Friday, February 29, 2008

Chris Simon does nothing for Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota sports community hasn’t seen a backlash this bad in quite some time. In the last couple of years, this state has seen Randy Moss, Kevin Garnett, Torii Hunter and Johan Santana leave their respective Minnesota teams for new destinations.

Many people were upset when each player left town, but nothing compared to the outrage displayed when the Wild acquired NHL bad-boy and all-time suspension leader Chris Simon for a 6th round draft pick before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Simon has been suspended eight times throughout his career, most recently for attempting to injure an opponent’s foot with his skate. That suspension cost him 30 games, the longest in NHL history. His previous suspension lasted 25. That one was for whacking the Rangers’ Ryan Hollweg in the face with his stick.

Without a doubt, Simon is a goon. But this isn’t figure skating, folks, it’s hockey. A fair number of hockey players aren’t the type of people you would choose to lead your charity drive or take home to your parents. If a team wants to compete for a Stanley Cup, sometimes it’s forced to sacrifice morals and values for that couple of extra wins.

Unfortunately, Simon is the type of hockey goon that is just that: a goon. Simon’s only scored more than 20 goals once in his 15-year NHL career (29 with the Capitals in 1999-00) and has notched more than 30 points only three times (the last being 2001-02). If Simon was a goon that could also help Minnesota win more faceoffs, provide much-needed scoring consistency or provide additional depth on defense, this move would be a good one. Unfortunately, Simon isn’t that player.

Wild fans and the media have trashed team management for acquiring Simon, and rightfully so. General manager Doug Risebrough expressed surprise at the level of fan outrage and scolded the media for not telling “the complete story.” He also bemoaned the fact that the media hasn’t provided any context to the deal and Simon’s history, pointing out that the second-most suspended NHL player is the Ducks’ Chris Pronger.

If the Wild had acquired Chris Pronger, I don’t think you would’ve heard many people complaining. The core reason for the fan’s outrage is the fact that Simon just isn’t a very good hockey player. Several teams in the ultra-competitive Western Conference made deals to upgrade their teams for the stretch run. The Wild appeared to have a lock on the Northwest Division as recently as two weeks ago, but have free-fallen since and now have to battle to just make the playoffs. The team desperately needed a center and some defensive depth. Instead it got Simon, who gives them neither.

The Wild have been coddled in this market since the beginning. Fans continue to sell out the Xcel Center and the media sticks to praising the team despite its perpetual mediocrity. With one move, Risebrough may have killed most of that goodwill. Unfortunately, what Risebrough fails to see is that fans are not necessarily outraged that the team acquired a complete jackass. That’s the icing on the cake. What fans are most upset about is that another trade deadline has passed and the Wild again failed to do anything that will help them rise above that mediocrity.

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