Clayton Stoner


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. 
DAY     DATE    OPPONENT        TIME (CT)
OCTOBER – REGULAR SEASON
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.
       
NOVEMBER
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.
 
DECEMBER
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.
 
JANUARY
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.
 
FEBRUARY
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
 
MARCH
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.
       
APRIL
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.
 
 
CAPS INDICATE HOME GAME
DATES AND TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE

Wild make qualifying offers to Harding, Pouliot among others

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Russo is flying now, so we post this as a favor to him:

Here’s the breakdown of the players who received qualifying offers from the Wild:

C Kyle Brodziak
LW Robbie Earl
G Josh Harding
RW Danny Irmen
LW Benoit Pouliot
D Clayton Stoner

And here’s the list of those who didn’t get offers and now become unrestricted free agents who can shop for a team starting July 1:

D Paul Albers
LW Riley Emmerson
LW Dan Fritsche
LW Peter Olvecky

Fritsche was probably the player most expected would be cut loose, based on the acquisition of Brodziak at the draft. So no big surprise there.

About Pouliot, Fletcher said: “We’re excited to see where he is come training camp. He’s had his ups and downs along the road, but (new coach) Todd Richards is excited about seeing him in camp. We want to see if he can push his career forward, take the next step. It’s up to him, but we want to give him that opportunity.”

He said not qualifying Fritsche and Olecky was a roster “flexibility” issue. About Olvecky, Fletcher said making him a qualifying offer might possibly have “made him eligible for a one-way contract. We wanted to keep the option open of a two-way contract.” So, by not qualifying him, Fletcher said he still held out hope that he could reach agreement on a two-way deal and keep Olvecky in the fold. Fletcher said it was important for the franchise to have as much financial flexibility as possible heading into free agency.

The NHL free agency period opens on Wednesday at 11 a.m., so stay tuned to this site for constant updates.

Russo will be back on later this afternoon to update this post.

Walsh meeting with Veilleux today

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Just about to pack up and leave Montreal. The draft here was a tremendous experience. The passionate hockey fans here were in glee with every who’s who in hockey being in town.

I can tell you, I talked with a lot of other team’s scouts out around town last night, and many were very positive about the Wild’s draft, the fact Chuck Fletcher accomplished what he said he’d accomplish with moving down and grabbing draft picks and the picks of Leddy and Hackett specifically.

Assistant GM Tommy Thompson raved about the move Fletcher made because he so wanted Hackett.

“[Goalie coach] Bob [Mason] was saying of Hackett, ‘You think we have any chance to get him?’ and I said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up,’” Thompson said. “That shows the benefit of the trade that Chuck Fletcher made. Without that pick, we don’t get Hackett. If he turns into an NHL goalie, look how important that is. It was nice to have some picks; that allowed us to take some risks later on.”

Real quick, the only bit of news right now is agent Allan Walsh is on his way to Minnesota to meet with new client Stephane Veilleux, a pending free agent. Remember, Veilleux acted as his own agent last summer but as I reported in April, he hired Walsh for this summer.

“I’ve had several conversations with Chuck Fletcher. Stephane’s first priority is exploring all options with Minnesota and we have expressed those feelings to Chuck,” Walsh said.

Free agency is Wednesday and Fletcher planned to take a lot of today and think about free agency and whether he plans to make offers to Veilleux, Marian Gaborik (he will here, I’m told), Martin Skoula, Kurtis Foster and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

There will be news Monday as the Wild must tender qualifying offers to its restricted free agents by 4 p.m. The Wild’s RFA’s are Josh Harding, Kyle Brodziak, Dan Fritsche, Peter Olvecky, Benoit Pouliot, Danny Irmen, Robbie Earl, Clayton Stoner, Riley Emmerson and Paul Albers.

As I mentioned yesterday, it certainly seems a possibility that Fritsche could be out in Minnesota.

OK, I’ll be back on later tonight to clean out the draft notebook. Assistant GM hiring and assistant coaches should be in a matter of days, too.

Talking Aeros hockey; Getting out of dodge for a bit

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Good day everybody. Just thought I’d jump on to say goodbye.
Not for good (unfortunately for some), but I’m heading outside the continental U.S. Saturday for a little more than a week. But I’ll have the cell phone, blackberry and laptop at my side, so I’ll be paying attention to the GM search as best I can on the sands of Hawaii.
How great were those Game 7’s last night, by the way? The conference finals should be extraordinary.
I did a Kevin Constantine story for Saturday’s paper. Remember, many considered him the potential frontrunner to replace Jacques Lemaire if Doug Risebrough was doing the hiring. But once Risebrough was fired, everything changed – for Constantine, too. Now his future is up in the air.
He should still be a candidate, especially after coaching the Aeros to at least the AHL’s Western Conference Finals. But it’ll be tougher for him just because of the perception he’s also a defensive coach, and the Wild’s new GM almost certainly will want to change the Wild’s style to a more up-tempo type in the post-Lemaire era.
I wasn’t able to squeeze in a lot of stuff about the Aeros, so I figured this would be a good venue for that.
Constantine never realized the Aeros had this run in them. After the team won its first four games, the Aeros battled inconsistency due to injuries and callups, including Cal Clutterbuck, Krys Kolanos, Peter Olvecky and John Scott.
Clutterbuck never left Minnesota after his Oct. 16 promotion, while Kolanos, Olvecky and Scott played a combined 72 games for the Wild.
“Whenever guys were gone, we weren’t that good to be honest,” Constantine said. “It just shows how much the players are the most critical factor in wins or losses. When we were healthy and had bodies, we put together runs.
“The turning point might have been when Kurtis Foster came down [on his rehab stint]. We won six in a row with guys like Foster, Kolanos and [Benoit Pouliot] all playing. So we went through stretches where we said, ‘Maybe this team has something.’”
Critics like me have blasted the Wild for not having much talent in the minors, and the reality is even though the Aeros have reached the AHL’s Final Four, they’re nothing without the scoring of veterans Kolanos (37 goals in 59 Aeros’ games), Corey Locke (15 playoff points) and Jesse Schultz (second-leading scorer in the regular season, injured right now), who all could become unrestricted free agents. And quite frankly, there’s a chance they all leave. Heck, a guy like Kolanos can probably make $1 million net in the KHL.
“Those guys carry us offensively, and then you try to wrap some detail around that,” Constantine said. “But I think there’s pieces here. I really do. I’m still a believer in Pouliot because I see talent and improvement. I just think sometimes in pro sports we’re not allowed to be patient, so sometimes it’s like now or never. But I think the guy’s going to be a good player. I don’t know what role. Don’t know if it’ll be a first- or second-line center role, but I think there’s a role for him as he matures through the business.
“[Justin] Falk, in the third [period Wednesday], looked like a very big, strong, calm defenseman. [Maxim] Noreau turned into a good defenseman. I don’t think the main future of the Wild are here, but I think there’s a lot of pieces here.”
Other bright spots include role players in Irmen and Robbie Earl, up-and-coming defenseman Marco Scandella, defenseman Clayton Stoner, who’s rebounded after years hampered by injuries, and goalie Anton Khudobin, who’s extremely unorthodox and raw but has carried the Aeros through the playoffs with injuries to goalies Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust.
Remember, Carson McMillan’s there now practicing, and Cody Almond will be there too next year. And quite frankly, probably Colton Gillies.
Anyway, that’s my take on the Aeros. It was fun actually getting to see them play in Wednesday’s Game 7, 5-2 win at Milwaukee. 

I also wrote a Tom Lynn feature that should appear some time in the next few days on what he’s been up to the last month and the job he’s done in Houston – which makes him at least a candidate to be the Wild’s next GM – or certainly a GM in this league somewhere someday.
Chuck Fletcher and Pierre McGuire are still the frontrunners, I believe, but knowing Lynn, he probably impressed in his initial interviews with owner Craig Leipold. I still think Leipold’s at the very least a week away from naming a GM. To me, it was necessary to have a far-and-wide search, and Leipold’s done a quality job with it.
Like I said, I’ll do my best to keep tab from Hawaii. Talk to ya later Wild fans.

Aeros advance to the conference finals

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Lookee here

 constantine.jpg

After keeping one eye on the Caps-Pens Game 7, for the first time in the series, the game didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Boy, the Pens just kicked butt, eh? Can you say butt on a blog?

The reason why I only kept half an eye really on the NHL game is I attended the Houston Aeros’ Game 7, 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. The Aeros became only the third club in AHL history — and second Aeros’ team — to win two Game 7′s on the road in the same postseason (Peoria last round).

Kevin Constantine — or KC, as I’ve learned he’s called — won three Game 7′s as an NHL head coach — all three on the road, meaning that’s 5-0 in the NHL and AHL. And he says it’s even better because he did the same thing a few times in junior.

“I have no idea why, either. I wish I did,” Constantine laughed.

By the way, and I’m sure it’s been written by Ms. Conduct & Gang on their great Aeros’ blog, but the playoff beards are out and Constantine’s got the chops going for sideburns. Great story on that I’ll probably throw into the paper tomorrow.

They’re the triangle sideburns all the way down his cheek. Very John Fogertyish. I’ll think of a better description and blog it during my drive home (I’ll pull over first, I promise). And if you don’t know what Constantine looks like, he’s got red hair, so it’s a great look. I nearly almost took a picture of Constantine just for the blog with my camera phone while I was interviewing him, but to be quite honest, Constantine scares me.

Oops, thought of one. It kinda looks like this — Hans Klopek from the Tom Hanks’ movie, the Burbs (as a kid, I toured the Universal lot when they were filming that movie) — only much more grown in and nothing on his chin.

hans.jpg

After losing 7-0 in Game 6, the Aeros shockingly bounced back. Corey Locke and Krys Kolanos scored 49 ticks apart in the first, Milwaukee cut it to 2-1 and then there were several tense moments until the third as the unorthodox Anton Khudobin made some great saves and offered some heart attacks. He’s raw folks, very raw.

Clayton Stoner, who played a great game, scored a huge power-play goal, then former Admiral Tony “Circus” Hrkac set up former Admiral Bryan Lundbohm for the backbreaker on a beauty of a 2-on-1. Locke popped one in an empty net.

Justin Falk, I thought, was the best defenseman. Outstanding game, especially in the third. Robbie Earl can skate like one of those NHL ’95 games I used to play where you can press a couple buttons and the player goes into turbo boost speed. He’s one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen. Effortless, like the Niedermayers, but with more speed, believe it or not. Danny Irmen played a solid game as well. A couple other players didn’t play so well, but I won’t mention them and one particular because I’ll keep it positive for a change (give it a guess though).

I had other things I wrote down, and of course, I left the paper in my car (I didn’t blog last night because there was no wireless in the Bradley Center). I also watched the game from owner Craig Leipold’s suite along with Tom Lynn, Chris Snow and pro scout Todd Woodcroft — on condition the words “GM” and “search” never came out of my mouth :)

I appreciate the invite by Leipold. He’s a lot less stressed during non-Wild games, but still stressed enough. So it was interesting to get that up-close perspective. Next year I plan on watching every game from the owners’ suite at the X :)

Leipold had the Aeros over to his home earlier in the series, and he said it was a blast. So Leipold’s current farm team knocked off his old farm team — and actually the Wild eliminated Nashville twice if you consider the last home game of the NHL season. And continuing the theme I mentioned before the series, Tom Lynn beat Paul Fenton in the battle of the Wild GM candidates. Just a joke.

Funny moment during the game. They flashed the Marlins-Brewers score. I had no clue the Marlins were in town, and one of my best friends happens to be one of their announcers. I phoned (Canadian verb) him, happened to catch him between innings and we got to hang after the game for the first time since last hockey season when the Wild was in S. Fla. (he’s a Panthers’ announcer, too).

So that was cool and random. I know I had other things to mention, but I’m on little sleep and it’s on that sheet of paper that’s conveniently in the car. I’ll hop back on later.

So, after the game, the Aeros took a bus to Chicago to spend the night. They fly to Winnipeg today and open the conference finals against the Manitoba Moose on Friday-Saturday.

I have to hit the road for five-plus hours. It was a cool trip over to Milwaukee to see the Wild’s farm team in person for the first time.