Tag Archives: Chuck Fletcher

Fletcher To Appear On NHL Live Today

Fresh off hosting the NHL Draft and pulling off a blockbuster deal on Friday night, General Manager Chuck Fletcher will be a guest on NHL Live today at 4:30 p.m. central time.

Fletcher is sure to touch on a lot of subjects, most notably the events of the past week including the hiring of Head Coach Mike Yeo, the acquisition of Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns and the Draft which saw the Wild take two first rounders and two Minnesotans – Mario Lucia and Nick Seeler.

Draft Week Kicks Off With Media Luncheon

We have arrived at Draft Week, 2011.

Today was relatively quiet as far as events go, but the Wild did host its annual media Draft luncheon at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub this afternoon. General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr were the featured guests, and both dealt with extensive questioning from the media bottom feeders.

To see what Chuck Fletcher had to say, click here.

The Draft luncheon is always an interesting event, just because most of what the GM and Assistant GM say is pretty uninteresting. For the 11th straight year, we were not allowed to see the team’s Draft list prior to the actual event. Maybe next year.

They’re also aren’t any comments on specific players, although Flahr did let it slip that he doesn’t expect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to be available at number 10.

What Fletcher and Flahr did say was that this is a fairly deep Draft with about 50 players that could be considered top end talent. The Wild only has one pick in the top 50 as it stands right now, but there’s a chance that could change, or there’s a chance one of those 50 players on the Wild’s list drops down to the third round.

“Last year, our Top 50 covered our first five picks,” said Fletcher. “I expect we’ll get two or three [this year].”

As usual, there were also questions about the crop of Minnesotans available. Unlike last year, there isn’t a Minnesota projected to go early in the first round, but that’s not to say the Wild aren’t interested in the likes of Seth Ambroz and Mario Lucia, who Flahr called “very different players.”

Fletcher also shed some light on last year’s Draft and said the club pushed hard to make a trade in the first round to move up and grab a Minnesota kid (one would think that may have been Nick Bjugstad), and he also said a Minnesotan that was coveted by the Wild was taken two spots ahead of one of their second round picks. South St. Paul stud defenseman Justin Faulk was taken two slots ahead of Brett Bulmer who went 39th overall, and Minnetonka’s Justin Holl went two spots ahead of Johan Larsson at 56th overall.

Of course, the Wild brass is pretty happy with how last year’s Draft turned out, especially with their top four picks. Fletcher said a good Draft yields two quality NHL players and if you get four, then you’re going to gain ground on other teams. It’s too early to tell how last year’s Draft can be measured, but it’s clear they feel good about it so far.

When the Draft talk subsided, Fletcher talked about some other topics. He said Guillaume Latendresse is on track to make a full recovery from his abdominal injuries and is expected to be ready to go for training camp. He also said Martin Havlat underwent shoulder surgery following his injury at the World Championships, but he also should be good to go come September.

 

 

Finland Day Four/Five

For whatever reason, it feels like I’ve been in Finland longer than four days. Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. But my hotel room is starting to look and smell like a pack of Finnish reindeer had a party in it. Normally, I’m not one to utilize the housecleaning, but I’m going to have to relent. If anyone on the hotel cleaning crew is reading this, my apologies.

Today’s blog is going to inlcude last night’s game, and then the events of today (there weren’t many).

Last night, the Wild nabbed its first and only win from the preseason. First, the game stuff.

The Wild beat Ilves Tampere, 5-1, but were tied after two periods before beating Sami Aittokallio four times in the third.

Cal Clutterbuck was huge, burying three goals for his first hat trick since “two weeks before camp started at the St. Louis Park Octagon Camp.” All three of Clutter’s goals came on quick wrist shots from around 15 feet away. He was on a line with Matt Cullen and Casey Wellman, and they looked great all game long.

The other two goals were scored by Marek Zidlicky and Chuck Kobasew, and they were the prettiest two goals. Zidlicky worked a give-and-go with Mikko Koivu (who is rather popular here), and then kicked the puck from his left skate to his stick and then fired a wrister through traffic.

Kobasew fought off a defender in front of the net, and with the puck laying between his opponent’s leg, he jammed it on goal and under Aittokallio. Kobasew was upstaged on the play by a jubilant John Madden, who slapped his stick on the ice and then picked up the puck. He said it was his first point ever in Finland. He played here last year with Chicago, and also played two games for I.F.K. during the lockout.

The team bussed back to Helsinki through the darkness and made it back after midnight. That prompted Todd Richards to call off Tuesday’s practice citing the lack of rest his guys have had in the last two weeks.

The team did appear at Hartwall Areena on Tuesday, however. The 100+ Wild fans that traveled from Minnesota were treated to a lunch with the entire team. General Manager Chuck Fletcher gave an opening speech and answered some questions from the fans. As usual, he had some good one-liners, saying the team has really bonded here in Finland…maybe too much considering they spent all Saturday together on Sauna Island.

He also mentioned that the team will have to make the two cuts prior to Wednesday’s game. Those two players have been told they have been placed on waivers, but he didn’t say who they were. We’ll be able to post the names once they are claimed or clear waivers.

Once Chuck was done, the players then entered the arena restaurant which had a castle-style feel to it. The players spread out among all the tables to break bread and sign autographs for the fans. Even Bruce Oreck, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland was in attendance near the end.

The players have the rest of Tuesday to themselves. Tomorrow will be the final practice in preparation for Carolina on Thursday. The Canes arrived in Helsinki last night and were on the ice at Hartwall Areena for the first time today. They lost to SKA-St. Petersburg last night, but I can’t imagine they are too broken up about it. From all accounts, it sounds as if they were just happy to get out of there with everybody’s limbs still attached. Apparently, the Russian team was taking a few too many liberties with the skilled players.

Finland Day Two

Hello again from Helsinki!

It was a great day here for Day Two, with a lot of action and a lot of hockey. This morning, the Wild players shook off the cobwebs for the first practice of the trip, which was held in the practice rink underneath Hartwall Areena, where the team will play Carolina on Thursday and Friday.

Rink might be stretching what this place was actually like. The ceilings and walls are like rock, and in parts, stick out over the ice surface. It didn’t seem to bother the players, who seemed to enjoy the up-tempo practice.

It wasn’t official at the time of practice, but the Wild did confirm the signing of goaltender Jose Theodore later in the day. Theodore will join the team next week, which means he missed out on the team’s trip to Sauna Island this afternoon. It was a player and coach-only event, and I’m doubting we’ll find out too much about all that went on, but I’ll challenge my inner-Mike Russo to try and dig up some dirt.

The entire front office staff, including owner Craig Leipold, GM Chuck Fletcher and Assistant GM Brent Flahr, took in tonight’s Finnish Elite League Game between H.I.F.K. Helsinki and Assat. Mikael Granlund, the Wild’s first round pick last year, plays for H.I.F.K. and he put on a show for his future employers. He finished the night with a goal and three assists and was named the game’s Second Star after his club bulldozed to an 11-3 victory.

This one wasn’t as close as the score indicated as Assat didn’t appear to even be in the same class. They had no answer for Granlund and his Finnish superstar linemate, Ville Peltonen. As for Granlund, he’s going to be a good one. He’s still just a kid playing with adults, but he always seems to be in the right spot, make the right play and he gets to the net. That’s how he scored his goal, parking himself in front and tipping a high shot as it whizzed by.

Russo and I spoke to a 16-year-old Granlund fan named Tuomas, who wore his number 64 jersey. The youngster says Granlund “will be one of the most talented Finnish players ever when he is older.” He was a great interview, and you can see that on Wild.com later as well.

We had the chance to talk to Mikael after the game, and that and some highlights will be posted on Wild.com later today.

What an atmosphere! The crowd, especially in the corner where we were seated, were singing, chanting, dancing, clapping and waving flags for the entire game. The only time they weren’t going crazy was during the intermissions, when the arena nearly empties out completely. My only complaint was that every time Assat took a penalty, the song “Bad to the Bone” would play. It didn’t help that Assat took roughly 134 penalties in this game. Other than that, it was an amazing experience, and truly an atmosphere I’ve never had the chance to see. I’m already excited for Monday’s exhibition in Tampere, which by the way is pronounced “Tam-pear-ah.”

There were some fights in this one as well, which from what I understand, is not all that common in Finnish games. Assat started getting pretty chippy, especially when it was clear a blowout was going to happen.

Keep an eye out on Wild.com for more on Granlund, and plenty of video in the next few hours. Since I’m told I’m getting some bad information on my Finnish translations, I will just say “talk to you later.” It only makes sense, because I’ve hardly run into anybody here that doesn’t speak English.

Finland Day One

The Minnesota Wild and crew have arrived in Finland at last, clad in their green and black team sweat suits. I love the sweatsuit idea. It reminds me of a youth hockey team playing in an out of town tournament in “the Cities.” I fully expect to see a knee hockey game breakout in the hotel hallways and chicken fights in the pool tonight.

It was touch and go for awhile last night when the plane’s engine was in need of repair. Anytime that happens, the blame can only be placed squarely on the team’s media relations folks, who in this case would be Ryan Stanzel (formerly of the Wild.com R.S.S. feed) and Aaron Sickman.

Not to worry, Stanzel was quick on his feet and knew that Finland is famous for cruise ships, so he made a couple calls to “his people.” Soon after, we were on a bus bound for Duluth, where we boarded a luxury ferry and methodically made our way through the chain of Great Lakes, out the St. Lawrence seaway across “the pond,” through the frigid waters of the North Sea and safely into the Helsinki harbor of the Baltic Sea. At least that’s what I think happened. I slept most of the way.

By my count, we only lost a couple hours in the process, so the only problem was that the press conference welcoming the Wild was delayed a bit (again, this falls on the media relations guys).

The press conference was held in the Helsinki airport with Nik Backstrom, Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Todd Richards and Chuck Fletcher as the featured speakers. The rest of the team went straight to the hotel, which is a shame because they missed a lovely media gathering.

Fletcher and Richards answered their questions in English, but Koivu, Miettinen and Backstrom spoke mostly Finnish (except Backstrom, who even threw a little Swedish out there just to impress everybody).

Upon arrival at the hotel near downtown Helsinki, the players got settled and strapped on the feedbag in the hotel buffet. Then, strength and conditioning coach took the entire team on a 30-minute walk around town “to get the legs going a little bit.” That will be the extent of the workout today, but the team will be back on the ice tomorrow for its practice of the trip.

Some say Minnesota and Finland are very similar, but in just a couple hours here, I’ve noticed one major difference. Their VH1 channel plays music videos. Where is Flavor of Love 4?

That about does it for today’s action. It’s time for me to hit the wrapper because I haven’t adjusted to the time change yet. It’s actually a week later here, but don’t worry, the Twins are up two-games-to-none on the Yankees and the Americans beat the Euros in the Ryder Cup!

Feeling The Intensity

Fans may or may not be discouraged by the Wild’s 0-3-2 preseason thus far. I know I’m a little befuddled because not more than a couple weeks ago, I predicted a 119-0-0 season for the Wild, which included the Prospects Tournament, preseason, regular season and 16 playoff games. Hopefully, you didn’t go to Vegas with that bet, but I wouldn’t have blamed you if you did. I can be very persuasive.

I’m not going to change my tune today, either. Yes, the Wild fell in a shootout last night, but I watched the Wild’s practice today, and it was intense. Bodies were banging, sticks and gloves were getting higher than normal. The speed was top notch. You could sense today was the turnaround, and I’m almost feeling bad for the Blue Jackets when they roll into town tomorrow night. It won’t be pretty.

Marek Zidlicky did not practice today because of a charley horse suffered early in last night’s game. He is listed as day-to-day as are Guillaume Latendresse and Cam Barker who are out with hip injuries. Latendresse will probably not be in the lineup tomorrow night.

It will be interesting to see if the Wild keeps all nine defensemen with the big club for the trip to Finland. Chuck Fletcher said on Monday that he’ll likely send one blueliner down before the trip, but with Barker and Zidlicky injured, the team may want some healthy bodies, considering it will be practicing in Helsinki for a week, and playing an exhibition game on Monday.

The scariest and funniest moment of the day came during the team’s work on power play and penalty kill. At one end of the ice, the power play unit was going up against the penalty killers. Marco Scandella, who was killing the penalty, fired the puck out of the zone and sent it sailing through the neutral zone. The only problem was that is where Pierre-Marc Bouchard was hanging out because he’s still not cleared for contact. Bouchard ducked at the last instant and the puck missed him by inches. He immediately started laughing, but just to take extra precaution, he sat on the bench for the rest of the drill.

Finally, make sure you check out some of the Wild rooms that were submitted for the “Is It In Your Blood? Wild Rooms” contest. I was blown away how many people have Wild and hockey-themed rooms. It was a challenge for the judges and I just to narrow the finalists down to 10 (I settled for 11). Because I must be liked, I forced Brad Bombardir to pick the ultimate winner, and he chose Stacy Nilson’s kitchen, which is completely decked out in Wild colors. It’s not often you see a kitchen with a sports team theme, and that’s what sold Bombardir.

Stacy now wins two tickets to Opening Night. If you didn’t win, I’m sorry, but there will be another contest in October. I won’t reveal what it is just yet, but if I were you I would start thinking of your Halloween costume now.

Heading To Finland?

I’m alone in the stands at Xcel Energy Center right now, and I’m looking at what will closely resemble the team that the Minnesota Wild will be taking to Finland on Thursday night.

First, Pierre-Marc Bouchard is one of the players out there. Todd Richards started off practice by welcoming him back, which was followed by stick-tapping from the entire team. “Butch” is the only skater in a charcoal grey jersey, which obviously means “do not hit unless you want to spend the rest of your career in Siberia.”

Now then, there are five players that are still here that could be considered “question marks,” or guys that were fighting for roster spots. They are forwards Matt Kassian and Casey Wellman, and defensemen Drew Bagnall, Justin Falk and Marco Scandella.

Although we don’t have official word, that likely means everybody who is not on the ice has been sent to Houston. Probably the biggest surprises are Robbie Earl and Nate Prosser. Earl saw a lot of time up here last year, and was one of the best players early in training camp. Prosser was solid in preseason games, but it appears that they want him to get more seasoning in Houston.

The most surprising name has to be Kassian. The rugged winger has turned some heads with his willingness to stick up for teammates and drop the gloves. He’s also shown some offensive skills, getting a couple chances in Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. Stay tuned to more news about today’s roster moves on Wild.com, where we’ll have feedback from Head Coach Todd Richards and General Manager Chuck Fletcher.