Michael Russo once again graced the blogosphere with a fantastic live chat this afternoon. You can see the entire replay at the Star Tribune, but here are some of my favorite highlights.
On Kevin Constantine:
Constantine is a defensive-minded, hard-nosed coach, but by all accounts, the players love him down in Houston. I think he's done a quality job there, and clearly he wants to be back in the league.
On Lindy Ruff:
If Lindy Ruff gets the axe, I'd hire him tomorrow. I just think he's a phenomenal coach. He coaches a defensive style, yes, but it's all about competing and being an aggressive puck pursuit team. I just love the style of Buffalo. And I know him very well, and I've seen how critical he is to a coaching staff and how respected he is...Great quote, too, which to me, is the only thing that matters.
On external candidates:
Top assistants like former Gopher Todd Richards, John Torchetti in Chicago and Paul MacLean in Detroit. I know Torchetti well. He's such a tactician. I think he'd be great. But I also here wonderful stuff about Richards and MacLean. I hear good stuff about guys like Kirk Muller and Stu Barnes, too. John MacLean's another. Also, Dave Lowry of the Calgary Hitmen is a future NHL bench boss.
On internal candidates:
I'd look outside the organization. Fresh ideas, fresh opinions are a good thing. I really feel new, young blood would be good. I like Mario [Tremblay]. I really wonder about this though. I think it's awfully tough for an assistant for so long in one place to be respected by the players suddenly has a head guy. I also think that fresh ideas would be a good thing, and if Mario's hired, I think players come to camp next year with a lot of the same remnants of Jacques.
On free agent targets:
I'd go hard after Mike Cammalleri, but there could be a bidding war. He'd play center, too. And the Wild MUST FINALLY get a center. How many years can you not fill a weakness? I like Petr Sykora bigtime. He's been around forever, but I think he's only 32. I like Brian Gionta, too. I'd sign Saku Koivu, only if the price is right. I think the Sedin Twins are going to Toronto, so it's a moot point.
On the front office:
I think Leipold, who has only owned the team for a year, looks at a team that barely missed the playoffs and had their star player out 65 games. So I don't think Risebrough and Co. has anything to worry about for the short-term.
[Burns] aggravated his concussion by playing, but it was never diagnosed as a concussion for some reason. I'm not a doctor. But he shouldn't have been playing. Maybe the front office should have stepped in. I called Nick Schultz a concussion, and I got admonished and lectured by the director of hockey ops Chris Snow that not all concussions are head injuries. Maybe that's what happened with Burns. Schultz, by the way, says he has a "concussion." Bouchard seemed to be getting better. Burns is an issue. It's just not getting better. There's got to be concern, but he's seeing lots of specialists.
On replacing Gaborik:
Nobody is out there that is a true replacement of a talent like Gaborik. Hossa's there. He ain't coming. But Gaborik is a rare specimen. It goes Ovechkin, Heatley, Kovalchuk and Gaborik in goals per game since the lockout.
On James Sheppard:
He's got talent, and he's one of the rare young, talented guys the Wild has right now. So he's been untradeable in the past. I think he still is. He's got talent. He just needs more experience, learn how to finish and maybe try to be just a tad coachable. Let's put it this way: Since he didn't seem to want to take advantage of Jacques as a resource, he better take off under the new coach.
There are rumors that Russo will be leaving our lovely Twin Cities for a big-time national job. If that's the case we, the Wild faithful, will be the losers. We have been lucky enough to have the best beat writer in the nation covering our team since 2005, and he has been gracious enough to even give some love to those of us in the blogosphere. So, if this is the end, thanks Don Russo, and good luck to you.