Digesting Wild’s injury situation; Trade on the horizon?; Fox Sports North to announce HD sched Tuesday

Posted on October 12th, 2009 – 8:12 PM
By Michael Russo

It’s like the survival of the fittest around the Wild these days. Take today, for example.

After GM Chuck Fletcher informed the media that Cal Clutterbuck will be out a matter of “weeks” with a sprained ankle, that Pierre-Marc Bouchard is still out indefinitely with a concussion and that Petr Sykora is doubtful Wednesday against Anaheim with a sore groin, I sat down and watched practice.

In a 5-minute span, Martin Havlat crashed into the boards, Mikko Koivu crashed into the goal and Benoit Poiliot crashed into a teammate. At the end, Jaime Sifers’ skate hit a rut and he crashed backwards onto the ice.

All four are OK, but the scenes were pretty much par for the course for what’s been going on with the Wild since the start of training camp, when players began dropping like flies. Now the team’s 1-3, sitting 15th in the conference — granted very early in the season though.

But now Clutterbuck’s going to potentially be out weeks. He’ll have an MRI when the swelling subsides to determine the extent of the sprained ankle, but there’s a chance it’s a high ankle sprain, which is often a 6-to-8 week injury — at least.

Bouchard saw famed neurologist Dr. James Kelly over the weekend. And while the Wild doesn’t yet have Dr. Kelly’s report, it doesn’t look good. Fletcher said the Wild plans on letting Bouchard rest for a good while to get him right.

For a team with not a lot of skill, it’s not good that one of the Wild’s most skilled forwards will be gone for awhile. And now, the team’s most physical forward will be out for awhile.

Derek Boogaard’s back though. Believe it or not, even though he’s returning from a concussion, he’s spent the past two weeks boxing here in L.A. with some very “well-known people” — i.e. celebrities. Maybe one day he’ll let me write about which celebrities because it’s a pretty interesting story.

Asked how someone with a concussion boxes for two weeks, Boogaard was sorta like, what’s the big deal? He said he wanted to get back into shape and see how his head reacted by taking punches. He said he’s completely cleared up. By the way, Boogaard said he suffered that Sept. 18 concussion not by a stick hitting his chin, but by Raffi Torres hitting his jaw on a check (not from a stick to the chin).

So, back to the injuries. Now what?

Fletcher has been getting a lot of phone calls from GM’s in the last few days. That often happens when other GM’s read that you’re suffering injury after injury.

I know Fletcher’s talking, but I don’t see much help coming. Here’s the problem. What does he have to trade that isn’t Mikko Koivu or Brent Burns or somebody like that?

Plus, how do you trade draft picks? There’s very little skill in Houston. The reason why is the Wild hasn’t drafted much skill to put in Houston.

So while Fletcher can probably trade draft picks for players, how do you justify that when you need to somehow use those picks to hopefully add skill to this organization. In other words, if you trade your draft picks like yesteryear’s Wild, how do you ever catch up? 

Fletcher just doesn’t have a lot of options that I see. I know I’ve harped on this before during some very critical columns last season of the previous regime, but I’ve watched a lot of hockey in the last few weeks. The Wild are so far behind other organizations right now in terms of bright young talent on the roster and in the system, it is downright frightening.

Years of being competitive (not picking high enough), years of trading draft picks, years of sub-par draft picks and years of letting free agents walk away for nothing has left this organization in a terrible position.

There are some good veterans down in Houston, some good defensemen in Houston and in juniors, some sandpaper. But skill? Not much skill from Andy Hilbert, Nathan Smith. Good vets. Not much skill.

Colton Gillies was held out this past weekend with a broken nose, so that’s probably why he’s not coming up. Plus, he’s a big cap hit and the Wild is trying to save cap space to hopefully make a significant move at some point. That’s why the callups came after 4 p.m. so today wouldn’t be charged to the cap.

The Wild desperately needs James Sheppard and Benoit Poulot now to step up, snag the available ice time and prove their worth. This is their opportunity. They must grab it now, or the Wild’s in deep trouble.

If they don’t, the Wild will be able to infuse some skill into the organization around next June with a lottery pick.

How about that for a negative finish to a negative blog to put you all in a negative mood? Sorry, but the truth hurts.

Lastly, Fox Sports North will release its 35-game HD schedule Tuesday. It’s 15 more games than last year and starts with Wednesday’s game against Anaheim.

I had an incredible day yesterday. I went up to Napa and checked out a bunch of wineries, including Val Bure and Candace Cameron Bure’s winery at Chateau Boswell in St. Helena. Just a great time. I’ll probably do my Sunday column on that and maybe I’ll tell you more about my day tomorrow. It was a fun one.

I have a cool day planned Tuesday. Besides practice, I’m going to the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana to check out the Science of Hockey exhibit. It’s the largest interactive and educational hockey exhibition in the U.S.

OK, that is it. Wild players by the way are probably currently in traffic. They’re on their way to Costa Mesa for a team dinner. Speaking of dinner, buh-bye.

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