Good afternoon from balmy Minneapolis, where I'm a tad overcaffeinated. Just met up at a coffee shop with a local prospect that will be drafted next weekend for a story that'll appear in the Strib next week.
According to sources, the Wild's strongly considering Brad Bombardir for the new role as director of player development. I know they've talked to him about it and I believe they've gone as far as to offer it to him. The former Wild defenseman is currently the Wild's director of community partnerships. It's not just a given that Bombardir accepts the new position, however. He loves his job right now and the new role would be a huge commitment with a lot of travel.
GM Chuck Fletcher, who said, "No comment," when I asked if the job's been offered to "Bomber," wants the director of player development to spend one week a month in Houston and also to spend one to two weeks being the pipeline between the Wild's junior and college prospects and the Wild. The Wild hopes to have the position in place soon, especially because the director of player development will have a big role in organizing next month's development camp.
As for the Wild's assistant coaching opening to replace Mike Ramsey, who still may wind up having some role in the organization, there is no timeline. Fletcher's going to be a big part of this search in consultation with coach Todd Richards, so because Fletcher is so swamped right now with the draft and free agency, I'd think this would go into July.
Wes Walz, the Original Wild checker and former Lightning assistant coach, may eventually be a candidate. Minnesota Hockey Journal's Fiona Quick quoted Chuck Weber yesterday saying he's interested. Some have speculated that maybe Stillwater head coach and should-be Hall of Famer Phil Housley could be a candidate.
A couple potential candidates that jumped into my tiny brain today are recently dismissed Columbus Blue Jackets assistants Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy. Both are awesome coaches and guys.
Agnew, who's extremely well-respected, was a superstar junior coach back in the day before going to Columbus after coaching the AHL Syracuse Crunch. But I'm almost positive he interviewed for the Florida Panthers nearly-annual head coaching openings a few times back in the day (at least I remember writing his name a lot back then when I covered the Cats), so Fletcher probably knows him fairly well.
And as for Murphy, he was one of the biggest character guys I've ever covered. He was an assistant captain on those great Panthers teams back in the day under Roger Neilson and Doug MacLean, so he knows Fletcher -- a former Panthers assistant GM -- extremely well. In fact, I believe they've already been in contact about the Wild opening. Murphy was a solid defenseman, meaning if the Wild wants to hire a former defenseman to replace Ramsey, he'd fit that role.
But Fletcher said because Richards was a defenseman, the Wild doesn't necessarily have to hire a former Dman.
Regardless, there are bunch of assistant coaching jobs available out there. Off the top of my head, there's Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Atlanta and of course, Columbus and Minnesota.
I also attended the Wild's annual draft luncheon today simply for the free grub at Iron Range Grill.
Fletcher addressed the media, then did a scrum and some one-on-ones. But I actually met with him the other day in his office, so a lot of that stuff either appeared in today's paper or will appear in the paper throughout next week regarding the draft specifically.
The Wild currently owns eight picks in the two-day draft (Round 1 Friday at 6 p.m., Rounds 2-7 Saturday at noon, TV coverage below). Most importantly, the Wild currently owns three picks in the first 56, four in the first 69 and five in the first 99. That's significant because as Fletcher has noted, the Wild's second pick last year was Matt Hackett at No. 77, meaning if Fletcher keeps all his picks, they could have four players before they had two last year. And their third pick last year was Kris Foucault at No. 103, so the Wild could have five before they had three last year.
Again, this is "currently." Knowing Fletcher, he'll be bouncing around like a bobblehead next weekend. He could move up, he could move down, he could gather more picks, he could lose picks if it means adding quality assets to the organization.
As Fletcher often says, draft picks are "currency.
The draft list is done. If they keep the ninth pick, they know exactly whom they're taking depending on what other teams do. But they're at the mercy of the eight teams in front of them. So they could move up if they really like somebody. Or if a lot of their top guys are gone, Fletcher showed last year he's got no qualms dropping back if it means gaining other picks or even players.
I've got some indications which players they like, and I'll squeeze that into next week's coverage at least a list of guys that might be around there. I get questions daily from Wild fans wondering whom I think the Wild will select. Remember, you don't want me broadcasting everything because teams have been known to jump over teams to get players if they think a player won't reach them.
In fact, if you remember a story I wrote a few years ago, Doug Risebrough basically fibbed to Bob Naegele once when the former owner asked whom the Wild would select.
Risebrough was so worried Naegele might accidentally tell his buddy who owned the Canadiens, he didn't let him know the Wild wanted Mikko Koivu sixth overall in 2001. They were worried Montreal would hop over them and take Koivu to unite him with big bro Saku. Instead, the Wild got Mikko at 6 and Montreal took Mike Komisarek at 7.
Yes, I know last year I was really going heavy with the "Wild will take Nick Leddy" stuff, but that was simply because then-assistant GM Tommy Thompson was so high on him to me in an on the record way. And if you remember, it was really that afternoon and night that I went strongly with the Leddy to Wild stuff. I figured most GM's weren't on the draft floor reading Russo's Rants anyway.
While I've got a gut feeling whom the Wild like, assistant GM Brent Flahr has naturally kept things close to the vest.
Also, I'll write about this next week, but the Wild says it will go directly off its list. In other words, whoever's next on their list will be chosen. Just because it needs forwards now doesn't mean it'll take a forward if a defenseman or even a goalie's higher on the list. This is about improving the depth of the organization long-term, so the Wild says it won't pass up a more talented defenseman or even goalie just because it needs forwards now. I'll write more about this rationale next week.
The Wild heads out to LA Monday. I head out Wednesday, although I'll be out of town until then.
Right now, most of Fletcher's time is on trade calls. The big question from reporters today was regarding my stories lately that the Wild would at least consider trading Brent Burns.
Of course, Fletcher, who's got the dryest sense of humor I know, said reporter's have been reading "Mr. Russo's blog" and "he knows everything."
When reporter's laughed, Fletcher said, "Well, he does. He's giving me ideas all the time."
That is true actually. I'm a wanna-be GM. I am like Costanza to Steinbrenner in that one Seinfeld episode: "I think I may have found a way for us to get Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn't have to give up
Fletcher made clear again today that his first choice is not to trade Burns. In other words, it's not like he's dialing up other GM's saying, "Want Brent Burns?" But I do know from talking to some execs around the league that Burns could be in play in the right deal. And quite frankly, the fact that Fletcher's willing to at least engage it in my article in today's paper means there's a possibility.
Nobody is untouchable, and as I've written many times, Burns might be the only way to get a top-six forward in here. Fletcher knows this.
But the Wild's not going to trade Burns just for the sake of trading Burns or just to show fans they're being active. It would have to be a significant deal, and if there's none out there, he's going nowhere. Fletcher has made it very clear that the Wild has to slowly, methodically build this franchise or it will be spinning its wheels forever. So as he said again today, maybe that big impact acquisition happens 12 months from now. He refuses to force it because that's when you make mistakes.
And if the Wild can't make that big impact trade at the draft, I've got a fairly good idea of some of things they'll try to do in free agency, and that'll appear in the paper during the days leading into free agency.
Lastly, I did a big piece for tomorrow's paper (Saturday) introducing you to Flahr. Flahr is a character-in-a-half. I've known him for 14 years since back in the Florida days, and there's some good color in there. Friday is his 36th birthday, and it'll be the first time in Wild history somebody other than Thompson's running the draft table.
By the way, I discovered today the truck fire that destroyed the Wild's equipment last December was partially Flahr's fault. One of his last moves prior to leaving Ottawa as director of hockey operations for Minnesota was approving a new equipment truck.
Lastly, here's the draft TV coverage news release for you:
The NHL Network’s one-hour Draft Preview Show hits the airwaves at 5:00 p.m. CT on Friday as Brian Duff and Mike Johnson provide their analysis of which player will be selected in the coveted first overall position. Carried live on Versus in the United States and TSN and RDS in Canada, the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will be telecast from the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles beginning at 6:00 p.m. CT.
Immediately following the conclusion of round one, the NHL Network team will be on the air again at 10:00 p.m. CT for post-draft reaction. On Saturday, On the Fly host Dan Pollard, analyst and former NHL GM Craig Button and Kings Vision host Heidi Androl will take viewers through rounds two through seven as NHL Network is the exclusive broadcaster for day two of the Draft beginning at 12:00 p.m. CT.