With four games left and the playoffs upon us April 12, here’s the final Russo’s Rants mailbag of the season. Questions were submitted on my blog at startribune.com/russo and Facebook account at facebook.com/startribunemikerusso.
alroy60: Who do the Wild match up better against in the first round, St. Louis or Nashville?
Russo: I waver. Both teams are playing real well right now, and Mike Yeo may have some trade secrets about the Wild. Plus, the March swoon started with the Blues and the Wild struggled against every team in March that kept its players from getting to the net. Vladimir Tarasenko also lights ’em up. The Wild usually plays the Preds well, more so, believe it or not, in Nashville than at home, where they’re usually wild games. I think the Preds are faster and can score much easier (second-most goals in the NHL since the All-Star break). So there’s your non-answer. Personally, I want Nashville. Great city, fresh story lines.
JohnKa: Who owns the Minnesota North Stars trademark? A few throwback North Stars jersey nights a year would drive sales.
Russo: The NHL owns it and agrees with the Dallas Stars that the logo is part of their history. On occasion, the Wild would love to do more with it and celebrate the North Stars’ history here, but it’s not their choice. The league allowed the Wild to use the jersey during the alumni game before last season’s Stadium Series game and Wild players will wear 1967 replica North Stars jerseys during pregame warm-ups Tuesday.
Paul Anderson: Will Kirill Kaprizov next season play in Iowa, Minnesota or Russia?
Russo: One more year in the Kontinental Hockey League, and he’s not allowed at the Wild’s summer development camp.
Ryan Bartlett: If the Wild cements the two seed, do they rest Ryan Suter, Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, etc., in Colorado and Arizona to end the season?
Russo: Yes and no. They’ll have to pick and choose. You can’t rest that many in the same game because call-ups are limited without emergencies.
100wattjones: With another swoon under a different, accomplished NHL coach, when does GM Chuck Fletcher start addressing the “leadership?”
Russo: Maybe this summer depending on what happens in the playoffs. But remember, most of the leadership is locked and loaded, so it’s not like he can start dumping guys left and right.
Zerkalo: Does it seem Parise’s play has declined since James Neal’s knee-on-knee?
Russo: As much as I get no greater joy than to blame things on Neal, Parise plays a hard game and I think that incident was one of many that has slowed him from the herniated disk to multiple foot and knee issues to the mumps and several bouts with strep in recent years.
Nealhessburg: With Joel Eriksson Ek coming in and Jordan Schroeder playing better than Ryan White, do you think White will be phased out come playoff time?
Russo: Depends on health, but the contrary. Knowing Bruce Boudreau’s affinity for grit, a certain complexion on the fourth line and his track record with Schroeder down the stretch, I see White playing over Schroeder for the most part.
Wildfan1: Several pundits believe the Wild will lose Jonas Brodin in the expansion draft. Would the Wild prefer to keep him over Marco Scandella?
Russo: On your latter question, yes. On your first question, it’s no guarantee the Wild exposes Brodin, although I do feel it’s important the Wild rids itself of some exorbitant contracts this summer so it can afford Granlund and Nino Niederreiter comfortably. Tough call on protecting Brodin vs. Matt Dumba: As unsteady as Dumba is defensively, he’s young and his offensive assets can’t be taught.
Misterkarbo: Why is Boudreau so high on Martin Hanzal?
Russo: I like his game the past week. Boudreau wants the Wild to be big up the middle and to have a second matchup line with Koivu. He has been dynamite on the forecheck, and he’s producing lately (second-most points on the team since March 1). He’s not the fleetest of foot, but Erik Haula has also not been at his best.
Gntlmncntry: After yet another tailspin and, if an early playoff exit occurs, could that end Koivu’s captaincy/Wild career a year early?
Wild's week ahead
Sunday: vs. Colorado, 5 p.m.
Tuesday: vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Thursday: at Colorado, 8 p.m.
Saturday: at Arizona, 8 p.m.
All games on FSN
Player to watch: Jordan Staal, Hurricanes
Eric Staal’s younger brother and former teammate will get to watch Big Bro, with parents in attendance, be honored before the game for playing his 1,000th game last month.
“If you don’t take positives out, you’re going to be a dead man in this sport in not too long.”
Bruce Boudreau on the old “have to take the positives out of a loss” theory in sports.
• The Wild was in on Hobey Baker finalist and Union College all-time leading scorer Mike Vecchione, but the Philadelphia Flyers nabbed him because they were willing to burn a year. Because he’s 24, the deal is a one-year deal, making him a restricted free agent July 1. The Wild wouldn’t and couldn’t burn the first year by playing him a few games when he’s not even playoff-eligible.
• With Adidas the new jersey supplier of the NHL starting next season, sources say all home and road jerseys will be unveiled at the NHL draft in Chicago in June. There will be no third jerseys in the first year, so the Wild’s taking this opportunity to redesign its home sweater.
They will be green — not red — and have many similarities to its Stadium Series sweater last season.
• As of now, Wild prospect Jordan Greenway plans to finish up his sophomore academic semester at Boston University and decide this summer whether to turn pro.
• Sanity prevailed. After insinuating that it won’t publicly disclose which players teams protect and expose in June’s expansion draft, the NHL will now make those lists public. Despite the incredible excitement and hype among fans regarding the Vegas Golden Knights and their process to build a team, not disclosing the lists would have led to piecemealing information and potential inaccuracies.
• Congrats to New Jersey Devils pro’s pro Patrik Elias, who’s retiring. One of my favorite players ever, his 408 goals and 1,025 points in 1,240 games would have been a lot more if he had played for another franchise. But his two Stanley Cups and 125 career playoff points make up for it.
• Also, referee Mike Leggo, who received handshakes from some Wild players after Thursday’s game against Ottawa, calls his final game Sunday in Los Angeles.
Michael Russo can be heard on 100.3-FM and seen on FSN Blog: startribune.com/russo Twitter: @russostrib E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org