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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Jonas Brodin out 3 to 6 weeks for Wild; Tyler Graovac recalled

Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who has had his name swirling in trade rumors lately, will miss three to six weeks with a broken foot. Brodin blocked a shot the other night against the Rangers and was seen limping to the x-ray room with team orthopedist Joel Boyd after the game.

He has been placed on injured reserve and center Tyler Graovac was recalled from AHL Iowa.

Graovac was limited to one game -- the season opener at Colorado -- this season after making the team out of training camp. But he came to camp with a lingering hip injury that turned into an abdominal issue that ultimately required surgery.

He began playing for Iowa in mid-December and has according to GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr just started to get more up to speed. He's playing with more pace, etc.

He has scored two goals and five assists and is minus-9 in 19 games for Iowa. But he'll now be asked to help spark a Wild team that has won three games out of 15 in 2016 and has lost nine of its last 10.

Fletcher spoke with the two beat writers, team broadcasters and this morning in St. Louis for about eight minutes regarding the state of the team, his attempt to make a trade and the future of coach Mike Yeo.

He gave Yeo a vote of confidence, saying he's safe, and said over and over again (13 times to be exact) that it's up to the team to start "playing the right way."

He also indicated there will be lineup shifting tonight against the St. Louis Blues, which we will see in a few minutes. I'll update the blog.

I wanted to quickly get Fletcher's words up here before the morning skate begins, so here's the transcript of this morning's quick gathering in front of the team backdrop. Fletcher joked that his back was against the wall again.

Do you believe you guys are in this position again?

Everyone talks about the past. I think every year teams go through this stuff. What’s disappointing to me is I think everybody’s been focused on the power play and scoring goals, and what we’re not doing now is playing the right way. We talk about results all the time, we have to get back to playing the right way and the process. I mean, we score three goals in San Jose, we don’t win the game. we score three goals on Long Island, we don’t win the game. we score two goals in the first period in New York, and we don’t win the game. we don’t win the game because we’re turning pucks over, we’re not defending the right way, we’re not as structurally sound as we normally are, so if we can get back to being the strong defensive team that we have been in the past, the results will follow. Typically the better we defend, the more often we have the puck and the more opportunities we’ll have to score as well. So, I think guys just have to get back to playing the game the right way.

Have you talked to the team?

No, I’ve met with individuals, I met with the coaches. Look, we have a good coaching staff, we have a good leadership group, and that group has won a lot of hockey games. they know how to win, and we’re going to win again. But the focus right now, particularly tonight, as much as everyone says we need to win, it’s got to be about playing the right way. We just have to start by playing the right way, and again, results will follow. Whether it happens tonight, whether it happens next week, we just have to play the right way. We have 31 games to go. There’s lots of time, but it’s getting late quickly here.

Coaching staff demeanor, have they asked for additions?

I think Mike can speak to that later on. I think there will be some changes tonight that you guys will see, but I think the coaches have been incredibly patient. I think what the coaches do is they work with the players, they give them chances, they meet with them, they show them video. I think they’ve been incredibly patient with certain individuals, and frankly I think at this point actions will speak louder than words and we’ll have a chance to make some adjustments and get some people in different places.

On the play of his veterans…

Again, I don't want to single anybody out. I'm not happy with the play of anybody, really. There's probably been just a couple of players that have played well. You guys know who they are. But the focus can't just be on what we've done at this point, it has to be about what we're going to do. They're strong leaders, and I'm counting on that leadership group to pull us out of this.

On trade front, you said a couple of weeks in Nashville when he said it was incumbent on the players in the room and you wouldn’t make a trade for the sake of making a trade. Do you still feel that way?

I don't feel pressure, because that's when you make mistakes. I don't think anything has changed. I'm approaching this the same as if we had won five or six in a row. If there's an opportunity to make our team better, I'll do it. Obviously I'm talking to GM's every day. This is the time of the year where you're in regular in conversations with your counterparts, and there may or may not be opportunities to do something. Again, we called up Tyler Graovac today, Jonas Brodin broke his foot so he's going on IR, and he'll be out somewhere between three and six weeks, hopefully it's about four weeks. There's now opportunity in Iowa for players too to step up. So we'll see what Graovac can do, and we'll certainly look inside our group first, but as always, if there's opportunity to go outside our group, we'll do that. But the message can't be we can't be sitting around waiting for help from the outside. Again, this group has won before, it's a good coaching staff, it's a good player group, we have a good leadership group, and it's incumbent upon all of them to figure this out.

On if he feels hamstrung when looking at trades because of the salary cap…

No, we have plenty of cap space. That's not an issue at this point. We've been able to accrue enough cap space where we're in a position to take on salary, and obviously we have a great owner. Craig has always been willing to do what it takes to help the team. But that's not an issue. There are a lot of teams looking for similar things right now. There are a lot of teams still in the playoff race, there are a lot of teams looking to improve their teams, so that's more of a challenge than the salary cap.

On if he's found it more difficult to make a trade because of the players he has on long-term deals and young players he doesn't want to move…

I don't know that we have a lot of players on long-term deals. You look around the league, and that's more the trend; teams are kind of locking up their players. But no, it's not a problem in terms of trading. When you make a trade though, you want to improve your team. You don't want to just make a trade for the sake of making a trade. Again, we'll keep seeing what opportunities are out there, but to me, that's the wrong message to the group. You can't just sit around and wait for something to come in and bail you out. We have to get back to playing the right way. It doesn't matter who we add at this point: If we don't start playing the right way, one player is not going to make a difference. We need the group to be better, we need to play the way we're capable of playing, and to the identity that we normally play to.

But it seems like you have little flexibility to make a trade because of immovable guys, draft picks dealt?

We have tradeable guys. We have picks, we have prospects, we have assets that other teams like, I can tell you that much from the conversations I’ve had. The question is: Are you going to make a good trade? That’s the whole point right now. I’m not interested in moving young assets for rental players at this point. But again, this group is capable of being a lot better than what we are right now.

Concern you that your young guys other than Coyle haven’t made a big step?

Well, not really. I think when you look in the snapshot of the last 10 games, a lot of guys are struggling. But you go back and we’ve had a lot of good performances from young guys this year. We’ve had good performances from older guys this year. Right now just as a group, we’re not getting it done.

Mike Yeo safe?


Even if this continues?

Look, we’re going to turn this around, that’s where our focus is right now. This group, the coaches and players have won a lot of games, they know what it takes, and I’m looking to our leadership group right now to step up and I’m looking for the players to play the right way and I’m confident that we’ll get there.

Zach’s struggles, why?

Well, look, everybody is struggling a little bit right now and we’re all struggling because we’re focusing on results and not the process. I keep saying that but when we play the right way, we all get rewarded. If you just get focused on scoring goals or on the power play, it’s tough to control that. Everybody wants to go score a goal tonight, but it’s tough to control that. You can control how you play though and if you do the right thing and manage the puck then I think things will work out. Zach works hard every night, he’s a great leader, he’s a very good hockey player. Things will turn around for him. But it’s going to come by everybody playing the right way. This isn’t just about Zach or about Mikko or about Suter. It’s about all of us, it’s about the whole team being better. That’s what we have to get back to – trust each other and play hard for each other and play with purpose and we’ll get out of this.

Russo: Nobody has answers as Wild's losses continue to mount

Of all the losses during this lousy stretch and this lousy calendar year of Wild hockey, this was in my mind the most awful tonight.

This team is just a wreck, and the players have no answers, their under-siege coach has no answers and their GM apparently has no answers because he has so far declined interview requests from the beat writers during this road trip.

In the meantime, the Wild has lost nine of 10 games and 12 of 15 this year and tonight coughed up a 2-0 lead here at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

The Wild tried to make it like this was the exact same thing that occurred a couple nights ago against the Islanders, but in that game, the Wild had a 1-0 lead and a season-high 20 shots in a period in the first 20 minutes before caving.

Tonight, the Wild went into a shell right after Matt Dumba made it 2-0. The Rangers began to push and the only two things that kept the Rangers from scoring was Devan Dubnyk in net making four robberies and the refs giving the Wild a respite by calling Viktor Stalberg for a penalty.

The Wild, which had scored its fourth power-play goal in four road games on Dumba’s tally, didn’t score on the power play, and soon after, that 2-0 lead evaporated in 80 seconds on goals by 2007 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Ryan McDonagh and one of the hottest goal scorers in the NHL since mid-December, J.T. Miller.

How bad was the Wild tonight?

After Dumba’s goal 7:57 into the first, the Wild was outshot 25-5 until Erik Haula’s shot 7:45 into the third. That was the second shot all night by a Wild forward and by that point Nino Niederreiter’s ghastly turnover led to Derick Brassard’s eventual winner.

The Wild gave up the first 12 shots in the second, was outshot 17-4 in the period and 30-18 in the game.

Zach Parise, who has one goal, no assists and is minus-11 in the past nine games, registered no shots and had seven attempts blocked or whistle wide. Mikko Koivu, who has no goals and 22 shots in the past 16 games, had no shots. Thomas Vanek had no shots for the fifth time in eight games. Mikael Granlund, who has one empty-net goal in the past 32 games, had no shots. No shots for Niederreiter. Three combined by Jason Zucker, Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle.

“Way too familiar of a script,” said coach Mike Yeo, who said earlier in the day that he woke up Thursday morning feeling the Wild would be able to overcome any adversity in tonight’s game.

“Good start, and then the other team pushes and we’re not responding the right way. The goals they got, we’re giving them right now. Making a lot of soft plays, and a lot of uncharacteristic plays and it’s just not good enough.”

He should probably stop using the “uncharacteristic” word though. There comes a time where this is just characteristic of his team.

“We’ve been searching for answers for [why this keeps happening] for quite some time,” Yeo said. “We’ve tried some different, whether it’s talks or meetings or whatever, we’re trying a lot right now. What it boils down to, the actors got act. We give a script, but we need guys that want to be out there in every situation. Every moment of the game calls for something different, and good teams and good players react to those situations and if it’s a shift in d zone, if it’s making a hard play, if it’s making a more precise or a more skilled play, whatever it is, you make it. And we’re not doing that.”

Asked why this team is so fragile with a lead, Yeo said, “Because we’re afraid of losing it. We’re hoping to win and afraid of losing. The result is not good. We have to go out and win a game. We’re going to St. Louis and I’m pretty sure they’re not going to give us a gift. Just because you’re up 2-0 doesn’t mean you cling on to that. We have to push harder and push for the next one and we have to fight extremely hard to make sure they don’t climb back into the game like they did.”

Ryan Suter, who turned the puck over for the first goal, said, “It’s difficult to swallow that one again. We can’t put a game together. We couldn’t have had a better first period. They had a push in the second and we weren’t able to get any pushback.

“We’re a very fragile team. They get one and we kind of go into a shell, and that’s a team that has no confidence. We have to figure it out, we have to figure it out fast, or it’s not going to work.”

Suter said they talked between the first and second about “coming out and having a good push, same as the first, get pucks in and get pressure and we were turning pucks over, and that’s what happened.”

Parise is clearly fighting it right now on the ice. This is just not what we’re accustomed to seeing.

“I thought that they had a good push and played a lot better,” he said. “But maybe there’s something that we did. Maybe we’re not pressuring them as much as we should or as much as we need to. Maybe we are sitting back. I don’t know. But it’s starting to happen a little too much.

Asked if this is bad as he’s ever been through, Koivu said, “It’s bad. That’s obvious.”

Good news: Nashville lost!

That probably didn’t make you feel a lot better, but hey, grasping for anything.

The pressure is bigtime on Yeo and Fletcher right now. Fletcher said a few weeks ago the answer has to be in the locker room, but one reason for that is he has built a roster with a ton of immovable parts.

That means unless he figures out some way to provide an external start, it’s going to be the current cast that has to get the Wild out of this. And right now, it’s hard to be confident when the leadership and the character of the Wild that Yeo so often lauds and stays loyal to has been incapable to drag the Wild out of the dirt.

Otherwise, Yeo may have to pay the price, although it’s not like there’s any clear-cut replacements inside or outside the organization right now. Fletcher has always remained loyal to Yeo in the past, so one would assume he will again.

But the team’s a hot mess right now, and nobody has any answers and everybody is starting to sound like a broken record. Onto St. Louis. Day off for the team Friday, so I held a bunch of leftovers for a follow.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Penn State at Gophers men's hockey

    4 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • North Dakota at Gophers women's hockey

    4:07 pm

  • Wild at St. Louis

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Chicago at Timberwolves

    7 pm on 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Northwestern

    2 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • New Orleans at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Toronto at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Michigan at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Nebraska at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    7:07 pm

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