Thursday’s extended thought; interesting Backstrom, Burns stats

Posted on October 11th, 2007 – 3:10 PM
By Michael Russo

I don’t know where this is going to go, but I’m a little ticked off right now, so we’ll see.

I began covering the NHL in 1995 at age 21. I became a full-time NHL beat writer in 1997 at age 23. And when I was young, I wanted to pursue every single thing that was written about the Florida Panthers. If it proved to be true, I wanted to write it and if it proved to be wrong, I wanted to write it.

After about the 10th article that I wrote that began with the words, “Contrary to reports,” my editor, Brian White — the man who went out on a limb to convince the Sun-Sentinel highers-up to give this raw, inexperienced reporter the Panthers beat when several bona fide, high-profile NHL beat writers were willing to fork over one of their limbs to cover professional hockey in South Florida – called me at home.

Actually, I think he beeped me (remember those days?), and I called him back.

He said something like, “Mike, if people are writing stuff that is wrong about the team you cover, there is absolutely no reason to refute in the paper what they’re writing. I don’t like when we refute stories.”

In other words, what he was saying to me was two-fold. 1) Refuting other’s information only lends credence to what they were writing in the first place and 2) You’re going to be the voice of the Panthers and whatever you write, people will know to believe because you’re the one who’s plugged in.

Ever since, I’ve refused to refute stuff if I know it is not true. I didn’t go to school to be a journalist. I learned on the job (I worked at the Sun-Sentinel starting at age 16), so Brian White and every other sportswriter at the Sun-Sentinel were pretty much my teachers and that’s one of the lessons that stuck with me. 

Accuracy and objectivity are the two most important things at a newspaper.

This is why you don’t always read the juiciest Wild rumors in my stuff. I don’t throw stuff against the wall and pray it sticks. In Florida, I wrote a ton of stuff that did stick because there was always something happening with that team — firings, hirings, trades, locker-room dysfunction.

Here, there is rarely that kind of stuff because the Wild is as stable a professional sports franchise as there is. 

So to get back to the point, simply, I write what I know.

If I find out something — and I speak to several people in the NHL daily — and I believe it to be true, I report it.

That’s why you didn’t read 50 Manny Fernandez rumors. You just heard the one at the draft that I was 100 percent confident of — that Boston wanted him. Last year, you didn’t read 50 names of free agents the Wild was pursuing. I wrote on July 1 about the one name I knew it’d pursue that day — Mark Parrish.

Where am I going with this? The Pavol Demitra being unhappy in Minnesota rumor, the one I tried to quash the other day the moment I saw people on message boards were calling Demitra a “scumbag.”

Now I see people on this very blog are questioning why I just don’t go up to Demitra and ask him if he’s unhappy. Why?

Two reasons: I’m the one who walks through the Wild locker room daily, talks to players and gets a gauge of the climate, not a reporter north of the border. And, because I refuse to refute a story that I know is 100 percent false.

Now, I’ll tell you the genesis of the rumor in a couple of seconds, but I can promise you, even if I didn’t know the genesis of it, I would still not go up to Demitra and try to refute this. Why?

Because I have common sense, and if I would have just read this rumor Sunday rather than knowing the story previously, I’d realize it’s completely illogical.

You know the old adage, don’t believe everything you read? Well, before just believing everything you read, think about it first. Use common sense and then determine if the rumor makes sense.

As I said the other day, in no particular order, Pavol Demitra makes $4.5 million. He plays on the same line as his best friend in the entire world, Marian Gaborik. He’s so respected by the coach he reportedly hates, the coach gave him the captain’s C. That same coach gives him all the freedom in the world (other than Demitra’s desire to play with the same center all year). He plays for a contender. And he lives in this great state of ours.

A lot to be unhappy about indeed!

But unfortunately, another reporter writes something, and it catches fire because of the infinite amount of sites out there that just rip stuff off and post it on theirs. 

Wow, Fox Sports and Spectors and the message board — and RUSSO’S RANTS!!! –  picked up the original story, and now it’s got to be true? 

That’s just the day and age we live in — infinite cyberspace.

Now, the genesis: I really don’t want to get into specifics here because the reporter that wrote the original rumor is a good friend of mine.

But basically, each Thursday/Friday he sends out an email asking for rumors. As a joke, another reporter wrote back that Demitra’s unhappy in Minnesota and Peter Forsberg would sign with LA.

I got wind of this exchange last Thursday/Friday and called the jokester, who’s also a close friend, and said please make sure you call this other reporter and tell him you were joking because I think he’s going to write it and I don’t want to deal with the aftermath.

Well, it got written and I’m dealing with the aftermath. So there, that’s how it started.

I am refuting it, which is against my personal journalistic policy and that of Brian White’s. I pray this ends this. 

As for today’s practice, the team is preparing for its mother-son trip. The Star Tribune didn’t invite my mom, which has her a bit ticked off, by the way.

Lots of talk today about getting off to a good start on the road, as opposed to the 13-game road losing streak in the middle of last season. In fact, Doug Risebrough said it was a Nov. game in Phoenix, coincidentally enough, where he first felt the (road) wheels were coming off.

As I worked ahead today, there was lots of talk today about the first game in Anaheim on Sunday.

There was talk today about how good Minnesota’s defense has been — no even-strengthed goals in the first three games — how great Martin Skoula’s been the last two games and how Keith Carney was scratched for the first time since what he believes is his rookie year.

So as you can see, I was busy getting to work on stories you’ll be reading over the next two, three, four days.

And you’ll be happy to know Pavol Demitra was in the locker room very visibly smiling and cracking jokes left and right.


Here are some great Nik Backstrom stats dug up today by the Wild:– Nik Backstrom is 24-1-2 when leading at any point in a game — lone regulation loss coming Feb. 6 vs. Dallas when he led 2-0 and lost 4-2. 

– Backstrom is 16-0-0 when leading after two periods.

– Since officially taking over starting role Feb. 1 for Fernandez, Backstrom ranks first in the NHL in wins (21-3-3), first in shutouts (six), first in goals against average (1.80), first in save percentage (.933) and second in win percentage (.833).

– He’s 22-3-3 in his last 28 decisions.

– He’s 13-0-1 in his last 14 decisions since March 6.

– Has allowed two goals or less in 15 straight regular-season starts.

On Brent Burns, he leads all NHL defensemen in goals since March 11 (six). He has four winning goals in that span, tied for the league lead among forwards and defensemen (Milan Michalek and Mike Comrie).

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