Wild fire assistant GM
McClatchy News Services
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Wild assistant general manager Tommy Thompson, the last remaining member of the original management team, was informed Tuesday that this will be his final season after almost 11 years with the organization. The move was far from unexpected. The Wild has arguably one of the weakest depth charts in the NHL. Thompson's contract expires June 30 and assistant GM Brent Flahr, hired to be Chuck Fletcher's right-hand man last July, had assumed many of Thompson's scouting responsibilities and is in charge of amateur and pro player personnel.
Fletcher met with Thompson before he was set to begin a scouting trip to Europe. Thompson was given the option to continue or cancel the trip, and he chose to go ahead. But it'll be his final duty with the Wild. He won't be involved in any internal scouting meetings to formulate the Wild's draft list and for the first time in 11 drafts, Thompson won't be at the Wild's draft table in June.
Fletcher declined to comment other than issuing a statement saying, "The Wild thanks Tom Thompson for his years of service and many contributions to the organization. We wish Tom future success."
Thompson, 56, was unavailable for comment because he was en route to Europe. He was originally hired by Doug Risebrough as the Wild's chief scout in September 1999 and was promoted to co-assistant GM before the 2002-03 season.
Since 2000, Wild draft picks have played 4,246 games, the most of any team in the NHL. Fourteen draft picks played for the Wild this season.
However, in recent years, Thompson had been heavily criticized by the media and fans for the Wild's lack of young talent. In the Hockey News' recent Future Watch magazine, the Wild ranked 29th and 30th in draft performance.
The criticism of Thompson stemmed from:
• Lack of top-six forwards: Arguably, the Wild hasn't developed a top-six forward since Pierre-Marc Bouchard (8th overall, 2002) and only three in history (Bouchard; Marian Gaborik, third overall, 2000; Mikko Koivu, sixth overall, 2001).
• Lack of mid-to-late-round success stories: The only post-second-round picks to play more than 56 games with the club are 2006 third-rounder Cal Clutterbuck, 2001 third-rounder Stephane Veilleux, 2001 seventh-rounder Derek Boogaard and 2000 eighth-rounder Lubomir Sekeras.
• Trading of draft picks: The Wild traded a second-round pick to move up three slots to draft Colton Gillies 16th overall in 2007. Gillies might still turn out to be a good player, but to trade such a high pick for someone projected to be a checking forward miffed some. Also, the Wild traded a third-round pick to move up one slot for defenseman Tyler Cuma in 2008. Cuma also could still develop into a solid player, but the next defenseman taken four spots later was John Carlson, the stud Washington Capitals blueliner expected to be a Calder Trophy frontrunner next season.
• Poor first-round draft selections: The Wild blew its 2004 first-round pick with A.J. Thelen, its 2005-first-round pick with Benoit Pouliot and, unless things change dramatically, 2006 first-round pick with James Sheppard.