Walz goes AWOL

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- His disappearance has everyone puzzled in Minnesota.

Wes Walz left the Minnesota Wild late last week and has not been seen or heard from since.

"I don't know what's going on," said Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. "I want to know if I can help. But if I cannot help, I'd like to know where he's at, how he's doing and things like that.

"But it seems a lot of people don't know."

According to the Star Tribune newspaper, Walz, 37, left the team on Thursday for what was described by the front office as "personal reasons".

The Calgary native had a goal and three assists in 11 games this season with a minus-5 rating. It is believed the veteran is contemplating retiring.

"I haven't heard that he wants to retire, so I can't comment on that," Lemaire said. "His game has taken a little step back, but the last game he played was one of his better games."

Along with Marian Gaborik, Walz is one of two original members left from the Wild expansion team of 2000. He's currently the franchise leader in games played and second in both goals and points.

Walz was selected in the third round - 57th overall - of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins. He was traded from Boston to Philadelphia in 1991 before moving on to Calgary for a pair of seasons and then Detroit.

Following the 1995-96 season, Walz went to play in Europe before returning to the NHL as a free agent in 2000.

"He was supposed to be done at that time," Lemaire said. "When he came back from Europe, we had a spot for him on this team and it was to play against the other team's top line.

"Maybe in the past when he first started to play in the NHL, everyone wanted him to be offensive and produce. But I think he found his niche here playing a defensive game. He was able to contribute, be satisfied and be pleased in the way he was playing.

"He took pride in playing against the top lines and trying to shut them down."

Walz has seen his ice time diminish this season and in his last game struggled against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He lost 13 of 16 draws in the contest and was minus-1 as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for seven points in a 4-2 win.

"There must be something more there; you don't just one day leave the rink," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"There'd be a lot of guys retiring if all it took was getting lit up by Crosby. A lot of coaches too. There'd be about eight people left in the league and they'd all be playing for Pittsburgh."

Walz had signed a one-year, $1.4-million deal with the Wild this off-season.

He told the Star Tribune at the end of last season that he would not be one of those guys that would hang around if the game passed him by.

There's speculation he's questioning his desire and ability to play in the league. It's a process all players eventually go through as their careers near an end.

"I did the natural thing, the season ended, then I quit," said MacTavish, who concluded his 17-year playing career with the St. Louis Blues.

"I'd just had enough. In the end, I was just trying to high-stick everybody on the opposition in the head. That's all I remember. So the coaches had to talk to me. That's when I knew it was time to quit."


Photos