Nine hours from opener; Lemaire nearly fired last season; Checking in w/ Risebrough

Posted on October 3rd, 2009 – 8:10 AM
By Michael Russo

Good morning from Columbus, where I got a big tip from an omelette chef this morning: “If you stay a couple more minutes, some Minnesota hockey players will be in here. They’re staying in the hotel.”

Russo: “Really? Wow. Do they have any good players?”

Chef: “Uh, yeah. I think so.”

Russo: “Cool. Maybe I’ll wait in the lobby and get some autographs. I think they have that guy, Sidney Crosby.”


I know. I know. I’m a jerk.

If you want to hear more from this jerk, I’ll be on NHL Network and XM Radio at 10:07 a.m. CT, 11:07 am ET. I said 10:50 yesterday, but my slot’s been moved up.

The opener’s just around the corner now, and to quote Kramer from Seinfeld when he was waiting to pass his stone, “the suspense is killing me.”

Hopefully you read today’s coverage, but if you didn’t, here’s the main focusing on the relationship between Todd Richards and Chuck Fletcher.

In there, you will notice something that I’ve discovered recently. Last winter, GM Doug Risebrough came very close to firing coach Jacques Lemaire. It was told to me from an impeccable source, and if you read between the lines, confirmed by Risebrough. All he had to do was deny it. He didn’t. He just said it was “irrelevant” what he might have done last season because neither is here anymore.

There’s a lot of background that I know on it that I’m just not able to share as of now, but basically, during last season’s terrible December, there was a lot of discussion internally about firing Lemaire. The decision was made to do so, but to wait until early January for a specific reason. But the Wild started to play better and Risebrough never pulled the trigger. Like I said, there’s other facts here, but as of now, I can’t share it.

The relationship between Lemaire and Risebrough was severely fractured in the second half, according to sources. But I also know Lemaire found out he was almost fired, so I think one big reason he quit immediately after the season without even telling Risebrough was he wasn’t to beat the team to the punch. If he was almost fired in the middle of the season, there is no doubt he would have been fired after a non-playoff season.

Regardless, the point of the story is the new regime will be very different than the old one. In the old one, Risebrough managed and Lemaire coached, which is a healthy way to do things in many circumstances. But they often weren’t on the same page because they worked so independently of each other. Richards and Fletcher will be a collaboration on most decisions.

Speaking of Risebrough, I talked to him Thursday as I mentioned. He just got back from a 19-day hike through Sierra Nevada. He said it wasn’t until he was about 12 days into the hike that he realized he could actually make it. One guy about a day ahead of him actually had an altitude emergency and had to be helicoptered out of there.

“Everyday you wake up, and one knee’s sore, or one leg’s sore or your back’s hurting. Finally after about 12 days, your body kind of beats itself into shape and you end up just persevering. If there’s 20 hikes in the world, this would probably be in the top-20 and probably the top hike in the United States.”

He’s spent most his summer in Banff and Palm Springs and said he’s put about 13,000 miles on his car.

He was up for the Florida GM job, but he finally pulled out when it became clear to him that owner Alan Cohen was having trouble selling the team. In fact, the Panthers never hired a GM because of it and yesterday finally took the interim label off Randy Sexton’s tag by default.

Risebrough doesn’t know what he’ll do next, although I still assume he’ll kinda sorta be reunited with Marian Gaborik in a way. I think he’ll be helping Rangers GM and pal Glen Sather either as a scout or an advisor until the next job comes up. And in the NHL, if you saw the musical chairs this summer that I put in Thursday’s paper, jobs always become available.

I’ll update this from the morning skate.

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