Good day from MSP, where I’ve been since 8:30 a.m. waiting for a now-8 p.m. flight after a 5 a.m. wakeup call in Winnipeg.
I’m a little sleepy, to say the absolute least.
I got off the phone with GM Chuck Fletcher, who’s here in Minnesota, and coach Bruce Boudreau, who’s in Columbus, where the Wild arrived at its hotel around 3:30 a.m. after a hellacious flight that included circling and white-knuckle landing through a tornado watch/lightning storm.
As you know by now, the Wild didn’t make any trades during one of the blandest trade deadlines in the history of trade deadlines. Tumbleweeds, folks.
“Boredom! There was no big stud dealt,” Boudreau said. “Usually there’s some real big blockbuster at some point in these things, but the blockbuster trades were sort of done before.”
The Wild, the second-best team in the NHL and five points up on the Chicago before the Hawks’ game tonight against the Penguins, will let Sunday’s Martin Hanzal/Ryan White pickup speak for itself. So far, it’s paid dividends in two victories. White scored his second goal in as many games against the Jets and has an assist. Hanzal was solid as a rock against the Jets, had two assists and was praised after the game by Boudreau, who was in no mood to praise too many things or people after the Wild escaped with what he called a “lucky” victory on Jason Zucker’s goal with 2:10 left after his team coughed up a three-goal lead.
The big news for ya: Ryan Suter is alive and well but probably hurting a little bit.
But his injury, one Fletcher said was of the lower-body variety, isn’t serious and he’s so day-to-day he naturally wants to play Thursday against the Blue Jackets and their darn, obnoxious cannon.
“I’m hoping he’s playing [Thursday],” Boudreau said. “Talking to him in the airport last night, he said he’s going to play Thursday, but players always say that. I’m waiting for the trainers to tell me.”
Fletcher said, “Suts is stubborn. He’s tough and stubborn. He’s indicated that he’d like to play, but ultimately we need [head medical trainer] John Worley and our doctors to make that decision. After [Thursday’s] game we have a couple days before we play again Sunday. So you just want to be smart. If he’s able to play and there’s no risk of him endangering himself, then he can play. But we want to be prudent.”
Fletcher planned to call Boudreau tonight to see what he wants to do with the lineup if Suter can’t play.
Fletcher guessed the Wild would go with the remaining six D, meaning right-shot Nate Prosser would probably have to play the left side. But it’ll be up to Boudreau if he’d prefer instead to recall left-shot Gustav Olofsson, Mike Reilly or Mike Weber.
Also, good news: #MUMPSWATCH.
No update on Jason Pominville, but Zach Parise told Boudreau “he felt very good and he felt normal.” Parise still can’t be around the team because of the five-day isolation period until Friday. That’s a planned off-day for the Wild, so maybe he can practice Saturday.
Scott Stevens is apparently starting to feel better, too, so “I hope there’s no setbacks,” Boudreau said.
Said Fletcher, “I’m hopeful we’re done with it. The cases that we’ve had all seemed to hit within 48 hours of each other and knock on wood it’s been another 48 hours since and we haven’t had any new cases reported. We’ll knock on wood again after saying that. Hopefully. Hopefully that’s the case. You don’t know. Just keep dealing with it. Thankfully this is a resilient group and we’ve got good depth and we’ll just hope for the best. From a timing standpoint, I’d much rather have this type of thing happen now than three or four weeks down the road when we’re in the meat of the grind.”
Boudreau doesn’t mind the Wild didn’t make any more trades.
“I like all our players. I like our team, especially when we’re healthy. I like the depth of our team. I like the people we have if we run into injuries. So, you just hopefully go for it,” Boudreau said.
One reason why Boudreau’s comfortable no more moves were made is because of how many guys have turned into impactful forwards.
In 36 games since Dec. 7, Mikael Granlund leads the NHL with 45 points (16 goals) and now ranks 10th with 59 points in 61 games. He leads the Wild with 15 multi-point games. The Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Granlund trio has combined for 49 goals, 73 assists and 122 points since Nov. 25. Zucker, Granlund and Nino Niederreiter have a combined 61 goals.
“You didn’t know at the beginning of the year,” Boudreau said. “Guys like Zucker were on the fourth line. Granny was sort of an unknown. You knew he had talent, but you didn’t know how much, but it’s sort of come out of him this year. Koivu’s been rejuvenated. [Jared] Spurgeon, I know he’s been good, but boy he’s really good right now.
“Those young guys have done exceptional.”
What Boudreau is not happy with his the defense lately.
The Wild’s the highest-scoring team in the West, but it’s had to be frankly lately because it’s giving up too many goals.
That’s why Boudreau met with his coaching staff for 3 ½ hours Wednesday to cut up video for a 4 p.m. Eastern Time team meeting.
I’ll have more on this in Thursday’s article why Boudreau thinks the Wild’s cracking in this area.
As for the deadline, Fletcher said he had no expectation going into Wednesday that he would do anything, especially after learning Suter’s injury isn’t long-term and that Parise and Pominville hopefully will be back soon.
Fletcher has been working for teams since he began with Florida in the early-90s. He said this was the quietest trade deadline in his career.
He said three other GM’s called him today and he only called or texted with a few others.
“A lot of teams made trades in advance of today,” he said. “There’s only so much cap space and picks and things like that that everybody has.
“We weren’t looking to do anything. You always stay around just in case something comes up that’s too good to be true, but we’re happy with our team. We made our transaction on Sunday, and with the way Zach and Pommer got sick suddenly, thank goodness we did because that may have saved ourselves four points by getting Hanzal and Ryan a little earlier.
“We like our group and we didn’t really feel the compelling need to bring in six or seven new bodies when the guys we’ve had have played so hard and well for us.”
In a few weeks, the Wild should be able to start signing a couple of its college prospects. My guess is Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin are among them.
My guess is unless there’s an event with the Wild that forces those contracts to start now, their deals would start next season and they’d start amateur tryouts with Iowa. Fletcher believes the right recipe and path to the NHL is to acclimate to pro hockey in the minors, so jump right into an NHL playoff race or playoff games.
So, STOP ASKING ME IF THESE GUYS WILL BE IN THE PLAYOFFS!
If they have a half-dozen injuries by then, things change.
Same thing with Joel Eriksson Ek. If the Wild’s lucky enough to be playing meaningful hockey late in the spring he may be an option. But as of now, Fletcher things they’d have him play for Sweden in the world championships.
“The group that we have is the group that we have,” Fletcher said. “We could change our mind if circumstances surface or change, but I don’t think we’re going to be overly creative right now. We’ll just keep going with this team and try to find a way to play to our ability every night and strive for consistency. The real part of the season starts now.”
Good night. Oh, just remembered, I better write for the paper.