Michael Russo is Fed Up with Bill Guerin and Dean Evason’s Recent Decision Making


Normally, professional sports writers shy away from voicing loud opinions about the teams they cover, especially if their coverage is up close and in-person. But sometimes — and it’s more likely to happen with an already respected and established reporter like The Athletic’s Michael Russo — they can’t help themselves.

Passive aggressive shots here and there happen more regularly. Maybe, a writer goes on local radio or a podcast and vents criticisms they may not feel comfortable putting on paper. But rarely do the Michael Russos of the world go completely off the rails, in print, for the entire world to see.

Michael Russo disgusted by Wild

Russo has been covering the Minnesota Wild for nearly 20 years and he’s become invested in their success for a multitude of reasons, both personally and professionally. And recently, his Wild have been playing like shit.

So Wednesday, after another big loss pushed Minnesota outside of the current playoff tree, Michael lost his cool on the keyboard a little bit, which I always respect. He didn’t back down and hit the “Publish” button on Thursday morning, too. It started with an attack on the general manager.

But to not even make a single call-up while trotting out the same lineup night after night that has proved through 54 games it’s one of the worst even-strength-scoring teams in the league has been perplexing.

He doesn’t want to throw Rossi into such a tense situation like he’s some savior. Guerin’s in the winning business, so if he feels Rossi’s not ready, he’s the man in charge and would know better than any of us.

But the way Walker spurred Matt Boldy earlier in the season or the way Beckman has been scoring lately, surely they’d make better options than Jordan GreenwaySam Steel and Ryan Reaves.

Michael Russo – The Athletic

Russo starts the article off bewildered at why Bill Guerin hasn’t done more to supplement the Wild’s offense during their recent scoring slump. As Michael points out, the Wild don’t have to call up Marco Rossi or make a splash trade to try and jumpstart this team offensively. There are other options that could work, and have worked in the past.

Evason and Marc-Andre Fleury feel Russo’s wrath

Next, the veteran Wild scribe took aim at Minnesota Wild head coach, Dean Evason, and his insistence on playing a struggling Marc-Andre Fleury when his teammate, Filip Gustavsson, is on a hot streak.

The “Gus Bus” has only allowed a 1.70 GAA and a .939 SV% in his last 10 games and the Wild win way more often when he takes the ice lately. Yet, for whatever reason, Evason left his hot hand on the bench vs Colorado on Wednesday, in favor of an expired hall of famer who’s been playing poorly for weeks.

The result? Fleury and the Wild took an L despite the 38-year-old facing just 19 shots. Avs goalie, Alexandar Georgiev, allowed only two goals on 43 shots and earned the game’s 2nd star (ESPN). That’s more than double the the amount of shots MAF faced, for those counting.

What’s more, despite Gustavsson going 7-1-1 in his past nine home starts, leading all NHL goalies in goals-against average and being second in save percentage since before Thanksgiving, the coaches opted to start Fleury, who was pulled in his previous start and hasn’t been nearly as good as Gustavsson, no matter how hard coach Dean Evason insists Fleury has been “fantastic,” too.

The decision sure backfired, especially in the second period when Fleury gave up the second and third goals on the Avs’ eighth and ninth shots — 14 minutes, 9 seconds apart.

Michael Russo – The Athletic
Russo questions recent healthy scratches

Lastly, Russo turned his keyboard tapping fingers to some of the Wild’s head-scratching healthy scratches, of late. Most recently, it was rookie defenseman, Calen Addison, who was shunned to the press box on Wednesday.

Russo doesn’t only question Addison’s benching, though. He doesn’t understand the timing of Dumba’s benching a month ago or Hartman’s a short time after. Michael’s criticisms didn’t stop at coaches and executives, though. By the end of his article, players all over the roster were falling victim to his ricochet shots.

… another decision that backfired was the decision to sit Addison.

Fair or not, the Wild have pushed Alex Goligoski aside to such a degree that the 37-year-old has collected dust. Yet they threw him into Wednesday’s lineup and decided now was a good time to send their power-play catalyst Addison a message because he hasn’t been good defensively.

It was peculiar timing. The Wild have scored 13 five-on-five goals in the past 14 games, so scoring on the power play has been just about the only option for a month. Removing the NHL’s rookie leader in assists and power-play points for the seldom-used Goligoski or, say, Jon Merrill, who hasn’t exactly been stellar, didn’t look like the right move when Goligoski’s mistake led to Colorado’s first goal and Merrill was on the ice for the first two.

Michael Russo – The Athletic

When Russo was finally done, just about everybody who has the Wild emblem on their paycheck received some sort of parting blow. Sam Steel, Ryan Reaves, Jon Merrill and Alex Gologoski were in the line of fire at some point but Jordan Greenway came under attack multiple times: “… if anybody deserved to have a message sent to him Wednesday, it was the winger Greenway…”.

Nobody at Xcel Energy Center is safe right now when Michael Russo is given a platform. That includes radio. Russo went on KFAN Thursday morning and doubled down, touching on just about all of these same areas.

Go Mike go. I’m all about a sports writer with power who isn’t afraid to go after the local clubs.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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