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64 posts categorized "Wild"

January 08, 2013

PHERSY AND FELDY SHOW: Welcome back!

PHERSY: Well, it's been what, like two years since we've done one of these things ... so Feldy and I got off our rear-ends and decided to tape a show tonight.

We plan to make this a far more regular feature here at Faceoff. Now, with a few of the changes at the P-B, it sounds like we'll have more time for "fun" stuff like this.

So, our lone reader ... enjoy!

This week, we wrap up the Vikings season, we talk about the Wild and the upcoming NHL season, and then Feldy talks high school hockey, and I talk about the Rochester Ice Hawks.

PhersyandFeldyShow010813

June 12, 2012

H.S. Hockey | Some notes (and changes to Kiwanis Festival lineup)

Posted by: Feldman

Whew. That was a fun Stanley Cup Final, eh? Too bad the last game had to be the least enjoyable of all, but congrats to L.A., what a run for the Kings as a No. 8 seed. And I'm sure glad I picked them to win; it's in print and everything (but don't go back and look at my prediction, just take my word for it. Please.)

On to some local hockey stuff.

* A reminder: The Minnesota Wild Road Tour will stop in Rochester on June 25. Players Matt Kassian and Charlie Coyle will be here, as well as former player Antti Laaksonen and TV color analyst Mike Greenlay will be here. They'll stop at the Wells Fargo on 55th St. NW from 4:15-5:15 p.m. More info. on the Road Tour can be found here.

* The annual Don Lucia Model Camp began on Monday, with 108 players from around the state (and some from bordering states) divided into six teams of 18 players. Players from our area/Section 1 who are competing this year: Jared Bromberg, F, Rochester John Marshall (will be a junior this fall); Soren Colstrup, F, Owatonna (junior); Luke LIjewski, F, New Prague (junior); Ryan Jutting, F, Mankato West (senior); Andrew Scofield, F, Northfield (senior); Ryan Drazan, D, New Prague (junior); Austin Kilian, F, New Prague (junior); and Colton Schmidt, F, New Prague (junior).

For more information on the camp, including full rosters for each team, click here.

* First off, congrats to former Lakeville North goalie Charlie Lindgren, who has committed to play at St. Cloud State. The Huskies and coach Bob Motzko, an Austin native, are getting a steal. Lindgren was a pain in the side for Section 1AA teams for four years; I'm certain the Rochester teams were happy to see him graduate.

Lindgren's rise to a D-I scholarship reminds me of the path former Rochester Century standout Alex Kangas took. All of us in this part of the state realized how special Lindgren was from the time he stepped in the goal as a freshman. Two years ago, we watched him nearly single-handedly lift his team past Lakeville South in the section final, then nearly single-handedly win two consy games at the state tournament. I can't wait to see how he does in St. Cloud and the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which begins play in the 2013-14 season.

* This is pretty cool: The Ottawa Citizen newspaper recently reviewed the book "Scarlet Ice," written by Roger Dier. It's the story of the 1995 Mankato West hockey team, the issues it had on and off the ice, and more importantly, the story of its sparkplug player, John Janavaras. Just 15, Janavaras was a workhorse. He also died that year after a outbreak of bacterial meningitis swept through the school. Read the review, then check out the book. The writing is quite good in spots, not so good in others, but Dier has put a tremendous story in print.

* For college puck fans, I talked with Minnesota State, Mankato, beat writer Shane Frederick (follow him on Twitter @Puckato -- great follow) last week at the state softball tournament. I asked him how things were going so far with new Mavs head coach Mike Hastings officially on the job. He said it sounds like MSU has seen a spike in season ticket sales; the real test might be to watch the sales of single-game tickets. We know MSU can sell tickets when the Gophers, Wisconsin and North Dakota come to town. How will Hastings' presence impact the sales for games against teams like Michigan Tech or Anchorage, though? I suppose it all comes down to winning.

Frederick also said he expects that MSU assistant coaches Darren Blue and Todd Knott will be retained, at least through this season, if not longer. It would be tough for Hastings to start searching for assistant(s) now, anyway, with a short time before players report to campus. Plus, St. Cloud State is already on the hunt for a top assistant, after Steve Johnson left to join head coach Dean Blais in Omaha.

* KIWANIS FESTIVAL NEWS

I fully admit I'm a dork, and I spend time in the middle of June digging through high school hockey schedules five months in advance of the season beginning. But as I did, I noticed a handful of teams who have been regulars at the Rochester Kiwanis Festival do not have the tourney listed on their schedules for this December.

I don't have the AA field (though I'll take a guess at most of it) yet, but I do have a tentative list of teams for the Class A field. I'll post what I know (and what I think I know) and let you formulate your opinions:

CLASS AA: Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo and Eau Claire Memorial all have the Festival listed on their schedules. I don't know this for certain, but I'm assuming long-time Festival attendees New Richmond (Wis.) and Fargo (N.D.) South will return. Those teams are a part of the Festival; it wouldn't be the same without them here. Eastview does not have its non-conference schedule posted as of yet, so there's a good chance the Lightning could return.

The eighth team in the AA field could be Richfield. The Spartans at one point had "Rochester tournament" listed on their schedule, but it noted "vs. Rochester Century" ... that has been removed from their schedule as of now. They only have 22 games listed -- three short of the 25 allowed by MSHSL rules -- so perhaps they're seeking a different tourney, or are waiting to confirm a spot in the Kiwanis? 

Prior Lake -- a team I was really hoping would return this year -- is out. The Lakers have the Schwan's Cup Silver Division listed on their schedule.

CLASS A: Here's the way the Class A field shakes out, tentatively, I'm told. Looks like long-time tourney participant Albert Lea is out, as are St. Michael-Albertville and Northfield, both of which were in it last year. Albert Lea is scheduled to play in Simley's tournament, in Inver Grove Heights.

The Kiwanis Class A tournament appears to include the following: Lourdes (defending champ), Dodge County, New Ulm (2010 champ), Ashwaubenon (Wis.), Verona (Wis.), WSFLG (Wis.), Northland Pines (Wis.) and Kansas City.

That would mean half the field has turned over. Lourdes (defending champ), Ashwaubenon (4th place last year), New Ulm (6th) and Dodge County (8th) are back; the other four teams are new.

Verona could be a nice addition; it went 22-1 in the regular season last year and qualified for the state tournament, where it lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Notre Dame Academy.

That's all I know for now; I'll pass on more about the tournament as I find out.

July 03, 2011

NHL | Wild wise to stay out of free agent frenzy

FELDY: It's amazing what honesty from a general manager can do for a fan base.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hasn't attempted to deny that the Wild are in all-out rebuild mode. Or, as Fletcher calls it, "building, not rebuilding." He's right; how can we call this rebuilding? There's nothing to re-build from.

Maybe it's that Wild fans have simply become apathetic. They've watched this team try to do two things at once — stockpile young talent through the draft while signing overpriced veterans in free agency to attempt to keep the team competitive — for too long now. Finally, Fletcher has realized (or admitted) that philosophy won't work.

In fact, I (like many Wild fans, apparently) was surprised at how open and honest Fletcher was about wanting to take this team in a new direction. At the draft on June 24, I had about five paragraphs of a story written about how Fletcher is turning the Wild into a young, young team, even if he won't admit it. I had to highlight-delete those grafs when Fletcher talked openly about it at his press conference that night.

So, here comes the full-blown youth movement. And most fans seem fine with it, though, what other choice do they have? These fans have been paying good money for the past four or five years to watch a medicore-at-best product. They've been beaten into near-submission with lost season after lost season.

And, now that Fletcher has finally decided to move this franchise in a completely different direction than it's ever been taken, fans seem willing to accept another couple of years of building.

As it is, the 2011-12 Wild just might be a better team than the 2010-11 Wild. Certainly, they will not replace Brent Burns' offensive production on the blueline. But, that's the one position where they actually have some depth in the organization, and there is some young talent waiting, such as Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and Justin Falk (as well as this year's first-round pick, Jonas Brodin, who might not be ready until three years down the road, but he's already an elite skater).

The addition of Devin Setoguchi can only help this lineup. Putting him on one side of Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the other will give the Wild a top line that's fun to watch, if nothing else. Forward Darroll Powe was a nice acquisiton, too, as the Wild had to give up just a third-round pick in 2013 for the 26-year-old. He's a physical player who could challenge Cal Clutterbuck for the team lead in hits.

While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as defense is concerned (the team's best blue-line prospects are about ready to take their shots at playing with the big boys), it'll be a few years yet before the team's best forward prospects are in the same position. Three guys from last year's draft — Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Johan Larsson — are all at least a year, if not two, away from competing for a spot on the NHL club. And guys they acquired during last week's draft — Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Mario Lucia — could be three or four (or more) years out.

I think Wild fans truly believed that Fletcher is committed to this youth movement on Friday, when he refused to jump into the free-agent frenzy that swept the league. Teams were overpaying for players seemingly every minute (six years, $33 mil for James Wisniewski? Really, Columbus? And trading away a first- and a second-round pick for Semyon Varlamov? Really, Colorado? Yikes.).

Sure, Fletcher made some calls, but we're used to seeing Minnesota chase down a handful of free agents and throw $3-4 million per year at them. Friday was one of those days where it felt like the Wild were a winner on the first day of free agency, even though they made no moves.

That's not to say they won't add a veteran defenseman or another forward, but it looks like they'll let the market settle, and go after a second- or third-tier guy to plug a hole for a year or two.

Bottom line: It's about time that Wild fans get to be excited about their team in October, December and March, instead of in June and July.

June 26, 2011

NHL Draft | Mario Lucia interview

Posted by: Feldman

Lucia2 

Mario Lucia didn't even hear his name called at Saturday's NHL Draft. The roar from the Wild fans, when, at No. 60, the words "the Wild select, from Wayzata High School ..." covered up the announcement of Lucia's name. Here's the interview he gave to the media after being selected. He addresses his thoughts on being taken by the hometown team, and the pressure that will be placed on him of playing in the Wild organization. He's also asked at one point if he was concerned that he might be taken by GM Garth Snow and the New York Islanders (Snow has, in the past, criticized Lucia's dad, Don, the head coach of the University of Minnesota).

Here's Mario Lucia's interview: M_Lucia0625

NHL Draft | Chuck Fletcher interview

Posted by: Feldman

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher addressed the media after Friday's first round of the NHL Draft. He talks primarily about the Brent Burns-for-Devin Setoguchi/Charlie Coyle/Zack Phillips trade, as well as addressing the Wild's first round draft choices.

Here is the Fletcher interview: Fletcher0624

NHL Draft | Zack Phillips interview

Posted by: Feldman

Phillips2 

The Wild traded star defenseman Brent Burns and their 2012 second-round pick to San Jose during the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night. In return they received former 30-goal scorer Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle and the No. 28 overall pick in this year's draft. They used that pick to take Zack Phillips, a 6-1, 178-pound center from the Memorial Cup champions Saint John Sea Dogs.

Phillips met the (mostly Minnesota) media after he was selected. Here's the link to his interview: Phillips0624

NHL Draft | Jonas Brodin interview

Posted by: Feldman

Brodin2 

Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin met the media after being selected No. 10 overall by the Wild on Friday night. His answers are brief and his English is broken, but he seemed very excited to be drafted by Minnesota. Brodin talks about what he needs to get better at and his experience of playing in the Swedish Elite League as a 17-year-old.

Here's the link to his interview: Brodin0624 

June 23, 2011

Hockey | NHL Draft notes, Aikens settling in Omaha (UPDATED — up to 19)

FELDY: Any of our Faceoff Faithful headed up to The X for the NHL Draft this weekend? If so, you're probably as excited as me. This will be my first NHL Draft to attend and/or cover for the paper, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of that NHL brainpower in one facility.

I'll have a bunch of NHL Draft preview stuff in Friday's Post-Bulletin, so check that out (please, please, please), and I'll be up in St. Paul Friday and Saturday to cover the draft, so check out Saturday and Monday's print editions, too, for that coverage.

I'll also be posting here on the blog throughout the weekend, hopefully live from The X both days. I don't know exactly what the setup is going to be like for media or where I'll be stationed, but I'll do my best to get on here and/or Twitter (@PBFeldy).

The draft begins at 6 p.m. Friday (on Versus), for Round 1, and 10:30 a.m. Saturday (NHL Network), for Rounds 2-7.

As I was doing some research for my draft preview stuff, I found some facts that I thought Rochester hockey fans might be interested in.

(Update: I had forgotten that Scott Schneider was drafted, as well as goalie Jeff Kruesel, so my total of 14 goes up to 16. Much thanks to former JM star/coach Scott Lecy for reminding me that Schneider was drafted, as well as to Jeff Kruesel's parents for notifying me he was not on the list.)

(Update #2: So, of course, an hour after our print edition goes to press today (Friday, June 24), I get a complete list of all the Minnesotans who have ever been drafted. Turns out, there are 19 from Rochester, so I missed three in today's print edition. My apologies to those guys -- Ethan Philpott, Ross Johnson of Mayo and Doug Wieck of Mayo; I'll try to run their short bios, like I did for the other 16, in Saturday's paper).

I attempted to compile a list of every Rochester player ever drafted by an NHL team. I came up with 19(including Johnny Pohl, who, I know, is iffy at best, but he was born in Roch, so we'll add him in).

Of the 19 Rochester players who have been drafted, seven were drafted by franchises that no longer exist (two by the Atlanta Thrashers, two by the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, and one each by the Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota North Stars). 

Two -- Doug Zmolek and Mark Stuart -- were drafted in Round 1. None of the remaining 12 was drafted earlier than Round 4.

Two others -- Colin Stuart and Alex Kangas -- were drafted in the exact same draft position (Round 5, No. 135 overall) by the same team (Atlanta). And, yet, two more -- Guy Gosselin and Scott Schneider -- were drafted by the old Winnipeg Jets franchise.

Finally, five of the 19 wouldn't have been drafted if, in their draft years, the draft was formatted like it is now. Currently, the draft is just seven rounds. Eric Strobel, Shjon Podein and Gosselin were all drafted in Round 8, Pohl went in Round 9 and John Johannson in Round 10.

Here's my list, please tell me if I'm missing anyone:

Guy Gosselin
Jim Johannson
John Johannson
Ross Johnson

Alex Kangas
Jeff Kruesel
Bryce Lampman
Ethan Philpott

Shjon Podein
Johnny Pohl
Scott Schneider
Eric Strobel

Colin Stuart
* Mark Stuart
Mike Stuart
Jake Taylor
Jeff Teal
Doug Wieck

* Doug Zmolek

* -- first round pick

I'll have more information about each of those 15 guys in Friday's paper, as well as a look at some of the players the Wild are likely targeting with the 10th overall pick. I'll also have a look at some of the top Minnesotans available in this draft, and a story on New Prague native and former Section 1A standout Seth Ambroz.

He left the Trojans after his freshman year, when he piled up 69 points and led them to the Section 1A semifinals, where they lost to Lourdes in OT. He has played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL the past three seasons. He is expected to be a low first-round or high second-round pick this weekend. 

For the story on Ambroz, I talked to 1989 Rochester John Marshall graduate Mike Aikens, who was an assistant with the Lancers this year. He had lots of good things to say about Ambroz, particularly his work ethic, which was questioned by some hockey bloggers throughout the season.

The 6-feet-3, 203-pound Ambroz -- who is headed to the U of M this fall -- has been criticized by some for not having a more productive season (he had 46 points in 2010-11, after a 49-point season in 2009-10). 

But, Aikens said, Ambroz was productive in areas other than the scoresheet early in the season. He said Ambroz's physical play was a huge boost for the Lancers early on, when he wasn't scoring. Aikens said Ambroz would often have as many as 15 hits in a game (approaching Cal Clutterbuck territory) and that he didn't receive enough credit for the dirty work he did.

"He was phenomenal on the forecheck and willing to take a beating," Aikens said.

Aikens added that Ambroz does have some things to work on, that he's not NHL-ready right now. The biggest thing Ambroz needs to work on, Aikens said, is his skating. But, it's something Ambroz is aware of and "has worked really, really hard to get better at."

As for Aikens, he thoroughly enjoyed his first season back in Omaha (he spent three seasons there at the start of his coaching career) and is ready to settle there. He and his wife bought a house there and are moving their daughters (ages 5 and 7) down in about two weeks. They kept their house here in Rochester during this past season and waited to move until the school year was finished.

Aikens said he enjoys working for the Lancers organization and head coach Bliss Littler, a successful long-time junior hockey coach. Aikens moved to Omaha after coaching in the Russell Stover Midget Major program near Kansas City. He worked with fellow Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler there. Ferschweiler left prior to last season to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Western Michigan University.

"We have two young daughters," said Aikens, whose brother, Bruce, played on the 1977 JM state championship team, "so we were looking for a place to settle down. When Omaha called, it was a no-brainer.

"The organization in Omaha is so good, from the owners on down. They treat everyone so well. We like to call it the Yankees of junior hockey, because everyone is treated so well. I feel like I can really be choosy and pick my next move. If I'm here for 10 years, or more, that would be great."

May 25, 2011

Catching up on some random hockey items...

Posted by: Feldman

The blog's been kind of slow lately, so I figured we'd patch together a few random notes.

• I heard from two sources today that Rochester Century is close to having a new head boys hockey coach. Can't provide the name just yet, but I'm hearing it's someone who is very familiar with the program, who played high school hockey in Rochester.

• Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School has been added to the Dodge County boys and girls co-op for next season. Wildcats coach Eric Hofmann tells me he's not yet certain how the addition of any new players will impact the program, other than adding depth. He said he would need to see any new players skate and compete before he can assess what kind of impact they'll have on the team.

• Rochester John Marshall has yet to announce its varsity assistant coach for next season. Former Lourdes coach Jay Ness will take over as head coach in the winter.

• A few high school programs around the state have filled vacant head coaching positions.

The most recent announcement came today, when Wayzata hired former Gopher forward Pat O'Leary. The Plymouth native had 15 goals and nine assists for the Gophers from 1998-99 through 2001-02, before playing three seasons of minor league pro hockey. O'Leary, an assistant at Wayzata the past three seasons, takes over for Carl Davis, who resigned shortly after the season. Wayzata lost to eventual state champ Eden Prairie in double OT in the Section 6AA championship game.

Ritch Menne, a 1990 Centennial High School graduate, will take over the reins at his alma matter. Erik Aus stepped down after this past season, after 24 years as the team's head coach.

I'm not sure this one has been reported, but Centennial assistant coach Adam Schmidt has been named the new head coach at Irondale. Schmidt and I went to school together at North Dakota, and he'll do a great job with a team that struggled last season. As he told me this week, "we have a long way to go, but there's only one way to go ... up!"

• International Falls, an annual competitior in the Kiwanis Festival here in Rochester at holiday time, is again looking for a new head coach. Mike Bolstad stepped down recently after just one season as the Broncos' head coach. Bolstad took over for long-time coach John Prettyman. The Broncos went 10-15-1 last season, losing to Duluth Marshall in the Section 7A quarterfinals.

• The North American Hockey League will hold its annual entry draft tomorrow (Thursday), beginning at 1 p.m. Amateur players who are younger than 21 on or before Dec. 31, 2011, are eligible, unless they are on an NAHL roster or have signed a tender from an NAHL team prior to the draft. Also, any player who was on an NAHL roster in 2010-11, but played less than 10 games, is eligible.

Rochester Lourdes defenseman Rory Vesel, a Second Team All-State player, has signed tender with the Bismarck (N.D.) Bobcats, and is not eligible for the draft.

Some rosters have been posted for the annual Don Lucia Model Camp, to be held at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis June 13-18. I'm not sure if the rosters are complete; only 10 of the 12 rosters are listed online right now. Registration deadline was last Friday, so perhaps they're still filling spots in the camp.

The only Rochester player listed as of now is Mayo D Jack Dingle, though I contacted Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol today and he believes a couple of his players have applied for the camp and may be attending.

Other current/former Section 1 players listed include former Faribault D Brandon Parker, who played for the Russell Stover AAA team last season with former Rochester Century standouts Connor Faupel and Drew Anderson; Lakeville South forward Michael Chuinard; LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter goalie Chris Amsden; Lakeville North forward Evan Peterson; Lakeville South defenseman Charlie Heller; South forward and Gophers commit Justin Kloos; Lakeville North goalie Charlie Lindgren; and New Prague goalie Joe Morris.

• We're less than a month away from the NHL Draft, to be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, June 24 and 25. New Prague native and University of Minnesota recruit Seth Ambroz is ranked 31st among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting Service rankings.

Here's a blog Ambroz did throughout his final USHL season for NHL.com.

• Members of the Big Ten Hockey Conference are mulling two possible scenarios for their postseason tournament format.

• The Minnesota Wild have scheduled a Fan Fest to coincide with the first day of the Draft, June 24, at the St. Paul Crowne Plaza hotel. Some big names are scheduled to appear, including 2010 first round draft pick Mikael Granlund, who showed the world what he could do earlier this month at the IIHF World Championships.

Tickets for the Fan Fest are $20 (ticket does not get you access to the Draft) and go on sale on June 1. More information is available here.

February 18, 2011

Mark Stuart traded to Atlanta

FELDY: Rochester native Mark Stuart is going from a division-leading NHL team to one that is battling just to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 26-year-old Rochester native was traded just more than an hour ago from the Boston Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers.

Stuart has been a healthy scratch in recent weeks for the Bruins, after returning from a hand injury. But the former first-round pick was dealt today mainly because of salary cap reasons. The Bruins needed to clear space to acquire Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, so they sent Stuart (and his $1.675 million cap hit) and former Gopher Blake Wheeler ($2.2 million cap hit) to Atlanta in exchange for center Rich Peverley and minor league defenseman Boris Valabik. Peverley and Valabik together earn barely more than $2 million.

Once the Stuart/Wheeler trade was completed, Boston sent another former WCHA standout, Joe Colborne (a former first-round pick who played college hockey at Denver), and its 2011 first round draft pick to Toronto for Kaberle.

So, what does this mean for Stuart?

First and foremost, it means he gets to give life in Atlanta a two-month trial run to see if he would like to play there in coming years. Stuart will be just 27 when the season ends, and he'll be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. (Obvious question: Might the Wild be interested in him? We'll get back to that point later.)

Second, The move reunites Stuart and Wheeler with Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay, who was an assistant in Boston until taking the job in Atlanta this season. But his injury issues over the past two seasons have left some Bruins fans disgruntled with a former first-round pick they perceive as injury-prone. The reality is, Stuart is a gritty player. He plays a style of game that can lead to injuries. But his name was batted around a lot after last season as a potential captain of the team, so you know players and coaches around the NHL have a lot of respect for the way he plays. He has a goal and four assists in 31 games this season (Wheeler has 11-16--27 this season).

And, third, Stuart will likely see more playing time in Atlanta, too. The Thrashers need his physical presence on the blue line. Stuart (6-feet-2, 213 pounds) and Wheeler are being viewed in Atlanta as guys who can help take the Thrashers from tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference up into the top eight and a playoff berth.

The Thrashers now have the market cornered on Rochester natives, as they also hold former Century goalie Alex Kangas' rights. Other Minnesota connections in the Atlanta system: former Cup winner Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau), forward and ECHL All-Star Michael Forney (Thief River Falls) and forward/draft pick Tanner Lane (Detroit Lakes).

So, whether the Thrashers reach the postseason or not, Stuart will have the chance in June to pick where he wants to play in 2011-12 and beyond. Which begs the question, is there a chance he ends up in a Minnesota Wild uniform next season?

It's a great thought, but it looks unlikely. Of the eight d-men the Wild have on their NHL roster right now (Burns, Barker, Schultz, Scandella, Spurgeon, Stoner, Zanon, Zidlicky), six are between the ages of 20-28. And with guys such as Justin Falk, Tyler Cuma (his injuries not withstanding) and Nate Prosser in the minors, it seems unlikely that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher would be willing to pay the kind of money Stuart may get in other places (it's reasonable to think he could get $2 million per year or more in a free agent deal).

As for Stuart potentially getting back into the playoffs, this time with the Thrashers, it could come down to the final weeks of the season. Atlanta is currently tied for ninth in the East with Buffalo, two points behind eighth-place Carolina.

And, for anyone who wondering if the Thrashers play near Minnesota again this season, they don't. They played the Wild, in Atlanta, back in November (a 5-1 Thrashers win). Just two of Atlanta's remaining 23 games are against Western Conference opponents.