Wild's Walz still M.I.A.

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Wes Walz's isn't exactly missing.

In fact, he's been spotted around the Twin Cities doing ordinary things like taking his kids to school.

But the Calgarian's sudden departure from the Minnesota Wild earlier this month is still a bit of a mystery.

Head coach Jacques Lemaire couldn't provide any update yesterday as the Wild prepared for last night's clash with the Calgary Flames.

"Nothing, at all. Nothing," Lemaire said with a shrug when asked if he knew any more than he did a couple of weeks ago when the 37-year-old veteran suddenly left the team for personal reasons.

Many speculate Walz is considering retirement after more than a decade in the league. The team, however, is still in the dark and granted him an indefinite leave of absence last week.

"The reason why he went away? We don't know. He hasn't talked to nobody that I know," said Lemaire. "If he did, nobody told me."

Walz hasn't played since an Oct. 30 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, when he was dominated in the faceoff dot and was on the ice for two goals against -- lending some credit to the theory he is pondering his passion for the game as his ability tapers off.

One of two original Wild players, Walz considered retiring at the end of last season but signed a one-year deal over the summer.

His skills may be in decline, but his leadership was something the young players appreciated -- and miss.

"When I got here, I was 18," said 23-year-old centre Pierre-Marc Bouchard. "He was always there to give me good advice. He's been around a long time, so he knows what he's talking about.

"It's not fun to have a player like this out of the lineup."

Walz's influence wasn't limited to the forwards, either.

"I think everybody looks up to him," said defenceman Brent Burns. "Easily one of the hardest workers. Great guy off the ice. Everyone knows him as a great family guy who shows respect to everybody. You don't meet too many people like that anywhere. I have a lot of respect for him."

Although they're holding out hope he will return to the team, everybody is more concerned about his happiness, says Lemaire.

"Everyone wishes he's going to come back, but we don't know what's going on. We don't know what he thinks. We don't know where he's at," he said. "We want him to be happy. We want him to live the life he wants to live. As long as he's happy, we're OK."


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