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Wild GM Bill Guerin talks past, present, future of franchise

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Wild GM Bill Guerin talks past, present, future of franchise

It seemed only right that the Chicago Blackhawks were in town when Wild general manager Bill Guerin decided to cut a vein and talk about the past, present, and future of of Minnesota’ NHL franchise.

After all, the Blackhawks have pretty much been The Boogeyman for the Wild for much of the past decade.

That’s something the 50-year-old Guerin understands, so even though Thursday’s preseason game at the Xcel Energy Center was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, he still wanted his players to take the game seriously.

“We have to start thinking that we’re better than them and that we are going to beat them every time we play them,” Guerin said. “I don’t think that’s been the mindset here. In the past, we have run into them in the playoffs, and it’s been like the Twins with the Yankees. We get there and it’s like, ‘Oh (expletive), here we go again.’ We have to overcome that and go after them.”

For the record, the Wild earned a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks in Thursday’s exhibition game, with star defenseman Matt Dumba netting the winner in overtime.

As for Guerin, he sat down with the Pioneer Press inside owner Craig Leipold’s suite at the X before the game, opening up about the past couple of years as the man in charge. He was hired on Aug. 21, 2019 to clean up the mess created by former Wild general manager Paul Fenton, and more importantly, to get the franchise over the hump for the first time.

How is he handling the pressure? Here’s an excerpt of that conversation:

A couple of years ago we sat in your office and you talked at length about how important culture was going to be for this organization moving forward. How has that manifested itself amid so many changes?

I’m happy with it. You know, I have a vision, and I think that’s something that attracted me to this position as general manager. I want to see if what I feel in my heart will actually work. And culture is very important to me. It’s something we have to be able to fall back on in the tough times. I think we have done a good job establishing a culture here. That said, we are never going to be done working on it. It’s a living and breathing thing, and we have to pay attention to it every day. Nobody can fix it on their own. It’s been everybody. And the players have bought into it. I think that’s the most important thing. If they don’t do that, I don’t think change can really happen. I appreciate the work that they’ve done and the commitment that they’ve shown to it. I feel good about it.

Most people would agree that culture wasn’t a top priority for the old regime. Does the vibe feel different compared to when you got here?

It does feel different. It’s really hard to explain it without being negative, so I don’t really want to get into that. But it does feel different. I think most people would agree with that.

Something you made very clear when you took the job is you weren’t going to make any wholesale changes right away. Was it hard to stay patient after the team’s 1-6-0 start that first season?

It was really hard. We struggled right away, and I know how that feels as a player. It sucks. And I wanted to help the guys. But those are the times where I think we can learn the most as far as how guys react. There were a lot of positives signs during that time. That said, we started like that because we weren’t prepared, and that’s something that had to change. We had to change our preparation, our commitment, and our accountability. Again, I’m trying not to be negative about the past, because I’m really excited about the future. It had just been the same for awhile. Everybody had their spot. Everybody knew where they were playing. They were comfortable. There was no competition.

It’s safe to assume you knew about some of that before taking the job. Why wait?

Because everybody deserves a fair shot. The players. The coach. The trainers. I felt like everybody deserved a fair shot. I didn’t want to make a mistake and jump too early and trade a good young player. You’ve got to get to know people. It was hard to wait. But it was critical that I did.

We were talking to Craig (Leipold) earlier this week. He straight up goes, ‘This is Billy’s team.’ What does it mean to you when your boss says something like that?

The support that I get from Craig with comments like that, and his belief in me, it’s incredible. It gives me the confidence to really do what I feel is right.

Like take big swings?

Not even take big swings. Just do what I feel is right. Some of them happen to be big swings, but not all of them. Some of them are not making the trade or not making the big move. It’s being patient and trying to build. Things like that.

We hear players all the time say, ‘I want to prove Billy right for taking a chance on me.’ How much do you want to prove Craig right for taking a chance on you?

There’s nothing more that I would want than to deliver for Craig Leipold. We have a very good relationship. We have good chemistry. The bottom line is I want to deliver for him. I need to.

This might be a dumb question. Because obviously it sucked. How hard was last season’s Game 7 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs?

It was tough. Nobody likes to lose. Especially in a Game 7. But it was also very gratifying to see our team fight back. I think some teams in the past might’ve rolled over down 3-1 in the series. Not our team. They fought back and got to Game 7. Just look at the condition of some of our players afterward. There were so many guys that were playing hurt. That’s the way we went out. And I’m proud of them for that. We didn’t go out, shower up, put our suits and walk to the bus like everything was OK. Our guys were hurting on a lot of different levels. That gave me a lot of hope. It says a lot of about the players we have here. They have given me hope that, ‘OK. I have done some good things.’

Did that feel like the start of something bigger?

Yes. You have to have some hard failure. That’s a perfect example of that.

OK, so if that loss felt like the start of something bigger, did the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts feel like a turning of the page? Were those moves necessary to move forward?

It does feel like a new chapter. It feels like a completely different team. We had to do it. It’s not anything about anybody’s play or this or that. They were great players for this franchise. We just had to change.

Isn’t there some saying about the definition of insanity?

Yeah. That’s exactly it. If we keep doing the same thing time and time again, and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity. If we didn’t change, we were going to get the same results. And I think we all want better results.

This might look like a long game to some people. But the goal is still to win the Stanley Cup this year, right?

Yes. Absolutely.

How pumped are you for the Oct. 15 season opener? 

I’m really excited for our team. We are in a really strong division. And I think that’s good for us. If we are not on every night early, we will pay the price and learn a hard lesson, so we need to be on. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. We have to be ready.

Do you think you guys are ready?

I do. I think we are better.

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Celtics Notebook: Jayson Tatum on a run

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Celtics Notebook: Jayson Tatum on a run

In addition to rebounding at a career rate (10.2) over his last five games, Jayson Tatum has been finishing at the rim and getting to the free throw line with more regularity than at any point this season.

He’s averaged seven free throw attempts per game dating to a Nov. 15 game in Cleveland, when Tatum shot 7-for-7 from the line. He’s gone 30-for-31 over his last three games heading into Tuesday’s game against the Lakers.

Considering that Tatum has played some of his best basketball against the team he adored as a youngster, expect his best.

It’s all the result of attacking, and making adjustments to how the game is being called this season, with a wider margin of error for defenders.

“We’ve hit him quite a few times with not settling, making a quick decision and when he does that he can get to the basket or make plays for other guys,” said coach Ime Udoka. “He had some success quite a few games ago and saw himself getting to the free throw line. Saw he was missing shots earlier in the year that we love for him getting to the basket.

“I think he just saw the success of getting to the basket, getting to the free throw line, and how that opened everything up for himself and has carried that over,” he said. “We love the balance  and the fact that he can score in the post, pick-and-roll and iso — anywhere on the court. But we love him getting downhill and being aggressive there, and driving and kicking for his teammates for sure.”

Udoka would like to keep Tatum at his current 36.5-minute level, especially now that Jaylen Brown is a day-to-day consideration with his healing right hamstring.

“I don’t necessarily think 36 is a big thing for him,” he said. “Given that Jaylen’s been out the amount he has and we’ve had to rely on (Tatum) more, that obviously was ramped up a little bit beside the extra overtimes, the six extra periods there tacking on some minutes.

“But he’s a guy that’s coped well,” said Udoka. “He’s finding his rhythm and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve never seen a guy his age take care of himself and prepare the way he does with treatment, getting the shots he needs, in the weight room. He’s living in the gym, so he takes care of himself and it’s not a coincidence that he’s been able to play those high minutes and play at a high level.”

Especially now that Tatum is attacking the basket, with his paint attempts and kick-outs on the rise.

“He’s picking his spots, understanding what he has to do every night for other guys, as well as himself,” said Udoka. “We just say make the right play, basically, and he’s done that all year for the most part. There’s still going to be times when he goes to his natural tendency of looking to score at times, but he does it at a high level, so you can’t knock him on that or take that away. But, as I’ve stressed over and over, he’s learning on the fly what he has to do to become a more well-rounded player offensively and defensively and he picks his spots well. I’m thinking he’s making the right play for the most part and teams are going to try to take the ball out of his hands. So the more he loosens everybody else up, the easier it becomes for him in the second half of games.”

And as Tatum’s performances even out, his confidence will build.

“Stay confident. Stay consistent in his process of what he does,” said Udoka. “He doesn’t waiver from that, whether he scores 40 or has a bad shooting night. He comes in and does what he does every day like I just mentioned. So his professionalism is off the charts, especially for a guy his age, like I said. I’ve been around a long time and never seen a guy at that age and focus on taking care of himself to the extent that he does. It’s a credit to him that he’s able to play those minutes. Thirty-six isn’t a crazy high number. Like I said, we’ve had to rely on him probably more than we would have liked to early with guys being out. But he’s taken on a heavy load and stays consistent with what he does every game, every practice, every day.”

‘Being cautious’ with Brown

No Celtic benefited more from the team’s two-day stay in Los Angeles than Brown, who is once again listed as questionable as he slowly returns from a strained right hamstring. His workout intensified during Monday’s practice.

“Jaylen is listed as questionable, and will be questionable going forward,” said Udoka. “Had a good session today, ramped it up a little bit and with him we want to be patient and wait for him to get to 100 percent. Whenever that is, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow after going harder today than he has in awhile, since he played in the games, and like I said, big picture approach, being cautious with it and getting him back at 100, not 85, 90, so it doesn’t linger, and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

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Patriots-Bills inactives: Kyle Dugger out, all 8 questionable Pats active in Buffalo

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Patriots-Bills inactives: Kyle Dugger out, all 8 questionable Pats active in Buffalo

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Questionable? Ha.

For the third straight week, every Patriot listed as questionable on the team’s injury report is active. Starting right tackle Trent Brown and defensive tackle Christian Barmore were among the eight supposed question marks, but both will play in windy Buffalo. Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, cornerback Shaun Wade and linebacker Jahlani Tavai are the Pats’ most notable inactives.

The Patriots also activated linebacker Jamie Collins off injured reserve and elevated defensive lineman Daniel Ekulale and safety Sean Davis from the practice squad.  They are without starting safety Kyle Dugger, who remains on COVID-19 reserve.

For the Bills, run-stuffing defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is active after returning from injured reserve. Wide receivers WR Marquez Stevenson and Isaiah McKenzie are both out.

Both teams’ complete inactive lists are below.

PATRIOTS

QB Jarrett Stidham

LB Ronnie Perkins

TE Devin Asiasi

OL Yasir Durant

BILLS

WR Marquez Stevenson

WR Isaiah McKenzie

FB Reggie Gilliam

OL Jamil Douglas

DT Vernon Butler

DE Efe Obada

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Parents, teachers push for prompt transition to elected Boston school committee

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Parents, teachers push for prompt transition to elected Boston school committee

Boston Public School parents, teachers and graduates called on city councilors to shift the mayor-appointed school committee to an elected body in a public hearing Monday, demanding follow-through on the resounding 79% memorandum voters passed on the identical ballot question in November’s election.

“With this appointed school system, I feel that my voice goes unheard,” said BPS parent Suleika Soto, summarizing what many petitioners highlighted: a lack of both accountability and communication from the current structure of the committee.

“We, the students, families, and educators are not the constituents of the Boston School Committee,” said BPS teacher Neema Avashia. “We find ourselves begging to be heard.”

The Boston School Committee is responsible for managing Boston Pubic Schools’ annual operating budget, hiring and overseeing the superintendent, and regulating policies and practices within city schools. Members of the 13-person council had been elected by city residents from 1982 until 1989, when voters decided to transition the council to a mayor-appointed body.

Question 3 on November’s ballot to restore the group back to an elected body got overwhelming support from voters, with more than 99,000 votes cast in favor of the change.

“What we have to do now is listen to what people have said and how loud they’ve said it,” said John Nucci, who served four years as the president of the Boston School Committee during its most recent era as an elected body.

The City Council provided an early draft of what the transition back to an elected body could look like. The first step, in January 2022, would maintain eight appointed members and add one member elected through the BPS student population. By January 2024, the body would become a hybrid mix of seven appointed members, one student-elected member and three at-large elected members. Finally, by 2026, the entire 13-person committee would consist of elected members.

But the question of how those members are elected is one of many details councilors will try to hammer out through future hearings and meetings. One topic of debate is whether the majority of committee members should represent specific districts, or act as at-large officials, representing the city as a whole.

Newly elected city councilor and former BPS teacher Erin Murphy suggested at least nine of the members should represent specific districts, fearing “many voices would be left out” if they don’t have specific representation.

Pam Kocher, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau — a neutral party on the issue — cautioned that an elected governing body is not a guarantee for a representative body.

“Elections can reward the loudest voices and those with the most resources,” she said.

Councilors assured attendees this meeting will be the first of several on the issue before action.

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