By Michael Russo
I guess it wasn’t so weird a few weeks ago when I wrote about Joel Quenneville wearing a Blackhawks jacket in the stands. Four games into the season, Denis Savard is gone in Chicago. I’d say there’s pretty good pressure to win, eh?
OK, on to the Wild, where it was a pretty busy day down at the Bank.
Marian Gaborik is out tonight with what the team is calling a “lower body” injury. That means three of the Wild’s top six forwards and one of its top four defensemen are already injured and out. The Wild has changed Pierre-Marc Bouchard from back to lower body. I thought the back was upper. Maybe it’s middle.
Owen Nolan is lower body. Marek Zidlicky has a sprained ankle, but the Wild is calling it lower body.
More on this policy below, one in which Doug Risebrough conveyed to the players during a team meeting before today’s skate.
Defenseman Tomas Mojzis will make his Wild debut tonight, only at wing. He seemed a little worried about the position change in his first game, but he was very excited to get in. And if you’ve watched his offensive instincts, he might be a good wing if he gets some ice time.
The way players are dropping like the stock market, Jacques Lemaire joked that the team would wait to call a player up after tonight’s game just in case they get a few more injuries. This way they can only make one call to Houston and “save 50 cents.”
I don’t know when Gaborik hurt his “lower body” because he was certainly playing soccer hackysack/volleyball for about 45 minutes yesterday with Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and Eric Belanger. He did have his right upper thigh/groin area wrapped with ice after the game in Atlanta when he was interviewed by me, but that’s not abnormal with Gaborik, who gets iced down after every game due to his history of groin, hip and other leg ailments.
Gaborik was nowhere to be found this morning and I did not see him getting treatment, but he could have been there and I just didn’t see him. I did look.
Doug Risebrough swears he’s injured and is not being held out for any ulterior reasons, like I’m sure you’re speculating on. I left a message on Gaborik’s cell. I have a call into Gaborik’s agent, Ron Salcer, whom I talked to last night, to make sure. Salcer flew into Tampa yesterday so he could meet with Gaborik this weekend, but there has been no meeting scheduled with Risebrough or assistant GM Tom Lynn.
In fact, both Salcer yesterday and Risebrough today said that there has been no talking whatsoever between the sides at all.
Of course, any injury to Gaborik not only hurts his bargaining power with the Wild, but the Wild’s ability to trade him. This just again reinforces the continuous injury worries with Gaborik.
As for the injuries, this summer the general managers voted 28-2 to basically not tell the media anything specific with injuries. I guess the NHL, which is just overloaded with media coverage and fans, doesn’t realize that our job is not to be an annoyance, but to actually inform the fans that pay $114 a ticket to watch their product.
I think the fans deserve to know what’s going on with their favorite teams. The league, and now the Wild, doesn’t think so. They say it creates a competitive disadvantage. Risebrough said timeframes will be vague, too, which I have always maintained is completely unfair to the fans. Fans shell out big money to see teams play. They deserve to know what players are playing.
So far, some teams have gone with the new policy. Others haven’t. In Atlanta, John Anderson was very forthcoming with the media about the Thrashers’ injury situation. In Florida yesterday, coach Pete DeBoer gave a full, specific injury report of four players, right down to the swelling in Bryan Allen’s knee. And Allen, and two others he mentioned, are playing tonight.
This will be a contentious thing throughout the season and can only lead to misinformation.
That’s it from here. Lots of work to do, and you’ll read more about Gaborik in tomorrow’s paper.