Wild 3, Chicago Blackhawks 0; Havlat, Sykora score each goal; Sifers, Cuma battling for spot

Posted on September 20th, 2009 – 9:32 PM
By Michael Russo

Monday morning update: Just catching up on emails before I leave for the airport, and I noticed a lot of questions over the weekend about the guys put on waivers that can clear today or be claimed. There were a lot of concerns specifically on Stoner and Brust getting through. It would seem doubtful either would be claimed for this reason: If another team claims a player, that team must keep that player on the NHL roster. If that team tries to then place the player in the minors, the player must be placed on waivers again and the original team that lost that player gets first dibs at reclaiming the player.

So, unless it’s a legit NHLer, very rarely will a minor-leaguer be claimed off waivers in training camp. Remember, most teams have 35-40 guys left in camp vying for spots. Very rarely will they claim a minor leaguer unless it’s a shoo-in to make the club. Now, the big decision in camp would be Benoit Pouliot. As I wrote before camp, for the first time in his career, Pouliot requires waivers to be sent to the minors. Because there’s so much untapped potential there, he’d be the biggest risk to send down, which is why GM Chuck Fletcher said before camp that it was essential the Wild made a proper evaluation on him because of the risk of losing him via waivers. That’s why he’s got a real good chance of sticking.

OK, just a waiver refresher for everybody. When I land in Columbus, I’ll let you know if the six players cleared or not and hopefully have a lineup for tonight’s game to stick on the blog. Have a good Monday everyone. 

Good evening from high above the X ice where I’ve been for going on 13 hours. Tired, and a little sore — and I didn’t even play. I hope I remember where I parked.

Good show for the soldout crowd. I don’t usually endorse spending hard-earned cash on exhibition hockey, but the two home games have been entertaining. The hockey wasn’t the greatest tonight, but Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora definitely have the flair for the dramatic and there were five rockem, sockem, throw-em down fights — Nathan Smith, John Scott, Tyler Cuma, Jaime Sifers and Matt Kassian.

Boy, Havlat introduced himself well to the hometown fans tonight. Scores a goal on his first shift with two tremendous moves in the neutral zone, and then buries a 5-on-3 goalmouth pass from Cal Clutterbuck later in the third. Petr Sykora also scored a beauty.

As I joked on Twitter, who ever thought Wild fans would one day fall in love with agent Allan Walsh after the Marian Gaborik holdout of 2003? But Walsh represents Havlat and Sykora, and it was Walsh who made the phone call bright and early July 1 to put Havlat here, and he tried all summer to marry Sykora and the Wild.

I’ve told you all summer Havlat, when healthy, can score goals a million different ways. In that way, he’s very different than Gaborik. Havlat is as good a one-on-one player as there is in the NHL. He can make you look, bluntly, stupid as a defender, and he took one defender to school twice on his first shift tonight. Gaborik just beat ya with pure speed, and a deadly wrister, but one-on-one, he very rarely could dipsy-doodle around a defender and still have the puck on his stick at the other side.

If healthy, you’re going to love Havlat. And Sykora is just a goal scorer. Once he gets into great game shape, he’ll be fine.

Benoit Pouliot got the gift of playing between the two tonight, and he impressed. Hey, if you can’t get engaged playing between Havlat and Sykora, you should probably find another line of work. Pouliot showed off his skill, he was solid defensively and he was physical.

The seventh defensemen spot is starting to get interesting. John Scott seemed like a lock because of the one-way deal, one that was given to him after Doug Risebrough was fired and before Chuck Fletcher was hired. But Jaime Sifers, who played 23 games for the Maple Leafs, was solid again tonight and is starting to really impress the highers-up, especially coach Todd Richards. Tyler Cuma had his ups and downs tonight, but he’s just so poised.

If either of these guys warrant a roster spot, Chuck Fletcher said he’d have no qualms putting a one-way contract in the minors (if it’s Scott, he’d be paid 550K to play in Houston). 

Problem is Cuma’s junior-eligible or Wild-eligible, nothing else. Unless there’s injuries, and Shane Hnidy is banged up but not seriously, it’s going to be awfully difficult for him to make the team over Sifers, who looks good. The Wild could have a trial period for Cuma, which I explained in the paper, where he could play here for nine games and then be sent back without the contract counting (cap hit yes, but not year of deal). He can be on roster up to 39 games without a year of free agency counting.

When GM Chuck Fletcher was assistant GM with Pittsburgh, the Penguins sent Kris Letang back to his junior team, Val-d’Or, in 2006 after seven games. The same year, the Penguins had to make decisions on Jordan Staal before his 10th game and the team’s 40th.

“It was clear Letang needed more junior,” Fletcher said. “With Staal, it was clear he was performing. It was the right thing to keep him. He earned that right. I mean, he finished with 29 goals.”

But, to me, if Cuma’s good enough, he stays the full amount. If he isn’t, they’ll send him back. That’ll be clear at the end of camp in my opinion. So I really feel a “trial period” is unlikely. He either sticks or doesn’t.

And I can tell you there are some people in this organization who are still here who weren’t happy with the previous regime’s philosophy of just putting junior-eligible kids on the team. So, if Cuma sticks around, it is because he is one of the top-seven defensemen — plain and simple (hope all this makes sense, I’m writing fast).

OK, that’s it. I want to get home, pack, get some sleep and get to Columbus. I won’t be at practice tomorrow because of my flight, so unless there’s news, only thing on the blog before tomorrow’s game will be the lineup once I get it.

Richards hadn’t finalized it after tonight’s game. Good night.

Comments are closed.