It’s time to get to work for Paul Fenton even as we all are trying to learn more about him. We’ve seen the impressive resume, and think we, as Wild fans, know what we’re getting. However, we should ask the people that likely know him best. We tapped on Dan Bradley from On The Forecheck to give us his impressions of Fenton and his time with the Nashville organization.
To talk about Paul Fenton is to talk about the Predators draft history and the handling of prospects in Milwaukee. Fenton ran the drafts and acted as GM of the AHL affiliate. With shaky foundations in Nashville, the strategy for many years was to take the “safe” player with their early picks. A prime example: Austin Watson. The only blight on his record is the lack of development with goaltenders. Juuse Saros looks to be a very competent young goaltender, but he’s not built like a prototypical netminder in today’s NHL. And without Saros, the Predators have not drafted and developed a solid NHL goaltender since Pekka Rinne. Magnus Hellberg and Chet Pickard were both busts, and Anders Lindback was sold off before he had a chance to develop.
That said, if the only critique of an empowered assistant general manager is his record of goalie draft picks, that’s something you can live with as a supporter. Fenton works great with David Poile’s strategy of switching to a more possession-based style. When the franchise moved on from Barry Trotz and permanently playing like an expansion team, the players were tailored for the new style. The patience showed to three players from the 2009 draft - Craig Smith, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm - have served the franchise well both on the ice and in the wallet.
What I’d be excited for with Fenton’s new role is the wealth of players around him. Nashville relied heavily on European scouting, and got lucky with players like Rinne, Ekholm, Patric Hornqvist, and now Eeli Tolvanen falling into their lap. Minnesota is a destination franchise for college players, which is a resource he’s never had before (and few GMs have). Without a sentimental attachment to existing contracts, it will be interesting to see if Fenton tries to replicate Poile’s trading history.
Paul Fenton has been given one of the better jobs in hockey. Minnesota spends to the cap, has access to a wealth of college scouting, and has good revenue. Couple that with his experience in a franchise that didn’t spend to the cap, had trouble landing college draft picks, and didn’t have stability until recently... and it’s hard to bet against Fenton succeeding in Minnesota.
The job does seem favorable, but as we all know, it’s simply no easy task ahead of him. Minnesota has high expectations and expect a Stanley Cup and championships from the various hockey teams at different levels from the state.
For parting words, Bradley left us with this little add:
Fenton has been with the Preds since day one. He’s been behind the franchise’s shift from “lovable band of try-hards” to “good defensive hockey” and into the current era. Thanks for his drafting, he and David Poile achieved stability in Nashville. With the resources Minnesota has, its hard to imagine him failing.
Thanks, Dan. Make sure to visit On The Forecheck for any and all Nashville Predators news and analysis.