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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Gillies claimed by Columbus; Harding starts; Zanon sits, Lundin plays

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild player moves, Wild pregame skate Updated: January 14, 2012 - 12:41 PM
Update: Josh Harding will start, Matt Hackett backs him up as Niklas Backstrom continues to recover from the plague. Greg Zanon will be scratched and had a long talk with coach Mike Yeo on the ice. Yeo told the media a lot of guys could have been taken out after last game. Mike Lundin, scratched in nine of the past 10, plays.
 
Update: Few quotes from Gillies, who will travel to Columbus tomorrow after flying back to Minnesota today to get his stuff, via phone:
 
"I just want to play. I’m excited to go there and show them what I can do and earn a spot in this league.

"At first I accepted it (the fourth line role). At the beginning of the year, I was playing really well. I always had almost like motivation. If I work hard and I show them, I can move up in lines when I get that chance, when there’s injuries. Just like the last little bit, it seemed like they looked at guys and give them chances instead of moving me up. Obviously, it hurt. It’s kind of unmotivating. It was hard. You’ve got to play the best you can with what you’re given. It’s just hard sometimes. That’s all."

He said he never really talked to Mike Yeo about his frustrations, saying, "I don't complain. I just work."

Gillies said it's been a tough road for him in Minnesota, but he wouldn't change a thing and he wanted me to thank the fans particularly. He talked about the fans over and over.

Gillies is a perfect example of a guy that almost tried too hard, almost cares too much. Sometimes less is more, and lately, his legs were churning but he wasn't effective. He talked to me a few weeks ago during a car ride to the Saddledome about how he hadn't been sleeping well, how he so wanted to be an impact player in this league, not just a guy that took up a spot. He should get that chance in Columbus. He gets a clean slate and now has something to prove.

He only played for Todd Richards 7 games in two years, saying, "It's funny how that works. It's such a small hockey world."

 

Colton Gillies will play for Todd Richards on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Sources say he was claimed on waivers this morning and will head there this afternoon.
Gillies, a big part of the Houston Aeros’ run to the Calder Cup Finals last year, was placed on waivers yesterday with the intention of reassigning him to Houston so he could get his game and confidence back.
It didn’t work.
Waivers was risky because most teams look through scout’s eyes and Gillies is a physical, fast, young, former first-round pick and he could be had for absolutely free on waivers. So that appealed to at least one of the other 29 teams.
“There’s a chance somebody could claim him, and that’s the risk we’re taking,” Fletcher said yesterday. “But the status quo wasn’t accomplishing what anybody needed to get accomplished. We needed to change it up for him and give him a chance to get his game going.”
If he wasn’t able to be traded, to me this was a risk the Wild had to take.
I mean, they had to do something. Gillies just wasn’t cutting it – plain and simple. He worked hard but was trying to do too much and didn’t adjust at all to a fourth-line role. His game proved to be limited in the NHL. And his confidence was shot. A perfect example was last week in Calgary when he did about three things right to put himself between the circles in a prime shooting area. Then he passes up the shot to try to make a pass through three bodies. Sorry, you’re Colton Gillies, not Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Shoot the puck.
It was that play that said to me, enough is enough.
Losing Gillies isn’t like trading Nick Leddy for nothing. The Wild’s blue line doesn’t produce points, doesn’t get goals, doesn’t get shots through, has trouble getting the puck on transition.
The Wild could use Leddy now.
Guys like Gillies are easily replaceable, both internally and externally (unless he becomes a perennial 20-goal scorer, which I don’t see). I know that’s harsh. But it’s true. And trust me, I like Gillies. Incredibly nice kid, hard worker, great character.
He has scored no goals and two assists in 37 games in a fourth-line role this season. He has three goals and seven assists in 89 NHL games.
In 2007, the Wild made the questionable decision to trade a second-round pick to move up three slots in the draft so it could take Gillies at No. 16 overall. It then basically pronounced him a future checker, which made the decision to trade a second a curious one.
Gillies is just the latest in the Wild’s long list of first-round picks to so far not pan out.
The Wild’s first four first-rounders were Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns.
Here’s a look from 2004-09, and maybe explains why the talent on the ice, say, Thursday in Chicago, was so visibly different:
2009: Nick Leddy, Eden Prairie High, 16th overall
2008: Tyler Cuma, Ottawa (OHL), 23rd overall
2007: Colton Gillies, Saskatoon (WHL), 16th overall
2006: James Sheppard, Cape Breton (QMJHL), 9th overal
2005: Benoit Pouliot, Sudbury (OHL), 4th overall
2004: A.J. Thelen, Michigan State, 12th overall
 
Obviously only one of those came from the new regime, but you waste that many first-round picks in a row, it takes awhile to recover. Obviously, the Wild’s doing a good job restocking the cupboards between guys like (in no particular order) Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, Johan Gustafsson, Jonas Brodin, Zack Phillips, Mario Lucia, etc. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for them to turn pro and develop.
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