Wetmore: Thomas Vanek to the Wild? No foregone conclusions in sports
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The Wild on Monday beat the winless Buffalo Sabres in New York. Jason Pominville scored the game-winning goal against his former team.
And few missed the opportunity this week to note that he's great buddies with Sabres star Thomas Vanek.
In fact, if you listen to enough hockey speculation in this town and nationally, you might think Vanek already plays for the Wild. It's a foregone conclusion, the narrative goes.
I'm not naïve enough to pretend the dots don't exist, but I'm surprised how hastily many want to connect them.
Sure, the Wild could trade midseason for Vanek, who is co-captain of a sinking ship in Buffalo (0-6-1 record with a young team). He could instead opt for free agency and sign with the Wild. Either outcome certainly could happen. It might even appear likely, given the confluence of factors.
But the assumption that it's a 100 percent slam dunk is silly.
Landscapes shift quickly in sports. Circumstances change. Even if Monday it's a certainty in Vanek's mind and in the minds of the Wild brass that the two parties would like to unite, that can change literally overnight. The writing appears to be on the wall. But many I've heard from in recent weeks are treating it like the writing already is on the contract.
Now, some will read the headline and remind me of this column if Vanek ends up in Minnesota, and that's OK. My premise, though, shouldn't be lost: that there's a nonzero chance Vanek won't be a member of the Wild next October.
Based on water-cooler discussion and tweets on the topic, the only outcome has Vanek in Minnesota. So what kind of odds could I get if I took that script to a bookmaker? I'm willing to wager that the long odds I'd get on Vanek donning a non-Wild sweater would justify a bet.
If I can get 50:1 odds on something I think has, say, a 10 percent likelihood, I'm taking the bet.
Here's how I interpret the facts and conventional wisdom: The Wild late last season traded a bounty for Pominville, the former Sabres captain and noted friend of Vanek. The team extended Pominville's contract five years on the day the 2013-14 season opened, and suddenly every hockey enthusiast was convinced it must mean Vanek would follow in short order. Vanek, after all, starred for the Gophers in 2002-2004, including the 2003 national title. He lives in Stillwater in the offseason. And remember, he's Pominville's pal.
Taking this information and declaring Vanek-to-Minnesota a done deal is jumping too soon to a conclusion.
I get the desire to be forward-thinking; when I chose sides in sports and had more rooting interests, I preferred to pull for teams that would soon be good than those that already were.
So I understand the titillation of the speculative, 'Once Vanek signs, how 'bout those top two lines, eh?'
But let's pump the brakes a little.
Based on the information we have and the comments we've heard on the record from all parties, it's premature to buy Wild sweater with Vanek's name on it.