The Wild's nosedive has created much angst among discouraged Wild fans. That was dramatically proven in the more than 100 questions submitted on "Russo's Rants" (www.startribune.com/russo) for the latest Sunday Insider Wild Q&A. Here are some of the lucky winners:
Pantsboyusa: Mike Yeo's system is designed to wear down the other team. Is it also wearing down his own team?
Russo: It's a demanding system. This team had to play at such a high level to eke out wins, it was difficult to sustain, particularly once it began losing top-six forwards. To ask Casey Wellman, David McIntyre, Jarod Palmer and Warren Peters to pick up the slack for Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse was unrealistic. Then when guys like Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Darroll Powe, Nick Johnson and others began trying to be players they're not, the wheels fell off.
Megami: Re-sign Brodziak?
Russo: I still would because he's evolved into a leader and solid third-line center. At least the swoon should no longer cause the Wild to overspend.
markit8: What's with the power play?
Russo: No prototypical net-presence guys, point men that don't get shots through, no quarterback to seamlessly get the puck up the ice, forwards that can't (or won't) chase down pucks after they're dumped, an awful Marek Zidlicky, an unproductive Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi and an utter lack of confidence. Other than that, the power play's fine.
cuts47: D most likely to be traded?
Russo: The only two it'd prefer not to trade are Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella. The Wild would give absolutely anything to dump Zidlicky. And since Greg Zanon, Clayton Stoner and Mike Lundin are free agents, all could be had in the next month.
Abemntocal: How much of our lack of offense is because of the defensemen?
Russo: The lack of offense begins with the Wild's poor execution coming out of the defensive zone, but it's not like the Wild's forwards are 1) finishing; 2) generating anything consistent off cycles and forechecks.
Berent: Will the Wild re-sign Latendresse?
Russo: Two injury-destroyed years in a row, at $2.5 million, I have my doubts. Only way I see it is if you don't qualify him, he would become an unrestricted free agent and may take a pay cut. But how does the Wild rely on him anymore?
Wildpru: What prospects do you see making the team next season?
Russo: Mikael Granlund's a lock. Charlie Coyle's got a shot, as do Johan Larsson and Brett Bulmer, and the Wild will give defenseman Jonas Brodin every opportunity. I think Jason Zucker turns pro.
Hipsquare: How about Heatley's game?
Russo: I'm more disappointed in Setoguchi's season, but Heatley is clearly not the same sniper he once was. He's obviously lost a step, but his quick trigger and agility in tight spaces and at the net are also not the same. But ... Heatley's a great teammate and the Wild needed to trade Martin Havlat.
aolin1987: Is it possible for the Wild to swing a deal for Zach Parise?
Russo: More likely as a free agent. I'm not convinced the Devils trade him. They're in a playoff race and GM Lou Lamoriello lets players walk (Scott Niedermayer, Paul Martin).
se7ensays: Does this free fall make us no longer an attractive option to free agents?
Russo: That's a legit fear. Scores of teams will pursue free agents like Parise and Ryan Suter, and they want to win.
oldgopherfan: Why not let the team dive into last so it can pick up a high draft pick?
Russo: Because the Wild's M.O. is it'll eventually turn this around just good enough to get the 10th pick.