This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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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For at least this very moment, the Wild's season opener is at home on Hockey Day Minnesota on Jan. 19 against the Colorado Avalanche.
It will be the nightcap on Fox Sports North at 8 p.m.
I shouldn't have retracted my original report Tuesday on this now (ha), but the yet-to-be released NHL schedule has had a lot of moving parts and my original report was wrong at the time.
The Wild's opener was going to be AT Colorado on Jan. 19.
It is now back at home after the Wild made its case to the league that the team should open at home on the day this sport is celebrated in the great state of Minnesota. The league, after flipping some things around, has worked to accomodate the request.
So as of now, ... barring any other changes, the Wild is expected to open at home Jan. 19 against Colorado.
Not only that, I hear there's a chance the Wild will actually open with consecutive home games (Jan. 20), although I am not positive of the opponent yet and if that will be changed.
The full 48-game schedule will be released after the players ratify the new collective bargaining agreement Saturday. So, the schedule should be out Saturday or Sunday and tickets will go on sale next week.
Hockey Day Minnesota is hosted by Grand Rapids on Pokegama Lake.
Coverage on Fox Sports North starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 19 with the first game being at 10 between Eagan and Hibbing-Chisholm. At 1:30, defending state champ Benilde-St. Margaret's plays Grand Rapids. At 5 p.m., the No. 1-ranked Gophers host North Dakota. And at 8, Colorado at Wild.
Also, following the Wild game will be a tape-delayed girls' game between Grand Rapids Greenway and Hibbing-Chisholm.
As of now, training camp will open Sunday. The Wild wants to have a scrimmage or two next week so it yet may expand the roster as needed next week, but as of now the folks here plus Matt Dumba is expected to be the roster. So as of now, I wouldn't expect any other prospects from Houston arriving before Sunday.
The depth chart again:
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Matt Cullen-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Darroll Powe-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell
Matt Kassian-Jake Dowell-Stephane Veilleux
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
Matt Dumba (coming in from WHL Red Deer)
Marco Scandella (groin injury, status uncertain)
That is 25 players. You can only have a 23-man roster.
The final roster depends on if Scandella is healthy, if Bouchard is ready to start the year (he hasn't been cleared to play yet but is aiming for opening night) and if there are any other injuries or trades.
I've gotten tons of questions about Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson and whether they'll be at camp.
Again, as of now, it looks like no to start, but the Wild may expand the roster next week based on need or injuries.
But right now, as you can see, there's no open spots barring injuries or trades for Houston prospects. If Scandella is hurt and Dumba doesn't make the team, the Wild will need another defenseman from Houston or to make a trade as a seventh defenseman.
Konopka arrived today, so the entire Wild roster is here (minus Dumba).
The Wild has invited 2012 first-round pick Matt Dumba to training camp, General Manager Chuck Fletcher. While it's uncertain right now when training camp will be, Dumba will most likely leave WHL Red Deer and arrive in the Twin Cities by Friday.
The hard-hitting defenseman is fifth on the Rebels with 23 points (10 goals) in 41 games after scoring 57 points in 69 games a year ago. He had a slow start to the season, but the Rebels made an assistant coaching change and he's apparently been improved since. He was cut from Canada's world junior selection camp last month.
Dumba signed a three-year deal in July and here is the story I wrote the night he was drafted last June in Pittsburgh.
I'll talk to the team more about this Tuesday. The Wild is thin on defense right now with Marco Scandella hurt. It signed veteran Paul Mara to an AHL deal today, so we'll see if that ever turns into an NHL deal. My guess is that Dumba will be here for the experience (to give him a taste) and eventually wind up back in Red Deer, but we will see. The Wild says it's set no limits for Dumba.
Apologies for postponing today's chat. It will now be Tuesday at 1 p.m. on startribune.com/wild. Please join.
I have gotten a lot of questions about Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, etc., and the chance of them making the team right out of camp. Barring injuries or trades in camp, it's unlikely. Just take a look at the depth chart and it's very clear there's no obvious open spots if Pierre-Marc Bouchard is ready. And he hopes to be. Mikael Granlund is expected to land the one open spot at second-line center.
But, inevitably, there's always something that happens and the good news is the Wild has a ton of depth this year in the minors if it runs into performance or injury problems.
For all the scenes from today's skate at the X and notes on Bouchard, Josh Harding, Scandella, etc., please read the coverage in Tuesday's paper and www.startribune.com/wild. I wrote two stories.
Also, I did a father-son story on Gophers coach Don Lucia and Notre Dame freshman Mario Lucia, who play each other Tuesday night at Mariucci, in Tuesday's paper.
A memorandum of understanding is expected to be complete Tuesday and the owners are expected to ratify the CBA at a Board of Governors meeting Wednesday.
On behalf of the entire Wild organization, I want to thank you for your patience and your passion for our sport. I understand your frustration over the lengthy CBA negotiations and shortened season. I know that we have some work to do to earn your faith once again. Let me assure you that we’ll work harder than ever to do just that as we welcome you back to Xcel Energy Center. You’ll be receiving information over the next several days through our Fan Relations team about some special benefits we’ll be implementing to welcome you back.
I look forward to the much-anticipated debut of the new and improved Minnesota Wild. I’ll be there in my usual seat and can’t wait to hear those three words we’ve been waiting too long for—"Let’s Play Hockey!"
Wild has access today at 1 p.m., so that scraps the planned Live Chat ...
Will reschedule as soon as I can.
Here is some of our coverage today:
But, ...... buy a newspaper. Awesome package put together by the folks on our copy desk.
The latest news: The players are expected to begin their ratification process once the union reviews a memo of understanding from the NHL. That could happen today or Tuesday. The voting process should be quick and simple.
On Wednesday, the NHL will have a Board of Governors meeting in New York to ratify the deal.
After that, we should have a much better sense as to when training camp will start and the season.
Last night, all 30 teams got a very vague memo that basically said due to timing and logistics, it's mostly probable that the season would start Jan. 19. But the goal still seems to be to start sooner. Only thing the memo said that was kinda definitive is that training camp would start sometime Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
Things may remain vague until the deal is sign, sealed, delivered, official Wednesday. Then we may know then when training camp and the season starts.
But at this point, Jan. 15 seems like a real longshot. Can you start training camp on a Thursday and the season on a Tuesday? I'd say no chance. If you can consider road teams would have to then hit the road Monday, that gives teams five days of camp.
Also, Jan. 15 seems too soon if teams don't have a schedule because they need to redistribute tickets, sell tickets, set up marketing and promotions, book TV trucks, make sure their broadcasting rightsholders are ready to air those nights. Hockey ops needs to book travel -- planes, hotels, buses, meals.
So there's a lot of moving parts right now, so stay tuned.
A forty-eight game schedule starting Jan. 19 would like be divided as 5 games vs. 2 teams in one's division, 4 games vs. the other 2 teams in one's division (18 games) and then three games vs. the other 10 teams in one's conference (2 home, 1 away or vice versa for 30 games) = 48. (I'm a math whiz)!
I'm sure I'll be back today with updates and other goodies. NHL is back!
The NHL canceled the regular-season schedule through Oct. 24, meaning games from Oct. 11-24 won't be played.
That affects five Wild games -- three at home.
The wording of the league's release was somewhat vague, the reason being that there is a brief window to reshuffle the schedule and have an 82-game season per team if there is a quick solution to the lockout.
Of course, the way talks are going, that is slim.
Said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an email to the Star Tribune: "It was an extremely disappointing but necessary decision. There is simply not enough days left to open the regular season on time. We remain committed to continuing to work hard to try to figure something out that will result in the breakthrough we need to get this agreement done and behind us. But obviously, we haven't been able to do that yet. And for better or worse, we need a negotiating partner to make that happen."
In a statement, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said, “The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue. A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner.”
Players expected the cancellations when I spoke to them earlier this week.
“It’s not like tomorrow I’m going to wake up and be shocked that we’re not starting on time,” said Vancouver Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard, a former Gopher who is skating and working out weekly in the Twin Cities.
“People ask me every day what I think is going to happen, are we going to play this season, I have no clue. I don’t know. Obviously it’s going to take two sides. We’ve been willing to negotiate and talk, but they think a certain way, and unless they get it, they don’t want to talk, I guess.”
The NHL has made three proposals off a July 13 initial proposal that cuts the player share from 57 percent of league revenue under the final year of the expired CBA to 47 percent in the final four years of a new six-year proposed CBA.
The league has made clear that’s negotiable, but the union, in the league’s mind, hasn’t budged or made a proposal since its first and only proposal Aug. 14.
The NHL has said it will not make another proposal until the union counters last month’s NHL proposal. The union has refused, saying this isn’t a game of “Ping-Pong.”
More than 100 players have already left to play in Europe for the duration of the lockout. That includes the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon and perhaps soon Zach Parise, who has an offer to join Spurgeon in the Swiss League.
More players are expected to flood Europe, while others, like Ballard, who skates four times a week in St. Louis Park and works out every morning with the Gophers’ hockey team at Mariucci Arena, plans to stay put for now.
“I guess we continue to do what we’ve been doing, which gets old, but it’s part of your job and part of what you need to do to stay sharp and to stay in shape,” Ballard said. “We’ve given a couple good proposals, and as a union, our last proposal was pretty good.
“But just kind of reading through what Bill Daly and the league is saying, nothing is going to happen unless we change. So we’ll see what happens, I guess. It doesn’t sound overly encouraging from that standpoint.”
Technically, because the league has not canceled games outright and is reserving the right to reschedule, some teams aren't going to issue immediate refunds.
The Wild isn't one of those teams.
The Wild is offering the second-highest interest in the league to keep money in your accounts -- 10 percent APR. I believe Nashville is 10.5.
When a game is at least postponed or canceled, from that moment, if a season-ticket holder keeps their money in their account, the STH would receive 10% APR interest for each day it remains canceled or postponed and last until the NHL announces a new schedule.
I assume because of the 10 percent, Wild COO Matt Majka says a minuscule amount of fans are actually asking for refunds. The Wild will immediately begin cutting checks to those fans. Those checks will be cut the 15th of every month for the value of the games canceled the previous month.
In other words, on Oct. 15, the preseason games scrapped from last month will be refunded. If no games are played this month, on Nov. 15, the October home games will be refunded.
In other news:
The Houston Aeros, the Wild's American Hockey League affiliate who open their season at home against Charlotte on Oct. 13, trimmed their roster by 12.
No surprises and it's essentially what I wrote on the blog Sunday:
Colton Jobke was returned to his Western Hockey League, Regina, where the Wild says there's a chance he may be a captain.
Others dismissed from Houston?
Sean Lorenz, Kyle Medvec and Josh Caron were sent to ECHL Orlando, as was Ryan Ginand, Corbin Baldwin, Nick Petersen and Rob Mignardi.
Eric Lampe was assigned to ECHL Las Vegas, while Mike Montgomery, Ryley Grantham and Brennan Vargas were sent to CHL Allen.
The remaining Houston roster looks like this:
Forwards: Joel Broda, Brett Bulmer, Charlie Coyle, Kris Foucault, Justin Fontaine, Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan, Jarod Palmer, Nick Palmieri, Zack Phillips, Chad Rau, Jason Zucker.
Defense: Drew Bagnall, Jonas Brodin, Brian Connelly, Tyler Cuma, Kris Fredheim, Chay Genoway, Steven Kampfer, Marco Scandella.
Goalies: Mike Brodeur, John Curry, Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper.
As you can see, Palmieri finally signed his AHL deal and has arrived.
Not to add to your depression, but here's one final look at the 2012-13 Wild schedule as we once knew it:
MINNESOTA WILD 2012-13 SCHEDULE
DAY DATE OPPONENT TIME (CT)
SEPTEMBER – PRESEASON
Tue. 25 Dallas (@ Boise, ID) 8:00 P.M.
WED. 26 DALLAS 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 27 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 29 @ St. Louis 7:00 P.M.
OCTOBER – PRE SEASON
TUE. 2 WINNIPEG 7:00 P.M.
Thur. 4 @ Winnipeg 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 6 @ Calgary 8:00 P.M.
OCTOBER – REGULAR SEASON
SAT, 13 COLORADO 7:00 P.M.
TUE. 16 COLUMBUS 7:00 P.M.
Thur. 18 @ Dallas 7:00 p.m.
Sat. 20 @ St. Louis 7:00 p.m.
TUE. 23 MONTREAL 7:00 P.M.
Fri. 26 @ Columbus 6:00 p.m.
SAT. 27 FLORIDA 7:00 P.M.
MON. 29 WASHINGTON 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 1 LOS ANGELES 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 3 @ Tampa Bay 6:00 p.m.
Tue. 6 @ Boston 6:00 p.m.
Thur. 8 @ N.Y. Rangers 6:00 p.m.
Sat. 10 @ Detroit 6:00 p.m.
Sun. 11 @ New Jersey 4:00 p.m.
Tue. 13 @ Philadelphia 6:00 p.m.
THUR. 15 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 17 DETROIT 7:00 P.M.
Mon. 19 @ Vancouver 9:00 p.m.
Tue. 20 @ Calgary 8:00 p.m.
FRI. 23 TORONTO 5:00 P.M.
Mon. 26 @ Pittsburgh 6:00 p.m.
WED. 28 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M.
Fri. 30 @ Colorado 8:00 p.m.
Sat. 1 @ Nashville 7:00 p.m.
Wed. 5 @ Phoenix 8:30 p.m.
Sat. 8 @ Los Angeles 9:30 p.m.
Sun. 9 @ Anaheim 7:00 p.m.
Wed. 12 @ St. Louis 7:00 p.m.
FRI. 14 EDMONTON 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 15 N.Y. ISLANDERS 7:00 P.M.
TUE. 18 CHICAGO 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 20 VANCOUVER 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 22 COLORADO 7:00 P.M.
WED. 26 DALLAS 7:00 P.M.
FRI. 28 BUFFALO 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 29 @ Dallas 7:00 p.m.
MON. 31 EDMONTON 5:00 P.M.
DAY DATE OPPONENT TIME (CT)
Wed. 2 @ Winnipeg 6:30 p.m.
THUR. 3 CALGARY 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 5 NASHVILLE 7:00 P.M.
Wed. 9 @ Anaheim 9:00 p.m.
Thur. 10 @ Los Angeles 9:30 p.m.
Sat. 12 @ San Jose 9:30 p.m.
TUE. 15 ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 17 SAN JOSE 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 19 PITTSBURGH 8:00 P.M.
TUE. 22 LOS ANGELES 7:00 P.M.
Sun. 27 NHL All-Star Game (Columbus, OH)
TUE. 29 PHILADELPHIA 7:00 P.M.
Fri. 1 @ Carolina 6:00 p.m.
Sat. 2 @ Columbus 6:00 p.m.
Tue. 5 @ N.Y. Islanders 6:00 p.m.
THUR. 7 VANCOUVER 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 9 COLORADO 7:00 P.M.
Mon. 11 @ Vancouver 9:00 p.m.
Wed. 13 @ Calgary 8:30 p.m.
Thur. 14 @ Edmonton 8:30 p.m.
SUN. 17 DETROIT 6:30 P.M.
TUE. 19 NASHVILLE 7:00 P.M.
Thur. 21 @ Edmonton 8:30 p.m.
Sat. 23 @ Calgary 9:00 p.m.
TUE. 26 CALGARY 7:00 P.M.
Fri. 1 @ Chicago 7:30 p.m.
SUN. 3 OTTAWA 5:00 P.M.
TUE. 5 EDMONTON 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 9 @ Nashville 7:00 p.m.
SUN. 10 VANCOUVER 5:00 P.M.
TUE. 12 PHOENIX 7:00 P.M.
THUR. 14 ANAHEIM 7:00 P.M.
Sat. 16 @ Colorado 2:00 p.m.
Mon. 18 @ Vancouver 9:00 p.m.
Tue. 19 @ Edmonton 8:30 p.m.
SAT. 23 SAN JOSE 1:00 P.M.
TUE. 26 CALGARY 7:00 P.M.
WED. 27 PHOENIX 8:00 P.M.
SAT. 30 ST. LOUIS 7:00 P.M.
Mon. 1 @ Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Wed. 3 @ San Jose 9:30 p.m.
Fri. 5 @ Colorado 8:00 p.m.
Sat. 6 @ Phoenix 8:00 p.m.
Tue. 9 @ Detroit 6:30 p.m.
THUR. 11 DALLAS 7:00 P.M.
SAT. 13 COLUMBUS 7:00 P.M.
BOLD INDICATES HOME GAME
DATES AND TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE
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