By putting Tyler Graovac on waivers Wednesday, the Wild’s management sent a strong message to the center after a string of underwhelming performances. But the announcement alone didn’t express how fed up coach Bruce Boudreau has become.
Boudreau growled about the failure of Graovac—and some of the Wild’s other youngsters—to seize the handful of roster positions that remain open. Before a swiftly paced practice at St. Thomas Ice Arena, Graovac was placed on waivers, and four players were assigned to Iowa: forwards Alex Tuch, Kurtis Gabriel and Jordan Schroeder and defenseman Hunter Warner.
If Graovac is not claimed by another team by 11 a.m. Thursday, he will go to Iowa, too. While Boudreau had praise for Tuch and Gabriel, he wants them to get extended playing time in the minors. Graovac, who had no shots, no hits and won two of nine faceoffs in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Colorado, has much more work to do to impress a coach who didn’t mask his anger.
“It’s just important that he competes a little harder,’’ Boudreau said of Graovac, who has one assist in four games and was barely noticeable in 12 minutes, 37 seconds on the ice Tuesday.
“I mean, he’s a guy that’s 6 foot 4, 200-and-some pounds. Everyone wants that kind of guy. But the job was there for him, and he just didn’t take it.
“That’s what got me upset at a lot of these guys. The jobs were there to be had, and some guys just didn’t take their opportunity.’’
Wednesday’s moves left the roster at 25 players. Two more cuts are necessary to reduce it to the maximum of 23. Goalie Alex Stalock is expected to be placed on waivers later this week and also is destined for Iowa.
Those still auditioning for roster spots include forwards Joel Eriksson Ek, Zac Dalpe, Christoph Bertschy and Ryan Carter and defensemen Mike Reilly, Christian Folin and Nate Prosser. Carter, who is on a tryout, has missed two games because of an upper-body injury and illness and did not practice Wednesday. Charlie Coyle, who sat out Tuesday’s game because of a lower-body injury, returned to practice and skated on a line with Zach Parise and Eric Staal.
The Wild is pondering whether to keep Eriksson Ek or return him to Farjestad in the Swedish League; he can play as many as nine NHL games without triggering the start of his three-year contract. Dalpe requires waivers to go to Iowa, and Bertschy does not.
Boudreau said Dalpe remains on the roster because of his experience, particularly in filling a fourth-line role. Bertschy has impressed the coach with his improvement and his willingness to take on the game’s grittier chores.
“He’s a young guy that just keeps getting a little bit better each day,’’ Boudreau said. “Blocking shots, he pays the price. He’s another guy that can play a fourth-line role and give you some minutes.’’
As for Tuch and Gabriel, Boudreau liked what he saw in camp but wants both to play regular shifts in the minors to gain experience.
“A guy like Tuch, we need him to play 50 games in the American league,’’ Boudreau said. “He’s going to get better and better. We just need him to play more, rather than play eight minutes a night [with the Wild]. That wouldn’t be in his best interest.
“And the same with Gabriel. I guess there’s been a huge improvement in the last three years, so he’s got to just play and get better.’’
When asked if the Wild might look outside the organization to fill the last roster spots, Boudreau said, “I have no idea yet.’’