John Scott


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 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.

Nearly 24 hours from free agency; Wild depth chart as of now; USA Olympic orientation camp roster; Mill named assistant to the GM

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I’ll be back on later this evening with a more in-depth free-agent primer, but I figured I’d jump on and say hello now.

I know there are all these Vincent Lecavalier rumors to Minnesota floating around the blogosphere, but I can tell you that yesterday morning, as good a source as you can possibly have from one of the two teams told me that “Vinny’s staying — 100 percent,” meaning he will not be traded before his July 1 no-trade kicks in.

I suppose if some deal knocked the Lightning’s socks off in the next 24 hours, that could change. But let’s be honest — it’s very doubtful the Wild has those assets to suddenly make the Lightning change its mind.

Essentially, as I mentioned on the blog last week, one owner wants to move Lecavalier; one does not. And both owners have veto power of any trade, so it would take a major philosophical altercation by that one owner today to put Lecavalier in another zip code.

Also, Lecavalier’s cap hit might be $7.7+ million in the next 11 years, but he makes $10 million in real dollars in the next seven. I just don’t see the Wild being willing take on that type of commitment in this economy.

It will be interesting to see if there are trades tomorrow. Remember, you can go 5 percent over the cap starting July 1 until training camp, so as often is the case, trades are agreed to at the draft and executed on July 1 (Manny Fernandez to Bruins, Marek Zidlicky to Wild, although that had to wait simply because that’s when Zidlicky’s no-trade expired).

The Senators have to trade Dany Heatley by midnight if they’re going to escape paying him that $4 million bonus.

Also talked to two sources yesterday — one exec, one agent — and both said they’d be shocked if Josh Harding isn’t traded in the near future. He’s got arbitration rights, and the agent thought he’d be owed a fairly significant raise just because of his goals against and save percentage last season.

Here’s a look at the depth chart as it currently sits assuming all the UFA’s go to free agency, so have some fun today, check out the free agent lists and you fill in the holes:

LW                              C                                RW

———                Koivu                          Bouchard

Brunette                Sheppard                   Nolan

Miettinen              Belanger                    Clutterbuck

Boogaard              Brodziak                     Weller

Potential candidates: Pouliot, Gillies, Irmen, Kalus

***I see the Wild pursuing a center, which would bump down the center spots and maybe put Brodziak on the right side and Weller in the press box; If they don’t sign a No. 2 center, maybe Bouchard or Pouliot gets that chance, which opens up a top-two line RW spot.

LD                         RD 

Johnsson              Burns

Schultz                  Zidlicky

Scott                      ———-

*** I see the Wild bringing in two NHL defensemen, meaning Scott could be the extra.

Goalies

Backstrom

Harding

***Harding is trade bait, and then the Wild would sign a cheaper backup goalie, and they grow on trees.

Kudos to editor/sportswriter Mark Wollemann for stepping in for me yesterday. The day off was very much appreciated.

Update: Negotiations are ongoing right now with Chicago and Pittsburgh regarding Martin Havlat and Ruslan Fedotenko, but if they are not re-signed, the Wild may pursue.

Update: USA Hockey announced the roster for August’s Olympic orientation camp. Here is the release.

The roster includes several Minnesotans or players with Minnesota ties: Tom Gilbert, Erik Johnson, Paul Martin, David Backes, Dustin Byfuglien, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie and Zach Parise. 

Update: Wild at least having talks still with Stephane Veilleux.

Update: Wild has hired Jim Mill (not Nill) assistant to the GM and GM of the Aeros.

(more…)

Gushing about covering the Draft; Wild’s Summer Bash Thursday night; Draft Party at Tom Reid’s (not his house, his pub) Friday night; Russo Live Chat on Friday

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Bonjour from one of my favorite places, Montreal, where I’m readying to cover my 12th NHL Draft (Buffalo, Boston, Calgary, Florida, Toronto, Nashville, Carolina, Ottawa, Vancouver, Columbus, Ottawa and Montreal).

Twelve.

By far my favorite league event to cover. That’s because every single person in hockey shows up at the Draft, so as a beat writer, there’s no better place to be. It’s the one pro Draft where you basically have to be there to cover it because all 30 teams’ Draft tables are on an arena floor.

And usually, the teams I cover swing big deals at the Draft. The Wild’s traded for Pavol Demitra and Todd White at the Draft, and set up the Manny Fernandez and Marek Zidlicky deals.

And the Panthers, to quote Jacques Lemaire, “Oh … My … Lord.” They were busy bees at every Draft, especially Bryan Murray, who acquired Trevor Kidd at the Boston Draft in ’99 and Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha at the 2000 Draft.

The Panthers, with Chuck Fletcher playing a big part, acquired Val Bure and Jason Wiemer for Rob Niedermayer at the ’01 Draft. Rick Dudley traded the first overall picks at consecutive drafts. The Panthers tried to take Alex Ovechkin at the ’03 Draft — one year before he was eligible. They also, after I was covering the Wild, traded Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan Allen at the Vancouver Draft and acquired Tomas Vokoun the next year.

Fletcher hopes to make some similar noise as the Wild’s GM, and we will see. He did learn from the one of the best, eh, blockbusterers in NHL history in Bryan Murray, and whatyaknow, BM the GM is about to execute yet another with some team with Dany Heatley.

As I’ve written, Fletcher doesn’t have a ton of assets he can deal, so there’s got to be the right fits and, as he said during last night’s interview, “the reality is there aren’t fits with most teams most of the time.”

Wanted to jump on and give you info on three events:

1) The Wild will have its Summer Bash on Thursday night at Rice Park in St. Paul from 6-9 p.m. Hockey-themed stuff, food and lots of autographs as the Wild broadcasters will be there, along with Nordy, Brad “Bomber” Bombardir and current players Derek Boogaard, Cal Clutterbuck, Colton Gillies, John Scott and James Sheppard — barring getting traded, of course :)

2) Tom Reid’s Hockey Pub in St. Paul will be hosting a Draft party Friday night starting at 5:30 p.m. The VERSUS telecast starts at 6 p.m. and Reid will have lots of information on all the draft-eligible players, as well as food and drink specials. And bring your laptops so you can still pay close attention to startribune.com/wild and startribune.com/russo, which will have live up to date information as it happens from the draft floor.

3) I’ll be hosting a live online chat on startribune.com Friday at 10 a.m., so be there or be square.

OK, I’m going to go stalk NHL execs, including ”Chucky,” outside the Board of Governors Meeting now.

Talk to you later, I am sure.

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.

Scott re-signs for one year; Olvecky to Worlds; Risebrough to hold news conference Tuesday

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, who’s been unavailable for comment since being let go last week, will hold a news conference Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Here’s the link to the John Scott article 

The Wild has re-signed one of its unrestricted free agents.

In his first move as the acting general manager, Tom Lynn — who negotiated every contract anyway in his previous role as assistant GM — signed defenseman John Scott to a one-year, $550,000 contract. It’s a one-way contract, meaning he gets paid his NHL salary if he plays in the minors next season.

“John proved he could play at the NHL level in his stint with the Wild at the end of the season,” Lynn said. ”His next challenge will be to show he can not only play, but contribute and make a good team better. If he works as hard as he did for the last two seasons in Houston, I am confident he can make that transition.”

The 6-foot-8 Scott had one assist in 20 games this season, providing a physical presence on a non-physical blue line.

The Wild’s other notable unsigned potential unrestricted free agents are Marian Gaborik, Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Kurtis Foster and Stephane Veilleux.

Also, Peter Olvecky will leave the Aeros today to represent Slovakia in the World Championships. NHL rules state that if you play in the NHL and you’re invited by your native country to play in the tourney, that supersedes your AHL responsibilities. 

Here is the updated roster situation:

ROSTER SITUATION

Under contract: G Niklas Backstrom, $6 million; D Kim Johnsson, $4.85 million ($5.3 million salary); RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, $4.08 million ($4.25 million); D Brent Burns, $3.55 million ($3.4 million); D Nick Schultz, $3.5 million ($3.4 million); D Marek Zidlicky, $3.35 million ($3.5 million); C Mikko Koivu, $3.25 million ($3.3 million); RW Owen Nolan, $2.75 million; RW Antti Miettinen, $2.33 million ($2.5 million); LW Andrew Brunette, $2.33 million ($2.5 million); C Eric Belanger, $1.75 million; C James Sheppard, $1.4 million ($765,000); LW Colton Gillies, $1.0417 million ($875,000); LW Derek Boogaard, $875,000 ($1.025 million); RW Cal Clutterbuck, $725,800 ($623,000); RW Craig Weller, $600,000 ($625,000), D John Scott, $550,000.

Total cap hit: $43,666,944 for 16 players, including $727,778 charged for bought-out Mark Parrish.
Total actual salary: $44,040,778 for 17 players, including $927,778 owed to Parrish and excluding potential bonuses paid to Sheppard and Gillies.

* Salary Cap hit first number; in parentheses is actual salary.
** Salary cap will be announced in late June, but it was $56.7 million in 2008-09.

Restricted free agents (to retain rights, qualifying offer must be tendered by June 29): RW Dan Fritsche, $875,000; C Benoit Pouliot, $765,000; G Josh Harding, $725,000; C Peter Olvecky, $550,000.
*Salary-cap numbers for 2008-09 (Pouliot’s cap hit was $1.7 million).
**Other restricted free agents include minor-leaguers Danny Irmen and Clayton Stoner.

Unrestricted free agents (can become free July 1, may not return): RW Marian Gaborik, $6.33 million; D Martin Skoula, $1.8 million; D Marc-Andre Bergeron, $1.254 million; D Kurtis Foster, $1.025 million; LW Stephane Veilleux, $862,500; C Krys Kolanos, $500,000.

*Salary-cap numbers for 2008-09.
**Other unrestricted free agents include minor-leaguers Nolan Schaefer, Tomas Mojzis and Bryan Lundbohm.