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ST. PAUL…. The summertime off-season of the NHL dog days are here in full force. Most of the significant events of the post season activities are done and the leagues GM’s will probably be off on their vacations soon to clear the mind before the next go round cranks up. And really, that isn’t too far off actually. About mid to late August we will begin to hear of some of the last teams looking at what’s left of the free agent pool in an attempt to round out their team rosters and then signing those players. As of right now, there are still some over-40 UFA’s that are still on the market. Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, and Shane Doan being the most prominent. Personally, while I think these three players can still contribute to a club in some manner, especially Jagr, their time has probably come. It will be the end of an era to be certain. I don’t see them on a team next season, and if one is, my guess is that it would be Iginla.
The Wild didn’t have much activity on July 1, or at all regarding free agent signings. Being short on cap space and draft choices, GM Chuck Fletcher opted to get some quality youth in the draft, protect a couple of players in the Expansion Draft process and then make a trade that helped open up some cap room for the potential new deals for Mikael Granlund and Nino Neiderreiter. Both players have signed up for Arbitration hearings. We will see whether or not they settle before those hearings come up. I don’t look for either situation to become contentious, rather I think the negotiations will be low key and professional and will get done. Granny and Nino do figure in to the clubs longer term plans.
In light of who has went on their way from the team and who has come in combined with players already team property, what will the opening night roster look like? Again, due to the factors I have already alluded to, there isn’t a great deal to mull over here. Your net minders will be Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock. Your 1 thru 6 Forwards will be Eric Stall, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Neiderreiter and Jason Zucker. Your 7 thru 12 Forwards are Mikko Koivu, Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, Chris Stewart, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kurtis Gabriel. The 1 thru 6 Defense will be Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Ryan Murphy and Mike Reilly. To round out the roster and to cover your skater “floaters”, those 21-23 roster spots, give me D-Kyle Quincey, F-Cal O’Reilly and maybe F-Landon Ferraro. Of the rest of the players “in the system” I would look for Kyle Rau and rookie Luke Kunin to be two Forwards on the bubble between the Iowa club and the big team. I haven’t yet made up my mind on D-man Gustav Olofsson, but would not be surprised for him to be with the big club at some point in the near future.
So the net-net of the roster and of the team is that it looks quite a bit like last years edition. That’s last years edition that got first round spanked and booted from the tourney in an unceremonious manner. Do the fortunes change this time around? Well, you would have to think that “another year older and wiser” might kick in here. It will hurt the defense to be without D-Coach Scott Stevens. I wasn’t a big fan of his and I have outlined that previously, but his departure will be a loss that will be felt in a harsh way. Whether I liked him or not, the guy was a winner and he was translating that into the way the team defense was playing. Defense was not the problem in the tourney last year. The problem was the sometimes anemic team offense running into a goalie that was white hot and not too beatable. This edition of the Wild has every opportunity to be a mere repeat of last years club. They will have to be virtually injury free and get a ton of puck luck besides. Here’s hoping, and we are 54 days from the opening of NHL Main Training Camps opening! September 14th….
MY BROTHER AND I, along with other family members have been Pro “Rasslin” fans for eons. I haven’t followed it much since the old WCW show folded, but will on occasion do some rooting around looking for some old stories of interest. So the other night I came across a “shoot” interview from a show with former wrestler Steve Austin interviewing Jerry “the King” Lawler. It is on YouTube if you are interested. Just put “Jerry Lawler shoots on the Andy Kaufman feud” into your browser and listen away. Of course, Kaufman, the actor and comic passed away due to cancer years back, but this was a riveting 36 minutes of dialogue with Lawler outlining how the whole thing unfolded.
It began with Kaufman growing up a huge wrestling fan, but not being a big man ended up in show biz, becoming one of the most popular actor/comics of the late seventies and early eighties. To say Kaufman’s comedy was off beat would be an understatement. Somehow, looking for something new to put into his act, he began to invite women in his audience to come onstage and wrestle him. One thing led to another and soon Kaufman met up with Lawler and they started to work an angle with him doing that on Lawler’s Mid-South wrestling shows and Kaufman insulting the Memphis fans in his promo spots and in time the fans were calling for Andy’s head and for The King to get a hold of him and dust him off.
They did eventually square off in a match, and it should be noted that every time Kaufman appeared on a Mid-South show, they sold out the venue. Kaufman understood how to bring “heat” and as a comic already knew how to work a crowd. The whole thing soon got them an appearance on the David Letterman show and the rest is history as told by Lawler in a very well spoken, poignant way. Kaufman lasted only about 3 months after his diagnosis, and as tough a guy as Lawler was, couldn’t help but feel the loss. If you don’t listen to this great story and then watch the Letterman appearance, it will be your loss… PEACE