NHL Insider: Opening up the Russo's Rants mailbag

  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 1:03 AM

Here’s another edition of Russo’s Rants in the newspaper, a Q&A from questions left on the blog.

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Dany Heatley, left, is one of several players not expected to be on the Wild roster come next season. Mike Rupp and Ilya Bryzgalov are two others.

Photo: Jim Mone • Associated Press,

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Sportsguy: Why is this team so challenged when it comes to scoring?

Russo: 1. Lacks natural goal scorers; 2. Not big enough (see St. Louis) or fast enough (see Chicago); 3. No sharpshooters from the blue line (it hopes Matt Dumba can develop into one); 4. Has never been bad enough to get the blue-chip prospects. Colorado has a couple of lousy years and is now set for the next 15 by drafting Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly.

 

Bryanxyz: What college free agents are the Wild interested in?

Russo: When UMass-Lowell’s season ends, the Wild will try hard to sign big Swedish defenseman Christian Follin, who many believe is good enough to step right into the NHL (ineligible for the playoffs). Several teams are interested, including Philadelphia, Boston, Vancouver and Edmonton.

 

Sathington: With the cap going up and Dany Heatley coming off the books, what will the Wild prioritize with that money?

Russo: Most important, the Wild must figure out its goaltending situation with the uncertain health situations of Josh Harding and Niklas Backsrom. If the team believes Darcy Kuemper can handle the No. 1 reins, it might look at a scorer like Thomas Vanek and/or signing a free-agent defenseman. If the Wild feels Kuemper isn’t ready — and his play lately may leave doubts — it needs a goalie.

 

Big G: Who will NOT be back for the Wild next year?

Russo: Heatley, Mike Rupp and Ilya Bryzgalov, and likely not Cody McCormick. Depending on the Wild’s plans for free agency, I’d think the team talks to Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser. I’d think maligned Kyle Brodziak will at the very least be dangled on the trade market.

 

Mnhockeyguy: Do the Wild use their compliance buyout this summer?

Russo: It’s hard to give up centermen in this league, but maybe Brodziak after two down years in a row.

 

rcs5010: Matt Moulson appears to have the scoring touch the Wild needs. Odds he is around next year instead of Vanek?

Russo: Depends on how far the Wild goes, how the Wild feels he fit in (his lack of speed in what’s become a fast league may be the drawback on a long-term deal) and what type of contract he is looking for to forgo free agency. So, it’s up in the air.

Mgalaforet: What 1st- or 2nd-pairing defenseman may be available as a free agent?

Russo: Andrei Markov is intriguing, but age and injuries concern me. I think the Wild needs a right-shot D, so I’d go after Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen if he becomes free. Oh, and he’s a Minnesotan, so that’ll satisfy the provincials. If you want ruggedness, Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik.

 

Dkb: Charlie Coyle’s future at center or wing?

Russo: Mike Yeo likes him at center and says he sees his future there. Personally, I like him more at wing. I just love his board play in the offensive zone, and I think we see that more when his responsibilities down low in the defensive zone are fewer. Coyle’s prowess in the faceoff circle has been below par, but that can be improved, as Mikael Granlund has shown. He set the bar last weekend against Detroit, but he still must get stronger.

 

Yodaluke: Your opinion of the job Yeo has done?

Russo: Until this month, I thought he didn’t receive enough credit for pulling the Wild out of the doldrums when the calendar turned 2014. The Wild went on a 14-4-2 tear largely without Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jared Spurgeon and Josh Harding. He was coaching under immense stress and scrutiny and without a contract beyond this season. But the past month, I think he has made odd lineup decisions, has catered to the veterans to the detriment of the team, and hasn’t found the answer to stop the bleeding.

cwigs77: If the Wild somehow miss the playoffs... is Yeo gone?

Russo: I don’t see how he’s not. If that were to happen, the next coach would be a veteran and perhaps a contrast in style, like the currently unemployed … Peter Laviolette.

NHL Short Takes

Oilers goalie vents

Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens was ticked that for a second time recently, an angry Oilers fan threw a jersey onto the ice during an 8-1 loss to Calgary. He took his stick, scooped up the jersey and tossed it back into the stands.

“You pay your money, you get to do whatever you want,” Scrivens told Sportsnet. “You want to boo me, go for it. You want to jeer me, call me every name, you’re entitled. You can spit on me for all I care if I deserve it. But when I see a jersey thrown out on the ice, I’m from here, you’re not just disrespecting the guys in the room, you’re disrespecting guys who wore this jersey before us, the Messiers, the Gretzkys.”

We’re talking about practice

Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley pulled his players off the ice 22 minutes into Thursday’s practice.

“If you’re not ready to work, well, you might as well not work — simple as that,” Hartley said. “I always tell them, ‘If you don’t want to practice, don’t get on the ice.’ … We’re very fortunate people. We work about an hour, an hour and a half, a day.

“You need to be ready. That wasn’t the start we were looking for at practice.”

Wild's week ahead

Monday: 9 p.m. at Los Angeles (NBCSN)

Thursday: 7 p.m. at Chicago (NBCSN)

Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh (FSN)

 

Player to watch: Sidney Crosby, Penguins

The Hart Trophy front-runner is running away with the Art Ross Trophy race for the Stanley Cup-contending Penguins.

 

Voices

"We have to figure [our special teams] out, or we’re not even going to make the playoffs."

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter

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