Zulgad's Roundup: Leslie Frazier's consistency helps make him a hit
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Some Christmas night thoughts while getting ready to return to the airwaves at 9 a.m. Wednesday on 1500 ESPN.
As I wrote on Monday, Leslie Frazier didn't have much to say when asked about his contract situation, but it is likely only a matter of time before the Minnesota Vikings coach receives an extension on a deal that runs through the 2013 season.
The point was made this summer that if Frazier won eight games he should be the NFL coach of the year. Well, he has won nine games and with a victory Sunday over the visiting Green Bay Packers, he will have led the Vikings from a 3-13 finish in 2011 to a playoff berth in 2012.
Linebacker Chad Greenway spent his first three-plus seasons playing for the volatile Brad Childress. Frazier, who was Greenway's defensive coordinator before replacing Childress, clearly has a different demeanor.
"His speeches are real consistent if you know what I mean," Greenway said, jokingly. "I think that's good. It is such a long season and there are so many ups and downs that I think if you have a coach that is kind of going with that; maybe he comes in Monday after a loss and he's really down and (you get a), 'This is going to ruin our season' sort of speech and that's not what Leslie is.
"Obviously Leslie's the kind of guy, 'We're still in this thing. We're fighting. We're together. We're all in.' And his approach is perfect, in my mind, for what an NFL coach needs to be. He's really consistent. He knows what he wants from his players. He hires high-character guys to have in the locker room and it seems to be working pretty well."
While a contract extension makes perfect sense for Frazier, and is certainly coming, it wouldn't be surprising if he has asked that it be put off until after the Vikings' season is finished.
No longer Wild for the Wild
If you were to make a list of the top five teams that have been damaged the most by the NHL lockout, the Minnesota Wild would have to be in that group.
The Wild had a real opportunity to steal a large portion of the sports thunder in the Twin Cities this winter.
In the midst of a second consecutive terrible season from the Twins, Wild owner Craig Leipold and general manager Chuck Fletcher created a tremendous buzz on July 4 when the team signed big-name free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical $98 million, 13-year contracts.
This town had never seen free-agent signings like that before in any sport and suddenly even non-hockey fans were talking about the Wild. Now six months later, even the most die-hard Wild fans have lost interest in the team and the NHL season.
The NHL lockout appears as if it won't end anytime soon and time is running out for the 48-game regular season the league wants to conduct at this point.
Honestly, it's hard to feel bad for anyone involved in this, except for the fans.
The NHL lost an entire season to a lockout in 2004-05 and now is on the verge of losing another. That is inexcusable.
Anyone who listens to the 9 to noon show on 1500 ESPN, knows how I feel about hockey. It's one of my favorite sports. But it's also clear the powers that be don't have any understanding of what they are doing when it comes to the long-term health of their game.
There are too many teams in too many markets that don't care about hockey and the worst part is that commissioner Gary Bettman and company can get away with another lockout because very few people actually care.
The NFL has an offseason lockout and everyone notices. The NBA or baseball has a lockout and ESPN covers it on a daily basis. The NHL has a lockout and it's out of sight, out of mind. And when that happens, that means you're involved with a sport that is considered minor league in many markets.
Eventually, the Wild and the NHL will get back to work and Parise and Suter will be on the ice.
The difference is that, at this point, don't expect anyone to really care all that much.
Not fair to compare
We have long heard that everyone's recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament is different.
We are now seeing first-hand evidence of that in the Twin Cities.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, returning from the torn ACL and medial collateral ligament he suffered in his left knee a year ago, has been nothing short of brilliant since getting back on the field.
Peterson, who did not play in the preseason and missed eight months before returning for the regular-season opener against Jacksonville, needs 102 yards to become the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, set in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams.
Peterson had a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games come to an end Sunday in Houston and has rushed for more than 80 yards in all but two games this season.
Meanwhile, center Trevor Mbakwe of the Gophers basketball team is coming back from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered in November 2011.
Mbakwe moved from a reserve role to the starting lineup in the Gophers' final Big Ten tune-up on Saturday in a 75-50 victory over Lafayette at Williams Arena.
Mbakwe had five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and is averaging 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in 18.2 minutes of action in 13 games this season.
There have been times where Mbakwe has looked very good - he had 19 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes of a 66-63 victory on Nov. 24 over Stanford - and other times when it's clear he's still trying to get back to being near 100 percent.
Then there is the case of Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, who is coming back from a torn ACL and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee that he suffered early last March against the Lakers and had repaired a few weeks later.
Rubio missed eight-plus months before returning on Dec. 15 against Dallas and had eight points, nine assists and three steals in 18 minutes (his maximum allowed playing time for now) of a 114-106 overtime victory.
Since that time, the Wolves have played four games.
Rubio had no points (0-for-3 from the field) and four assists in 16 minutes two nights after his season debut as the Wolves lost 102-93 at Orlando. The following night, Rubio was held out at Miami as part of the plan not to play him in back-to-back games for now.
Last Thursday, Rubio, who is coming off the bench, again was held scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) and had three assists in 18 minutes of a 99-93 victory over Oklahoma City. On Sunday, he had five points and two assists in 18 minutes in a 94-91 victory over the Knicks in New York.
This is clearly going to be a work in progress.
No one expected Rubio was going to return to the court as the same player who left it last season when his knee gave out, and the stress a football player puts on his knee is likely very different from a basketball player.
If nothing else, watching Peterson, Rubio and Mbakwe return from reconstructive knee surgery provides a reminder that even trying to compare recoveries isn't fair.