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Continued: Patrick Reusse: Wild's wise men didn't plan on Gaborik fouling things up

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 2, 2009 - 11:16 PM

They are the smartest guys in the room and if you gave them a choice between losing money and losing a player, the members of the Wild brain trust would go for losing the player every time.

Thus, there might be a tinge of front office disappointment that the Wild will be losing the most dynamic player in franchise history and get nothing in return, but you can be assured that Doug Risebrough and his minions will spend much time congratulating themselves for not committing to a long-term contract for many millions to Marian Gaborik.

Risebrough and Co. have the advantage of being able to claim all their decisions are correct, and validate this by pointing to an ongoing sellout streak that dates to the first game played in Xcel Energy Center in the fall of 2000.

Last summer, they were correct not to give Brian Rolston a fourth year in a contract extension, since Risebrough knew that in today's NHL moving the puck from the back line was more vital to scoring goals than veteran forwards with a track record for production.

They also were correct not to trade Gaborik coming off his healthy, high-scoring 2007-08 season in September. That way, the Wild could trade Gaborik near the March 4 deadline for a package of young, inexpensive talent and draft choices to a Stanley Cup contender.

The smartest guys in the room were right on these matters, and have 18,568 nightly ticket buyers to prove it, and that makes them right even when they are wrong.

On Friday, it became official that Gaborik will undergo hip surgery and not return until mid-March, at the earliest. This caused an emergency meeting of the Turkey Committee, which decided not to rescind the Turkey of the Year award presented to Gaborik this past Thanksgiving.

The reason: Gaborik did turn down a contract extension worth more than $50 million, an amount that could have soothed any frustrations from being stuck in Jacques Lemaire's defense-first system.

That said, Gaborik now comes out of this looking more reasonable than does Risebrough. The Wild boss wanted Gaborik to keep skating and try to return to the lineup, even after the free agent-to-be was told by his Colorado specialist that there was a "hip deficiency'' that would require surgery to repair.

There was a heated exchange when Risebrough was informed by Gaborik that he planned to have surgery. Risebrough made it known during a Friday conference call that he didn't approve of the decision.

Asked if he would have preferred Gaborik to attempt a return to the lineup, Risebrough said: "I'm disappointed that he won't be here with us for this point in the season. But this is the choice that Marian has made. So I have no other comment.''

Except, "Harrumph.''

And you over there, Tom Lynn, give Doug a "harrumph.'' And you, Chris Snow, give Doug a "harrumph.'' And you, the Cult of 18,000, give Doug your "harrumph.''

The humorous part of Risebrough's media call Friday was the persistence with which he kept saying Gaborik would be back in the lineup in 10 weeks.

The surgery is Monday and the actual medical outlook for Gaborik's return is 10 to 14 weeks. There are two very good reasons to anticipate the longer time frame:

One, there's now obvious acrimony between Gaborik and Risebrough; and two, Gaborik's history as a slow healer.

The best bet today is Gaborik has played his last game for the Wild. He'll hit the market this summer with two surgically repaired hips, sign a one-year contract with a contending team -- such as Marian Hossa did with Detroit -- and re-establish himself as a star.

The Wild? Lemaire will get his lads to play even more defense and keep his team on the cusp of playoff contention over the next two months. Then, as the March 4 trade deadline approaches and other teams yield prospects for reinforcements, Risebrough will strike.

A year ago, the acquisition was Chris Simon, a misunderstood gentleman now trying to start World War III in the Russian league. The prediction here is that this is the move Risebrough has on his hip, so to speak:

He's going to bring in at the cost of nothing another misunderstood chap -- Sean Avery.

Go for it, Doug. Harrumph, harrumph.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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