Good afternoon from beautiful Calgary, where the incredible weather the Wild has gotten in Alberta so far this trip is continuing. Mother Nature is having some fun with the team in anticipation of really lowering the boom on the team and us media wretches when we return in three weeks.
The team did have a bit of a rude welcome to Calgary in the wee hours of the morning. It arrived at its Calgary hotel to the sight of 10 fire trucks and 400 hotel guests littered on the street in front of the hotel. I discovered it during a moment of insomnia (too much coffee) about 2 a.m. when I saw all these angry tweets from hotel guests.
Apparently, there was a contained fire that caused the evacuation for a long, long time, so the Wild found a nearby hotel that had 50 rooms. It checked in for the night, then returned to the original hotel for check-in after today’s practice at the Corral – the old Flames’ barn that used to have Cliff Fletcher as manager and a young (I assume punk) Chuck Fletcher running around in the early-80s.
Cliff’s son, who doubles as the Wild GM, and Wild scout and former Flame Jamie Hislop told some cool stories about the old arena today.
Coincidentally (maybe), a fire alarm went off in the middle of the Wild’s practice.
The Wild best be ready to work against the hard-working Flames Friday. This is a team with two terrific blue-liners in Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, a couple high-flying kids in Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, goalie Jonas Hiller and a team that plays with Brian Burke-like truculence (lead the league in blocked shots) and resilience (lead the league in third-period goals).
Defenseman Ryan Suter, whom I think I mentioned on last night’s blog was limping around after the game, didn’t practice today. Coach Mike Yeo said he had some discomfort and was told not to practice today. But he said he thinks Suter will be OK and that the team is operating under the assumption he’ll be able to play Thursday night against Calgary.
Left wing Matt Cooke left the team and returned home due to a death in the family, Yeo said. I’m not sure if home means Vancouver or back to Minnesota. Cooke did sprint out of the arena after the game presumably to catch a red-eye. However, Yeo said he is expected back in Calgary on Thursday and is expected to play and I have a pretty good hunch Yeo is right on this one.
If for some reason Cooke doesn’t make it back, Erik Haula will draw back into the lineup.
By the way, just a reminder, now that the Wild is carrying three goalies, this will hamstring the team roster-wise until rosters expand after the March 2 trade deadline. The Wild plans to carry one extra forward and one extra defenseman on the 23-man roster, and this is the new reality, Fletcher said.
Where the Wild could run into problems is with illnesses, short-term injuries or personal situations like Cooke is dealing with. If the team has situations where it can’t or doesn’t want to put players on injured reserve (seven days), there will be some inflexibility at times.
For instance, if Suter doesn’t play Friday but it isn’t serious enough to put him on IR, the Wild either must use Stu Bickel or quickly today send Bickel back to Iowa and get up a different D.
And just to be clear if you’re confused, Darcy Kuemper, even though he is on a conditioning stint, is still part of the 23-man roster, is still a cap charge to the team, is still being paid his NHL salary (one-way contract mandates that regardless). If conditioning stints allowed teams to remove a player from its active roster, teams could manufacture conditioning stints anytime it has roster issues. So that’s the reason for that.
So, Zach Parise’s wife, Alisha, apparently isn’t freaking out about his face taking a beating. She was able to fall asleep before speaking to her husband last night. But Parise did have to calm the nerves of his mom and aunt, he said, laughing.
“They were a little more concerned,” Parise said.
Parise also told me he had a root canal between the first and second periods and it hurt like a you know what.
He did just sent me a text though with a “CORRECTION: They started the root canal last night, didn’t complete it. Just took the nerve out.”
Full root canal. Partial root canal. Whatever. Reason 1,000 why I write and don’t play.
He said the dentist said he had to take the nerve out because his tooth was completely knocked out with the nerve exposed and if he took a drink of water, it would have (figuratively) destroyed him.
Parise, who by the way was almost nailed by another puck in today’s practice (luckily Jason Zucker unknowingly saved him), survived the scare pretty good. He’s having trouble eating though. I’m doing my Sunday Insider on Martin Brodeur, and when I was interviewing Parise, he was eating a sandwich by ripping off pieces and sticking them in the left part of his mouth.
It was a salami and cheese sandwich, for those wondering.
How detailed is this blog????
ChAHlie Coyle said he got about 50 texts and what the kid’s call Snapchats from family members and buddies that I assume all Snapchat sounding like the characters from Good Will Hunting about his highlight-reel goal last night.
I’ll admit, when Coyle didn’t center himself and it started to become clear to me that he was going to bypass the net, I may have blurted out in the press box to my colleague from across the river, “What is he doing???”
Then I was like, “Good play, good play,” and trust me, I’m not the only one. A couple teammates jokingly said the same thing today.
Coyle did have two guys on his tail and astutely knew that Justin Schultz was making a beeline to the center from the bench because Edmonton was on a change.
“It was pretty amazing where he was able to put that puck in from in relation to where his body was,” Yeo said.
It really is. The overhead makes it look like he’s five or six feet beyond the net, yet he deftly and casually reaching back and tucks the puck inside the post. Then, as amazingly, he didn’t crash to the ice.
I asked Yeo today about the way he’s treating and coaching Coyle and Nino Niederreiter right now. They’ve been on the fourth line the last half-dozen games or so.
He’s basically giving them the Jason Zucker treatment right now, only without the ability to send them to the minors because that ship has sailed.
So he’s putting them on the fourth line and trying to teach them to play a complete game. Zucker has developed into a pretty complete player this season and Yeo wants Niederreiter and Coyle to follow suit.
He said he did this to give them a “chance to reset their game,” take pressure off and give them the mindset to get in on the forecheck, play in the offensive zone and simplify things in order to start feeling confident in their games again.
Prior to Coyle’s big goal, I was getting a lot of tweets asking if he was even in the lineup because Yeo was playing him so sparingly in the third period.
“That’s the way it goes when you find yourself on the third and fourth line,” Yeo said. “A lot of times the priority of ice time goes to other people. Ice time to me is irrelevant right now. I know people want to look at that and everything, but to me, if they play eight minutes, if they play 12 minutes, make the most of it and that’s the idea here. I want them feeling excited for their next shift and not assuming that it’s going to come. As we keep doing that, you’ll see that their game will keep coming.”
I have covered, let me do the math now, I think 12 coaches between Florida and Minnesota now and this is the coaching philosophy of most with young kids.
Take for instance the Justin Schultz breakaway last night. He blew by Ryan Carter, but there were mistakes by Coyle and Niederreiter before. Suter had pinched in before falling to the ice deep in the offensive zone to the left of Coyle in the corner. Instead of eating the puck or putting the puck behind the net, he tried to go high with it and that’s when the Oilers flew out of the zone.
Poor puck management.
But Yeo said, “Nino’s got to recognize that he needs to be a better F3,” too, Yeo said. “These are little things, a couple turnovers, these are things that we’re trying to drill in their head.” He said it’s not good enough to make one good play followed by two poor plays. “Eliminate these bad plays,” Yeo said.
Heck, just look at how the Wild scored both its goals last night. Nail Yakupov coughs it up to Justin Fontaine before Niederreiter’s goal. Jordan Eberle coughs it up to Coyle before his big goal.
Nothing changes in Edmonton. It’s the same mistakes over and over and over again by the Oilers’ young kids. Edmonton’s spinning its wheels because they never improve defensively. So Yeo is trying to get his young kids playing a mature, all-around, responsible, two-way game so he can trust putting them on the ice at any time.
Will Yeo’s methods be right? I’ll tell you in two or three years when we see Coyle and Niederreiter as more complete players.
Coyle, by the way, also said too many people make too big a deal about the ice time. He said there never was a point where he was “benched” yesterday, but the nature of the beast when you’re on the fourth line, “Sometimes it works out where your line is ready to go out and there’s a penalty and they go through the rotation again, so that kind of plays into it. I guess it’s tough not getting a regular shift all the time, but you can’t think of it like that. You get two shifts, you get 30 shifts, you have to take advantage of it. that’s how you get better. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s how it is. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. I’ve got to earn more ice time. That’s up to me.”
I better write for the paper before my editors kill me.