By Michael Russo
Hey everyone. I apologize this took so long to post.
Don Stevens: I know not many Wild fans in Minny will care that much about the Penguins possible move, but I now live in Kansas City and miss the NHL. Is Mario going to make up his mind soon or continue waiting/leveraging Pittsburgh until the last moment? Russo: Don, I feel it’s all posturing. I found it very eye-opening that the day after Mario Lemieux met with the Kansas City officials in January, he met with the Pittsburgh officials the very next day. Reportedly, an arena deal is very close, and I can’t imagine this team will leave Pittsburgh. Sorry.
Troublemaker: Do you think there is any possibility of the Wild trading Fernandez before the deadline?
Russo: I just don’t see it happening. First of all, he’s hurt, which would scare off any playoff contender. And honestly, the only contender in need of goaltending is Tampa Bay, and the Lightning is at the cap and plans to cut costs significantly next year. The Lightning already has three players alone making $20 million, and to trade for Fernandez, you have to take on his $3.5 million salary each of the next two years. Next, in order to trade Fernandez, you’d have to sign Backstrom to a long-term contract now to ensure you have a quality goaltender for next season and beyond. Third, the Wild is contending for a playoff spot. It seems like a huge risk to just trade your No. 1 goalie just because Backstrom’s had a couple nice starts in a row. Plus, to trade Fernandez, you’d want to get significant long-term pieces back (you’re not giving him up for a rental). The Wild can’t take on excessive contracts right now because it MUST save as much space as possible this summer to re-sign Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu, and also have the room to match just in case some other team swoops in with an offer sheet. These type of trades usually happen in the summer anyway.
Michael Sandness: Any comments on the Wild captaincy rotation would be great. My comment is that I think it has become silly. Will the referees respect Parrish less than Rolston, or, are we waiting for Mikko to become that guy? Or, is it Jacques way of keeping everyone on their toes and not letting anyone become bigger than the other?
Russo: I’m not a fan either, although if it’s a light news day on the first of the month, well, there’s an easy story. I say, pick one. Brian Rolston is a prototypical captain if there ever was one in this franchise. Paste the ‘C’ on his chest. But I can promise you, I’ve asked a million times. This is Jacques’ baby, and he’s sticking to it.
Bill says: Do you think the wild will look into getting another center before the trade deadline? They have a horrible win loss percentage on the draws and that won’t work in the playoffs.
Russo: They better. This was a problem last year, too. As you noted, the Wild is the second-worst faceoff team in the NHL. Faceoff wins are critical in hockey. How many power plays this season have been decimated because the Wild loses the draw and spend a minute trying to get back into the zone? This team wastes too much energy trying to chase down pucks because it can’t gain possession in the first place.
Ballgame says: Who would the Wild be willing to give up to get Forsberg? Is there anyone else out there that the Wild might snag? Are there any taker’s for Pascal?
Russo: I don’t see the Wild being in that game. The price is too high, and Risebrough told me last night he’s not willing to even give up a first-round pick at the deadline. The other thing, the Wild has only $1.3 of cap space. Forsberg makes $5.75 million. That’s $30,749 a day. Multiply that by 40 days left in the season if the Wild got him at the deadline, and it would cost $1.229 million. Of course, the Wild could lose salary for him, but they have to save room for injuries. And what are you going to give up for a rental with injury problems like Forsberg? Pouliot? To me, it makes no sense. But I do agree they could use a center. As for Pascal, so far no takers. Remember, right after the Wild let everybody know he was available, everybody got hurt. He’s playing great lately, which could open some eyes. Then again, if he plays like last night at Phoenix, I’d keep him. He was very good.
evegoe says: Are there un-named sources in the organization who have strong feelings about the schedule, re-alignment, and the board of govs having 11 teams block their attempts at re-doing the schedule? How do the players feel about it?
Russo: There are named sources, Doug Risebrough and Jacques Lemaire. They’d love realignment, and they’d like a schedule change, but it’s not happening – at least next season. The league will wait a year and pray the selfish owners out there who only care about their teams wake up and realize this league isn’t healthy in all 30 markets. Most players are BORED with the schedule, just like the fans. They want to see more teams and less in their own division.
WildHooBear says: Does Lemaire’s system of constantly mixing forwards lead to more “too many men on the ice” penalties? How do they work the matchups and communication on the bench? Home and away? What are the Wild basic forecheck systems in the offensive zone?
Russo: Amazingly, while I’ve covered the team at least (two seasons), they haven’t had an exorbitant number of too-many-men penalties. On the bench, players describe it as “controlled chaos.” Jacques is constantly scrambling lines. When they had an abundance of injuries at center, there were games where Pascal Dupuis was playing center and wing. Dupuis would have his name called, he’d go on the ice and had to pay attention whom he was going on for just to know what position to play. As for a system, the Wild uses the center high in the offensive system with two forecheckers most of the time. This way the center can work down low as a third defenseman in the defensive zone. As Lemaire says, “The job we ask from our centers, nobody wants to go there.”