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The ‘one who got away’ going the other way: Brunner picked Red Wings over Wild

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo offers a story that's more than just cold comfort for Red Wings fans who still feel jilted by Zach Parise and Ryan Suter's collective decision to spurn offers from the Red Wings to play for the Minnesota Wild.

According to Russo, a certain Swiss Wing who scored a goal in Detroit's 5-3 win over Minnesota on Friday was more or less set up on a platter to sign with the Wild by his agent, Neil Sheehy, but instead, Damien Brunner decided to wait a year before hopping from the Swiss National A League to the NHL, and the Wings are reaping the rewards of Brunner's deicsion:

Two years ago, Brunner had a high ankle sprain and traveled to Minnesota to see a doctor with whom his agent Neil Sheehy set up an appointment. Blair Mackasey, the Wild's director of pro scouting, was a big fan, so the Wild invited Brunner to St. Paul for a meeting. General Manager Chuck Fletcher was willing to sign Brunner right on the spot.

"They said they had been following me for a year and I met with Chuck, but it was just too early for me back then," Brunner said. "I wanted to have a strong year in Switzerland and prove I was ready. It was great to meet with them. It was a good switch for my head, like realizing that there's an NHL team interested and it makes you think about it a little more. It made me work harder and made me more focused on that goal to make the NHL."

The Wild was ahead of its time. Brunner went back to EV Zug and led the Swiss League with 60 points. During the lockout, after signing with Detroit, he dominated the league with 25 goals and 57 points in 33 games.

"A couple years ago, he was not as big of a surprise and we weren't competing with as many teams. After last year, everybody wanted him," said Fletcher, who also had a bigger priority to accomplish last summer -- signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. "[Brunner's] a talented offensive player with really good speed. Obviously, we're a team that's struggled to score goals the last few years, so we thought it would be a good fit."

Against the Blue Jackets, Brunner beat Sergei Bobrovsky by going "forehand, backhand, then dragging it back and going forehand. My friends back in Switzerland, they've been giving me a hard time because I didn't lift the puck. Normally when I do that move, I lift it up. I definitely got a lot of text messages from friends happy for me. It put me in a good position [mentally] to score my first real goal next game."

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mrfluffy's avatar

The best part about Brunner (as others have said), especially compared to say, Leino, is that he’s fearless. He goes to the dirty areas. He doesn’t shy away from hits. In the 4 games he’s played on Z’s line, he’s always skating, always moving, but never seems to put himself out of the play.

And tonight he displayed one helluva wrist shot.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 01/26/13 at 02:04 AM ET

RorSchach's avatar

That Burnner Kid.. Yeah, he’s a Keeper.

Posted by RorSchach from Datsberg on 01/26/13 at 03:31 AM ET

perfection's avatar

The best part about Brunner (as others have said), especially compared to say, Leino, is that he’s fearless. He goes to the dirty areas. He doesn’t shy away from hits.

YES! I can’t agree with you more. He’s Babcockian in his tenacity. During the Red and White game when Babs watched a period from the press box with Ken and Mickey, he nearly giggled at the puck magnetism Brunner has. That magnetism is a product of hard work. He also seems to be figuring out the smaller rink thing. You definitely could see him trying things that probably work on bigger ice and then adjusting shift by shift game by game. I agree, he’s definitely a keeper.

What I also love is that after all those years of Sammy and Hudler playing the PP point, Brunner actually feels dangerous back there. It actually seems like he adds an offensive threat that is worth the potential short handed goal risk. It seemed like Hudler and Sammy were responsible for way more shorties than they were PP goals from the point. I thought they were both terrible whereas I really like how Brunner’s looking… especially because it allows Z, Dats, AND Franzen to be on the ice at the same time. Will hopefully keep developing, as that first PP line should be pretty lethal, with or without Lids and Homer. Tonight was a good sign.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 01/26/13 at 04:20 AM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

so stoked on Brunner

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 01/26/13 at 07:22 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.