Good afternoon. Rachel Blount covered practice this morning, but I figured I'd check in.
Rachel says the news out of the X this morning was the following: Chuck Kobasew plans to return from an upper-body injury against the Boston Bruins, the team that traded him to the Wild on Oct. 18. Martin Havlat did not practice this morning and will not play, but he's apparently getting closer. Andrew Ebbett is set to make his Wild debut.
Guillaume Latendresse's debut will be on hold as the Wild works on getting him his work visa. This is common any time you trade for a non-U.S. citizen that's not playing in a U.S. market.
I've gotten a bunch of emails and @russostrib twitter questions asking my thoughts on the trade. If I didn't make it clear on the previous blog, I don't think it was a risk basically. The Wild's been talking trade with the Canadiens for a long time. You can bet the Habs were begging the Wild to take out-of-favor Sergei Kostitsyn, but the Latendresse/Pouliot discussions recently cropped up.
Benoit Pouliot's got a ton of talent, but there are flaws in his game that kept him from becoming a top guy. Work ethic has been an issue, although, as I said on last night's blog, I was a lot more impressed with him this year. But he's got to make some tweaks in his game. He needs to go to the net more if he's going to be a true finisher. When he goes to the net, he's got to have his stick on the ice, not waist high. He's got to stop at the net and not skate by it.
He also needs ice time and quality linemates. Most times he was up in the NHL, he got fourth-line minutes. Like Latendresse, Pouliot is not going to be effective playing on the fourth line. If he goes to Montreal and receives quality minutes and linemates, we'll see if he develops into a true player. This is his chance. He'll be under even more pressure there with the Montreal media, with friends and family coming to the games because he hails from nearby. Hopefully this is what spurs him because the talent is indeed there.
If anybody ever needed a change in scenery, it's Pouliot. He was under immense pressure here, constantly labeled as the guy taken fourth overall in 2005 before Setoguchi, Marc Staal and ... dare we say, Anze Kopitar. But a lot of teams would have made the mistake with Pouliot. He had a great junior career, and during the lockout, most teams saved money on European scouting, so Kopitar wasn't on a lot of team's radar. In fact, I've always been told that if the Wild didn't take Pouliot, it would have been Staal anyway, not Kopitar. And incidentally, a lot of people believe that if the Wild doesn't take Pouliot at No. 4, the Canadiens would have taken Pouliot at No. 5 instead of Carey Price.
That draft also featured T.J. Oshie and Andrew Cogliano late in the first and ugh, Paul Stastny, in the second a pick before Latendresse.
As for Latendresse, I've talked to more people today that believe that he's got the ability to be a John LeClair-type power forward. Habs fans are certainly praying their favorite team didn't just trade LeClair all over again. In fact, the great Pierre LeBrun, who's writing a blog on the trade for espn.com/nhl that will be posted this afternoon, believes at least the Wild knows what it's getting with Latendresse -- "a second-line power winger for 10 years" -- while you just don't know what you're getting with Pouliot.
My only concern with Latendresse is skating. Two seasons ago, the Wild was one of the fastest teams in the West. The Wild's anything but that right now. It needs to get faster, in my opinion, especially if it's ever going to master Todd Richards' skating, forechecking system. It's hard to play an up-tempo, attacking system if you can't get to the puck first.
Anyway, my original point, this is a no-risk trade. Pouliot wasn't working out here. Maybe Latendresse, who also needed a change to reignite his career, does work out.
The fun part of being a sports fan is reacting to trades, but I'll reserve evaluation until I watch Latendresse play for some time. I've read some of the comments and emails, and I'd suggest you do the same. You can't judge a trade for a long time.
I've told this story on here before, and Chuck Fletcher would probably remember this because he was Florida's assistant GM at the time, but I remember when Tom Fitzgerald was traded to Colorado for Mark Parrish. Florida fans went crazy: "How can you trade Fitzie for some unknown?"
After Parrish scored 50 goals in two years as a Panther, Florida fans went crazy when the Panthers used Parrish as the mainstay in a package for a couple of guys named Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen.
That trade's probably one of the best in NHL history. Trade's can't be judged the day of a move, especially when you're talking about a couple of youngsters with untapped talent.