An impressive Minnesota sports weekend and wow what a change of pace. After last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers the praise for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder was indeed a little overboard. I think so much of the adulation specifically had to do the fact that the Vikings season was such a disaster last year coupled with Gopher sports flops, another dreadful year of Timberwolves basketball, another mild season by the Wild and what could be declared the worst season in Twins history. It doesn't help that the Pack are coming off a Super Bowl win, Wisconsin Badger Rose Bowl and Sweet 16 appearances and a really good Brewer season.
But after yesterday's win over a bad Panthers team Christian Ponder looks like the real deal. Opposite fellow rookie Cam Newton the two quarterbacks both show very promising futures and Newton appeares to be a marketable superstar. But I'll take Ponder. He can clearly read defenses and has weapons around him. At the end of the day being able to perform in the pocket is what gets you the rings, not a college style duel threat athleticism like Newton. Think about it. How many rings do Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli and Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have? Nine and counting. How many rings have duel threat backs like Michael Vick, Vince Young, Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair, Jamarcus Russel and Tavaris Jackson have? Yup
Obvious and unintended racial differences aside, If Ponder can be a competant quarterback in the mold of Chad Pennington (the comparison made by ESPN's Mel Kiper) boy have the Vikings found an answer. It will be nice to not have a question mark at QB this offseason. I also really do believe the Vikes still have a shot at 6-10 which we'd kill for two weeks ago.
And not to be outdone, but how about the Gopher football team? Jerry Kill gets a signature win that former coach Tim Brewster never got. Stay healthy Jerry! We're at rock bottom this season but this was the first sign that this bad football team still has some fire and victories over Illinois and Northwestern would be great. All I ask is a respectable showing against an overrated Wisconsin team. And boy does it feel good writing that.
The real excitement for me lies in Gophers winter sports right now. Gopher hockey are 7-1 and everything is clicking. Great goalie, young guys who are producing, the return of assistant Mike Guentzel and some nice victories. HUGE showdown against North Dakota this weekend at Mariucci. I hope this fast start and a down (for their standards) Sioux team can get a hot crowd in the building Friday and Saturday night. Hockey is back!
Tubby Smith came out and said this is the best shooting team he's had at Minnesota and I love where the expectations are for this team. Last year they were sky high and they just couldn't live up to the hype, this year lowered expectations and some real solid young talent I think equates to a recipe for success. Look what lowered expectations have done for the hockey team! It's Tubby time baby!
To flush it out the Wild have been so-so, but I'm not surprised, it's going to take time for all the new pieces to fit and this is a real young defense that needs seasoning. HOWEVER, let's take a look at stats for the Wild's top offensive prospects.
- Mikael Granlund 6 goals/15 assits/21pts in 16 games in Finnish Elite League
- Charlie Coyle 1/8/9 in 6 games at Boston University
- Jason Zucker 4/6/10 in 6 games at Denver University
- Zack Phillips 11/14/25 in 14 games in Quebec Major Junior League
- Mario Lucia 10/19/29 in 14 games in British Columbia Hockey League
Let me do the math for you, five of the top offensive prospects in their system have scored 94 pts in 56 games. I think that's pretty damn decent. The future is bright in St. Paul.
And the Timberwolves are probably at their best just being locked out.