to even talk to the Wild over the summer and took his game elsewhere. In doing so, it could also signal the death knell for Marian Gaborik, on whose behalf Demitra was obtained. With his cohort possibly gone, why would Gaborik, himself, not test the market and move to a more open and offensive power when his contract ends in 2009-2010? What about Brian Rolston, also an unrestricted free agent this summer? Why would any of these guys choose to stay here and wallow under a management that really doesn't seem interested in helping them succeed?

Chris Simon is a hand grenade with the pin already pulled. How soon before he goes off?

And sinks an already listing Wild boat?
February 27, 2008 6:49 PM ET | Delete
Great read, I fully agree with all of your comments on the thug that is Chris Simon.this guy has no place in the game of hockey anymore.
February 27, 2008 7:11 PM ET | Delete
I'm sorry that you guys have to deal with him, but I can't say how happy I was that we got rid of him..you'll never end up liking him. He may fight the first game you guys get him just to try to win over the fans...but that most likely will be the last fight you see before the playoffs..maybe a second one somewhere...but that's it at most. Btw he's too slow to hit anyone. He's a waste. I'm sorry that any NHL team has to deal with him. You guys could have given us a half used roll of tape, chewed piece of gum, and a pair of glasses without lens'...I still would've been happy. Just be glad he'll be unemployed this summer.
February 28, 2008 6:18 AM ET | Delete
ive always had respect for the Wild. the team, the fans, the Minnesota hockey scene in general. Chris Simon was a bad move. I wasnt aware anyone in the league had any interest in that guy. ESPN was showing his "home run swing" over and over again earlier, makes you sick at your stomach. good luck with him, hopefully he is out of the league come summer time.
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