Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Mikko Koivu "hints" to Mikael Granlund to join Wild next season; Talking realignment

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: May 16, 2011 - 4:21 PM

Before I begin, we've all got to start paying attention to Houston, where Matt Kassian and the Aeros are on the verge of something special. They're two wins from the Calder Cup Finals.

The Aeros have arrived in Hamilton for Games 3, 4 and maybe 5. For great information on the series, read John Royal's blog on the series right here.

Want to be entertained? Follow Kassian, the longtime popular Aeros bruiser who made his long-awaited NHL debut this past season, on Twitter at this link. Kassian just ingested some Tim Horton's Timbits and coffee, so he's all ready and waiting for your arrival.

After years and years of covering Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom and Antti Miettinen and Olli Jokinen and Niklas Hagman and Esa Tikkanen (that was a joy), I've learned a fair bit of Finnish in my day.

Plus, I spent a week in Helsinki last October, and I'm a quick learner.

So I just got done watching Mikko Koivu's interview on Channel 4, Finland's national TV channel (nelonen.fi), and since I speak Finnish, here's a transcript:

Question: "Could you see yourself and Mikael Granlund leading Minnesota Wild in NHL?"

Answer: "It's not coincidence that you get picked in 1st round. It tells a lot about your skills and what you can do on the ice but also what you can do off the ice. That is one thing I always look first. He has everything in order, also his values of life. I think we'd take him with open arms and maybe I already gave him a small hint to join next fall. Hope so."
 

I suggest you watch the interview yourself here, if for no other reason than to see the dent that the partying Finns have already put on the trophy less than 24 hours after having it. The dent can be seen clearly at six seconds. The Granlund stuff begins at 1:06. The first part of the interview is apparently about some claims that the Finns said mean stuff to the Swedes after beating them.

In full disclosure, I don't speak Finnish. I called upon my friend, Finnish sportswriter, Juha Hiitela (Veikkaaja sports magazine), to translate for me once I found out about Koivu's comments of hinting toward Granlund to come now. Juha is a must follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jhiitela.

His World Championships celebration coverage on Twitter today was phenomenal, which I'll string to in a minute.

Back to Granlund, GM Chuck Fletcher will soon talk with Granlund's agents. Fletcher has long said he doesn't want to rush Granlund and he'll have a huge say in the process. If he wants to stay in Finland another year, he can stay. If he wants to try the NHL now, he can do that, too.

Frankly, I've got to think Craig Leipold and Chuck Fletcher and Brent Flahr are salivating for Granlund to come over now. He looks ready to contribute, and frankly, the Wild could use a bit of excitement, more so than any coaching hire can bring.

Granlund just won a SM-Liiga championship, leading the league in scoring one year after being Rookie of the Year. He's the toast of a nation now, helping deliver Finland a World Championship with the Goal of the Century.

So what else does he have to prove? So I would think that Fletcher in his very smart, charming way would gently try to convince (OK, maybe beg) Granlund to come over now. Hey, maybe I'm wrong. But that's what I think.

Of course, Granlund is a rock star in Finland now, and it may be hard for any 19-year-old to leave that.

Onto the World Championships, there was quite the party in Helsinki today as the Finns returned to the country escorted by fighter pilots partially through Swedish air space (I'm assuming as one final kick to the gut).

Here are some tweets from jhiitela that will describe the scene:

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
I wonder how many just born baby boy will be named to Mikko or Mikael in next few days and weeks.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
People are already gathering to Market Square in Helsinki. Even though team will be there in 3 hours.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
Team Finland arrived to Helsinki Vantaa Airport VIP lounge. Mikko Koivu tooked trophy and showed to fans which were waiting outside fences.

THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE: jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
Mikael Granlund paper doll

(Juha says same paper had in their print version instructions how to make Granlund look-a-like mask face mask.)

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
If there would be presidential election in Finland say... tomorrow? Mikael Granlund or Mikko Koivu would win it.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
As captain, Mikko Koivu can decide who can bring the trophy to home city first. I bet Turku will be first.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
"This is our victory, but it's also victory of a whole nation." -Mikko Koivu

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
they just gave estimation. At least 50 000 people have arrived so far. Team will around in 45 minutes.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
there is screaming teenage girls in front row. Most of them has painted Granlund's jersey number (64) to their face.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
people have climbed to lamp posts to see better to the stage.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
Finland's president Mrs. Tarja Halonen will be joining to victory party later.

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
"I can't yet imagine what's happening." - Mikael Granlund

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
"Whole country can celebrate this for one week. Last time this happend was 16 yrs ago. So it's ok to celebrate." -Granlund

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
Granlund gets huge staning ovation and screaming when he enters the stage...

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
current estimate of crowd is 70 000...

jhiitela Juha Hiitelä
RT @DanielaFIN: The president of our country is dancing on stage with 30 very drunk men. In front of 70 000 people.

Great stuff by Juha. He told me Madam President gave an award to the team on stage tonight. And Mikko, as captain, received it and hugged her, which apparently is "very unusual."

Anyway, it's nice to bring some levity to this blog after these past few days. I needed this.

Lastly, with the latest reports out of Atlanta here andhere that the Thrashers are in grave peril and could soon be moving north of us in Manitoba, there's been a lot of talk about realignment. I brought up the subject a few weeks ago on this blog.

IF Atlanta did move and the NHL kept this same divisional structure, you can bet Columbus or Nashville eventually moves to the East and the Wild eventually moves to the Central. The Wild has always made its opinion to the league known that it would like to be in the Central and it also would not be pleased about being in the Northwest with four Canadian teams.

That's a massive expensive, plus there's TV issues, and it's just a pain in the rump from an immigration point of view.

But this is just conjecture at this point, and frankly, some people I talk to say that even if Winnipeg gets a team at this point, things may very well be status quo for a year divisionally until Phoenix is completely resolved and there's a new CBA. That means for one year, Wild stays in the Northwest and Winnipeg stays in the Southeast.

Frankly, if they're going to realign, my pitch would be the Wild in with Montreal, New York, Chicago and Vancouver, but that's not geographically logical and quite frankly may be a bit selfish on the beat writer's part.

Plus, I don't think the Star Tribune corporate card could survive such nights out.

In all seriousness, and I mean this, this whole mess should not be a celebration. Phoenix Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette said it best on Twitter a few weeks ago when he reminded Winnipeg fans how crummy they had to feel when the Jets originally moved to Phoenix.

There are diehard, passionate Thrashers fans that will be devastated if their favorite hockey team moves. There are real people who make their livings by working for the Thrashers or Philips Arena. There are reporters who cover the team.

Too often, we forget about that when we talk about relocation so flippantly. I've got friends and family down there that love the Thrashers, I've got friends who work for the team or cover the team.

If they move, it will hurt a lot of folks, and you've got to feel for them with what appears to be a potential reality on the horizon.

Lastly, check this out, Ian Anderson of the local music scene sent me this clip of Markus Granlund scoring exact same goal brother Mikael did. Markus is draft eligible this summer in Minnesota.

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