Minnesota Sports Centre

Covering news surrounding the NHL, the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Wild, as well as Motocross and Supercross at the professional level

25 Jul

Could Ryan Villopoto Retire After 2015 Supercross Season?

The sport of Supercross is constantly changing. Every once in a while, a rider emerges through the amateur rankings, into the pros, and leaves a mark on the sport that is never forgotten. Ryan Villopoto has become one of those riders. Villopoto did what most kids who race dirt bikes do. He started at a very young age, watched his dad race, and of course, grew to love the sport himself. 

In 2005, Ryan eventually turned pro, signing a contract with well known Owner Mitch Payton of Factory Kawasaki. After winning three consecutive MX championships, a SX championship, as well as a Motocross of Nations Title, Villopoto made a transition to the 450 class in 2009. He would struggle at first, but once the 2011 SX season began, so also began the era of Ryan Villopoto. 

Ryan, or known as RV2 has won four consecutive SX championships, becoming just the second rider in the history of the sport to ever accomplish such a feat. The other rider was of course none other, than Jeremy McGrath. 

Villopoto is currently sitting out the 2014 Motocross season to rehab from an injury he sustained late in the 2014 SX season but plans to be 100 percent for the start of the SX season and go for a 5 peat, something the Supercross world has never seen. 

Although Villopoto is no jerk by any means, people have noticed in the last couple of seasons a lack of excitement from Villopoto. If you look at his interview following his 2014 SX title, one of the first things Ryan said was that he was happy that the season was finally over. Now granted, we have to remember he was racing with a bum leg, but don't you think he'd be a bit more excited about winning a fourth straight SX title than what he showed?

In documentaries, Ryan has came out and said that he would have no problem walking from the sport today. Things like this make you wonder if RV2 is just starting to grow tired of the SX and MX business. In a recent interview, former champion and all time great Jeremy McGrath was asked about Villopoto and his lack of enthusiasm. " To me, it's sad when you see a guy on the podium and he looks like he's miserable." Ryan countered with the argument that the Supercross business is much different from the "carefree 90's" , the era that McGrath was racing in. 

I don't doubt that Ryan still enjoys riding dirt bikes for a job, but he also knows the business side very well and knows that this sport can be ruthless to a rider. " This sport chews you up and spits you out." said Villopoto. " It's the nature of the sport where if I don't win next weekend, it doesn't really matter what I've done prior to this." 

Ryan Villopoto has become one of the most accomplished, successful and most determined riders this sport has ever seen. Ryan is only 26, but there's a chance we may see him hang up the boots during his prime. His close friend Casey Stoner, a former Moto GP driver retired at the prime age of just 23 for personal reasons such as just wanting to stay healthy and be with his family. Ryan is now married and may be looking to start a family of his own. As much as fans would hate to see him go, I think there is a good chance that the 2015 Supercross season will be the last year we see Ryan Villopoto racing dirt bikes.

25 Jul

John Tavares Will Produce 100 Points This Year For the Islanders

With everything going wrong for the Islanders in the past few years, forward and Captain John Tavares is one of the few things that have gone right for the Islanders. Even when they have been awful, Tavares has always produced and played at the top of his game, night in and night out. With young guys maturing as players and New York making a couple of off-season moves, I believe this is the year we see Tavares score 100 points. 

In his four seasons in the NHL, Tavares has scored a minimal of 24 goals every single season, even in 2012-13, when the season was shrunk down to 48 games due to the lockout. Tavares still managed to score 28 goals and 47 points, averaging just a hair under a point a game. 

The Islanders have been without a reliable goalie for quite some time. They went out this summer and acquired former Capitals and Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak and signed center Mikhail Grabovski to add some solid depth at center. Along with the emergence of young forwards Ryan Stromme and Anders Lee, I believe Tavares will have enough support to put up 100 points. 

He's strong on the powerplay and I think their PP is going to improve with these young talented players as well as the addition of Grabovski. Don't forget about their other goal scorer in Kyle Okposo, who has developed tremendous chemistry with Tavares. Stick Okposo and Lee on a line with Tavares, that line is going to put up big numbers. 

Tavares not only scores goals but is a terrific passer as well, has great vision on the ice and is able to make plays out of nothing. Tavares will need to stay healthy in order to have a shot at a 100 point season. He scored 66 points last year while missing 23 games due to injury. If he can stay healthy and play all 82 games or at least close to that, I think Tavares will put up the best numbers of his career and break the 100 point barrier.

My prediction: 41 goals 63 assists. 

25 Jul

Will Rob Gronkowski Be The Best Fantasy Tight End In 2014-15?

Over the last few years, the tight end position has proved to be a more valuable commodity in years past. With guys like Vernon Davis, Jason Witten, Gronk and Jimmy Graham producing wide receiver type numbers, more people are scrambling to land a top 5 tight end in their fantasy football league. Jimmy Graham is the highest paid, most valuable fantasy tight end to many fantasy football owners and he is expected to have another outstanding year in 2014, but I believe there is someone else who is worthy of being the top tight end and that guy is Rob Gronkowski.

There are people who already view Gronk as a number one tight end and rightfully so. He is a mammoth, standing at 6' 6", is very strong, an good route runner and of course, a lethal weaponin the redzone. 

The biggest problem surrounding Gronk in his four years in the league have been his health. In his past two seasons, Gronkowski has failed to play all 16 games, dealing with lower body injuries, and a broken arm, which eventually got infected, causing him to miss more time. But when he is healthy, Gronk has proven to be a huge asset to the Patriots offense and arguably Tom Brady's favorite target.

After missing over half of the 2013 season, Gronk returned to the field being target 17 times, catching 8 passes for 114 yards. If that doesn't show you how much Brady loves Gronk, I don't know what does. In his 7 games he played in last year, 4 of those games Gronk was targeted at least 10 times. 

The doctors have cleared the two-time Pro Bowler, deeming him fit to practice at training camp. Gronk is finally 100 percent healthy and I truly believe we are going to see the Rob Gronkowski of 2011, the year Gronk broke out onto the scene, catching 90 balls for 1,327 yards and a league leading 17 touchdowns. 

If you look at the numbers since 2011, Gronk has played very well, even when he was struggling with injuries. I know many fantasy owners tend to get a bit nervous drafting someone who hasn't been healthy the last few seasons, but Gronkowski is one of those exceptions you can definitely make. Now that he is healthy and ready to go, look for him to break out once again in 2014. I believe he will be top 3, if not the number 1 tight end this year, exceeding 1,000 receiving yards and 13-18 touchdowns. Graham will have a down year with his new big expensive contract and take a step back in 2014, putting Rob Gronkowski on the top of the tight end list for fantasy football.

23 Jul 1

Jamaal Charles Holds Out, For Less Than A Day

Today was the day Charles needed to report to Kansas City's mandatory training camp before the 4 p.m ET deadline. As it was recently reported, Charles announced that he would not report to camp and that he was going to hold out on the Chiefs until a new contract was struck. 

Shortly after, once Chiefs players began to report to training camp, Ian Rapoport reported that the Chiefs and Charles agreed to a two-year extension that makes Charles the second highest paid running back next to Adrian Peterson if course.

This had to have been the shortest holdout in sports history and for the Chiefs this was definitely a good thing. I've never been big on players demanding more money and holding out, but for what Charles has done for the Chiefs offensively, he deserved to be paid.

Charles not only rushed for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, he was also the Chief's best receiver, catching 70 passes for 693 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns. Now that the contract is behind him, Charles should be able to focus just on football and producing at the highest level possible.

23 Jul

Breaking: Seahawks Receiver Sidney Rice To Retire Due To History Of Concussions

According to NBC's Pro Football Talk's Twitter, Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice is set to retire. According to sources, Rice's decision to retire was because of his previous history with concussions. Rice had the worst year of his NFL career last season where he played in just 8 games, catching only 15 passes for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns.

In his seven NFL seasons, Rice had played a full season just two times, once with Seattle and one time with Minnesota. 2009 was the only really good year Rice had throughout his short career. With Brett Favre throwing him the football, Rice 83 receptions, 1,312 yards and 8 TD's  

When asked about why he wanted to retire so soon, Rice told reporters: " I have the rest of my life ahead of me and I want to be able to function. " As much as it stinks to see a player you personally enjoyed watching, I'm glad to see him make this move. Rice was a good player and an even better person and I'm sure he will stay involved in the NFL in some way shape or form just as many other NFL players before him have done.
23 Jul

Colorado Signs Ryan O'Reilly To Two Year Contract

The Colorado Avalanche have finally came to terms with forward Ryan O'Reilly. In order to avoid arbitration, the two sides agreed on a two year deal worth $12 million dollars. Some wondered if O'Reilly would end up a free agent after the Avalanche decided to not sign him to a long-term deal.

This is a good deal for both sides. It gives Colorado an opportunity to see if O'Reilly has more than one good season in him. With just a two-year contract, the Avs aren't tied down to O'Reilly if he wasn't to pan out as a player.

This works out great for O'Reilly has well as he'll be making a good chunk of money over the next two years and gets to stay with the team that he prefers. O'Reilly was a workhorse for Colorado last season, putting up 64 points in 80 games and had just two penalty minutes to his name. He's a solid player who can kill penalties, shoot the puck and is very disciplined.

22 Jul

Can Mike Evans Be A Fantasy Sleeper?

Every year in fantasy football, we're tempted to grab a rookie receiver, in hopes that they perform as well in their rookie year as they did at the college level. Sometimes these choices come back to haunt us, proving that they were nothing but a waste of a roster spot, and other times we strike a gold mine. I believe Mike Evans will be one of those guys.

In his two years at Texas A&M, Mike Evans caught over 150 passes, accumulating 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns. Evans has tremendous size, standing at 6 feet 5 inches and over 230 pounds and can punish defenders with his strength. 

The Buccaneers have another giant receiver in Vincent Jackson and newly acquired quarterback Josh McCown. McCown is coming off a great year with the Bears, where he stepped into the starting role after Cutler was sidelined with an injury, throwing 15 touchdowns and just 1 interception. 

McCown had big receivers to throw to in Chicago with Brandon Marshall (6' 4") and Alshon Jeffery (6' 3") and has the same type of receivers in Tampa in Jackson and Evans. Jackson is a deep threat and will likely draw attention from opposing defenses, which will give opportunities for McCown to get Evans the ball. 

Evans is also a deep threat and a lethal weapon in the red zone. I believe Jackson will see a lot of the deep ball action, but when down in the red zone, I think Evans is going to be the favored receiver.

Evans is the complete package with size, strength and the ability to gain plenty of yards after the catch. If you're looking for a depth receiver late in your fantasy draft, be on the lookout for Mike Evans and if you can grab him in the 9th or 10th round, you're going to have a steal at the receiver position.

My prediction: 68 catches, 1,050 yards and 7 TDs

21 Jul

Will Michael Sam Be An Effective Player? Or A Major Distraction?

During this year's NFL draft, one of the biggest and most talked about stories was of Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who entered the draft as the first openly gay football player. The Rams went on to draft Sam late in the 7th round. Many speculated whether or not he was drafted late because of his talent, or the fact that he was gay.

The draft has now come and gone and teams are starting their official training camps as the pre season quickly approaches. The big question surrounding Michael Sam is whether or not he will be a successful NFL player and how big of a distraction he will be.

At this point it's kind of hard to say. Looking at Sam's college highlights and stats, he did perform well in Missouri, facing some tough teams as well, but the NFL is much different than college ball. Once the pre-season begins, we can get a better look at Sam and how he's going to perform at this level.

My opinion, is that no matter how good or bad of a player he is, Sam's presence on an NFL team will always be a distraction. No matter what you say or what you do, there will always be people who have a strong opinion for or against homosexuality. This includes pro athletes. There are going to be NFL players in that locker room with Sam, taking a shower, and are naturally going to feel uncomfortable. These are things that are out of the control of reporters, gay/lesbian activists and the coaches and are okay for players to feel. 

Another important thing to consider is what if Sam really isn't a good enough athlete to compete in the NFL? What if Sam is cut by the Ram's organization because of poor performance? You know very well that the media will take the fact that he's openly gay and run with it. People are going to treat him differently than other NFL players because he's gay, meaning if he was to get released from a team or traded, people are going to immediately put up their dukes and say that organization is a bigot or a homophobic because they released Michael Sam.

I hope that none of these things happen. Sam ultimately wants to be treated like any other football player and I honestly believe he's sincere when he says that. Hopefully the gay and lesbian groups can treat him like a normal human just as he wants to be, and not raise hell if Sam was to ever be cut or traded by a team and hopefully the teams treat him the same and give him a fair shot at making it in the NFL.

20 Jul

Eli Tomac Wins First Career 450 Event At Spring Creek

After missing the first four events of the year due to injury, GEICO Honda rider Eli Tomac has performed extremely well in his 450 rookie season. Tomac had worked his way through the pack in points standings, getting stronger and faster after each race and yesterday he got what he was seeking, his first 450 win.

Tomac went on to sweep the Spring Creek National, taking first place in both motos. This was a huge upset to the Red Bull KTM boys Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey as they have been the talk of this year's 450 class. Tomac may not have a real shot at winning the title, but that isn't stopping him from giving everything he has every race and riding like he is in the running for the championship.

After leading for half the race, points leader Ken Roczen saw his comfortable lead shrink down to less than a second as Tomac came in charging. This lead to a head-to-head between the two riders for an entire lap, making passes back and forth. In the end, Tomac would prove to be too much for the young German rider and would take the lead.

Roczen went on to finish third overall after taking fourth in the second Moto while Dungey took second in the 2nd moto.

Stewart would be kept off the podium once again after finishing 7th in moto 1, then leaving the second moto due to complications with the bike as well as dizziness that Stewart was experiencing.

After watching a dominant performance, you can't help but wonder what the points standings would have looked like had Tomac been healthy all season and not missed the first four events of the year. Roczen looked less than impressive in the second moto and now leads Dungey in the points standings by just 24 points.

19 Jul

Can The Minnesota Riders Of Dungey/Martin Take Spring Creek?

Photo Credit: Ryne Swanburg/Vurbmoto

The Lucas Oil Motocross Championship has brought us to Millville Minnesota today, which lays host to the Spring Creek National. Ken Roczen and Blake Baggett have been in most conversations the last couple of weeks, but today's biggest story is Minnesota natives Jeremy Martin and Ryan Dungey. The big question is, can these guys utilize the home field advantage and take the overall in their 450/250 class?

Dungey had good success last season, taking a 5th place and 1st place finish, taking the 3rd overall on the podium. James Stewart took the overall. Martin did just as well in the 250 class last season, taking a 2nd and 7th, finishing 4th overall, just shy of a podium finish. 

In his rookie season, Roczen took 35th then 2nd at Spring Creek. He's looking to have better success this year and continue his dominance in the 450 class.

Another rider to look for is James Stewart, who has been struggling in recent weeks. Stewart took the overall in Millville last season and looks to do the same this year. Stewart needs a solid ride this weekend, after seeing his third places points lead slip away last week to Trey Canard.

Cooper Webb is someone you need to look out for in the 250 class. Webb has been struggling lately. After trailing his teammate Martin for most of the season, he has fallen back to 3rd place in the standings and 63 points behind Martin. 

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