Mike Ramsey


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.

Pre-Draft chatter; Loiselle interviewing for Wild asst. GM post

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Word of the day: Scruples. Yes, scruples. Scruples. I love that word, except when some people don’t have any.

Scruples. Scruples. Scruples.

I hope I just made somebody out there in the media world feel guilty (if you think I’m talking about you, I probably am).

So onward, about 11 minutes ago (it’s 2:11 p.m. my time as I start this blog), GM Chuck Fletcher began a meeting with his staff to go over Draft strategy and undoubtedly trades. During a morning meeting, assistant GM Tommy Thompson finished all pre-draft player interviews and finalized the Wild’s Draft list with the scouts.

What do I hear through the grapevine. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the St. Louis Blues are definitely interested in Josh Harding, but Fletcher wants something substantial for him and if it doesn’t come now, he’s willing to wait until later this summer or next season. However, the tricky thing here is there’s only a certain smattering of teams that are looking for a goalie next season and beyond, and if they don’t get Harding now, they’ll sign a free agent goalie after July 1.

So Harding is definitely in play. But Fletcher would love a top-six forward rather than, say, a second-round pick because at least with the NHLer, you know what you’re getting. A draft pick, as we all know, can amount to something or amount to nothing.

TSN’s Darren Dreger “tweeted” (I’ve learned the lingo) that the Wild is one of a handful of teams still in the Ryane Clowe sweepstakes with San Jose. I haven’t confirmed, but I trust Dreger’s sources and it makes a helluva lot of sense. Clowe is an awesome young player, you can bet former Sharks assistant Todd Richards loves him and he plays the exact type of high-octane, hard-nosed style the Wild wants to play.

It’ll take good assets to get him though, and who knows if the Wild’s got em. And then you’ve got to sign him, which won’t be cheap, which is the reason the Sharks may deal him if they can’t sign him for themselves.

According to impeccable sources, Fletcher interviewed Tampa Bay’s Claude Loiselle this morning for the vacant assistant GM’s post. Loiselle’s contract expires June 30 and has permission to seek other employment. Loiselle is a well-respected guy who used to play, has negotiated contracts and knows the league well, especially because he used to work for the NHL.

However, as I reported a few weeks ago, the second tomorrow’s Draft ends, Ottawa Director of Hockey Ops Brent Flahr has a window to talk to other teams. He’s the likely guy as he and Fletcher are very close from their days working together in Florida and Anaheim.

Nothing new on the assistant coaching situation, although word on the street is Richards and at least Mike Ramsey had a very good initial meeting.

Speaking of assistant GM’s, Tom Lynn is here and actually will be on the media risers with yours truly tonight as a member of the stinkin’ media, haha. I joked with him yesterday that the first time he stands behind the barricade trying to wave down a GM, I’m taking a picture and holding it for ransom.

Lynn’s doing a blog for the Hockey News, and here’s his first posting on the anatomy of Draft deal. Remember, Wild has done many or set up many trades at the Draft.

I talked to agent Don Baizley in the lobby this morning. He and Montreal plan to talk early next week about Saku Koivu, and that’s all Koivu’s thinking about, he said. But if he goes to free agency, you know who’s a coming after him. That’s me saying that, not Baize.

There’s other stuff, but I’ve got to report it out some more. One of them is a bit of a Wild newsmaker, but I’m not comfortable writing it just yet. But … maybe later.

“Chucky” holds conference call with print media; Highlights: He’s spoken to Gaborik, he plans to spend next week on coaching search, is working toward a Draft Day trade

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Busy Chuck Fletcher has been swamped with many things on his plate, so in the past week, he hasn’t had a chance to talk with the beat writers.

Fletcher held a conference call with the two newspapers and Associated Press this afternoon, and he discussed the coaching search, Gaborik and pro scouting meetings.

Highlights:

He spoke with Gaborik, although it was mostly just to introduce himself. Asked if he got an idea as to whether Gaborik is willing to consider staying rather than just automatically going to free agency July 1, Fletcher said, “I can tell you the conversation was not as much about the future as just introducing myself and having a general conversation. I’ll talk more in depth with [agent] Ron Salcer as I continue discussions with him.”

On whether he’s talked to Salcer about a contract, he said, “It’s starting to get to that point in time where I’ll probably respectfully decline to comment on the specifics of negotiations.”

That made it sound like there have been negotiations, but in a subsequent email I sent to Chuck, he said there have been no negotiations and that he meant that any future talks as far as a contract would be with Salcer rather than Gaborik.

– On the coaching search: He said he’s still closer to the beginning of the process rather than the end. “I’m trying to narrow it down to a smaller list of candidates. I’ve spoken with some candidates. There are still some candidates I intend to speak with in a little more detail. Next week, I’ll start to make some progress.”

He said it won’t be an exhaustive search of everybody because he has a good idea of his finalists. He said that’s because in Pittsburgh when he and Ray Shero fired Michel Therrien this past season, he and Shero reviewed and assessed different candidates and spoke to a lot of different people about candidates.

“I don’t think it’ll take lot of time once I can devote all my time and attention to the matter. Next week I’ll jump into it more aggressively.”

He said his timetable is still by the Draft, and he’s confident it’ll happen. And quite frankly, Fletcher leaves for the June 26-27 Draft on June 22, so my guess is a coach will be named by June 19 the latest.

The candidates still appear to be Todd Richards, Craig MacTavish, Peter Laviolette, I hear both Detroit assistants Paul MacLean and Brad McCrimmon and Kevin Constantine. There could be others. But these are the names I’m hearing mostly from myriad leaguewide sources.

– Fletcher made it extremely clear he’ll be looking to swing a trade at the Draft. He comes from a long list of teams that have made big trades at the Draft — Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha the biggest. He said he and his staff are compiling free agent and trade priority lists, and that’ll continue to be refined.

But because free agency is such a crapshoot, he’d like to try to fill some holes “in advance” of free agency, which means the Draft.

I keep hearing Josh Harding is the big piece they’ll be floating. I also confirmed again the Wild offered Benoit Pouliot around to everybody last summer, so you can bet that won’t change. I also hear Derek Boogaard — one year from unrestricted free agency — will be at least shopped.

– Lastly, he thanked Mario Tremblay and said he asked Mario if he wanted to be considered for an assistant coaching position and Mario thought it was best to move on, which is what Mario told me. He said once a new coach is in place, the first order of business would be to sit down with Mike Ramsey, Matt Shaw and Bob Mason to see if there’s a fit.

Tremblay over and out; MacTavish speaks — kinda, sorta

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I spoke with Wild assistant coach Mario Tremblay this afternoon, or actually former Wild assistant coach Mario Tremblay. As expected, Tremblay said he’s moving on and will be leaving Minnesota.

Tremblay said he was informed by Wild GM Chuck Fletcher he didn’t make the short list of candidates to be head coach. He was disappointed but completely understood Fletcher’s decision. He said he’ll move on and look for another job. Rumors in Montreal are that he’ll join Jacques Martin’s staff as an assistant. Tremblay said he hopes that is the case, but he said he’s spoken to nobody with the Canadiens.

He said he had a wonderful nine years in Minnesota and wanted me to make sure to thank the fans. On a personal note, just a great dude to deal with for my purposes. He was a walking cartoon character.

He said he hopes Mike Ramsey’s not in the same boat. Ramsey is also in the last year of his contract, and he said he very much hopes the new coach retains Ramsey and that he deserves to stay. If Ramsey is not retained, I know for a fact Tampa Bay wants him as an assistant. But with young kids and roots here, I’m not sure Ramsey’s going to chase jobs or be willing to uproot his family from Minnetonka.

Bob Mason and Matt Shaw have one year left on their deals, Tremblay said, and like I’ve been writing on here, I think they have a tremendous chance of staying.

Mason has done an extraordinary job as the Wild’s goalie coach, and most smart new head coaches don’t mess with a goalie’s goalie coach without talking to that goalie, in this case Nik Backstrom. You should have heard the other end of the call in the summer of 2004 when I called Roberto Luongo during his honeymoon in Hawaii to get reaction about Clint Malarchuk being fired. Luongo’s response, “What the $^#%% did you just say?”

Oh, that Jacques Martin.

And trust me, from somebody that sees the behind the scenes of the Wild, Shaw made this coaching staff tick. He does all the legwork and video work and lots of the gameplanning. He’s a bright, young guy.

Also, I spoke with Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson today. Craig MacTavish hadn’t spoken publicly since he was let go, but Jim got MacT on the horn today. He wouldn’t comment on my report saying that he has been interviewed by the Wild, but he said he wants to coach again and won’t sit out forever.

Of the candidates I’ve reported, MacTavish knows the Wild better than any of them just because he’s coached against them six to eight times a year since 2000. Of course, since I began covering the team, the Wild had his number, too. MacTavish is considered a pretty defensive coach — not Jacques Lemaire defensive — but defensive. But he likes aggressive, up-tempo play, too.

I’m sure MacTavish had an impressive interview. If you know him, he’s a very engaging, personable, well-spoken guy, so I’m sure he charmed them.

OK, that is it for now.

Fletcher, Russo back in town; Richards still the frontrunner

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Yes, I’m back. Yippee do!

I figured I better blog because the smart aleck son of a friend of mine sent me a text message saying, “Think you’ll blog again this year?”

Like father, like son :)

Back from Hawaii, and Ireland, and I’m ready to go back to each. Two awesome places.

The Brown Fox — Chuck Fletcher — is back in the office after landing this afternoon from Pittsburgh, where he attended Game 3 of the Finals and attended his first official GM’s Meeting — well, as a non-Interim, non-assistant GM — in history. Had to be cool.

What’s Fletcher been up to? Well, while I was in Ireland, he attended the Draft combine in Toronto last weekend, where he interviewed players and dined with the staff, including Tommy Thompson. On Thursday and Friday, he’ll conduct his first pro scouting meetings with Tom Lynn, Blair Mackasey, Jamie Hislop and Todd Woodcroft, among others.

They’ll be talking free agency, trades and likely whether the Wild should tender any offers to their own unrestricted free agents (i.e. Skoula, Veilleux, Bergeron or Foster). We know they’ll go after Gaborik, although it’ll be difficult at this late juncture.

(updated)

Fletcher has also been working on the coaching search. Same candidates as I’ve mentioned before. Todd Richards is still the frontrunner. I know for a fact Chuck went out to California to interview Richards, and that’s the place he wouldn’t tell me he was calling me back from (remember?).

But I still think he’d want to interview Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean, who’s a bit busy right now.

If Richards gets the job, possible assistants include Claude Noel, Curt Fraser, Tony Granato and Mike Ramsey. Like I’ve said, I think Matt Shaw and Bob Mason have tremendous shots at being retained.

Lots of news going around the league. Jacques Martin is now the coach in Montreal, leaving Florida at a marvelous time with less than a month before the Draft and free agency.

All sorts of rumors out of Montreal that Mario Tremblay could eventually join Martin on that bench.

Florida will now conduct a full-on GM search, but owner Alan Cohen appears close to selling the team because I’m told that GM candidates are being referred to Alternate Gov. Bill Torrey and Tony Tavares, the former Anaheim Mighty Ducks head who just so happens to be leading the ownership group close to buying the Cats.

Some possible candidates in Fla.? Former Panthers coach Doug MacLean, former Panthers GM Rick Dudley, former Panthers captain Scott Mellanby, Hall of Famer and former Panthers analyst Denis Potvin, former Bruins assistant GM Jeff Gorton, TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire and former Lightning GM Jay Feaster. Maybe former Wild GM Doug Risebrough would be interested, although he’s still on a two-week solo canoe trip, so he may not even know the job’s available :)

Lastly, aren’t you glad you’re a Wild fan? Imagine being in Colorado. Sorry, but at least Wild owner Craig Leipold conducts a far and wide GM search to get the best possible candidate and then announces him with a little fanfare.

The Avs do what they always do — hire internally.

Greg Sherman — the assistant GM — was hired today to replace Francois Giguere accompanied by the most underwhelming press release announcement ever. From Pierre Lacroix: “Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business.”

I bet Avs fans everywhere are excited after that line.

It was also classy of Lacroix to finally fire Tony Granato after offering his job around the league for a month, including to former Avs star goalie Patrick Roy. Kudos to Denver Post writer Adrian Dater, who’s been all over that story for some time.

Speaking of Dater, he talked to Marc Crawford, who’d be interested in returning there as coach. Dater reports that Joe Sacco’s got an inside shot. Wonder if Jacques Lemaire would be interested, eh?

OK, I’m back on the clock folks. Blogs will be updated more regularly.