Get beyond quizzical, and deal is just brazen
- Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
- Star Tribune
- February 27, 2008 - 9:24 AM
There is a group of people that actually follows Wild games from the seats inside Xcel Energy Center, rather than hanging loose in one of the arena's saloons. And these folks were in a dither for the two weeks leading to the trading deadline, trying to decide if their man TDR was going to land Peter Forsberg, Marian Hossa, Sergei Fedorov, Bobby Holik or Michael Peca to assist in the anticipated push to Minnesota's first Stanley Cup.
Always a beacon of patience, Trader Doug Risebrough waited out Forsberg's return to Colorado and Hossa's trade to Pittsburgh. Holik and Peca remained there for the taking, but the extra-crafty TDR wasn't going to be blackmailed, not when he had a move on his hip that would shake up the hockey world.
Was TDR going to include Pierre-Marc Bouchard as the centerpiece in a deal that would convince Florida to trade him center Olli Jokinen? Would he go the simple route and announce Wes Walz was coming out of retirement so he would be available to resume chasing around Forsberg?
Mike Russo's ranters on startribune.com held their breath, if not their thoughts.
Finally, the news arrived at roughly the same time the 2 p.m. trading deadline arrived: TDR had traded a sixth-round draft choice to the New York Islanders for Chris Simon.
It had been two decades since a local sports executive made a personnel move that made this much sense. The executive was Remarkable Mike Lynn, the boss of the Vikings.
We're not referring to his decision in October 1988 to trade away the next three drafts for Herschel Walker. We're referring to his decision in November 1988 to sign Mossy Cade, a defensive back as well as a convicted rapist.
The outrage was immediate. Lynn dropped Cade three days later.
So, let's get that straight, puck zealots: Trading for Simon isn't the most arrogant move ever made by a Minnesota franchise. As long as there are people to remember Lynn's flirtation with Cade, a team can only attain runner-up status for arrogance -- and Risebrough and the Wild now have that.
This sports organization has been pampered more by the Twin Cities media than any in Minnesota's big-league history (dating to 1961), even with our guy Russo holding their blades to the fire on occasion.
The Wild has been treated as if it's the model of efficiency, while producing one eventful playoff experience (2003) in its first half-dozen seasons.
Five years later, there was cause for mid-February giddiness when the Wild reached a best-ever six-point lead in the Northwest Division. It was a 24-hour period when the players themselves were convinced Forsberg was on the way as the missing center.
And now, the trading deadline has passed, and Risebrough's answer to the players was to bring in the missing link.
OK, that's a dated reference for local NHL fans, going back to 1988 when the North Stars made Link Gaetz, a noted brawler from junior hockey, their second-round draft choice. He couldn't shake the demons and played only briefly in the NHL.
Simon's size, aggressiveness and reasonable skill have caused seven teams to be blind to his demons and allow him to survive 16 seasons and eight NHL suspensions.
Asked about Simon's horrific history on Tuesday, Risebrough said: "His motivations were not right. He's paid the price."
He paid the price of a 25-game suspension for trying to decapitate Ryan Hollweg on March 8, 2007. He paid the price of a 30-game suspension for trying to use his skate to amputate Jarkko Ruutu's right foot on Dec. 15, 2007.
Presumably, Risebrough knew this move would bring heat for him and the Wild. His response: "You're the one that has brought it up more than anyone."
There weren't questions on your conference call about trading for a guy with this track record?
"Yes, there were questions," Risebrough said. "And, you asked questions about the past, I answered them, and you've asked a number of times."
Gosh, I feel as bad about that as Hollweg must have when our new Wild-man hit him in the face with a two-handed swing of a stick.
Here's an idea: On March 9, a day late, the Wild can have a pregame ceremony for Simon to mark the first anniversary of that grand moment in NHL goonery.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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