The Minnesota Wild have named Bill Guerin as the fourth General Manager in franchise history. Guerin replaces Paul Fenton, who was fired on July 30 after a brief tenure of only 14 months in the front office.
The news was announced by the Wild earlier this afternoon:
“I am thrilled to announce we have hired Bill Guerin, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, as General Manager of the Minnesota Wild." — Craig Leipold— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) August 21, 2019
News → https://t.co/uM3vPSoWqs #mnwild pic.twitter.com/kU0yhA6khQ
Michael Russo over at The Athletic first covered the news this morning as sources reported Guerin was traveling to St. Paul today to finalize his contract. Guerin originally interviewed for the position last season before Fenton was selected.
In the 14 months since that first interview, the Wild are a dramatically different team. Instead of a seventh consecutive year in the playoffs, the team finished dead last in the Central Division. In addition to that, several trades — such as Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask, and Mikael Granlund for Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman — factored into the change of the Wild’s on-ice performance. Fenton also signed Mats Zuccarello to a long-term contract that will heavily impact the team’s salary cap and expansion draft protected list over the next few seasons. Guerin will need to contend with all of this as head of hockey operations in Minnesota while he works to bring the team back to a playoff berth and mold the roster into a Stanley Cup contender.
Guerin has spent the last eight years in a management position with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was initially hired as player development coach and oversaw the continued development of the franchise’s minor league and prospects (both at the college and junior levels). After three years in that position, he was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2014. In addition to that, for the past two years Guerin also handled the operations of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as their General Manager.
Prior to joining the Pittsburgh front office, Guerin played forward on the right side for seven teams (the New Jersey Devils, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, and the New York Islanders) through 1,263 games from 1991-2010. He appeared in the 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2007 NHL All-Star Games and is only one of eight U.S. born players to have both 400 assists and 400 goals. He has won four Stanley Cups — as a player in 1995 with New Jersey and again in 2009 with Pittsburgh — and twice in a management position in 2016 and 2017 with Pittsburgh. He finished his NHL career with a +51 rating, 429 goals, and 427 assists. Guerin often represented U.S. hockey at an international level, and won a gold medal in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and a silver medal in the 2002 Olympics. In 2013, Guerin was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Training camp for the Minnesota Wild begins on September 12, so Guerin has just three weeks to get up to speed with the state of the team and craft his roadmap for the franchise moving forward. As General Manager, he will oversee the scouting department and minor league operations in addition to the the coaching staff. Guerin will have some leeway to craft the front office to suit his needs. Assistant GM Tom Kurvers has only two years left on his contract and it’s expected that he will remain with the team in some capacity that has yet to be determined. The role of director of player personnel (previously held by Andrew Brunette) has not been filled yet, so expect Guerin to fill that position soon. Michael Russo speculated in his article earlier this morning that Doug Weight — a friend of Guerin and a longtime NHL player — could join Guerin in the Minnesota front office.
Fans should be optimistic about the hiring of Guerin. He is one of only two GMs in the league who retired from playing less than a decade ago (the other is Rob Blake with the Los Angeles Kings). Guerin has not only witnessed the shift in playing and drafting toward faster, smaller hockey players at the front office level, but has also been a part of the change on the ice. The shift away from big, physical hockey has been gradual, but with recently retired players like Guerin, that transition will most likely begin to appear in Minnesota through the next few seasons.
Former Wild player Matt Cullen had some great thoughts on Guerin:
"Great guy, a very honest, tell-it-like-it-is guy. He's done a real nice job in Pittsburgh and has really good relationships with the players there." — Matt Cullen tells https://t.co/vaq6a3dzHS— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) August 21, 2019
More: https://t.co/bpSNgCg4Wo pic.twitter.com/8TKXxtM5G6
And no Wild announcement would be complete without an A+ dad joke from Ryan Carter.
Stay tuned to Hockey Wilderness through the next few days for more analysis and thoughts on Guerin and his new role with Minnesota.