Immediately after Peter Mueller was traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Colorado Avalanche for Wojtek Wolski, it seemed like the change of scenery would create a happy ending for everyone involved.
Mueller finally showed why he was the eighth overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by scoring 20 points in his 15 games with the Avs, helping them make a surprising run to the playoffs in 2010. Wolski was impressive in his own right, scoring 18 points in 18 games to help the Coyotes clinch a postseason berth in 2009-10 as well.
Sadly enough, it seems like rushing to a positive judgment proved to be hasty in both cases. Wolski’s problems seem a bit more self-inflicted; he quickly wore out his welcome with Phoenix until he was shipped to the New York Rangers, a team that already seems tired of him.
Mueller’s issues seem like they’re tinged with a bit more bad luck. A hard check by Rob Blake ended his breakthrough run before the 2009-10 season and another concussion late in the 2010-11 preseason kept him from playing a single game last season. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater reports that September will mark a sad anniversary for Mueller and the Avs as the last time a media member had a chance to speak with the talented but injury-troubled forward.
Right now, the company line continues to be that Mueller is expected to be ready for training camp in September.
So, can I or anyone else in the hockey media talk to Mueller then, assuming he’s healthy? Well, no, is the answer still. Does that mean, then, that Mueller still has concussion problems and hasn’t been medically cleared yet? The Avs don’t really have an answer for that right now. All they’ll say is “He’ll be at camp” and “things are looking good.”
Yes, we could phone Mueller anytime and ask how he’s doing. But keep one thing in mind: players on the Avs do not want to upset the people who sign their big paychecks, and one thing that really makes the Avs upset is when players, under orders not to talk to the media until they’ve been medically cleared, talk to the media before then. Most injured players are scared to even make eye contact with a reporter because of that team rule.
So, essentially we just have to keep waiting for when the team says Mueller is fully good to go again. But, again, they are on record as saying they think he’ll be at camp in uniform.
Let’s hope that Mueller’s path resembles that of Patrice Bergeron or Pierre-Marc Bouchard (two players who suffered from recurring problems but ultimately got their careers back on track) rather than someone like Marc Savard. His all-too-brief resurgence with Colorado was a great story. Seeing him do it again – and this time, for multiple seasons rather than several games – would generate an even better narrative.
(H/T to Puck Daddy.)
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”
The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.
Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.
Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.
“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”
Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:
- He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
- Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
- The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.
Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.
Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?