Without further ado, the first “Russo’s Rants” Q and A of 2015-16 season, with questions you left on the Russo’s Rants blog.
Jim Cloudy: Ryan Suter is more active offensively. Could this be a benefit of reduced ice time?
Russo: Part of the objective in lowering his ice time was to give him more energy late in games, late in the season and to make him more of an offensive threat. But Suter also came into this season feeling great mentally and physically, and his goal was to shoot the puck and join the attack more. So ice time could be part of it. So could overall attitude.
Kjkjkjkjkjkj: Do you see the Wild trading Jared Spurgeon before the Feb. 29 deadline?
Russo: Spurgeon could be a restricted free agent July 1. If the Wild’s unable to re-sign him, these are the type of trades that occur over the summer, typically around the draft. Most teams at the deadline seek unrestricted free-agent “rentals.”
hockey81611: What do you predict happens with Darcy Kuemper?
Russo: Kuemper’s fate was sealed the moment Devan Dubnyk re-signed for six years. He’ll almost certainly be traded at some point. It makes sense that would also occur around the draft, but the Wild needs Kuem- per to spot-start for Dubnyk, win games, convince other teams he’s still a future No. 1 and up his stock. The unfortunate thing is Kuemper’s development may have stalled the second he required waivers to get to the minors. It’s hard to get better when you’re rarely playing.
Surlygurl: I thought the plan was for Mikael Granlund to shoot more?
Russo: This may be another case of a “leopard cannot change its spots.” Like Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Granlund is a pass-first player, so it’s hard to change a player’s mentality at this juncture of one’s career.
Sathington: Is it time to move Jason Pominville off the first line?
Russo: He’s certainly struggling. Prior to Saturday, he had no goals through 10 games, was fanning on shots left and right and was even having trouble catching passes. I think if Tyler Graovac was close to returning (he’s not), it would give Mike Yeo the chance to move Charlie Coyle to right wing on the Zach Parise-Granlund line and see if old Sabres teammate Thomas Vanek could help re-ignite Pominville. Whatever the case, Granlund and Pominville need to be better (no even-strength points in seven straight games before Saturday).
Wildtroutbum: What would be the benefits of moving Pominville to the Mikko Koivu line?
Russo: I don’t think they should touch the Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter line. Koivu looks invigorated playing with the young guns, and the line’s been by far the most consistent this season. So why risk messing that up?
JT4649: If Pominville isn’t able to find his scoring touch, do the Wild buy him out? Either way do they have interest in Kyle Okposo July 1?
Russo: It would be expensive, but it wouldn’t shock me on Pominville. As for Okposo, I’m sure there’d be interest, but with Zucker, Spurgeon and Matt Dumba all needing to be re-signed, it’s hard to say now who, if anybody, the Wild will be able to afford.
cuts47: Any chance someone picks up Niklas Backstrom?
Russo: He’s 37, hasn’t played since January and when he was playing, he wasn’t playing well. The longer he goes without getting a sniff of playing time, the harder it will be to trade him.
Fergy2004: Is it fair to Las Vegas and Quebec City to not have an expansion decision in a timely manner?
Russo: Florida and Anaheim expansion teams were awarded in December 1992, and they started the following fall. It can be done.
Phantom88: Is the Wild concerned Notre Dame’s Mario Lucia will use the “four year rule” and become a free agent as Mike Reilly did?
Russo: No. Boston College’s Adam Gilmour, maybe.
Iowamiller: 3-on-3 is not hockey. How long will it last?
Russo: I think it’s here to stay, but no league makes more major rule changes than the NHL, so maybe we’ll be talking 2-on-2 once coaches figure out a way to dumb down 3-on-3 with defensive schemes.
Dancinllama: By your count, how many Russo parody Twitter accounts are there?
Russo: About a half-dozen too many.
NHL short takes
Linesman Brian Mach became the first Minnesotan to officiate 1,000 NHL games during Friday’s Wild-Blackhawks game.
Mach has so many stories and memories, but here are his two favorite:
His very first faceoff during a 2000 preseason game in Denver. After an offside, Mach dropped the puck between Dallas’ Mike Modano and Colorado’s Joe Sakic. Modano inexplicably fell on top of the puck, Sakic inexplicably put his hand on top of Modano. Mach blew his whistle, and the two future Hall of Famers stood up, took their gloves off, shook Mach’s hand and said, “Congrats, we wish you the best of luck.
“It just floored me. A kid from Little Falls, Minnesota, and those two stars knew right then and there that was my first puck drop. I was just flabbergasted.”
Student of the drop
The second involves Modano, too. After 9/11, NHL officials spent much of the 2001 preseason traveling on team charters. Mach flew to a couple of games with the Stars.
During Mach’s first season as an NHL official, “Modano would always win my faceoffs, like religiously win them.”
On the team plane, Mach spotted Modano studying video and saw himself on the screen. “Modano goes to me, ‘You know how I win every faceoff from you?’ ” Mach said. “I said, ‘Yeah, how do you do it?’ He goes, ‘Watch your pointer finger on your right hand.’ I would just move it enough on the puck right before I dropped the puck that he knew it was going down.
“The next night, on the ice, my first faceoff with Modano, I had my finger glued to that puck. I dropped it, he lost it clean and he looked at me and goes, ‘Wow.’ I just giggled. He said, ‘I’m never telling you another thing again.’ ”
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. Nashville (FSN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Tampa Bay (FSN)
Player to watch: Steven Stamkos, T.B.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft and former 60-goal scorer has led the NHL in goal scoring twice.
“I didn’t ask you to pick me in your league and write me again when you have a save percentage.”
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, on what he texted his friend when his pal wanted better numbers from Dubnyk on his fantasy team.