When things go bad in sports, fans look for places to put the blame. As we discussed with Mike Yeo, the fans also called for Chuck Fletcher's head. I can only imagine that those calling for the head of Fletcher are football fans first. That is not meant as an insult, but a description of the way of thinking.
Hockey teams are not reinvented when a GM is fired. It takes years. Five years is a fast turn around in the NHL. Five years, and the GM is a miracle worker. When handed the steaming pile of animal waste that was the Minnesota Wild franchise's depth of talent, Chuck Fletcher set about creating a presentable product, all while building for the future through the draft.
No total rebuild. No fire sale. Rebuild behind the scenes and put a competitive team on the ice. Good luck with that.
Fletcher took this year by storm with the Brent Burns trade, then followed it up by trading Martin Havlat. He brought in Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in the process, added a top prospect and an extra first round pick. Then, he waited a bit and then traded Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, and Nick Schultz. The top two parings from the 2010-11 season were gone. The rebuild continued.
All of this led to the same results, but certainly made impacts in the long term plan. Was it enough to receive passing grades?
Nathan- The NHLers he put on the ice = C. The AHLers = F. The prospects = A. I'm telling you, 2013-2014 is the key, let's hope he sticks around long enough to see it.
Bryan- It was a busy year for the folks in charge of the on-ice product. Trades sent popular players packing, bringing in youth and draft picks. Big names skated in Wild sweaters for the first time since that guy with the glass groin left. Draft picks were signed. For the first time in years, the Wild are mentioned as a possible landing spot for free agents. Pissy vets with egos bigger than their talent were dealt with accordingly.
Chuck Fletcher, and his staff, have reinvented the Minnesota Wild. They are still fighting the ineptitude of HWSRN, but things are looking up. This next season, the Wild might just have some actual depth in the organization. This would be a first in the history of the franchise. This season was lost to injuries, with a complete and total lack of ability to call anyone up to fill in.
This is supposed to be about this season alone. The trades he made were ballsy. They didn't all work out, but I continue to be impressed with his willingness to make moves.
Jesse - I'm not even sure how to grade Fletcher. I'm honestly at a crossroads...
One the one hand, I love his drafting team and his approach. While I'm still not a fan of Brodin over Baertschi or Armia, there's no denying he's done a great job of adding talent to a very shallow pool. Granlund, Phillips, Zucker, Larsson, Bulmer, and the rest of his picks make sense. He picks with a real purpose instead of drafting with a dart board.
On the other hand, I'm not exactly a fan of his in-season trades. Going down the list...
Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy for Cam Barker
A 2nd, Craig Weller, and Alexander Fallstrom for Chuck Kobasew
Casey Wellman for Eric Christensen
Nick Schultz for Not Nick Schultz
Zidlicky for Foster, Palmieri, a 2nd, and a possible 7th
Greg Zanon for Kampfer
Honestly, I'm only a fan of the Zanon for Kampfer deal.
While he needed to be dealt, I think Zids could have fetched better than just a 2nd round pick. Foster won't be back. I don't believe Palmieri makes the roster. I doubt New Jersey beats Philadelphia, so it's basically Zids for a 2nd.
I don't get the value of dealing Wellman for Christensen. At worst, Wellman leads the Aeros in scoring and helps the AHL team be better. EC needs the Wild to get to the shootout to be really effective. Barker sucks. Kobasew sucks. Not Nick Schultz sucks. Until Coyle and Phillips make the show, it's hard to truly analyze the Burns deal. The Heatley/Havlat deal shipped a disgruntled player out of town for (what is now) an overpaid old guy. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those the types of contracts that the team was trying to escape?
It's hard for me to give a grade until Fletcher's picks start to play professional hockey. His trades have left a bitter taste in my mouth, but that's just one part of his job. When the youth starts playing, then assessing a full grade will actually be possible.
JS- Fletcher's true body of work remains to be seen, since not many of his drafted players have made the jump to professional hockey yet, but if we look at the moves he's made since the end of last season, we have:The firing of Richards and the hiring of YeoThe Burns-Setoguchi trade, in which he basically swapped Burns and a 2nd for 3 1stsThe Heatley-Havlat trade, improving team chemistry, leadership and defensive play (surprisingly enough). Can't say much has changed offensively yet.The Nick Johnson pickup, a pleasant surprise.The acquisition of Darroll Powe, who became one of the team's top PK players.The re-signing of Kyle Brodziak, a very reasonable contract for an important player.The Zanon-Kampfer trade, swapping an old d-man whose time had passed for a young puck mover with potential. The Schultz-Gilbert trade, which I see as a blip that will hopefully be temporary.
A lot of impressive stuff on there. There was talk of Fletcher being the GM of the year early on when the Wild were surprising the league for about 3 months. The Wild then succumbed to injuries and had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for some depth. First of all, injuries can't be blamed on the GM. Second, most of his depth was either playing in junior or in Europe or were DR's remains. Fletcher's track record so far is about 1-2 ''whoops'' a year, mixed with 7-8 ''Hell yeahs''. The scouts are done an excellent job in the draft since Fletch's arrival and I have very few complaints overall. In Fletch we trust.