Today was breakup day for the Wild where players have their exit interviews with management, get their offseason workout plans and pack up their gear. GM Chuck Fletcher will address the media for the first time Thursday afternoon.
Here is today’s news:
For the first time, Zach Parise confirmed the Star Tribune’s report before the playoffs that he has a herniated disc pinching on his nerve. He had been playing with the injury since January and received the maximum three cortisone injections before he couldn’t play anymore.
“Rehab is going really well,” he said. “I’ve got to continue doing the rehab for a little bit and go from there. But it’s progressing really well.”
Asked if he’ll need surgery, Parise said, “It’s too early to tell, but I’m optimistic that therapy and the rehab is working really well that we’re going to be able to avoid that.”
With the amount of time it’ll take to rehab from surgery, Parise said that decision needs to come pretty soon.
“But again, I think that the way I’ve been progressing, to me, I feel like everything is going really well and ahead of where they thought I’d be,” he said. “To me, standing here today, I don’t think I’ll have to.”
Parise said it was “really scary, some of the things that I was feeling. There was a lot of pain and just some of the things that were happening, it was a little eye-opening.”
Parise had numbness and a tingling sensation in his left leg and not a lot of strength in the left foot and a ton of pain in the back and leg. The day after getting hit by San Jose’s Logan Couture, he couldn’t get out of bed.
“Able to do things to make it manageable to be able to play,” Parise said. “I think that one play, it just didn’t recover after that.”
He’s confident he’ll be ready to take part in the World Cup for the United States next September and be good to go by the start of the Wild’s season.
He’s not worried this will affect him the rest of his career. “I’ve got a great trainer and I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. So I’m not worried about next year, the start of next year, I’ll be fine.”
Asked if the injury just repairs itself without surgery, Parise said, “I’m not a doctor, but from all the people I’ve met with and talked to, in the long run, surgery or no surgery, the results have been the same. The surgery, they said, would have relieved a lot of the pain, but you’d end up in the same spot down the road.”
On missing the playoffs, Parise said, “It was brutal watching it, you want to be a part of it, you want to go play with the guys on the road and be a part of playing here in front of the fans and the excitement of playoffs. That’s why you play the whole year is to play in playoffs. When you play the whole year and miss it, it’s disappointing. I like to think that I would have helped. I don’t want to speculate anything but I like to think that I would have helped the team.”
On where team is at, Parise said, “That’s a hard question to answer. Ideally, we’ve been in that wild card spot the last four years, we’d love to move up. But that’s just not what’s happened. As far as what needs to happen moving forward, that’s a question you’d have to ask the management and stuff. That’s not really something for me to answer.”
On John Torchetti, Parise said, “I enjoyed playing for him, I really did. I thought he did a lot of good things here. It was fun. He did a good job on the bench, he was good in the locker room, so I enjoyed playing for him. He was great.”
Broken and displaced ribs ended his season prematurely, he said. He said with time, it’ll heal.
Asked if he hopes he’s back, “I hope so. I signed here not because this is where I live. I signed here because I truly love it here and I want to win here. That would be a dream come true.”
Asked if he’s worried he may be bought out of the final year of his deal, Vanek said, “I don’t know. You can ask Chuck that question. I do understand the business side of it. again, I’m not happy with my year, but at the same time, I truly still believe that I’m a 30-goal scorer in this league. I’ll worry about myself, have a good summer and be ready to go.”
As I wrote in yesterday’s Insider, Vanek is due $7.5 million next season. Buying him out would create more salary-cap breathing room by turning his $6.5 million cap hit next season into $1.5 million next season and $2.5 million the following year.
As long as he’s medically cleared by June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final – whichever is later, a buyout is permissible. So this shouldn’t be like the last three years when the Wild couldn’t buy out Dany Heatley once and Niklas Backstrom twice because of season-ending surgeries.
It killed Vanek not to play down the stretch and into the playoffs. He said, “Like I’ve told you before, I’ve played through injuries and I’m OK, but this one was tough because you just can’t go. When it first happened, I figured something was wrong, but they just assumed it was a strain or a bruise. I played I think a couple days later [in Detroit] and it didn’t feel like a bruise or a strain. So I took four or five days off and went on the ice for about two minutes and I said I think something is wrong. That’s when we got a scan done and found out I have broken and displaced ribs. It’s one of those injuries where you feel good some days and all it needs is time and time to heal.”
On the team, Vanek said, “It’s another year where it was up and down, up and down. Consistency wasn’t quite there for the team and myself. I don’t know [why it keeps happening] because I do feel like we have good leadership. It’s tough to say. I don’t know, but it’s something we all need to improve at. Every team goes through ups and downs, but our ups and downs are a lot worse than good teams have, and that’s not a good thing.”
On why it happens, he said, “I have my own opinions, but I’ll keep those to myself. But as far as the room, I think we have a good room. It’s definitely tough.”
On Torchetti vs. Mike Yeo, Vanek said, “Two different personalities. I think Yeozie’s a very good coach and did a lot of good things here. I respected him a lot. He was good for this room. It was tough to see him go. Torch brought a different type of energy.”
He’s a restricted free agent and is a likely trade candidate around the draft, in my opinion.
“I guess wait and see what happens,” he said. “I haven’t put a ton of thought into it yet. I love the group and love the city, so I hope to be back.”
Even though you want to be a No. 1?
“Yeah, I want to play more than I played this year,” Kuemper said. “But like I said I do like it here so we’ll see what happens. But I do like it here so I hope to be a part of the group again.”
RYAN CARTER AND CHRIS PORTER
They are two of the unrestricted free agents, including Justin Fontaine, Jarret Stoll and David Jones.
Carter was scratched in the final four games.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “I think on a lot of fronts – not being able to play, the way our season ended we didn’t finish strong. It was difficult not playing and not being a part of it for sure.”
On July 1, Carter said, “I haven’t. I like it here. I’m from here and I like to play here. But things change. We’ve got time to think about, so I’ll take that time.”
On if the new coach could determine his return because he needs to know he’ll play: “I think it’s probably a two-way street. One for myself or other guys in the situation – who the coach is. And two the coach probably has guys that maybe he wants. He’s going to want to know who’s coming in too. So I think it’s a two way street. I think that’s probably the first piece of the puzzle.”
On Wild’s inconsistency, Carter said, “I think it’s difficult. I think not consistently winning is what makes that difficult. If you find ways to win games, and not bleed as bad as we did, then those kinds of things don’t happen. You don’t look for fixes, you don’t plug holes, you don’t move guys around, you let things play out. I think chemistry is important. I think it plays a big role. Our line that was probably the best line down the stretch is the line that stayed together – Pominville, Nino, and Haula. When guys get a chance to play together, you learn each other and you can really excel that way. That comes from winning and success and things like that. Hopefully that happens in the future.”
Porter, on hoping to return, said, “I’d love to. I thought I created a home here for myself with the way I played. It’s not the way we wanted to end, but on a personal level, it’s nice to come in and play every night and I know toward the end I was in and out. But in the playoffs, I felt like I made my mark. I want to be part of the solution moving forward. Hopefully that happens.”
Restricted free agent, one of three big ones with Matt Dumba and Kuemper.
On his season personally; Torch saying he needs to be better: “From my own eyes, I’m not really going to say much in front of the cameras as far as that goes. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t the way I wanted it to go, and it needs to be a lot better. I’m the first one to take full blame for that. It has nothing to do with the coaches, it has nothing to do with anything else than myself, and I need to better next year, and I can promise you that will happen.”
Ever been on a team with so many ups and downs: “This was a weird year. It seems like this team does that every single year. We have a few rollercoasters, and then we decide to play well come playoff time, and make a push. That’s the way it goes sometimes, but next year we have to make sure that we come in, and we keep that pace for all 82 games that we started with, and make sure that we try to get home ice, or whatever our goals are as a team, we have to make sure we stick to it for 82 games, and not have any of those big lulls.”
Torch emphasize different things than Yeo: “Not necessarily. It’s tough for any coach to come in halfway through the year, or three-quarters of the way through the year and try to implement a full new system. That’s really tough to do. He definitely put in a few new things system-wise. It was definitely a new voice for sure, and those all help you, so that’s why we won a few games. I don’t think there was a huge change immediately.”
How do they take the next step as a group: “Now, most of us have been together for four years. Next year will be the fifth year, or whatever it is. We should be able to take that next step as the group because we’ve been together and we know each other pretty well now. That’s huge for us, so hopefully next year we can come in, and use that camaraderie that we have and we’ve built, and keep strong for 82 games.”
I reported the other day about his right index finger. They had x-rays yesterday and it was broken. Occurred at the morning skate of Game 1.
Seen replay of Nino’s almost-goal: “I’ve seen pictures, and you see pictures and it looks like it’s in, but it’s all about angles. On the overhead you can, it’s crazy, it’s one-16th of an inch not across the line. It hurts that it could be that close and somehow not get in there. With that momentum you don’t know what happens, but I liked our chances in that game if the game continued on. It’s crazy to think it’s that close.”
With his long-term commitment, what excites him about this team: “The same thing as before: The core that’s here, you see these guys, and you look at the season [Coyle] had, and you see guys growing up, and improving, and all these experiences make them better; make us all better. That core is going to be here. They’ve done a great job building this team; Chuck has done a great job building this team. We’re going to continue to be better. We talked about it this year, but really next year, you see the advantage that home ice gives us when we play here in the playoffs. That has to be a goal of ours, to get that home ice advantage going into the playoffs so we can play here more.”
Weird goals this season; product of how teams play: “I don’t know. It was a strange year that way. That just happens sometimes. There are years that they all stay out, and there are years that they all find a way in, those bounces. Just chalk it up as one of those years, and hopefully next year the bounces are a little nicer.”
Offseason plans: “I’m not in a rush to get out of here. We have a family here, so I don’t think we’re going to leave for a couple of weeks. We will head back to Kelowna, and relax, and take it easy.”
Does uncertainty of coaching situation weigh on him: “Of course it’s something you think about. It’s such an important part of the group, and how things are going forward. But it’s not really something you can control, so I’m sure it will be figured out pretty quickly, and then you can adjust or know how it’s going to be. Any time there’s uncertainty, it always makes things a little different.”
His injury: “It was tough. It happened in pregame skate of Game 1. It’s broken. It was hard to hold my stick. There were better days, and worse days, and probably a few times it got hit pretty good, and can’t imagine that it helped things. It’s just rest now. Being that it’s the offseason, there’s no surgery. There’s that time to rest. There’s no rush to get back playing. That’s a good thing that we don’t need to do surgery on it. We did the x-ray yesterday and saw it.”
Ok with amount of work: “I like playing. That’s the most amount of games I’ve played before. Obviously last year there was a lot too in a small amount of time. The way the year was that’s how it needed to be. When you end up in a situation that we were in down the stretch, that’s why you have a starting goalie; to play those games. If you’re in a situation that you’re able to rest, and able to play the other guy more, then that’s great, but I’m fine with the situation I was in. Like I said, I enjoy playing a lot of games, so I was good with it.”
“It’s too bad Games 1 and 2 didn’t go a little better. Game 2, I thought we could have maybe gotten a little more fortunate with some bounces, I guess, but it is what it is, we have to focus on making sure we’re ready to go next year.”
Next step?: “We’ve got to find that consistency. We’ve all been through it now the last four years -- ups and downs, and we have to find it and try to get consistent throughout the year so we’re ready to go for the playoffs and it’s not a question of getting into the playoffs. We have to have that confidence going throughout the year. We’ve done a lot of good things. We’ve made the playoffs here the last four years and things are going in the right direction. It takes time. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. I feel pretty confident in this locker room.”
What does new coach need to know about this team: “I think this team never quit. You guy saw that. There were so many times that people counted us out throughout the year. We never quit. We stuck with it even in the playoffs. We went down swinging. I think somebody outside the room coming in, you definitely want them to know that we have that characteristic because that’s a huge characteristic to have.”
On missing Zach: “It’s so tough. You lose two of your top guys right before the playoffs, and it definitely put us behind a little bit. I thought other guys did step up though. But maybe it’s a different series if we have those two guys.”
In addition to Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland), Wild winger Jordan Schroeder will represent the United States in the upcoming world championships in Russia.
“I’m excited. It’s a huge honor,” Schroeder said.
Finland has requested Wild forwards Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula. Koivu and Granlund are still deciding, while Haula is unable because of what looked like a groin or hip flexor injury he played through in the playoffs.
That's it for now. I'll be back after Fletcher's availability Thursday. I'll also be on Sirius XM Radio Friday at 3:30 p.m.