Wild loses Gillies to Blue Jackets

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 15, 2012 - 12:24 AM
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Colton Gillies

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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ST. LOUIS — Not only did the Wild lose Colton Gillies for nothing, but it also lost an equipment bag with its logo on it.

After tossing and turning all night as he wondered if his NHL career would continue in another city or if he would instead become a minor-leaguer again, Gillies packed his gear into a Wild bag Saturday and headed for Columbus.

Gillies was claimed off waivers by the Wild's expansion cousins, and now the 2007 first-round pick will be given a fresh start after shattered confidence and ineffective play this season in Minnesota.

"I just want to play," said Gillies, 22, who had two assists in 37 games. "I'm excited to go there and show them what I can do and earn a spot in this league."

Gillies, a go-to guy last season in Houston for now-Wild coach Mike Yeo, said he was motivated at the start of the season to be a fourth-liner for the Wild. But as the season matured, he grew frustrated that others, including minor leaguers, moved up in lines instead of him.

"It's kind of unmotivating. It was hard," Gillies said. "You've got to play the best you can with what you're given."

Gillies said he never discussed his frustrations with Yeo.

"I don't complain. I just work," he said.

Yeo said those thoughts helped contribute to Gillies' "lack of confidence." Yeo said he feels Gillies became too worried about "what he's not getting" that it didn't allow him establish the game Yeo has witnessed from Gillies in the past.

Still, while happy for Gillies' new opportunity, he was disappointed to lose Gillies.

"He was still in our plans," Yeo said.

Former Wild coach Todd Richards, now the Blue Jackets interim coach, was excited to get Gillies.

"He makes us bigger and he makes us faster," Richards said. "Those are two things that are sometimes tough to come by, especially together. ... From the outside looking in, it just seemed like maybe he needed a change of scenery."

Gillies said he will miss Minnesota and its fans.

"I wouldn't have changed a thing," Gillies said. "I know it's been a tough road for me. But it's made me who I am today."

Draft picks gone by

Of the Wild's 2004 through '09 first-round picks (A.J. Thelen, Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, Gillies, Tyler Cuma and Nick Leddy), only Cuma is still the Wild's property. The defenseman plays in AHL Houston.

The wasted first-round picks are one giant reason the Chuck Fletcher regime has had to play catchup with opposing teams.

Of those first-rounders, only Leddy was drafted by the Fletcher regime. He was dealt to Chicago for Cam Barker, who has since been bought out.

The one consolation? To move down four slots to draft Leddy, the Wild picked up a third-rounder (Matt Hackett) and seventh-rounder (Erik Haula) from the Islanders.

Etc.

• Defenseman Mike Lundin, scratched in nine of the past 10 games, was unchained Saturday night.

He returned against the St. Louis Blues, and veteran Greg Zanon, who was on the ice for three Blackhawks goals Thursday in Chicago, was scratched.

Yeo told Zanon, "This was a decision we made just for today. ... There's probably a few guys that probably could have come out of the lineup [after Thursday]."

• Josh Harding made his second consecutive start in goal for the Wild with Hackett backing him up. Niklas Backstrom, getting over a stomach flu, didn't dress for a second game in a row. Yeo said Backstrom's "energy is still not there," and he has lost weight.

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