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Wild Schedule Released

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For a complete version, click here.

The NHL has released the schedules for the upcoming season today.  Here are some of the highlights for the Wild. 

  • The Wild’s season opener will be on October 3, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
  • Their home opener will be against one of Chuck Fletcher’s former teams, the Anaheim Ducks, on October 6.
  • The team starts the year with a very road-heavy schedule, playing nine of their first fourteen games on the road.
  • The Wild play fifteen sets of back-to-back games.  In other words, 37% of their games are back-to-back sets.
  • Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota on October 30, while Jacques Lemaire returns on January 2.
  • The team will play home-and-home series against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Carolina.
  • Three of the team’s last five games are on the road against Division Rivals.
  • Todd Richards will return to San Jose on October 10, Martin Havlat will return to Chicago on October 26 and Chuck Fletcher will return to Pittsburgh on October 31.
  • Training camp will open on September 13 and pre-season games will be announced at a later date.

Report: Havlat and Wild Close – UPDATED

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UPDATE – It’s official.  Havlat to the Wild for 6 years, $30M total.  Also sounds like Chicago didn’t do themselves any favors bringing in Hossa.  Havlat’s tweets don’t sound happy towards Chicago’s management.

Per Mike Russo,

The Martin Havlat race is down to one team — the Minnesota Wild.  The Wild and Havlat’s agent have reportedly been working on the contract for hours now and it sounds like the contract, as it stands, is 6 years for $30M total.  If this is true, this is one heck of a negotiating job by Chuck Fletcher, because the Wild will have addressed two of their four needs, while spending under $7M.  In other words, leaving plenty of room to sign a second-line center AND another defenseman before the season starts.

While there are issues regarding Havlat’s durability, he played in 81 games last season and was an absolute revelation in the playoffs — at least until he ran into the shoulder of Niklas Kronwall.

I’m extremely excited about this, as I’ve always like Havlat and I hope that he finally has turned the corner in his injury issues and is ready to play in the State of Hockey!

Also, Russo reports that the Wild are pushing hard for Saku Koivu — No big surprise here, and I would expect the brothers to be playing together next season.

Written by bcbenzel

July 1, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Update on the Shortlist

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Per Mike Russo, there has apparently been an addition to the Wild’s shortlist.

According to Russo, the Wild have interviewed Ducks Assistant GM, David McNab.  The interview took place on Saturday.

This is an interesting selection for the Wild, namely because McNab is very keyed into the NCAA and has been instrumental in the Ducks’ wealth of quality collegiate players in their system.  In addition, Russo added that Paul Fenton, Mike Santos, Pat Quinn and Pierre McGuire have all interviewed for the position already and that Chuck Fletcher will be the next to interview, likely either today or Thursday.  He also mentioned that acting General Manager, Tom Lynn, will be the last to interview.

Russo also mentioned that this may not be the last round of interviews:

There also could be another round of interviews potentially. The Wild is doing none of the interviews at the arena, meaning there’s always a chance they bring some of the candidates back to tour the offices and arena.

That’s all for today.  If I have anything more, I’ll update as I hear it!

Gaborik to Return Sunday?

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Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying that having Marian Gaborik on the ice makes the Minnesota Wild a better team.  The problem is that this has only occurred in six games this season.

According to Brian Stensaas of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, however, it will happen at least once more this season.

Barring any setbacks, Marian Gaborik said he feels he will return to the lineup Sunday afternoon against Edmonton.
Gaborik will travel with the team to New Jersey this afternoon. But he said playing tomorrow night against the Devils is unlikely. Instead, he’ll wait for the Oilers.
“We’ll probably shoot for Sunday’s game,” Gaborik said after an hourlong practice this morning. “Hopefully everything will progress. Hopefully I’ll be more pain free each day and go from there.”

Coach Jacques Lemaire has said all along that the decision to return is the player’s. So this means it is a good bet Sunday will be the day.

This is fantastic news for a team that has been struggling of late.  The initial timetable for Gaborik’s return was set with approximately 5 or 6 games left in the season; not necessarily much time for the team to make much noise if they were not close to the playoff hunt.  Gaborik’s return with 11 games remaining in the season would be a huge shot in the arm for a team vying for a playoff spot.  A fresh Marian Gaborik could spell the difference between missing the playoffs and a potential deep playoff run for this team, as they have remained in the playoff hunt all season long without their top player.  A fresh Marian Gaborik for the Wild essentially equates to the same as a fresh Martin Brodeur does for the New Jersey Devils; that is exactly how important Gaborik can be to this team when healthy.

Now my thoughts on this are quite bittersweet.  I am, first and foremost, a Wild fan and this news brings great hope to our postseason possibilities.  Even injured, Gaborik is one of the better offensive talents that the Wild have and there are many games that his presence could have been the difference between a win or a loss or a loss and an extra point.  At the same time, however, I have never really been a fan of Gaborik’s (though I do concede that he brings a lot to the table that helps the Wild) and his (or his agent’s) seeming lack of cooperation in trying to work out a deal that would keep him in Minnesota has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Quite frankly, it was my hope that we had a team that could do it without him and allow us to be able to say, “See, we don’t need you,” upon his return.  It has been quite apparent, however, that this is not the case.  This team has been mired with inconsistency, both on a whole and offensively.  They have been competitive, but not dominant by any means and the hope that is prevalent from most Wild fans is that Gaborik will help turn a competitive team into a dominant one.

The Wild will also likely hope that this return gives Gaborik a spark to sign a short-term deal with the team, likely at a reduced rate, to try to build up his value and his reputation once more.  The value shouldn’t be hard to re-build.  Let’s face it, this kid can score.  When healthy and willing to work, he can be as dynamic an offensive player as anyone in the league.  Just as the New York Rangers.  His largest problem, however, is inconsistency which stems from a lack of work ethic.  Don’t misread this…He’s in fantastic shape and he certainly works very hard off the ice and outside of games.  Where this lack of work ethic manifests itself is in games where things are not going his way or where he gets shuffled onto a line he does not like.  A great example of this would be the season opening game against the Boston Bruins.  While the Wild won this game, their “superstar” was near invisible for most of the game as he was placed on a line that he considered to be the “checking line” with James Sheppard and Stephane Veilleux.  (It should be noted that Lemaire saw this as another scoring line and not the checking line that it turned into without Gaborik on it.)

His reputation, however, may be a bit harder to repair.  There’s no question about it that, when the Wild’s contract offers got leaked, Gaborik immediately lost the PR battle.  Originally, everyone was under the impression that the Wild were lowballing the Slovakian Sensation.  When the contract offers got leaked (ranging between $8.5M and $9.5M), public perception immediately turned against Gaborik and many questioned his dedication as a team player.

My personal opinion is that the Wild should attempt to re-sign Gaborik to a short-term contract (at most three years) at the same average cap hit that he currently sits at.  While I don’t like Gaborik, I cannot deny that he brings a certain dynamic to our line up that we otherwise would not have and I question both other teams’ willingness to sign an injury prone player to a lucrative, long-term contract with the assumed drop in the salary cap next season and the Wild’s ability to land the “big fish” that would replace Gaborik in terms of productivity.

Regardless of what happens, Wild fans will be able to see Number 10 flying up and down the ice in a Wild sweater for at least a little bit longer.  Like him or not, he’s still with the team and he’s going to be able to help us.  From the reports, it appears as if he’s been practicing on a line with Peter Olvecky and Dan Fritsche, which has the potential to be a pretty fun line to watch.  It will be interesting to see on Sunday how he fares on this line, as well as how the fans react to his return.

Either way, I still can’t escape the feeling of wanting to be able to say, “We can do it without you,” though.

Written by bcbenzel

March 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Breaking News – Guy Carbonneau Fired

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Reports coming out of Montreal are stating that Head Coach Guy Carbonneau has been fired from the club, effective immediately.  Replacing Carbonneau behind the bench will be General Manager, Bob Gainey.

While the Habs started out on fire this season, they have faltered of late; due in large part to injuries and the lackluster play of Carey Price.  Much was expected of the Habs this season, as they were thought to have the inside track to the Cup because of their performance last season.  It hasn’t been easy sailing, however, as the team has faltered late in the season and has been sliding down the standings, where they currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference and are just 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.

Gainey takes over behind the bench with a career record of 188-205 with 60 ties and 3 OT Losses.  He also coached the Minnesota North Stars improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1990-91 season.

While the firing of Carbonneau will likely juice the team, it is hard to say whether or not this was the right move for the organization.  I would be inclined to say that Gainey may have jumped the gun a touch on this move, as Carbonneau has played a large part in the fantastic turn around that this organization has had in recent years; bringing the Habs back into the picture in talks about the Stanley Cup.  The organization has hit a rough spot, but oftentimes (as I believe the case to be here) the coach becomes the scapegoat for the underperformance of his players.

Carbonneau is likely partially to blame for the Habs slide, but the fact remains that Gainey is inheriting a team that is struggling greatly; due not only to coaching issues, but to a lack of execution by the players.  While the firing of Carbonneau may provide a temporary solution for the team’s ills, the players should not get a free pass by any means.  Alexei Kovalev has been atrocious for much of the season, and Sergei Kostitsyn has also not performed up to expectations, leading to his demotion last month.  The team has also had injuries to various key players throughout the season (Robert Lang is out for the season, while Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins and Alex Tanguay have all missed time with injuries) and a goalie that has failed to live up to the high expectations that he had leading up to the season.

The bottom line is that, while Carbonneau may have had something to do with the team’s struggles, the team will continue to struggke until heir best players decide to be their best players and take accountibility for the shoddy performance of this team.

Written by bcbenzel

March 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm