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Rumor Mongering is Best Left to the Weak Minded

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As with anything rumor related, the revelation that 19 scouts were in Minnesota last night has grown into a multi-headed beast and spread its ugly filth to the otherwise rational world. Can the speculation be stopped without a snarky, sarcastic toned post? Probably, but where's the fun in that?

Wait... did you say 19? That's was Steve Y's number in Detroit, and he's the GM for the Lightning now. Clearly, something is going on between the Wild and Lightning.

Before we make the jump and dive into this, please check a few things as background. First, the link originally given to you in The Walk to Charley Walters' article. Second, this piece from the king rumor idiot's mouthpiece here in Minnesota. After visiting that second link, you may want to go take a shower. Lastly, grab your calender and check the date.

Now. Make the jump 


Hmm... could all this be a veiled attempt to sell me something?

What is all the gum flapping and keyboard banging about? There were 19 scouts here in Minnesota last night. This is such a momentous occasion that it didn't even mention a note from your humble Hockey Wilderness writer. I saw the seating chart, I saw the names, and I saw the teams involved. Yawn. Big deal.

But wait! Better minds than mine will tell you this is a huge deal.

Walter's wrote this:

Nineteen 19 NHL scouts, a record for the Xcel Energy Center, were at Wednesday night's Wild-Phoenix Coyotes game, and they weren't in town for the weather. A major trade could be forthcoming for the Wild.

I can only speculate that he confirmed this is a record for the X, so I will accept that is true. What is dangeorus is that he makes the leap from scouts being in town to a "major trade could be forthcoming." As I wrote in the Walk, this one line brings up so many questions it hurts my head.

1. What constitutes a "major trade?" Walters does one of the most dangerous things a journalist can do. He dabbles in the dark arts of gossip. There is no justification given, no names mentioned, no reason to believe a trade is in the works, except that a few stuffed suits were in the press box.

2. Why not name the teams present? Walters' article is not one keen on presenting more than the juicy tidbit, that's why. I would have given them to you, but as I mentioned above, I didn't think it worthy to note. I didn't write them down. It's still not important to me. If it was so important to Walters, why are they not mentioned?

3. The Coyotes are very active in the trade market. Could the scouts not have been there to scout them?

4. How does a guy who attends three games a year know what is important to note and what isn't?


Even basketball players don't understand how people are buying this.

Le sigh. Let's move on before I use up all of my snark on Walters, who we've already addressed twice. Let's look at the second link, from Eklund's rumor mongering mouthpiece in Minnesota, Brad Ratgen.

Changes may be a brewing in Minnesota. Scouts for the team have been called to St. Paul for meetings. While it is unclear whether these were previously scheduled regular meetings or not, it was unmistakable the number of other teams’ scouts in the press box Wednesday night for the Wild’s game against Phoenix: Florida, Philadelphia, Edmonton, two from Montreal, two from Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Chicago, New York Islanders, San Jose, Washington, Dallas and 2 from Phoenix. Beyond the regular smattering of local scouts for other teams and Coyote scouts, which one would expect, this was an unusually high number of scouts in attendance.

Ignore the fact that "a brewing" is just wrong on so many levels, and you get the fact that the team scouts have been called to Saint Paul for meetings. I didn't ask anyone to confirm this, but I counted exactly two there last night. They sit right next to me. There were two of them there last night. Unless there were more hanging out by the popcorn machine that I am unaware of...

If it wasn't clear if the meetings were regularly schedule meetings or not, why not ask? Because if the answer is yes, it ruins the story, right?

Now, Ratgen gives you a list of the teams. Let's look at them, shall we?

  • Florida - They are worse than the Wild. Why would they be looking to be buyers? If they are sellers, they were likely there to look at the young players for Phoenix, not the aging vets of the Wild.
  • Philadelphia - The only thing Philly needs is a goalie, and they can't afford Niklas Backstrom, let alone would Backstrom waive his NTC to make that move. The Wild can get a good price for Jose Theodore at the deadline, so why move him now?
  • Edmonton - Gee... I wonder why a scout from Edmonton would be in Minnesota. They only play he Wild six times a year. Again, there is no way the Oilers are buyers right now. No way.
  • Montreal - Here is one possibility for a trade dance partner. The Wild and Montreal have done business in the past. The Habs are having a pretty good season, and maybe they want  a big name defender. But why now? Why when the cap is such a big concern? Who would come back in return, and why would the Habs want to give them up?
  • Tampa Bay - Tampa is a well built team. They don't need many pieces. Would Andrew Brunette fit in Tampa? Possibly, but again, what are they willing to give up to get him, and are they thinking Bruno or someone else is that much of an improvement over what they already have?
  • Atlanta - See Tampa Bay argument above.
  • Chicago - After being taken in the Barker deal, Chuck Fletcher is going to be wary of Chicago. Plus, any deal with Chicago has to include dollar for dollar coming back to the Wild.
  • New York Islanders - See Philly and Edmonton above.
  • San Jose - They need a goalie. Badly. They bought into the two goalie system, and they are not succeeding with it. That said... are they willing to pay for Theo? At this point in the year? What would they do with their other two? Are the Wild willing to part with Theo already?
  • Washington - Not sure who they would be looking at, except vets to add depth. That is a deadline move, not a December 2nd move.
  • Dallas - The Stars are having a good year thus far. Unless they are looking for players to add to the roster who won't panic and give up their lead like every other year, I just don't know what they are looking for.
  • Phoenix - Self explanatory.

This was an unusual number of scouts. It was not a "highly" unusual number of scouts. There are always scouts in Minnesota. Many of them live here. They scout the WCHA, the MN High School leagues, Shattuck, and any number of other hockey hot beds within reach of Minnesota.

Are they all at every game? Absolutely not, but having a number of scouts at the X is not unusual. The front row of the press box was packed with them on opening night. No mention of it then. Why not? Wasn't the proper time to start a rumor, that's why.

There are groupings in that list - Four teams from the Southeast and three from the Pacific. Maybe they were there to talk to each other. They don't necessarily need to be there to scout either of the teams involved. That could just be a bonus, or a cover (since we are working in the realm of conspiracy).

What Else Oh Wise Trade Sage?

With the understanding that history has shown that teams show little movement in their quest for the playoffs after Thanksgiving and with the Wild solidly on the outside looking in, presently in 13th place in the Western Conference coming in to Wednesday night’s game, I can’t help but wonder whether Chuck Fletcher has sent out the call that the Wild are sellers and are ready to move players if the price is acceptable. One, it would ease salary cap concerns the team has. Two, it would potentially get Fletcher draft picks. Third, it would allow the Wild to fall further in the standings, thereby increasing their chances at a top draft pick this summer at the NHL Entry Draft which will be held in St. Paul, Minnesota.

You can't help but wonder? Why not just ask him? Seems easier to me than wondering aloud. That wouldn't sell rumor subscriptions, though, would it?

How exactly would it ease salary cap concerns? Any trade at this point would almost certainly involve salary coming back. As for the falling in the standings, it just doesn't strike me as Fletcher's style. As much as it makes sense, it just doesn't fit the profile.

So, Your Holiness the Grand Puba of Prognostication, who are these magical players to be traded?

First, I think you would look at the players who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season: Brunette, Miettinen, Madden, Kobasew and Theodore. Not a very enticing bunch. Who else? I can’t help but think of Martin Havlat who’s play has turned up a few notches recently. Clearly, Havlat and his agent were not happy earlier this season and they let the team know it through the media. However, given the salary cap, teams are handcuffed at taking on an extra five million dollars and money would have to come back meaning players from other teams.

The UFA class are targets at the deadline, not right now. Unless a team desperately wants one of them and thinks they won't be around in March, it makes no sense to add a contract to the roster right now.

Havlat? Are you kidding me with this? Havlat? You realize he has a NTC, right? His agent made an ass of himself in the paper earlier in the season, and his player had to step up a deliver because of it. Maybe Walsh was intending on motivating his client, rather than the team.

"However, given the salary cap, teams are handcuffed at taking on an extra five million dollars and money would have to come back meaning players from other teams." What? But... just a paragraph above you say this is an outlet for the Wild to offload cap space... Now you're just confusing your own argument.

Anything else Master Jedi?

In any event, very interesting dynamics happening behind the scenes. Who knows. Maybe all of the interest is in Phoenix players.

This may be the smartest thing you wrote in the whole piece. As for the dynamics, you didn't report anything about what is going on behind the scenes. All you did was note there were some scouts in the building. That's your idea of an interesting dynamic?

I would hate to attend a party at your place.

Why did I need my Calendar?

Check the date. It is December 2nd. This is not usually a time for "major" trades. The cap hits are almost full for everyone, with almost no pro-rating. Trades would need to included salary in both directions. Most teams are unsure of their playoff scenarios, so they are unwilling to add salary and part with picks until that becomes more clear.

That said, the pre-Christmas roster freeze led to a sort of mini-deadline last year. If that happens again, maybe this scouting adventure would add information to that time frame. However, a lot can change between now and Christmas. You were here to scout Bruno on December 1st? Oh, well he's hurt now. "Jose Theodore you say? How about a first round pick since he is now, with Backstrom playing as back-up.

See? Anything can happen. The Wild could win ten in a row and become buyers, not sellers. The point is, it is way to early in the calendar for major trades.

What Now?

Look folks, would it be nice to be able to tell you that the Wild are close to making a big trade? Sure it would. Go back to the piece about wanting hope from SBNation Minneosta. A trade would bring hope. Something new, something exciting, something, anything to watch other than this team mired in mediocrity.

It just isn't the truth. If you want us to blow smoke up your butts, let us know. I can spin a fairy tale like nobody's business. Tales of Alex Ovechkin skating next to Sidney Crosby and Taylor Hall are just a moment away. If that is, indeed, what you want. I can certainly lie to you, and tell you tall tales of all of the great things that are about to happen.

A trade could be happening right now for all I know, or for all anyone knows except Chuck Fletcher. This isn't something GMs discuss while it is happening. It just isn't. Scouts being in town could very well be a sign of things to come, or it could just as easily be nothing at all. One sells rumor subscriptions, one doesn't. If we wanted to start a rumors section and make you pay for it, we could.

Or, we can do what we have been doing, and we can tell you the truth, and help you dissect the rumor mongering and idiocy that other members of the media are trying to sell you. When something happens, you'll know it. You have the best beat writer in the business working the beat for you everyday in Russo. Has he let you down yet?

And you have us here to give you a place to discuss it and as a place to give you compass when other try to drag you off the trail. If you wish to partake in the dark arts, feel free. We'll be here when you need your intervention special.