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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Pierre-Marc Bouchard to Wild, its fans: Thank you

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 8, 2013 - 6:11 AM
Happy Sunday Funday to you all. If you’re a Wild fan, you’ll want to catch KFAN on Monday morning from 9-noon, when I’ll be filling in for Paul Allen.
 
Three of my guests will be GM Chuck Fletcher (9:20) and newcomers Matt Cooke (10:20) and Keith Ballard (11:35). I also will be talking to the Star Tribune baseball writer, Lavelle E. Neal The Third at 9:35 a.m. and the always entertaining Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports at 9:55.
 
Have any questions for them? Feel free to leave a comment here, leave one on www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso or tweet me at @russostrib.
 
Maybe it’s because so much has been going on the past week, maybe it’s because it was known and assumed the parting of ways was coming, but there has been little fanfare about Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s Wild career officially coming to an end last week. He signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Islanders.
 
But I talked to “Butch” this morning after we missed each other the past few days and he wanted to say thank you to the fans and to the Wild organization for 11 years in Minnesota.
 
“It was a great run,” said Bouchard, 29, drafted eighth overall in 2002. “Eleven years with one team, it was a great run. Just getting drafted by that team in the first round and making the playoffs my first year there. It was a fun run to get to the conference final [in 2003]. We won the division [in 2008]. Every time we made the playoffs, it was always a fun time to play in Minnesota in front of our fans.
 
“Most of all, I just want to thank the Wild organization for all those years and the fans, my friends over there. They gave me a lot of support for all those years, and it was a great time. We really enjoyed our time in Minnesota – my teammates and all the staff that work for the team. It was a great run.
 
“Minnesota will always be a special place for me.”
 
Bouchard was the last Wild player still on its roster who played on the 2003 club that advanced to the Western Conference finals and captured the hearts of a hockey state (Bouchard’s pal and ping-pong opponent, Stephane Veilleux, played 38 games that season but none in the playoffs).
 
“I’ll miss Minnesota,” Bouchard said. “I really will. Knowing that I’m not coming back to Minny for training camp, it is kind of weird, but at the same time, it’s part of the business, and I’m really looking forward to a fresh start with the Islanders.”
 
In a lot of ways, Bouchard is returning to the scene of the crime. Bouchard was developing into one of the NHL’s best playmakers when the team signed him to a five-year, $20.4 million contract just prior to an arbitration hearing in July 2008.
 
But on March 25, 2009, Bouchard was run hard in the corner of the Islanders’ Nassau Coliseum. Jacques Lemaire was so bothered by the hit, the Wild’s then-coach lost his temper talking about it in a postgame interview.
 
“That’s true. [Nate] Thompson,” Bouchard said.
 
Little did anybody know at the time that Bouchard’s career would be turned upside down starting with that check. He didn’t even get through the 2009-10 season opener at Columbus and was lost for the final 81 games. Bouchard wasn’t seen from again in an NHL sweater for 14 months.
 
Bouchard returned Dec. 1, 2010, lasted the season but was concussed again the following December when hit from behind in the waning seconds of a game by Zach Bogosian in Winnipeg. He missed two games, returned, never quite felt right and was finally sidelined the rest of the season following an innocuous hit from Vancouver’s Chris Higgins in the final seconds of a game Jan. 4, 2011.
 
Bouchard spent all of last season healthy, scoring eight goals and 12 assists in 43 games.
 
“Last season, healthwise, was big,” Bouchard said. “There were a lot of positives about it. There was a question mark after those concussions I had. Last year, I felt good physically. I didn’t have any symptoms.
 
“Hockey-wise, first half was a little slow, but after that, I thought I played some pretty good hockey and I felt my game was coming back.”
 
There were never any contract talks between the Wild and Bouchard this offseason. He met with General Manager Chuck Fletcher after the season and “both of us kind of had an idea it was the end with the Wild.”
 
It was just time for the parting of ways. Since signing that five-year deal, Bouchard played only 211 of 376 games (56 percent) and wasn’t as productive, scoring 45 goals and 126 points. With youngsters like Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter on the scene, the torch is being passed.
 
Bouchard is most effective in a top-6 role, but he mostly played the third or fourth line last season. He was scratched four times when Zucker began to excel, but after Zucker got hurt, a motivated Bouchard returned to the lineup and to top form, registering four 2-point games in the next six games.
 
Now he heads to the young, rising Islanders, who made life difficult on the Penguins in last season’s playoffs, and hopes to rekindle his game on a one-year contract so he can gain more security next summer on a new deal.
 
“They’re really young and they’re going in the right direction,” Bouchard said. “They made the playoffs last year. They have a lot of speed, a lot of skill. I think it’s a good fit for my kind of game.”
 
In Wild history, Bouchard ranks second with 565 games, fourth with 106 goals, second with 241 assists and third with 347 points. It’ll just be strange without No. 96 in a Wild sweater.

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Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Ottawa 12:30 PM
NY Islanders
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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