Faceoff: What's next for Wild?
FELDY:A week ago, we were wondering if Chuck Fletcher would survive as general manager of the Minnesota Wild. Today, we can wonder if the Wild ownership and executive group will interview more than one guy for the job (Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton has been in the Twin Cities since Tuesday; he’s considered a front-runner because of his track record and his ties to Wild owner/former Predators owner Craig Leipold). Like the Wild in the playoffs, Fletcher didn’t survive. He’s a good hockey guy, a good GM, but too many moves put the Wild in a spot where it’s not easy to remodel the team.
PHERSY:Feldy, we wondered a week ago if another lackluster postseason would cost someone their job. And it did. Fletcher made some good moves during the years, and he made some moves that didn’t work out. When an owner opens his checkbook and says, "Go get me a Cup" ... well, heads are going to roll if doesn’t happen. Any incoming GM will be in an odd spot. What can a new GM do moving forward? The organization is a bit hamstrung, unless the incoming GM and Mr. Leipold decide it’s a complete tear-down project. So if a quality GM such as Fenton says yes, that’s great news. But then what’s next?
FELDY:That’s the catch. Judging by Leipold’s comments, there won’t be an effort to rebuild. The owner doesn’t want a GM who is going to tear the roster apart, which is very difficult to do anyway because of too many big-money guaranteed contracts given to veterans who might be part of a purge. The Wild have some talented young players in the pipeline, and a new GM will have to continue to build through the draft. He could start by dangling Eric Staal or Jason Zucker in a trade offer. No, the Wild don’t want to lose those guys, but selling high on two guys who just had career years could be beneficial.
PHERSY: This team certainly needs a shakeup. Switching GMs is a start. More must be done, though. Trading away a veteran coming off a good year may or may not do the trick. But flat-out cutting a veteran who had a sub-par season could send a more significant message through the locker room. This team is tough to figure out. Nobody can deny the talent on this roster, and each year this team shows its skill in the regular season. But for whatever reason, the postseason has been a completely different story. So something significant needs to change in that locker room.
FELDY:No question, the Wild need a different kind of leader. Mikko Koivu has had the "C" on his sweater long enough without the postseason production or charisma to warrant it. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are good possibilities. Both have seven years left on their mammoth 13-year contracts and, while not the most charismatic, their work ethic and steady play earns them respect. The bigger question is how and where does this team find a natural goal scorer? Someone who is creative and makes others around him better? That’s the No. 1 challenge for the next GM.
PHERSY: There only are a handful of those guys in the NHL right now, and teams don’t part ways with them very often. So, adding some "big name" this offseason seems highly unlikely. They’re probably better off focusing on the culture within that locker room and making the needed adjustments, whether that be in the personnel department or elsewhere. I mean, does this team need a sports psychologist? Or a team of sports psychologists? It’s hard to explain their postseason woes. Feldy, I guess we’re lucky we aren’t the ones tasked with trying to figure out how to fix what’s broken.