By Michael Russo
I know, very late blog for a daily…But I didn’t get back to the hotel until 5:30 CT from practice, had some radio to do, had some writing to do for the newspaper I’m 100 percent positive you all get delivered everyday, and now, here I am with a quick update before I can get out into this WARM, BEAUTIFUL, STEAMY ARIZONA EVENING.
Sorry, couldn’t resist.
I should have documented practice with my Blackberry camera again. I know how clear those pictures were for you all, eh? If this gig doesn’t work out, I’ve got a future as professional photographer.
Marian Gaborik practiced for a second day in a row, and so far, so good. He even took a nasty spill today in practice when he flew head-first into the goal. Luckily, unlike the old days, the net came off the moorings. He got up with a big smile, which is a good sign because he survived (and so did his groins!!!).
On Gaborik wanting to play this trip, coach Jacques Lemaire said, “What? He said that to you? That’s good news. I’m happy that he thinks like that, but myself, I don’t know when he’s going to play. The only thing I know he came on the trip, he had one practice yesterday, he had one practice today, I don’t think he’ll play tomorrow. We practice Friday, and I don’t see him play Saturday. And if he doesn’t play Saturday, I don’t see him play Sunday. But it’s good that he thinks he’s going to play. I’m glad that he thinks like this.”
I’d say next week on the homestand is a good bet.
Onward. The last time I was in Phoenix on Nov. 1, I did some checking and found out the Wild didn’t inquire about Mats Sundin. The last couple days, I’ve gotten some emails from a few readers asking why the Wild hasn’t gone after Sundin, especially considering James Sheppard (two goals) and Benoit Pouliot (five goals, none since Nov. 15) are showing continued inconsistency.
So, I guess Phoenix is where I do my Sundin investigations. I did some checking today, and multiple sources confirmed the Wild went after Sundin hard. A source close to Sundin said the Wild made “a very good presentation and argument for team success if he would come.”
But, alas, Sundin’s cut “his Western Conference options” to two teams that have been speaking to him since the summer. Neither is the Wild, which is a shame for the Wild because Sundin’s still a top echelon gamer at age 37 and could have helped catapult the Wild into a truer contender.
But signs are the Wild, which has slipped to seventh in the West and four points behind Vancouver with three games in hand, will keep looking. It’s the big reason Tomas Mojzis and Krys Kolanos aren’t here, and the Wild has a roster with only one extra healthy player now (not including Gaborik).
The Wild is trying to save every ounce of cap space to give it as much flexibility to make an eventual move for a centerman.
The search has been going on for awhile. At last year’s trade deadline, the Wild tried to trade for Olli Jokinen and Sundin, and sign Peter Forsberg. At the Draft, it tried to trade for Jokinen. In free agency, it tried to sign Brendan Morrison. And this is just what I know. I’m sure there’s been more.
So far, Doug Risebrough hasn’t been able to connect.
But it’s a priority, which will be made clear to you in Thursday’s paper when you read Lemaire’s pointed quotes aimed at young Sheppard.
Personally, I think the Wild expected an awful lot out of Sheppard this year. He’s only 20. Yet, Risebrough said before the season the Wild put itself in a position where Sheppard had to break through, and Lemaire said before the season Sheppard needed to be “that Mikko Koivu of two years ago.”
But again, he’s only 20. As I said recently on a radio show, just because Risebrough refused to trade Sheppard for Olli Jokinen doesn’t make him Olli Jokinen yet. Those expectations for this year seemed to be then and definitely are now unrealistic.
Anyway, in other news, Owen Nolan didn’t make the trip. On a regular line today was Colton Gillies.
That’s it for now. On Thursday, I’ll be on with Chad Hartman on KFAN at 2:20 CT and Hockey Night in Canada Radio at 5 p.m. CT. Yes, I am overexposed.
Night everybody in the wintry Twin Cities.