Hartman: Wild owner Leipold likes team's direction

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 24, 2014 - 12:25 AM

If the squad reaches the second round of the playoffs it will turn a profit this season, he said.

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Wild owner Craig Leipold

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

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Wild owner Craig Leipold took over the team in 2008 and watched as it failed to reach the playoffs in his first four full seasons with the franchise and also dealt with losing money in most of those seasons, culminating in a report last year that the Wild had lost nearly $30 million in the 2012-13 season, even though it reached the playoffs.

But Leipold said that this season the team is regaining some of its financial footing and will easily turn a profit if it reaches the second round of the playoffs.

“If we can have a playoff run we’re going to be great,” Leipold. “This year was probably, I won’t say the most profitable year, but the least losing year that we have had. Our losses are getting small now. If we get into the second round we will be a profitable team. And if we continue to play like we’ve been playing, then next year our renewals are just fantastic, the best it has been in six years since I’ve been here. So I think we’re on the right track.”

There was some question if the rich contracts given to stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were partially to blame for the team having that big a loss last season, but Leipold said he not only has no regrets about the nearly $200 million he committed to those two players over the next 13 years but also believes that signing those types of players eventually will bring the team not only championships but profits.

“Their play is just fantastic; I would do it again,” he said. “In fact, I would imagine that many other owners, given the opportunity, would do it as well.

“There’s just no question they brought credibility to our program, other players want to come here, the fans recognize that we are committed to winning the Stanley Cup.”

Building success

The Wild’s 98 points this season tied for the second most in franchise history, and Leipold said that while the team had its struggles, he thinks the Wild is peaking at the right time.

“We had so many ups and downs,’’ he said. “It was frustrating at times, disappointing at times, euphoric at other times, but I think the way we played, the way we ended the season up with such a strong performance at the end, was really helping us into the playoffs.

“I think most importantly we have to play really well in this round. We have to be strong. We have to show that we deserve to be in this playoff. If we keep playing like we have been playing I feel good about our chances to get in the second round. I think more importantly we have to show ourselves and our fans that we are a perennial playoff team.”

And what about coach Mike Yeo’s future with the team?

“That will be Chuck’s decision,” Leipold said, referring to General Manager Chuck Fletcher. “I’m confident that if we keep winning there’s no question that Chuck will want to bring him back.”

In quickly looking forward to next season and the future of the team, Leipold said the salary cap situation is comfortable and he’s confident that a number of young players are just starting to scratch their potential.

“The salary cap we’re OK,” he said. “Marquee players, the two — Parise and Suter — continue to go down [in yearly salary]. Next year we’ll have some salaries that will be dropped off the team. We really think we’re going to be in a position to sign one more player, some key free agent to come in and maybe beef up our defense a little bit.”

Johnson on Cooke

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson spoke to the Denver Post about Wild defenseman Matt Cooke and what he thought of the play that sent his teammate, Tyson Barrie, off the ice for most likely the rest of the playoffs.

“What he’s done to guys’ careers speaks for itself. It’s disgusting, what he’s done in the past,” Johnson said of Cooke. “He might have cleaned up his game lately, but to lead with a knee like that against a guy like Tyson, or whoever, it was sickening to see.”

In other playoff news, former Gophers defenseman Paul Martin had two more assists for Pittsburgh in its 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus on Wednesday. That gives him eight assists on four sconsecutive two-assist games. He entered Wednesday third in NHL playoff scoring behind Colorado’s Paul Statstny and Nathan MacKinnon. … Former Gophers defenseman Mark Alt was among those recalled by the Philadelphia Flyers for the NHL playoffs. Alt finished with four goals and 22 assists in 75 games for Adirondack of the AHL, whose season ended Tuesday.

Jottings

• Former Timberwolves head coach Randy Wittman has turned around the Washington Wizards following a 2-7 start. The Wizards won eight of their final 11 regular-season games to end with a 44-38 record and the No. 5 seed in the East, and now they have beaten the Chicago Bulls twice in Chicago to take a 2-0 lead in that playoff series. Incidentally, Bob Knight called Wittman the smartest player he ever coached.

• Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman commented about the 30 outstanding potential draft choices who worked out at Winter Park last week. “We had our top 30, and when we do our top 30 it’s guys that are potential first-rounders, guys that are midrounders, guys that are late-rounders and even guys that we believe [could be] college free agents. But we use it kind of as a recruiting trip that we would like to sign right after the draft if they don’t get drafted.”

• Winning teams draw fans, but also important is to have a good schedule, and the Twins schedule is no bargain, with 14 dates in April, when they could run into cold weather, and only 10 in June, when kids are out of school and eager to go to ballgames. The rest of the schedule: 14 dates in May, 16 in July, 12 in August and 15 in September.

• While the Vikings had enough of cornerback Chris Cook with his inconsistent play and personal problems, the second-round draft choice in 2010 received a one-year contract with the 49ers.

• Gophers coach Jerry Kill was asked to talk about the 2014 schedule, which will conclude with four games against Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. “We have a tough schedule,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question. I think anybody in the Big Ten will tell you we have one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten, and certainly adding TCU to our nonconference schedule and then our crossover games are Michigan and Ohio State. I’d say it’s a pretty stiff schedule, but that’s our job.” Still, Kill and his staff think they can compete with anybody next year.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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