Good afternoon from Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild, two days after its worst loss of the season, practiced this morning.
Tyler Graovac was expectedly reassigned and Brett Sutter, who got the team stomach plague, returned to practice but doesn’t look like he’ll play when the Wild opens a big three-game homestand Tuesday against San Jose.
If you didn’t see my story today on J.P. Parise’s health and the burden Zach Parise is playing under, here is that link and get a tissue. Keep Jeeper and the Parise family in your thoughts and prayers. Here is the link to the original story in September of J.P. and Zach talking about J.P.'s condition.
I will write up a fresh blog in a bit with more stuff from today’s practice, but I wanted to quickly blog that defenseman Keith Ballard talked today for the first time since he sustained three facial fractures and a concussion Dec. 9 against the Islanders.
Ballard, 32, the Baudette native and former two-time Gophers national champ, is still experiencing symptoms and has done nothing other than taking walks since the injury. He admits that he’s not sure if he’ll ever play again. He said he’s going to let this play out before determining if he’ll return.
Ballard said during his last concussion that he’s worried about his future and wants to make sure he’s healthy in his post-hockey career as a husband and dad to two children.
He said that again today.
“I’m not ready to decide that stuff, but knowing what we know about concussions, I have to think about the long-term,” Ballard said. “I’ve had three in 14 months, five in five years, not to mention all the times you get hit and say, ‘I’ve got my bell rung,’ and you’re dizzy for a period. That happens probably a lot more than people know. I have to think about the long-term effects, but again, I’m not ready to make that decision yet. But answering it honestly, yeah, I’m going to think about it.”
Ballard said he has good days and bad ones, but he’s “better than I was the last couple weeks.”
He said he has watched the replay of the Islanders Matt Martin checking him between the benches. Ballard's head hit the top of the boards and he fell terrifyingly to the ice. The league didn’t discipline Martin because it felt Ballard aided things because he saw the hit coming at the last second and turned to avoid the check.
“The after part was kind of scary,” Ballard said of the video that shows him convulsing on the ice and tons of medical staff and paramedics to his aid (see this story). “I was in a bad spot. I think I was in a bad spot regardless. I dumped the puck and he’s playing on the other side of the ice and he comes all the way over to finish his check. Which I understand that. Guys like that, that’s what they do. For me, I was kind of trying to side step it and he moved right with me. So it’s unfortunate. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
On his future, Ballard said, “I’m not ready to make that decision right now. I’ll make it whether I get to that point. I might not have to make it depending on how much longer these symptoms last. But you definitely think about.
On being healthy in his post-hockey career, Ballard said, “That’s still more important to me than playing hockey. But I’m not going to make that decision right now. I’m going to let this play out and see how I feel. Hopefully things clear up and I can get back and play. But if it’s a choice between trying to stick it out and play and maybe say you’re feeling well when you’re not and getting hit again or just deciding it’s time to be done, that’s a decision for down the road. But it’s something I’m going to think about.”
Ballard didn’t have surgery, but he said it was tough “coming home and my face is pretty smashed up and seeing my kids again. I was so out of it for the first week, it was just kind of a blur. I sat on the couch and didn’t do much.”
Personally, I don't think we see Ballard again in a Wild sweater.
Regardless, he is out indefinitely and the Wild will continue to look for a left-shot defenseman. I'd be surprised if it's Bryan Allen, who's on waivers. This is not the same Bryan Allen who used to play for Vancouver. He's on the downslope of his career and $3.5 million is a huge ticket for a Canadiens depth defenseman. That type of pickup financially could inhibit the Wild from making other fixes, but we'll see tomorrow.
Plain and simple, the Clayton Stoner loss to a big, gigantic contract to Anaheim hurt this team, as did Willie Mitchell (understandably) choosing a richer payday in Florida. Not only does the Wild lack a left-shot, it misses the grit and physicality and size on the blue line.
I’ll be back in a bit with a bunch of stuff from today’s practice.