clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Replacing Chuck Fletcher would be difficult, but not impossible

Craig Leipold’s comments this pre-season put some question marks over Chuck Fletcher’s job safety. While replacing Fletcher wouldn't be easy there are good options.

2016 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

On the 23rd of September Wild owner Craig Leipold said to the press that anything other than a Stanley Cup is a disappointment. Many fans, myself included, took this as a warning to Chuck Fletcher and it does make it look like his job isn't safe if the Wild fail to make a good playoff run this year. Fletcher’s track record with the Wild is well known, and he has managed to turn the Wild into a solid playoff team that can be expected to fight for a top spot in the Western Conference, but yet he has made some bad moves as well and the team’s cap situation isn't ideal at all. You can say whatever you want about his track record and performance as GM but so far he hasn't been terrible as GM and you could do worse. I won’t comment on whether I think Fletcher should be gone or if you can improve from him but I will look at who could replace him if he is gone at the end of the season.

Now I will introduce some candidates to fit different kind of team management models, I will stick to people who are currently unemployed or working in a role other than GM (for an NHL team) because even though it is possible to steal another team’s GM it’s quite unlikely so I’ll stay away from that option, no matter how much I’d like to see John Chayka managing the Wild.

Firstly we need to consider the different models of NHL front offices, I see 3 likely options for that, all resulting in the look for a different type of general manager. First model is the basic model of a strong GM, like Fletcher has been for the Wild. This is the most common type NHL front office and has been quite successful for teams. Then there is a more modern model that doesn't just have one voice controlling the team and there might not even be a GM. These kind of models have been seen in Toronto and Florida, with Toronto not naming a GM at all during the time and instead splitting the responsibilities between a few people including Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas. Florida ran a system where Tom Rowe was named GM but didn't have full control and his assistant GMs were very involved, especially after Rowe took over as head coach during the season. Neither team was very successful during the time that the team was managed more by a group than a strong GM, but it wasn't exactly a fair comparison as there has only really been a season of trial for both teams and the Leafs weren't exactly even trying to succeed in their season and the Panthers suffered from key injuries which hurt them. The last model I’ll talk about is sort of a 2-person-model where the team has a President of hockey operations and a General Manager who both are involved in all the hockey related operations with the President possibly having the final word while the GM handles more day-to-day matters. This kind of model is currently in use for the Calgary Flames where Brad Trevling serves as GM and Brian Burke as President with Burke making a lot of the public appearances and likely having also a word on their roster and what moves they make. The Vancouver Canucks also have a system where Trevor Linden technically has the final say on matters while Jim Benning handles most of the matters.

Now let’s get to potential candidates for the jobs of GM or President of Hockey Operations. Currently Matt Majka serves as president (he was promoted this June to that role) but he is more responsible for the financial side and not so much the actual hockey side. Majka being there does make a 2-person system with a strong President unlikely but yet it’s still an option.

Brent Flahr

Flahr is the obvious pick here for either GM or President. He is only 45 which for an NHL GM is fairly young but he has served in the role of assistant GM for the Wild ever since 2009 and for the past two seasons he has also been the GM of the Iowa Wild and for this season he will also serve in the role of Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations (he was promoted at the same time as Majka was made President) and he has also experience from other NHL front offices having been a Director of Hockey Operations for the Ottawa Senators for two seasons and also working as a scout for the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers previously. It’s tough to say how much of the current Wild management really comes from Flahr as outsiders to the front office we don’t really know how teams work with the roles. Though what we do see is the people who get involved in searches for GM seats that are vacant elsewhere. Insiders often tweet out names that are potential candidates for seats and tell how some assistants are perceived around the league. The Buffalo Sabres fired Tim Murray from their GM position this offseason and we saw a lot of people mentioned for the role and it eventually went to Jason Botterill. Flahr though was never mentioned by insiders or interviewed for the job. This doesn't mean Flahr isn't a good option for a GM job or that he isn’t regarded highly but it means that the Wild either want to keep him and have stopped him from talking to others or that Flahr actually really wants to stay with the Wild. He is the easiest option to take over with the Wild but he probably wouldn't be the most exciting option or make a huge change from the Fletcher era.

Dean Lombardi

Lombardi is a fairly successful GM that is currently unemployed. His management of the Kings clearly wasn't perfect but he did manage to get them two Stanley Cups and is fairly highly regarded around the NHL. Lombardi is nothing special but he is experienced, with a decent track record who could help keep up success with the team. I could also see him serving in a Burke like role as President if the Wild were to go down that route, though according to Elliotte Friedmann he would likely want to be very hands on so maybe a GM role would suit him better.

Mike Gillis

Gillis was released from the Vancouver Canucks after the 2013-14 season and has been unemployed in the NHL since, though being a part of Swiss team Genève-Servette HC Board of directors. He could also maybe bring in Laurence Gilman and Lorne Henning to help transform the front office. If you are looking for some experience in your GM Gillis could be an intriguing option but he is probably not the most interesting choice. Though Elliotte Friedmann did say that someday someone will give him another chance as a part of a 30 thoughts piece back in April. He could also work in both a GM or President role.

Laurence Gilman

I mentioned Gilman already in connection with Gillis but he too could be an option for a GM seat. He has lots of experience as an assistant GM for both the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks, and he worked for the NHL in developing the expansion draft rules. Could be a surprise pick for a GM seat.

Tim Murray

The Ex-Sabres GM was already connected to the Wild in rumors but Chuck Fletcher shot those rumors down and apparently he is not working for the Wild currently but he is still an option. Murray is experienced in multiple kinds of front office roles but wasn’t all that successful as GM in Buffalo. Could still be an option, and if he does join the Wild front office that could improve his chances.

Darryl Sutter

While Sutter is more known as a coach he also has served as GM being the GM of the Calgary Flames from 2003 to 2011. Maybe he isn't all that interested in a GM role having been a coach for most of his career in the NHL and being not that involved in a job search for now this season after being released from the Kings. Maybe Sutter could be interested in a role as President for a team, he is certainly experienced enough to fill that role.

Don Maloney

Maloney was the Coyotes GM from 2007 to 2016 before being fired and replaced by John Chayka. He has recently worked as a scout and currently as the Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames. Based on what Friedmann said about him in connection to the Sabres he could more be looking for a President role with a say in matters but less day-to-day operations.

Bill Guerin

Guerin is currently an assistant GM with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the GM of their AHL team Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He was connected to the Sabres job and apparently did interview for the position. He is one that is considered a future GM for sure, so maybe he could fit as a GM for the Wild, maybe in a role where the GM isn’t all that powerful or there’s a small group of people managing the team. An interesting option for sure.

Julien Brisebois

Brisebois is the current Assistant GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning and fairly highly regarded in that role. He was brought up in connection to the Sabres job but it was unclear whether the Lightning would let him move at least at that time. He did also interview for the Penguins GM job when Rutherford was hired there. He is only 40 and has been involved in front office roles ever since 2003. He could well hold down a GM job and possibly even a strong GM role.

Chris Drury

Drury is a highly regarded Assistant GM who is currently working for the Rangers, the Buffalo Sabres did want to interview him but the Rangers blocked them from doing so. Could be a possible pick and one that is considered a good future option for a GM job.

Kyle Dubas

I saved Dubas for last for a reason, he is probably the most intriguing option available. He is a progressive mind when it comes to Hockey and very well liked around the NHL. He is only 30 which for an NHL GM would be extremely young. He has been one of interest for other NHL teams, including the Avalanche but they were blocked from talking to him. He looked like he would be the next Leafs GM for years but it seems like Mark Hunter has overtaken him on the succession list in Toronto. He could now be available but Brendan Shanahan still remains a fan of his. It’s also questionable whether Dubas actually wants to move. Though a chance to be the GM for a team that can actually be successful right away could intrigue him more than a rebuild project. I would love to see Dubas take over as the Wild GM if Fletcher is gone but I do think it’s unlikely.

That’s some options that came to mind thinking of potential replacements for Chuck Fletcher, while it’s not very likely that Fletcher even goes and there’s a good chance it ends up just being a promotion for Flahr for the GM seat if Fletcher is gone.