Grading the front office is a dicey proposition. Do you grade the current product, the future they are building, or the way they handle dealing with past mistakes? For better or worse, we went with all of the above.
Chuck Fletcher was handed a difficult task: Win now, oh, and build a long-term winner out of nothing. Impossible is nothing compared to what Fletcher faces. Such is the life for the guy who takes over from HWSRN. No matter how soon he can be rid of the mistakes of the former regime, the scars are already there.
Simply being rid of the mistakes does not fix them. In order to truly "fix" this franchise, Fletcher and his team have to not only dig out of the hole, but then fill it in. They have bad contracts to deal with, players who do not fit the new mold, and an organization that has to be deprogrammed before it can be reprogrammed.
This is a huge undertaking. Now add in that he doesn't have the option of a true rebuild. I don't envy the man.
JS- GRADE: B+ I can't really think of any bad moves Fletch has done this year. Last year, there was the Kobasew trade and the Barker trade, but this time, no such disaster, but many moves that have had people scratch their heads, namely the Koivu extension, and the trade deadline non-action. The Koivu extension, I won't go into again because I'm gonna go friggin' crazy if I do, let's just say that it was necessary and a lot of people still wrongfully doubt the terms of the extension were good, and let's leave it at that. About the trade deadline non-action, I love how Fletch handled this delicate situation. There was no chance in hell that we were making any big splashes in the playoffs, so no use mortgaging our future to fail while trying, and at the time, things were going great for the Wild, the playoffs were a real possibility and Fletch didn't want to risk screwing with the chemistry, at it's all-time high at that point. Fletch cannot be blamed for what followed the deadline: A Koivu injury and the collective death of any character the team had, which prevented them from carrying on in the absence of the captain. Fletch did do one move in the deadline that people tend to overlook: The Lehtonen/Penner for Khudobin trade. He traded away a goalie who pretty had no more place on the team for a potential scorer and a d-man helping the Aeros in a big way in their playoff push. That to me is a win for the Wild GM.
Other than that, he brought us Matt Cullen, Brad Staubitz, Eric Nystrom, John Madden, Jared Spurgeon, Patrick O'Sullivan, Jose Theodore. Without going to much into details, Cullen and Madden improved our special teams and provided good veteran presence, Spurgeon was a surprising rookie sensation, Theodore was an above-average back-up, Nystrom and Staubitz, meh and Sully was a low risk acquisition who is tearing it up in the A. Can't complain too much about the new acquisitions. He also added some good college players in Chay Genoway and Justin Fontaine.
Then, the draft. We haven't seen tangible results yet, but I like what I see in the likes of Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer (who has recently signed an entry level contract) and Johan Larsson. The Wild didn't have many late round picks, but they had 3 2nd round picks, which is great.
The only real negative could be a lack of movement during the regular season, which isn't really a knock on the brass, since they're still feeling the effects of that other GM's ravaging of the team and it's salary cap. Also, making trades for the sake of making trades, like Fletch seemed to do last year, doesn't always work, so I'm commending him for keeping a calm trigger-finger this year. Patience is key for this team as the bad deal will start to expire and the young guns in the organization will start making their cases for their spots on the team.
Elise- GRADE: C+ The front office was put into a very tough position with the changeover from Risebrough to rookie GM Fletcher. The types of moves DR made in his time here are the ones that are hard to rebuild from, but you can see from the moves Fletcher is making that it has a direction. Not all of the trades have been the greatest (I think we covered that enough in the individual grades) but the signing of college free agents and preparing for the future with promising draft picks is some relief for Wild fans.
Dan- GRADE: B- I did not expect to see Fletcher butcher the roster into something his own because lets face it, the Wild still need a competitive group to play and please the fans. But I certainly didn't expect Richards to get fired. For a team that is hoping to create long-term success, firing his first coach in GMCF's tenure in only 2 years is not a good sign. However, I am very pleased with his first draft (2010) as well as the hiring of Rick Wilson, Brent Flahr and as well as his rookie free agent signings.
Bryan- GRADE: C+ Chuck Fletcher is doing his damndest to build a winner. Craig Leipold wants to win, and as much as Tom Powers and some fans think the guy is cheap, he isn't. He is paying for a losing, cap strapped team, and losing his shirt doing it. The team continues to be solid on the fan experience side, and business-wise. The results need to follow on the ice, and that falls to Fletcher, not Leipold. For those asking, no, the owner should not be involved in that, no matter what. It would be a disaster if he was.
Now, Fletcher could have sent a strong message by letting Todd Richards go inside the season, but chose to let him finish the run. Some of the trades Fletcher has made are sketchy, *cough* Cam Barker *cough* but for the most part, he is trying the right things. Signing John Madden, Matt Cullen, and Eric Nystrom was good foresight; they just didn't work out exactly as planned. Tough to blame the GM for that.
The extension of Mikko Koivu is huge, and gained a ton of good will from the fan base. Still, Fletcher has some difficult decisions to make regarding the future of this team. He has no money to work with, has no scorers to call up, and needs to trade someone popular with the fans to make a change. This off season could be make or break for Fletcher's tenure as GM.
Cumulative GPA: 2.65 B-
I, for one, am not sure how long to give the front office before judging too harshly. With the first wave of Chuck Fletcher's drafting not even in place yet, it would be completely unfair to call it a failure. At the same time, if tasked with winning now, you have to win now, and that isn't happening. Fair or not, it is what he was asked to do.
The work of undoing what HWSRN did to this franchise will take years. I'm a patient man, and I don't mind watching the Wild lose, should it mean they get better in the future. Right now, as always, we get neither winning nor "proper" losing.
The only hope is that the drafting is monumentally better than it has been in the past. I still have faith.