One of the hallmarks of Doug Risebrough’s not-so-illustrious tenure as GM of the Minnesota Wild was bring first round prospects directly to the NHL, with diminishing returns as this process went on. Things worked out well early with Marian Gaborik making an impact right away, and Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Brent Burns managing to develop at the NHL level. However, most Minnesota Wild fans are understandably cautious about this process due to the spectacular failure of James Sheppard, and the disappointment of watching the already-limited Colton Gilles having his development completely stunted on the bench.
In fact, perhaps the biggest difference between DR and Chuck Fletcher’s philosophies rests in how they progress their prospects to the NHL. In the three years since Chuck Fletcher became GM, only one of the players drafted have played in more than 9 NHL games. And with 12 games to his name, Matt Hackett is hardly a seasoned veteran. Fletcher has committed to a patient approach to prospect development.
I fully didn’t expect any major signings in the NHL (Parise and Suter), so I had no problem sleeping in, and had no problem meandering my way to Twitter.
So imagine my surprise when I logged on to Twitter to find the Wild had signed Suter, and Pittsburgh and Detroit were out of the running.
I wanted to get this out even Suter sooner, but I’ve had to calm down my own giddiness. I’m seriously giggling for no reason and jumping around like I was asked by the quarterback to the prom (but a nice, cute, humble one, not a GHB-weilding douchebag). I have a very heavy Wild coat that I’m considering wearing, even though it’s 72 degrees outside. This is a very, very big deal.
Oh, yes, the Wild are here. And they’ll be relevant for a while.
I think the biggest cause for celebration was most eloquently stated by Chris Long of KSTP: “It took a while, and an incredible amount of work by Chuck Fletcher, but (the Minnesota Wild) are finally out of the hole Doug Risebrough dug them into.”
The Wild have made no secret for months that they are trying to make a splash in free agency, attempting to woo Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter. Seeing as each would appear to be a coup on their own, naturally Wild fans have been waiting with anticipation for July 1st to happen for months now.
So, when the Wild announced they signed two free agents, Zenon Konopka and Torry Mitchell, it was a bit of a surprise. Not that it’s out of the realm of possibility that a team might sign a role player or two on the first day of free agency, and not only because fans were looking for the big ticket item, but because it wasn’t so obvious how much uncertainty there was in the bottom 6 for next year. I guess the holes that could only be filled by Parise were what I was focusing on.
In 2005, the Minnesota Wild selected with the 4th overall pick Benoit Pouliot from the Sudbury Wolves.
Things did not work out.
In 2009, Chuck Fletcher traded the underachieving Pouliot away for Guillaume Latendresse, who electrified Wild fans by scoring a goal about every other game. It was dubbed by Wild fans to be the Best Trade Ever.
Two years later, we’re waving goodbye, and it didn’t appear to be the Best Trade Ever after all.
Photo taken by Keith Srakrocic of the Associated Press.
Every year I fall in love with a prospect slated to go right around where the Wild pick. In 2010, I fell in love with a young man named Ryan Johanson, who the Blue Jackets picked up at #4, 5 picks before the Wild were picking. Though Johanson is one of the best prospects in the game, it should be noted that it didn’t work out to badly for the Wild, as Granlund is at the very least a player of Johanson’s caliber, if not more. Last year, I was all about Mika Zibanejad, who the Ottawa Senators snapped up at #6, 4 picks shy of the Wild’s pick. Again, Zibanejad is a top prospect, but Jonas Brodin isn’t too shabby himself.
This year, I had my flag planted towards Red Deer Rebels defenseman Mathew Dumba, a defensive prospect with amazing tools to go with nice leadership skills, and from what I’d been convinced (from people’s writing, not my own ocular observations) good hockey sense to boot. Of course, after disappointment I’ve had the last two years, I’ve told myself over and over again that Dumba would disappear between picks 4-6, with the confidence that the Wild’s scouting staff would snap up a good player regardless.
You really have to admire what Chuck Fletcher has done with his team. In two and a half years, he’s done what many GMs struggle to do: Rebuilding without bottoming out. Think of some of the best teams in the league: Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago. All built with single digit draft picks. The young, up-and-comers in this league: Florida, Edmonton. Those teams built/are building by bottoming out.
Last offseason, Fletcher supplemented his 2010 draft effort (Granlund, Bulmer, Larsson, Zucker. Three WJC Captains. No big deal.) by gaining three high-end prospects in Brodin, Phillips, and Coyle. In addition, he traded for Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, upgrading over Antti Miettinen and Andrew Brunette. Solid plan, right? Continue reading →
Wild Coach Mike Yeo at the beginning of the season said (and yes, I’m lifting it from the Star Tribune, so what?) ““We’re trying to create a new culture; we’re trying to bring in a new system. … [Pittsburgh Penguins coach] Dan Bylsma told me … ‘Just so you know, it’s probably going to take you 30 games.’ I hope it doesn’t take that long.”
30 games later, (Well, 21 after that game, a 3-2 loss in Anaheim), the Wild find themselves behind the wheel of a large automobile. At first place in the standings, we fans may say to ourselves “This is not my beautiful record!” We may tell ourselves “This is not my beautiful team!”.
But it is. And the only question we can really ask is “How did we get here?”
Let’s take a look back and see what Yeo’s team has been doing after 30 games. Continue reading →