Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t exactly lead with pleasantries when he met new General Manager Bill Guerin.
He brought up a gripe.
“I’m so pissed off at you,” Boudreau said.
Guerin had no idea what Boudreau was talking about, so Boudreau reminded him of Game 7 between the Penguins and Capitals in the second round of the 2009 playoffs.
In what would end up as his second-to-last NHL season, Guerin scored early in the second period to help Pittsburgh pull away and seal a 6-2 victory that eliminated Washington and then-coach Boudreau. As for the Penguins, they went on to hoist the Stanley Cup – Guerin’s second as a player.
“If we won that game, we probably would have won the Cup,” Boudreau told Guerin. “But now that you’re my boss, I forgive you.”
It was only last Thursday that the Wild hired Guerin to replace Paul Fenton as GM after Fenton’s rocky 14-month tenure, and Guerin’s been in touch with Boudreau as he settles in with the team. Boudreau described Guerin as “really approachable,” and the two planned to have dinner together Tuesday night to “really get the lay of the land.”
But before then, Boudreau stopped by the Star Tribune Stage at the Minnesota State Fair Tuesday morning and expressed optimism for the upcoming season despite the Wild coming off its first playoff miss in seven years.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of teams,” Boudreau said.
Aside from the switch in management, the most meaningful changes the Wild made this summer were adding free-agent forwards Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman.
To Boudreau, though, the Wild has seven newcomers in the mix.
Forwards Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala and Victor Rask get to be integrated from the start after midseason trades, and defenseman Matt Dumba and captain Mikko Koivu are rebounding from serious injuries.
Dumba (torn pectoral muscle) went to Florida last week to train with the likes of superstars Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, Boudreau said, explaining that Dumba is “more than ready to get going.” And Koivu (torn ACL and meniscus) told Boudreau he skated Monday without any problems.
“He said he tired a little quicker than normal,” Boudreau said, “but he takes 20-second shifts anyway, so that’s going to be OK.”
Koivu or Joel Eriksson Ek could start training camp on a fourth line with Hartman and Marcus Foligno, with the other poised to work with Donato and Jordan Greenway.
Zuccarello is likely to open camp, which begins Sept.12, on the top line next to Zach Parise and Eric Staal. Jason Zucker, Luke Kunin and Fiala are set to fill out another unit. J.T. Brown and Rask are other forward options.
“I must have changed these combinations 5,000 times over the summer,” Boudreau said.
Before the Wild veterans become the focus, the team’s prospects will compete in Traverse City, Mich., Sept.6-10.
Forward Alexander Khovanov won’t participate in the tournament after undergoing successful surgery to remove a benign bone tumor in his left leg last Friday at the University of Minnesota. Khovanov, drafted in 2018, is expected to return to action in four-to-six weeks.
Recent pick Adam Beckman, goalie Mat Robson and center Nico Sturm are among the prospects on the Wild’s roster, which will be led by Iowa coach Tim Army and assistants Brett McLean and Alex Tanguay.
“With everybody here, you start getting excited because quite frankly we’ve been off for a while,” Boudreau said. “I’d like to get going.”