Reusse's Reality: It's one year since Suter-Parise Day
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One year ago, the Wild turned our great summer holiday into a spontaneous celebration of Hockey Day in Minnesota. The team did this with the July 4 announcement that the NHL's two most-coveted free agents, defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise, had agreed to identical, 13-year contracts.
This was such a shocking departure from the way the Wild and other Minnesota pro teams had been conducting business that even me - an old boy from Fulda, where hockey was as distant as in downstate Indiana - got all worked up.
It was supposed to be a day off from the day job here on 1500ESPN, but I headed for the station and we put together a two-hour, emergency show. We hooked up a few interviews, including 20 minutes with Craig Leipold, the giddy owner of the Wild.
Any Wild fans claiming that on that day their reaction to the Suter-Parise news was, "I really think we now have a chance to squeeze into the playoffs and get quickly dismissed in the first round,'' are not telling the truth.
The season got all screwed up with Gary Bettman's lockout that turned an 82-game schedule into a 48-game schedule. When the games finally started in January, the optimism and enthusiasm quickly returned to the Wild's forgiving fan base.
Parise was a standout, two-way wing from the beginning, as advertised. Suter needed an adjustment of several games, then turned out to be better than imagined for many of us casual followers of the fastest game on ice (other than bandy).
This week, Suter became the first Wild player in the franchise's 12 seasons to be named a first-teamer on the all-NHL team.
There were also surprises. Rookie Jonas Brodin, Suter's partner, turned out to be a revelation of reliability. And while that was happening, forward Mikael Granlund went from the "can't-wait-to-see-him'' rookie, to the source of the question, "Can he play at this level?''
In the end, the season was as disappointing on the whole as Granlund was as an individual. The Wild went to the last day of the schedule to claim the No. 8 seed in the West, then was wiped out in five games by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Wild fans might be able to say, "It took the Stanley Cup champs to knock off our lads,'' if the series hadn't turned out to be such a mismatch.
For sure, only the seriously disillusioned Wild followers can find themselves as optimistic about what lies ahead for our hockey club as was the case on Independence Day (a k a, Suter-Parise Day) in 2012.
The panicked trade for Buffalo forward Jason Pominville late in the season could become a disaster. The Wild surrendered 20-year-old forward Johan Larsson, potential goalie-of-future Matt Hackett and what turned out to be Nikita Zadorov, at 6-foot-5, 221-pound, the biggest, bruising defenseman in last Sunday's draft to get the 30-year-old Pominville.
Whenever the Pominville trade is questioned, the response from the Wild brainwashed is this: "Yeah, wait until Thomas Vanek signs here because he was Pominville's friend in Buffalo, then you will have to say it was a great trade for the Wild.''
As Herm Edwards says, "REALLY?''
The Wild made the trade for Pominville because it thought he offered a chance to sign Vanek in a couple of years ... not because Leipold and GM Chuck Fletcher were panicked that their high-priced team might avoid the playoffs once again?
There's also this popular explanation from the Wild brainwashed for Fletcher's very shaky record for trades: "Yeah, well, the player Chuck gave up hasn't been any good, either.''
Foolish me. I thought the idea of trades was to provide an actual upgrade to your club.
I've even heard from a few of the brainwashed that we should stop pointing to the Nick Leddy for Cam Barker trade with Chicago (Feb. 12, 2010) as an embarrassment for Fletcher, because Leddy "isn't that good anyway.''
After all, he was only a third-pair defenseman on a Stanley Cup winner as a 22-year-old.
Fletcher is cited for his grand coup surrounding the 2011 NHL Draft, when he traded Brent Burns and the 37th overall pick to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick (Zack Phillips).
Coyle makes that trade a good one, even as Wild has spent two seasons discovering why the Sharks wanted to unload Setoguchi.
Again, when you question Heatley's contribution to the Wild, due to injury and long periods of invisibility, what you get from the apologists is, "Yeah, well, Havlat has been injured more and less visible in San Jose.''
That's also used to explain away the trade of defensemen with Edmonton - Nick Schultz for Tom Gilbert. On Wednesday, the Wild put Gilbert on waivers in order to pay him to leave. When the Gilbert acquisition was mentioned as another blotch on Fletcher's trading record, here came the response: "You must not know that Schultz was terrible for Edmonton this year, too.''
The brainwashed remain, but there's no way the majority of the sporting public is feeling as cheery about what's in the offing for the Wild as a year ago, when we celebrated Suter-Parise Day in Minnesota.