Brian Rolston

Wild opens 2009-10 season in Columbus; Gaborik, Lemaire play in Minnesota

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

(Update): Restricted free agents Benoit Pouliot, Clayton Stoner, Danny Irmen and Robbie Earl have accepted their one-year qualifying offers.

The 2009-10 NHL schedule was just released.

Some highlights:

– Wild opens on the road for the first time since the 2003-04 season (in Columbus) Oct. 3. Wild opens with six of seven on the road.

– Wild opens at home against the Ducks on Oct. 6.

– Todd Richards returns to San Jose on Oct. 10.

– All in one week, Martin Havlat returns to Chicago on Oct. 26, Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota on Oct. 30 and Chuck Fletcher returns to Pittsburgh on Oct. 31.

– Wild visits Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster and the Lightning on Nov. 12.

– The traditional New Year’s Eve game is against Los Angeles.

– Jacques Lemaire, Brian Rolston and the New Jersey Devils come to Minnesota after New Year’s Jan. 2.

– The Olympic break is Feb. 15-28; Wild’s first game after break is March 3 in Calgary.

– The Wild will play 18 games against the Eastern Conference this season, playing seven games against the Atlantic Division, six against the Southeast Division and five against the Northeast Division. Minnesota will play a home game and road game each against Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Minnesota will also visit Eastern Conference members, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington, while hosting Atlanta, Boston, Florida, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

– The Wild’s longest homestand is five games: Feb. 4-Feb. 14, against Edmonton, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Vancouver. The club has a pair of five-game road trips: Oct. 8-Oct. 17 at Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver, and also Dec. 5-Dec. 12 at Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary and Vancouver.

(Updated) Training camp starts Sept. 12 with physicals, on the ice for the first time Sept. 13; preseason schedule will be released at later date, although you can figure out some games by looking at other team’s released preseason scheds. Wild opens preseason two days after camp starts in St. Louis on Sept. 15; Blues comes here Sept. 24. Columbus plays in Minnesota on Sept. 18; Wild goes there Sept. 21. Chicago comes here Sept. 20; Wild goes there Sept. 25. I hear the Wild plays a preseason game in Philadelphia I believe Sept. 29, but we’ll see that schedule when it’s finalized soon.

– Regular-season single-game tickets go on sale Sept. 12. Preseason tickets go on sale Aug. 22. 
Sat.    3       @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
TUE.    6       ANAHEIM 8:00 P.M.
Thu.    8       @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Sat.    10      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
Wed.    14      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    16      @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    17      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
WED.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
Fri.    23      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
SAT.    24      CAROLINA        7:00 P.M.
Mon.    26      @ Chicago        7:30 p.m.
WED.    28      NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    30      N.Y. RANGERS    7:00 P.M.
Sat.    31      @ Pittsburgh     6:30 p.m.
THU.    5       VANCOUVER       7:00 P.M.
SAT.    7       DALLAS  7:00 P.M.
Tue.    10      @ Toronto       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    12      @ Tampa Bay     6:30 p.m.
Fri.    13      @ Washington    6:00 p.m.
Sun.    15      @ Carolina      12:30 p.m.
WED.    18      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    20      N.Y. ISLANDERS  7:00 P.M.
WED.    25      BOSTON  7:00 P.M.
FRI.    27      COLORADO        1:00 P.M.
Sat.    28      @ Colorado       8:00 p.m.
WED.    2       NASHVILLE       7:00 P.M.
FRI.    4       ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
Sat.    5       @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Mon.    7       @ Phoenix        8:00 p.m.
Wed.    9       @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Fri.    11      @ Calgary       8:00 p.m.
Sat.    12      @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
TUE.    15      COLUMBUS        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    17      @ Montreal      6:00 p.m.
Sat.    19      @ Ottawa        6:00 p.m.
MON.    21      COLORADO        7:00 P.M.
WED.    23      EDMONTON        6:00 P.M.
SAT.    26      ST. LOUIS       7:00 P.M.
Mon.    28      @ Los Angeles   9:30 p.m.
Tue.    29      @ Anaheim       9:00 p.m.
THUR.   31      LOS ANGELES      7:00 P.M.
SAT.    2       NEW JERSEY      7:00 P.M.
Tue.    5       @ Chicago       7:30 p.m.
WED.    6       CALGARY 7:00 p.m.
SAT.    9       CHICAGO 7:00 p.m.
MON.    11      PITTSBURGH      7:00 p.m.
WED.    13      VANCOUVER       6:00 p.m.
Thu.    14      @ St. Louis     7:00 p.m.
Sat.    16      @ Phoenix        7:00 p.m.
Mon.    18      @ Dallas         7:00 p.m.
THU.    21      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
SAT.    23      COLUMBUS        8:00 P.M.
WED.    27      DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
Thu.    28      @ Colorado      8:00 p.m.
Sat.    30      @ San Jose      9:30 p.m.
Tue.    2       @ Dallas         7:30 p.m.
THU.    4       EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
SAT.    6       PHILADELPHIA    7:00 P.M.
WED.    10      PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
FRI.    12      ATLANTA  7:00 P.M.
SUN.    14      VANCOUVER       2:00 P.M.
Feb. 15-28              Olympic Break
Wed.    3       @ Calgary       9:00 p.m.
Fri.    5       @ Edmonton      8:00 p.m.
SUN.    7       CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    9       FLORIDA 7:00 P.M.
Thu.     11      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
Fri.    12      @ Buffalo       6:30 p.m.
SUN.    14      ST. LOUIS       5:00 P.M.
TUE.    16      EDMONTON        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    18      @ Nashville     7:00 p.m.
Fri.    19      @ Columbus      6:00 p.m.
SUN.    21      CALGARY 2:00 P.M.
TUE.    23      SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Thu.    25      @ Philadelphia  6:00 p.m.
Fri.    26      @ Detroit       6:30 p.m.
MON.    29      LOS ANGELES      8:00 P.M.
WED.    31      CHICAGO  7:00 P.M.
FRI.    2       SAN JOSE        7:00 P.M.
Sun.    4       @ Vancouver     9:00 p.m.
Mon.    5       @ Edmonton      8:30 p.m.
Thu.    8       @ Calgary       8:30 p.m.
SAT.    10      DALLAS  7:00 P.M.

Lemaire to coach Devils

Monday, July 13th, 2009

It’s official. Mario Tremblay comes with him. I can tell you the happiest guy in Jersey today (actually Traverse City, Mich.) is Brian Rolston.

Add: Got in contact with Rolston via text, who will be coached by Lemaire for a third time: “I am extremely happy that Jacques will be coaching me once again. I truly believe he is one of the best hockey coaches in the game.”

Onto Lemaire:

“I never did close the door on coaching. I said my time in Minnesota is over.”

“I had a great time in New Jersey in the 90s. I had some great memories and I hope to get some more.”

Not easy writing all this on blackberry. My laptop’s in the shop. Also, I don’t speak French.

“I never thought I’d be back. The five years I thought I’d cherish the rest of my life. But the situation right now is perfect for me.”

On Parise’s growth and under more restricted system, will he be hindered? “I don’t know what would be put in that’ll stop any player to perform at their best. He’s a kid that works offensively and defensively. … I’m not the coach that will stop any guys to perform and do what they’re good at.”

On Rolston: “He’s a guy that has to be put in the right situation. I’m not saying Brent didn’t do this, but he’s a guy we have to demand a little more. That’s my intention. That’s what we did in Minny and we’ll try to repeat that.”

Lou approached him before the draft.

“It would be a great thing to have a chance to win the Cup. I want to be part of this. If there’s a chance, I’d love to get another one.”

On Tremblay: “He’ll be in charge of the defense. I’ve been nine years with him and I think he’s a great complement of myself. He’s fun for the players. He knows how to deal with them in practices.”

Here is the original blog post June 9 predicting Lemaire would be the guy.

Lemaire takes job; Minnesotans to come into Thompson’s home, and Thompson into Minnesotans home; Coaching search progress

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

So my phone rings this afternoon, I look at the caller id and it says, “Jacques Lemaire.”

I answered and Mssr. Lemaire proceeded to have a little fun with yours truly.

“Michael,” in that unmistakeable voice, “I got a job. I’m working again. I’ve got a scoop for you.”

Excitedly, I say, “Oh yeah,” while I quickly open my blog admin so I can literally publish what he says as he says it.

“Yeah, listen,” Lemaire said.

And all of a sudden, I hear unbelievably loudly, “Vrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”

I go, “What the hell was that?” He goes, “A bench saw. I’m building a basement closet,” before he HYSTERICALLY started laughing.

Evil. Just evil.

I thought I got the New Jersey Devils scoop and this guy’s “been put to work by my wife.”

Then Lemaire gave his trademark, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” knowing that he got me.

I said, “Jacques, you better be careful. You already broke your elbow and shoulder this year.”

He said, “I’m watching my fingers. I won’t be able to shoot without them.”

I said, “How’s it possible to build a basement closet in Florida? I lived in Florida. You’re going to hit the ocean.”

He goes, “I’m in Montreal. If I was doing this in Florida, it’d be an entrance.” 


Have I mentioned Lemaire will be missed?

Lemaire was giving me a ring back from a few days ago when I called him about five minutes after Devils coach Brent Sutter quit.

Asked if he’s returning to the Devils as coach (he coached them from 93-98 and won a Cup there in 95), Lemaire said, “I can’t talk about that. There’s nothing done yet. There’s nothing that I can talk about right now.”

I told him I bet Brian Rolston wishes he comes there and Lemaire laughed and said, “Problem is he’s not the guy that decides.”

There’s no doubt though that Lemaire is interested in going back. He said he realized during the playoffs that instead of just taking any consulting job that came down the pike, maybe he does still want to coach in the right situation.

“That’s the thing I haven’t decided. After the season, I thought I was going consultant so I can be with the kids and the grandkids. But as I mentioned at that time, I’m not closing the door on coaching. I’ll look at the two options, and if I’m going to be busy, I’m going to be busy. So maybe I want to coach. We’ll see.”

The only other coaching job out there right now besides New Jersey and Minnesota is Calgary, and he’s not going to Calgary. 

If Lou Lamoriello calls Lemaire and the fit’s right, I bet he goes. Otherwise, he’ll take one of the consulting jobs.

He said he plans to come to stop by the Draft in Montreal “even if there’s nothing done, and then the Montreal press can speculate again. The day Jacques Martin was hired here, a radio station did a poll, who’d you rather have, Jacques Martin or Jacques Lemaire. Imagine that? Imagine that? Poor guy.”

Onward –

The Wild currently has the 12th overall pick (I bet they move down to try to gain more picks) in the June 26 Draft and assistant General Manager Tommy Thompson plans to bring five or six possible draft picks into Minnesota for tours of Xcel Energy Center and examinations by team orthopedist Joel Boyd. I’ll write more about this as the Draft approaches.

Three won’t have to come far though because they’re local – University of Minnesota’s Jordan Schroeder, Eden Prairie’s Nick Leddy and Edina’s Zach Budish.

“I’ve also invited myself into their homes for visits with their families,” Thompson said. “I’m not trying to make a moral judgment, but I want to see their personalities and their relationships with the parents.
“We don’t want any surprises.”

Also, I chatted with Chuck Fletcher for awhile today. He’s made significant progress in the coaching search, but he said he still has more work to do through the weekend and early next week. He said he’s not done interviewing candidates, and I think Red Wings assistant Paul MacLean will be one and it wouldn’t shock me if he called fired Dallas coach Dave Tippett, whose wife is from Minnesota and lives near Detroit Lakes. As I mentioned, Peter Laviolette is a top candidate.

But at the end of the day, I really believe it’s still going to be San Jose assistant Todd Richards. The more people I talk to about Richards, the better things I hear. He’s a very respected coach.

Wild GM search update; Hockey’s finest hour(s)

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

I’m going to Game 7 tonight!!!

Caps-Pens? Nope. I’ll be in Milwaukee to attend Aeros-Admirals. I’ll probably jump on later and give you updates, as long as in return you give me Caps-Pens updates :)  

After watching every minute of last night’s games, tonight can’t get here soon enough. Carolina-Boston, Detroit-Anaheim, and all four teams have a lot of work to do to equal the excitement of last night’s Washington win over Pittsburgh and Chicago’s elimination of Vancouver.

More on that in a second.

First we interrupt for a Wild GM search update. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I believe the Wild will complete its first interviews when owner Craig Leipold sits down with assistant GM and acting GM Tom Lynn. It makes sense. Lynn’s been in Houston. Leipold’s been in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Both will be in Milwaukee for Game 7 of the Houston-Milwaukee series, so I’m sure they’ll sit down for Lynn’s interview.

After that, according to sources, Leipold, Jac Sperling and Matt Majka will cut the list to a handful of finalists who will be brought back for second interviews and tours of the offices and arena. Those finalists will likely include at least TSN analyst Pierre McGuire, Pittsburgh assistant GM Chuck Fletcher and Anaheim assistant GM Dave McNab.

I am certain from talking to a gazillion people that the biggest thing that’s delayed this process is the fact that all these men are working right now. Because Pittsburgh and Anaheim are still in the playoffs, and McGuire is working almost nightly, it’s created a scheduling challenge to get them all in here, sources say.

And when it comes to second interviews, it makes sense to try to bang them out one by one by one so the interviews remain fresh in mind and a decision can be made rather than an interview, three or four days of nothing, then another interview, so on and so on.

So, long story short, it’ll still be some time before a GM is hired. Hey, maybe I’ll be back in the Continental U.S. by then — which would be nice. Of course, I leave the country again a few days later as well.

The people I know have been interviewed are McGuire, Fletcher, McNab, Pat Quinn, Nashville execs Paul Fenton and Mike Santos, and by tomorrow, Lynn. I’m still not convinced former Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster’s totally out of it, and I know there’s been conversation with Tampa Bay assistant GM Claude Loiselle.

There could be others, like I’ve said before. I’ve heard lots of names and are only writing the ones I’ve confirmed through a variety of ways. The frontrunners remain, I believe, McGuire, Fletcher and McNab.

There’s been a ton of buzz about McGuire, who has the personality to place the Wild on the map. I can tell you, I’ve gotten several calls from some of the NHL’s heaviest hitters — Hall of Famers, players, agents and execs — really pumping up McGuire. He’s got lots of friends in all different areas.

Fletcher’s been in the game his whole life, negotiates contracts and has an eye for talent. He’s immensely respected. And McNab is known as a person who will leave no stone unturned in finding players. 

I know I’ve mentioned some time-sensitive reasons to get a GM in here quickly, but in reality, there’s plenty of time. The Wild has until July 1 to exclusively negotiate with Marian Gaborik, but let’s be honest. It’s an incredible longshot that he’ll re-sign and forgo his right to free agency this close to it. If Brian Rolston didn’t do it, why would Gaborik? If the Wild can only offer him a short-term deal, well, he might as well wait. And you can bet Leipold knows that.

Also, there’s really no insane urgency to hire a coach right away. In my opinion, it’s only essential to have a coach in place by July 1 so free agents know who’s coaching. That’ll allow a long time for the new GM to interview coaches, and remember, there’s sort of an unwritten rule in the NHL not to have any big announcements during the Stanley Cup Finals. So that takes us into mid-June at least for a coach.


Hockey at its greatest

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Disregarding which teams you were pulling for — and boy, it’s got to be painful to be a Devils’ fan today — those were two outstanding Game 7′s.

As Dave Strader said during the VERSUS telecast, there was Sergei Fedorov — circa 1994.

And for awhile in the Devils’ game, there was Brian Rolston — circa 2005-08. What a shrewd pass by Brian Gionta off the boards to essentially set up a signature Brian Rolston one-time slapper.

It seemed like that would hold up as the winner, but in an amazing turn of events, the Carolina Hurricanes went from being 1:20 away from their season ending to ending the season of the Devils with 32 seconds left.

What an unbelievable finish, even more unbelievable than their victory with two-tenths of a second left earlier in the series. So many great plays down the stretch, like Tim Gleason saving the puck at the blue line on his knees seconds before Joni Pitkanen set up Jussi Jokinen’s tying goal. And there’s few scarier sights than Eric Staal coming down the off wing with speed like Mark Messier.

It was just a stunning finish, one that’ll have the Devils second-guessing little plays for a long time. Zach Parise had an awesome series, but you know he’ll be wondering if he should have just chipped the puck out on his forehand rather than turning toward the corner 10 or so seconds before Jokinen’s goal.

Shawn Roarke from wrote a really good sidebar with myriad Devils’ quotes. Here’s the link.

So with that win, the NHL got what you know was its wish — a Crosby-Ovechkin second round. And Boston-Carolina should be an awesome series, too. I’m almost more enthralled with the East matchups than the West (Vancouver-Chicago, which should be fun, and Detroit-Anaheim).

The semis should be great drama.