Uncategorized


Captain to be named Tuesday

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Wild will announce its first ever full-time captain at a news conference Tuesday.

Russo’s Rants is moving

Monday, October 19th, 2009

We’re moving from one blog platform to another.

The new URL’s are

www.startribune.com/russo 

or

www.startribune.com/blogs/russo

If you have Russo’s Rants on your RSS feed, you’ll need to update it with the current url. One other change is – you’ll need to register with StarTribune.com to make comments. It’s quick and painless (and helps keep out spam, and certain multiple personalities to use one identity.)

If you’re looking for any archived posts from the last several years just click above on Russo’s Rants Archives and you can search the old blog.

Sources: Sifers on waivers

Monday, October 19th, 2009

According to sources, the Wild had placed defenseman Jaime Sifers on waivers with the intention of sending him to AHL Houston.

The Wild needs to create a roster spot, and the team is probably convinced John Scott would be claimed in a heartbeat because of the fighting dimension.

Here’s a good Chuck Kobasew column written by Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News Observer.

Wild acquires Kobasew; Bouchard on LTI

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Updated: The Wild has traded Craig Weller, a second-round pick in 2011 and the rights to Alex Fallstrom, the Shattuck-St. Mary’s kid taken in the fourth round last June, to the Boston Bruins for forward Chuck Kobasew.

The pick is in 2011, meaning Fletcher will have plenty of time to acquire a second-round pick to replace it, especially with a potential selloff of free agents in the future this season. Also, to be able to acquire Kobasew, the Wild has placed Pierre-Marc Bouchard on Long-Term Injury (LTI) relief status, which essentially means the Wild can go about dollar for dollar over the cap with Bouchard’s salary for the time he’s out. When he comes back, the Wild have to fall back in line with the cap. Bouchard’s cap hit is $4.08 mill. Kobasew’s is $2.33 mill

Bouchard’s going to be out awhile.

Petr Sykora’s been placed on injured reserve to get Kobasew on the roster. It’s retroactive to the San Jose game, so Sykora can come off if he’s able to play Wednesday and the Wild will have to make another roster move. In fact, with Kobasew here, I’d assume they’ll send somebody to Houston in the next day or so anyway.

Kobasew’s got this year and next left on a contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Fletcher said that was key, that Kobasew was contractually obligated for another season. Fletcher pushed for the pick to be 2011 because he wanted all his picks for next year’s draft and it would give him this season and next to try to replace the second-rounder, and let’s be honest, with so many UFA’s, if this season does head south, there could be a fire sale of sorts down the road.

I think that possibility made it easier for Fletcher to give up Fallstrom. There’s a chance the Wild could be picking up picks and prospects come trade deadline time. I’ve always heard good things about Fallstrom (and obviously the Bruins valued him as he plays right around the corner at Harvard), so it could be a steep price. But, Fallstrom probably has three full years at Harvard at least, so he was a ways away from being here.

Losing Weller is a coup. Wild doesn’t have to pay his $625,000 salary anymore in Houston. So, if you assume Fletcher can eventually acquire a second-round pick to replace this second, this was Fallstrom for Kobasew. We’ll know how that works out in about five years. Is Fallstrom a bust, or is he the second coming of Tomas Holmstrom? We will see.

As for Kobasew, who’s hit the 20-goal plateau in three of the past four years, I know a lot of people in Boston, and the scouting report from a bunch is this: “Good skater, works hard, drives to the net relentlessly, plays bigger than his size, has some skill, generates a ton of scoring chances for others but needs many scoring chances for him to be the scorer, is streaky undersized for the way he plays, which is very gutsy. Just goes to the net, plays hard on the wall. Because of that, he does get injured often. Best fit as a third-liner on a good team, but can be a second-liner on a bad team. Teammates love him. Reporters love him. Well-spoken, great guy.”

Talked to Shane Hnidy, who played with Kobasew the past two seasons in Boston.

He said his cell phone rang, and “I was like, Why’s Chuck Kobasew calling me? I wonder if we just traded for him.”

The Wild did. Coincidentally, it was Hnidy who broke Kobasew’s ankle in the season opener last year. It happened in the first period. He played the rest of the game, but missed the next 12. “I was amazed he played the whole game. I felt terrible,” Hnidy said.

Kobasew played through much of last year’s playoffs with broken ribs.

Kobasew was excited for the new opportunity. He says he loves playing in Minnesota, and he knows it well from coming here often with the Calgary Flames.

That’s it. I’m out.

Vancouver Canucks 2, Wild 1

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Good morning from Vancouver, where I finally have a flight home today. 

To use the old Brian Rolston line, “It is what it is.”

There’s not much more I can say about this road trip. The Wild returned home after Saturday’s 2-1 loss with a 1-6 record, an 0-5 string on the 11-day trip and an 0-6 road record this season.

If you watched the game, it’s obvious what happened. Wild was outshot 39-18. It lacked any sort of energy after the first period. It seemed everything (the road trip, the fact they are so depleted with so many injuries, the fact they had to kill three penalties in the first 30 minutes) caught up to it and the energy was just drained.

No legs. They’re forwards, especially. The Wild couldn’t get on a forecheck and got into severe chip-it-out, change mode. The one time they couldn’t chip it out and change was when fourth-liners Nathan Smith and Derek Boogaard got trapped on the ice with dmen Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky.

And sadly for Nik Backstrom, as good as he played (he was unbelievable and would have been annihilated if not for him), Ryan Kesler’s shot from the side of the net caromed in off his pads because he was covering the far post with his stick. He said if he had his stick in front, no chance the puck gets in.

Then, James Sheppard took a roughing penalty, and Mikael Samuelsson scored the winner on an early third-period power play. It wasn’t a very good penalty by Sheppard. I always find merit when you clear guys in front of the net, but two problems with this clear: 1) The puck was nowhere near the front of the net. It was in the corner. 2) He punched him three times in the back of the net and finally to the ice.

It’s nice to see Sheppard get a little mean on the ice, but you’ve got to pick your spots, and the spot wasn’t with the puck not around the net.

For instance, Benoit Pouliot took a roughing penalty earlier in the game. The big difference? To me, it was a good penalty. Maybe Pouliot got a little overly aggressive, but three Canucks were swatting at a loose puck in front of Nik Backstrom. You’ve got to clear bodies. Pouliot did the way players do it umpteen times a game. He just got nailed. The Wild killed the penalty, and like I said, from my standpoint, good for Pouliot. He’s played two real good games in a row because he’s skating, parking in front of the net in the offensive zone and being physical.

But the difference between Sheppard’s penalty and Pouliot’s was there was no scramble on the Sheppard penalty. No puck. In other words, he wasn’t protecting his goalie on a scoring chance. He just wanted Bolduc out of the crease, which is again OK, but not with the puck not there and not by repeatedly punching him until he falls.

It was mistake, and regardless of the power-play goal though, the Wild had three cracks on the power play to tie it in the final 16 minutes and couldn’t.

I’m not sure exactly when the Wild got its 10th shot, but it had eight at least through the first few minutes of the third period.

So, again, no legs. Now what? I don’t know. Hopefully the team gets Marty Havlat and Petr Sykora back Wednesday. Both skated earlier Saturday.

The team took a day off Sunday. Then, back to the drawing board with Colorado — red-hot Colorado who also is on a very difficult road trip only the Avs actually won games — coming to town.

I am off until Wednesday thank goodness. I need it after 11 days away. You’ll hear from Rachel Blount on Monday and Tuesday.

Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Same Wild lineup as last night. John Scott scratched. 

Good afternoon from soaking wet Vancouver, where I just took a long walk on the water. Even in the pouring rain, there’s few better cities to walk around than Vancouver. Well, here and Buffalo, of course.

Dreary day and I’m in as much of a writing mood as Brent Burns was in a mood to talk with me this morning down at GM Place, site of the men’s hockey at the 2010 Winter Games (I’ll be here, yeah).

Speaking of Burnzie, he’s scheduled to be on Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours with the great Scott Oake after tonight’s game. Let’s hope Burnzie’s in a more talkative mood tonight than he was this morning, or that won’t be good TV.

Yes, the Wild and Canucks will be the late game on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada tonight. The Wild will either fall to 0-6 on the road, or win for the first time to salvage some semblance of this road horror show. We will see.

This is a tense team to be around at the moment, for obvious reasons. Not fun for the local reporter in that locker room this morning. Even normally-pleasant assistant coach Mike Ramsey was a tough interview.

I once covered a 1997-98 Florida Panthers team that was winless on an eight-game road trip, then later the same season went winless in 15 straight games (lost 13 straight if I remember correctly). Every time I walked into that locker room, I looked over my shoulder.

It hasn’t gotten that bad here yet.

More than a dozen players down at the rink this morning for today’s optional. Most veterans, and coach Todd Richards, exercised their options this morning. Not sure of the lineup. It did look a little bit that John Scott was getting a slight bag skate, but Derek Boogaard was last one off. We will see tonight.

Marty Havlat and Petr Sykora tested their abdominal regions on the ice this morning. Both won’t play tonight, but perhaps with three off days after tonight, they could return Wednesday at home. That’s me talking. Not them or the team.

I did talk to Havlat and he said it’s getting better.

The Wild didn’t make a claim in on Andrew Ebbett after some discussion. If I had to guess, I think it’s because the Wild only has so many small jerseys if you catch my drift.

I think as more roster spots become available to Chuck Fletcher to put his stamp on this team in the coming summers (expiring contracts, in other words), I see him trying to get much faster and bigger up front. This team isn’t very big up front, and after having so much speed at forward two years ago, well, not so much anymore.

Niklas Backstrom in the cage. Roberto Luongo will be in Vancouver’s net after last night’s blowout loss vs. Calgary. Two struggling, banged-up teams tonight.

By the way, I got my first, “[Tonight's] the biggest game of the year,” from leading scorer Eric Belanger.

Yes, Game 7. That’s the sign of a desperate hockey team.

This epitomizes my day so far — the sun’s coming out just as I sit down to write tomorrow’s notebook. Lovely.

Want to know the first thing that went wrong today? I took somebody else’s bag from the airport. Same make of suitcase, same color. I am an idiot. Luckily, the family whose bag I accidentally stole couldn’t have been nicer as I profusely apologized.

Final day of the road trip. I must be mentally fatigued. It’ll be nice to get home tomorrow. Talk to you tonight.