Brent Burns


Hockey’s on the Horizon; Catching up w/ Bruno, Burnzie, Steph, etc…

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Training camp is less than two weeks away, and amazingly, two weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday) will be the Wild’s first exhibition game in St. Louis on just the third day of training camp.

Something tells me that first lineup coach Todd Richards uses won’t be a true indication of the Wild’s actual Opening Night lineup. Just a guess. We might see a whole lot of Jaime Sifers and Jamie Fraser. Heck, the Wild might have to summon Eero Elo from the Finnish wilderness for that Blues tilt.

Yep, hockey’s just around the corner. Went down to watch a bunch of NHLers/Wild players skate this morning in the camp put on by the Octagon player rep agency. The Wild players there this morning included in no particular order Brent Burns, Owen Nolan, John Scott, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Josh Harding and Andrew Brunette. In the coming days, other Wild players expected to skate there include Derek Boogaard (just wasn’t there today), Nick Schultz (in Chicago busy firing the NHLPA Executive Director), Greg Zanon, Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and others.

Other NHLers there this morning include Florida’s Keith Ballard, Tampa Bay’s Mike Lundin, Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski, the Isles’ Tim Jackman, Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien, Pittsburgh’s Wyatt Smith, Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, Montreal’s Andrew Conboy, Ben Clymer and Erik Rasmussen, among others. Mark Parrish is also skating there, but he was at the doctor today because his wife is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Parrish’s only NHL option right now could be the Islanders, but Parrish might be forced to choose between Europe and retiring.

There were also a bunch of college or high school kids there, including Josh Birkholz (Gophers), Max Gardiner (Minnetonka High, Gophers recruit), Zach Budish (Edina, incoming Gopher), Anders Lee (Edina, Notre Dame recruit), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Gophers recruit), Nick Mattson (Indiana, USHL; UND), Travis Boyd (U-17 US team, Gophers recruit), Seth Ambroz (Gophers recruit), Christian Isackson (St.Thomas Academy, Gophers recruit) and Nick Jensen (Green Bay, USHL; St. Cloud State recruit).

Oh!!! And Tampa Bay’s Stephane Veilleux, whose hair color resembles the Gophers’ colors I suppose, was there. I talked with Veilleux for awhile, and he had a fun summer, going to Wimbledon and visiting good chum and former Wild roommate Mikko Koivu in Finland. I’ll write more about Veilleux when the Wild visits Tampa in November, but he wanted me to thank the fans and tell you how much he’ll miss playing here. He said he badly wanted to stay but understands it’s a business.

He confirmed to me what I wrote a few days ago — he turned down a two-year deal from San Jose to take one from Tampa. He said it was an agonizing decision because he said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who used to coach him in Houston, called him two minutes after free agency began. But in the end, Veilleux was told he’d have a chance to play on the second line in Tampa. He feels he owes it to himself to give that a try. He says if you look at his history here, like when he played with Marian Gaborik every training camp during exhibition games, he was able to put up points. But the second the season started, Jacques Lemaire put him back to where the coach felt comfortable with Veilleux — on the checking line.

Veilleux says if he can have the same type of camp he normally had in Minnesota, he feels he can prove to Tampa Bay he can play with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the left side of that No. 2 line. If you look at Tampa’s top-six, there’s a definite left-wing slot open, so we’ll see if Veilleux can pull it off. Of course, one would think former linemate Wes Walz, a Tampa Bay assistant, knows Veilleux better than most anybody, and I’m betting coach Rick Tocchet eventually has Veilleux on that checking line where he’s proven he can be effective.

Here’s a smattering of other little tidbits:

– I shot the breeze with a number of NHLers this morning about NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly getting fired. TSN’s Darren Dreger has done a superb job covering this from the outset and he’s in Chicago, so I direct you to tsn.ca/nhl for his coverage. We’ve been hearing a clamoring of discontent for months, and it became clear this summer that Kelly was in trouble when General Counsel Ian Penny had his contract extended without Kelly’s knowledge. But there’s got to be a lot more to this than Kelly allegedly being chummier with the Commissioner’s office than the players would like. This will all come out I’m sure as the Executive Board — guys like Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Ference — and 30 player reps communicate the reasons to the membership. But since Kelly’s dismissal and reasons for it didn’t have to go to vote to all 600 or so players, I can tell you there are some very confused and concerned members.

Regardless, the players I talked to are very concerned about what they were calling the “circus” internally at the NHLPA. I’ll have a lot more on this once my daily hockey coverage begins again, but this really should be something all fans pay attention to because it appears as if the union’s gearing up for a fight with the league in the next CBA negotiations.

– Brent Burns looks like his old self. No signs of concussion or shoulder problems, smiling again, chirping opponents like that stinkin’ Pierre-Marc Bouchard and just being a presence every time he skated this morning.

– Andrew Brunette looked very good this morning, and he’s only four months from reconstructive knee surgery. He certainly had no problem schooling some of the high school kids with a couple sick passes in traffic during one shift. Brunette said physically he feels good, but now it’s just a matter of feeling comfortable on the knee and getting over the mental hurdles of stops and starts and turning. “Just knowing I can do it,” Brunette said.

– As I’m sure most of you know because the Wild’s roster has shown the change for weeks, but goalie Josh Harding is changing his number to No. 37. Trivia question for the comment section: Who’s the only Wild player to ever wear No. 37? You’ve got to have an encyclopedia Wild mind to get this answer.

The winner gets to start paying for Russo’s Rants. Congratulations. :)

What else? What else? Let me go to my twitter real quick; I tweeted while I was in the chair waiting for my oral surgeon because I knew I would forget some things.

Oh, Owen Nolan’s goatee is one thick straight line down to below his chin. If he was walking toward you at night and you didn’t know whom he was, you’d hide your pet poodle because you’d be afraid he’d kick it.

Didn’t you miss me? That … is … it … for … now.

Lots more puck talk to come, but at a later date.

Wild unveils third jersey

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

burns_third_jersey.jpgboogaard_third_jersey.jpg

Burns                 Boogaard

The Wild unveiled its third jersey today at the State Fair. Enforcer Derek Boogaard donned the new green sweater, which I think looks pretty sharp in person. Not at home, so here is a link to the Wild story and photo gallery.

Boogaard estimates he signed about 800 autographs after.

Wild third jersey leaked

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The third jersey being leaked has probably already been a talker on the below post, but I was at the doctor getting my dry sockets packed with the most disgusting tasting medicated pads you can ever imagine. :)

The third jersey was unearthed by the web site icethetics.info at this link. Brent Burns and Derek Boogaard can be seen modeling the new third jersey. It was apparently found on the Wild’s redesigned web site (built by the NHL), which is due to be launched Sunday.

In other news, TSN.ca is reporting that Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom is stepping down to make an on-ice ref comeback. That’s good news for the quality of officiating. Walkom was one of the best refs in the league before he took on the new role.

Also, TSN’s also reporting that Philly’s Simon Gagne has been injured on Day One of Canada’s Olympic orientation camp and is not expected to return to the ice today.

Fletcher continues to work trade market

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Good morning everyone. Nothing like the NHL schedule being released to really get one pumped up for the season.

Spent last night booking hotels through December. Might as well get a jump on it, eh?

I’m about to take some R&R, and I mean it this time. The blog and newspaper will continue to be updated by others when news breaks, but I’m going to do my best to take a giant step back for the next number of weeks.

As far as news on the horizon, there will likely be little minor-league, depth signings (I hear Duncan Milroy and Jon DiSalvatore), the negotiations and eventual signings of Josh Harding and Kyle Brodziak (Brodziak has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 31, but it would be shocking if it got there) and the release of the preseason schedule (although I think it’s pretty much ironed down on the previous blog).

The team will likely also plan some sort of trip in the middle of camp as team-building (Pittsburgh and Anaheim used to do this when Chuck Fletcher was there). A reader (or maybe readers) also emailed me recently to see if I can ask Fletcher if the team would try to get an East Coast Hockey League affiliate. I asked Fletcher the other day, and he and assistant to the GM Jim Mill plan to investigate this. Fletcher doesn’t feel it’s a pressing issue, but if there’s a possibility out there, it could happen in time for next season.

As for the current roster, Fletcher says he continues to scour the trade market and that if there’s a next move this summer, that’ll likely be it. He said there are a few quality free agents out there, but none that really gets his appetite whet.

As I reported earlier this summer, he’s willing to go a player or two short deep into the summer with the hope of having the cap space and roster flexibility to make a move.

“I think we still have some cap flexibility and there are teams that need to acquire cap flexibility,” Fletcher said. ”So there’s certainly the ability to acquire somebody by trade if something makes sense. We’ll look at all the options and see what makes sense and see what the best fit is. But with this group, we feel comfortable going into training camp if it doesn’t happen.

“I don’t think it was the deepest free-agent class to begin with. There was a pretty good rush on July 1. There are still some possibilities out there. But in the cap system, once you spend your money, it’s spent. So how patient do you want to be? There’s certainly conversation now amongst teams and I expect there will continue to be right until the trade deadline. So the question would be: When do you want to make your play and what makes sense? It’s obviously the process we’re going through on a daily and weekly basis, but it’s tough to handicap.”

So what is Fletcher saying here?

Later in the summer or into next season, some teams are likely going to have to move some bigtime players to get under the $56.8 million cap ceiling or create cap flexibility going into next summer. I know some fans are dying for the team to take a “risk,” but the risk has to be the right one. And if there are no free agents out there, there are no free agents — plain and simple.

You can’t dump players in an NHL world with guaranteed contracts, so if you make a mistake and spend your money on a player that is inferior to one maybe you can get via trade later on, you simply can’t make the next move.

So Fletcher wants to save the cap space now to allow him to hopefully trade for a significant player.

Remember, teams can go over the cap by 10 percent during the summer as long as they get below the ceiling by the last day of training camp. Boston, Ottawa and Chicago are over the cap right now. San Jose’s not over the cap, but if you plug in three or four holes the Sharks still have on their roster, they’re basically over the cap.

What does this mean? Maybe Phil Kessel still becomes available in Boston. Maybe Ottawa’s Dany Heatley can still be had. Maybe Jonathan Cheechoo in San Jose. Eventually, Chicago will undoubtedly have to dump salary — whether that’s Patrick Kane himself, or a Patrick Sharp or Dustin Byfuglien.

The Blackhawks might be fine going into the season because if you send Brent Sopel to the minors and one of their one-way contract goalies (Crawford or Niemi), by my math, they’re under the cap for this season (BUT BARELY).

So do you really want to sign Mike Comrie or Jason Williams now if there’s some sort of chance to maybe land a Patrick Sharp?

This is the stuff that has to be weighed. I agree that when you look at the Wild’s depth chart as it currently stands, there’s one giant hole — whether it’s a top center, or if Pierre-Marc Bouchard can fill that hole, a scoring winger.

But sometimes it’s better to wait — especially if there are few exciting free agents available.

As you can tell, it’s hard to make a trade right now in the NHL. The only really substantial one that’s happened since the end of the season was Chris Pronger to Philly, and the Flyers paid an enormous price.

It’s hard to move money outright. Even if you take a pretty good player for a pick or prospect, teams are still asking you to take a player back to balance it off a little bit. It’s not quite like the NBA, but teams are trying to balance contracts and money all the time.

But there are teams like the Wild that have left a little flexibility, so just maybe you can take a $3 or $4 million player from Chicago and not make the Blackhawks take a contract back.

Interestingly, a team that’s left a lot of flexibility is New Jersey. Lou Lamoriello’s left a lot of cap room, which is interesting to me because historically the Devils are a team at the other end. They still have to re-sign Zajac, but by laying in the weeds, Lamoriello’s another guy I expect to eventually make a move.

OK, as usual, I got sidetracked. But things just pop in my head and come out my fingertips.

As I mentioned last week, patience everyone. And when I say patience, I’m not saying be “satisfied with being mediocre” as some fans accuse. Like I said, I agree there are holes. But it’s imperative to figure out the correct way to fill those holes because in a league where it’s proving impossible to repair a mistake via trade, you better not make mistakes. Make cap mistakes, and it could wind up costing you a Patrick Kane, or in the Wild’s case, a Mikko Koivu or Brent Burns eventually.

Now, as Fletcher said above, this could be the team if he can’t make his “play” before the season. The only reason before the summer I was talking about Colton Gillies potentially being in the minors is I thought the team would probably need his $1-plus million cap space. But right now, if no move is made, he’s got a good shot at making the team.

And I know he was playing prospects in that scrimmage the other day, but he looked very, very good. Fast, nasty (buried Petr Kalus) and scored two goals — one exceptional one.

Anyway, I’ve said my peace. Have a good rest of the summer, and hopefully I’ve got it in myself to stand down and let others cover the team. Mid-July is usually the official end of the previous hockey season for me, so I hope you enjoyed the coverage this season. See you next season, amazingly, my fifth already covering the Wild.

(OK, I’m back. Nashville signed Peter Olvecky).

I’ll leave you with this. Here’s a look at the depth chart as of now:

Goalie 

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Barry Brust

Anton Khudobin

LD-RD

Kim Johnsson-Brent Burns

Nick Schultz-Marek Zidlicky

Greg Zanon-Shane Hnidy

John Scott-Jaime Sifers

Tyler Cuma-Justin Falk

Clayton Stoner-Jamie Fraser

Marco Scandella-Maxim Noreau

LW-C-RW

Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Martin Havlat

Owen Nolan-James Sheppard-Pierre-Marc Bouchard (RW until training camp)

Antti Miettinen-Eric Belanger-Cal Clutterbuck

Colton Gillies-Kyle Brodziak-Derek Boogaard

Petr Kalus-Benoit Pouliot-Craig Weller

Robbie Earl-Morten Madsen-Danny Irmen

Matt Kassian-Cody Almond-Carson McMillan

(the depth chart will change when the Wild plugs some minor-league holes, believed to be Duncan Milroy and Jon DiSalvatore, to replace Corey Locke and Krys Kolanos).

Wild prospect scrimmage starting; Burns coaching one of the teams

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Live from the X, where a number of diehards have made the long trek out to St. Paul.

Prospects are warming up currently, and I hear a surprise is about to happen.

Brent Burns, dressed in Don Cherry garb, plans to coach one of the teams. Nice honeymoon!

Cal Clutterbuck’s coaching the other team. He’s dressed as Cal Clutterbuck.

This thing needs to start. Wild personality Kevin Falness’ Jumbotron features are driving me loco. And you know he rather be golfing.

Chris Snow just called Burns and said “where are you?” He goes, “In the room. Waiting for the scrimmage.”

Snow goes, “It started!!!”

Clutterbuck just ran to the ice. He only missed 10 minutes.

No score still. Darcy Kuemper, on the white team, just absolutely stoned Tyler Cuma from point blank.

Morten Madsen just gave the white team a 1-0 lead with a short side shot past Matt Hackett.

Green tied it. Harri Ilvonen or Kris Foucault got it.

Burns, while literally reading a magazine, didn’t realize there were too many men. Anthony Hamburg scored on a penalty shot. White leads 2-1.

3-1 white. Alex Fallstrom on a breakaway. 4-1 white. Erik Haula on a breakaway.

Burns pulled Hackett for an extra attacker. I don’t think he knows there’s a whole other half.

1,650 people here.

SECOND HALF

5-1 white. Madsen again. Burns’ is getting heckled by the fans. Clutterbuck’s just laughing from the other bench.

5-2. One shift after he and Petr Kalus got into a nasty wrestling match, Gillies scores from way out.

6-2…Hamburg again — the 17-year-old taken in the seventh round.

6-3…Gillies, making his brother Burnzie proud, just scored a beauty breakaway. As Mike Greenlay said, “Gillies schooling the youngsters.” Gillies is 20.

7-3…Carson McMillan from way out.

Burns pulling Hackett down 7-3.

Fridley’s Jarom Palmer just made it 7-4.

Clutterbuck talking smack to Burnzie. Game over. 7-4 White.

Good day.

Wild signs D Shane Hnidy; Bouchard looking more and more like No. 2 center; Boogey-Havlat to fight for No. 24?; Coaching staff set

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

(updated) 

How excited is “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy to be a member of the Minnesota Wild this afternoon? He’s in the bush of Northern Manitoba fishing. I called his home number, got his wife and she told me he was out of town until Sunday and virtually unreachable. 

Next thing I know, I get a phone call two minutes later with about 17 numbers on the caller I.D.

It was Hnidy calling me from a satellite phone.

Hnidy, who lives eight hours north of here, feels like he just signed with his hometown team. He’s known throughout the league as a character, heart-and-soul, sandpaper guy. Hard hits, gets into a handul of fights a year.

Here’s a YouTube clip worth watching simply for the comical Jack Edwards absolutely losing his mind

So as expected, the Wild got its Nos. 4/5 and 6 with “hard” type defensemen (Greg Zanon and Hnidy) to complement the mobile, offensive types in the top-four.

This rounds out the top-seven. Barring a trade, the blue line will be Burns, Johnsson, Schultz, Zidlicky, Zanon, Hnidy, Scott.

Hnidy signed a one-year, $750,000 contract. He spent the last two years in Boston. In 477 NHL games, he has 14 goals, 57 points, is a plus-22 and 565 penalty minutes.

Also, it is looking more and more like Pierre-Marc Bouchard could be given the biggest look as the team’s No. 2 center. That, of course, is only if the Wild can’t sign Saku Koivu or can’t make a trade.

Chuck Fletcher again said today that Koivu is the only center-ice option minus a trade in free agency, and the team just continues to wait as he makes a decision. It’s up to him now, and like I said on the previous post, the team thinks he’s not signing here.

Todd Richards talked extensively today about how if the Wild doesn’t make another center pickup, he feels Bouchard “can be that guy.”

Winger Ruslan Fedotenko signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal to remain in Pittsburgh. He clearly just didn’t want to leave because I know for the fact the Wild and a number of other teams offered him multi-year deals.

Now, the Wild probably just waits until later in the summer to maybe sign another free agent or work on trades. Fletcher basically said today that Koivu is the one guy they’re still waiting on. I don’t sense a lot of interest in Alex Tanguay or Ales Kotalik. Again, you don’t build a team to sign players just for the sake of signing players. You build teams with the right guys, and to get stuck with a huge Tanguay contract when there could be better options before the season, into the season or even next summer, it just makes no sense.

So, if Koivu doesn’t sign here (and as mentioned on previous blog, it’s not looking good), I wouldn’t expect much news for a little while.

Marty Havlat was introduced to the media today. I bet my life last night to a couple buddles that Marian Gaborik already offered to sell his condo to Martin Havlat. I live!!!!!!!!!!

Also, Havlat’s first conversation was going to be with Derek Boogaard to see what he could do to entice No. 24 to leave his body. Boogaard had a good line to me, … which you can read in the paper :)

Update: Boogaard won; Havlat will wear 14

Development camp next week. Tyler Cuma was in, looked great and said his knee feels great.

Also, Mike Ramsey, Dave Barr (old Colorado assistant), Matt Shaw and Bob Mason will make up next year’s coaching staff. Add: Strength coach Kirk Olson did not have his contract renewed.

Here’s a funny one for you, which explains a major typo in today’s paper. Wild can never sign or play Brian Boucher. When I write Boucher in my MS word, it automatically changes it to Bouchard.

Another thing that’s been on my mind the last few days? Wonder how Gaborik’s groins will react to by far the worst ice in the NHL — Madison Square Garden?

Add: Wild minor-leaguer Corey Locke signed with the Rangers.

All this and much more in Saturday’s paper.