Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that general manager Chuck Fletcher will return next season.
The Wild have been one of the bigger disappointments this year, regressing from seasons of 98 and 100 points the last two years to 87 points in 2015-16. In Fletcher’s seven-year tenure with the team he’s fired two coaches in Todd Richards and Mike Yeo and his teams have never advanced past the second-round of the playoffs.
Currently the Wild are down 3-1 to the Dallas Stars in their first-round playoff series. Game 5 is Friday in Dallas.
“Listen, I should put this to bed right now. There is absolutely no way Chuck is not going to be here next year. He is our guy. I continue to have a high level of confidence in Chuck and his staff and we’re already talking about next year,” Leipold told the Star Tribune.
Added Leipold, “Let’s just say that Chuck’s going to be with us and we haven’t gotten into any detail, but Chuck knows he is not on any hot seat with me.”
Hockey Wilderness pointed out how Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle, have become solid NHL players, but haven’t lived up to their blue-chip prospect billings. Also, some of the free agent moves Fletcher made haven’t panned out and saddled the Wild with big contracts.
Why didn’t it work out in Minnesota? There won’t be a shortage of theories as to why. Some will point to Fletcher bogging himself down with long-term, difficult-to-move contracts to (Jason) Pominville, (Thomas) Vanek, (Mikko) Koivu, and Niklas Backstrom. Some will believe that as good as (Zach) Parise and (Ryan) Suter were (and are), they fell just short of the caliber of player you build an entire team around.
In Wednesday’s Game 4 loss, Wild interim coach John Torchetti said he believed defenseman Ryan Suter should have blocked a shot that turned into an Ales Hemsky goal.
Leipold praised Suter saying, “I think this has been a year he has performed at the highest level I’ve see him perform at.”
Added Leipold, “He has more confidence, I think. He’s taking on a greater leadership role. I think he’s mentored our young defensemen really, really well. He’s probably getting 2 minutes less a game, maybe 90 seconds less a game. That doesn’t sound like much but it’s a lot.”
Suter and Leipold have a strong relationship, going back to when Leipold owned the Nashville Predators and the team selected Suter with the seventh-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft. Leipold was asked if this bond leads to Suter having any say in organizational decisions.
“Ryan has no input with the people who make decisions. I never ask him about anybody. He never makes any moves. He never initiates a discussion on any person,” Leipold said.
The owner added there’s no long-term concern for Zach Parise’s back injury that has kept the winger out of the playoffs.
The first decision Fletcher needs to make this summer involves his coach. Torchetti guided the Wild into the playoffs after Yeo was fired, but hasn’t been named full-time head coach. Fletcher hasn’t indicated one way or another if he will keep Torchetti as the team’s bench boss.
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