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Chuck Fletcher press conference reactions

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#RANTING

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

If yesterday was the “denial” stage of the five stages of grief, today led directly into the anger stage. Chuck Fletcher held his annual press conference after the Wild were summarily bounced by the St. Louis Blues. And let’s just say, Chuck Fletcher didn’t validate my anger and disappointment.

I was looking for a, “This aggression will not stand, man!” Instead, we’re left with, “Hmm, he seems like a nice guy,” even though that guy was trying to put our car parts factory out of business.

Fletcher opened by thanking the turnout from the fans that showed up in record numbers, and blew the TV ratings numbers straight out of the water during a rather successful regular season. So, thanks Wild fans, you deserve a pat on the head.

Then when grilled about making changes to the team after years of the same types of trends and a new coaching staff, Fletcher seemed to dodge the question. While he wasn’t lying about the great season Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker had, compared to the questions they had about those players just a short 365 days ago, he wanted to show how he doesn’t believe many changes are needed. He was specifically asked if there will be wholesale changes, to which he replied adamantly, “Absolutely not.” Which, if you look a the season the Wild had, you can make that argument.

Except that some changes are needed. Fletcher admitted that the organization has little cap flexibility until the expansion draft shakes out and the trade market loosens up. So how those changes will happen, will likely be something is a wait and see. Changes will happen, but will it be a big, sweeping change? Likely not.

We’ve argued that the trade for Martin Hanzal was a good trade. We’ve argued that the move made the team deeper and improved the underlying numbers that have been proven to lead to winning and championships. Chuck Fletcher when asked about if he had any regrets about the Hanzal trade relied with three simple words: “Oh gosh no!” And that’s one area where I will support the move and that he shouldn’t feel any regrets.

We found out that Mikael Granlund suffered a broken hand and will be recovering for 4-6 weeks. It likely played into his disappearance in the post season from the score sheet. Still, to have the season he had, and to come up empty-handed aside from an assist on the Zach Parise game-tying goal in Game 1, it leaves an awful taste in everyone’s mouth.

The Wild GM though Devan Dubnyk had played well for most of the season and in the playoffs. He will need a capable back up. “Critical,” Fletcher said about finding a competent back-up. He will give Alex Stalock an opportunity next season, but said that, “you likely need three dependable goalies.” It means the Wild might make a move for a veteran back-up in the offseason. Really, this is a position that he should have addressed years and years ago. Not having a drafted and developed goaltender; not having addressed it by bringing in a vet back-up, and forcing his coaches, whether it was Mike Yeo, John Torchetti, or Bruce Boudreau just might be the longest lingering pock mark on Fletcher’s resume to this point. Sure, he’s made some awful blunders with some moves, as well, as some great successes, but the goalie position is one that has festered and lingered, and it has to be addressed. So, yeah, you bet your rear end that the goalie situation has reached a “critical” status.

We found out that Eric Staal is doing okay. “He wouldn’t be cleared to play, but he’s feeling better,” Fletcher commented. Apparently he felt some numbness in his feet when hit contacted the boards. He’s been diagnosed with a concussion, which, as much as we know about the dangers of repeated concussions, isn’t a great consolation. However, he did avoid a much more severe injury, and that’s good.

I’ve heard a lot about how this team, “doesn’t have the guts,” or “doesn’t have the heart,” to win in the playoffs. To me, that’s always been an incredibly over-blown narrative because fans aren’t in that locker room. They don’t see how these guys work, what makes them tick, and surely can’t assess the heart a player has to win. Not everyone displays the intangible of heart like Rudy. So when Boudreau commented, “I don't think there's a guy on this team that isn't kicking themselves," I believe him. Had the Wild gotten lit up, lost every game 5-1, or was getting dominated in terms of pace of play, I’d may believe those fans’ claims more, but the Wild did give effort and showed the want to win.

Speaking of the head coach, he chimed in with his wishlist. "A physical defensemen is something I think we need. Whether you can get it, remains to be seen.” And Fletcher says they need to get more net-front presence. He doesn’t believe that it’s something they’ve consistently had since maybe going back to Andrew Brunette. The GM pointed to the it being a, “chicken or the egg” situation that maybe guys don’t want to sit out front of the net and get beat up if the shots from the point don’t come, whereas the defensemen aren’t creating shooting lanes and getting puck to the net because no one is there. And that’s definitely frustrating. There are more than enough culprits on this team on the blue line that would rather send the puck down deep again if they don’t have a clear shooting lane (cough Jonas Brodin, Ryan Suter, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser cough) so I get that they don’t want to pay a price if there won’t be a reward. That said, you have to man-up and get to the front of the net and create, and don’t just expect things to happen.

Fletcher is right by saying, “This year was different, very disappointing to lose after a tremendous season,” and “You have to look at the big picture.” But for a team that thrust itself into legit Stanley Cup contention, Fletcher’s rosy picture of the season after an inexcusable bowing out in the first round will infuriate the masses. To deny that there are problems, or to minimize the issues by classifying them as adjustments over really addressing some things, especially when this is a common theme after five seasons of roughly the same group.

Getting Eric Staal and signing Bruce Boudreau were changes for the positive. But with expansion this June, Fletcher has a real chance to make some impact moves to really put this team over the edge. Or he won’t because he failed to acknowledge the deficiencies of his creation.