Minnesota Wild: Like it or Not Chuck Fletcher is Here To Stay


Despite falling short – GM Chuck Fletcher is here to stay with the Minnesota Wild, for the time being at least.

After the 2008-09 season the Minnesota Wild were a team that was looking to change its identity and take the next step as an organization. Since the team’s inception in before the 2000 season the Wild had the same GM and Coach, the legendary ex-players Doug Risebrough and Jacques Lemaire.  After years of perceived underachievement and a non-exciting offensive play both Lemaire and Risebrough were dismissed just five days apart from each other in April of 2009.

After a quick search the Wild decided on May 21st to name current GM Chuck Fletcher to replace Risebrough. A former assistant GM with Florida, Anaheim, and Pittsburgh Fletcher had a great resume and was ready to step up and take on the top position with the Wild.  His mandate from the beginning was turn the Wild from a boring defensive first team into a more exciting team that will be built to win championships.

Seven seasons later the Wild find themselves going into an offseason where expectations were not really met during the season, and the fans are growing more restless as the time goes by. This season has been by all accounts a loss.  The team that Fletcher assembled did not meet the owner’s or the fans’ expectations of improving enough to get past the second round of the playoffs.

Still just before the team’s elimination from round one of the playoffs, Wild owner Craig Leipold gave a Fletcher some job security by telling Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune that “There is absolutely no way Chuck is not going to be here next year”. Many are confused and expected Leipold to take a harder line on whether Fletcher would be back with the Wild next season.

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While I do not completely agree with letting Fletcher off the hook for some of the inconstancies of the last couple of seasons, I have to agree with Leipold’s decision to bring him back.

To completely pin the underachievement of the roster he put together is a bit unfair. Asking Fletcher to predict the regular season meltdowns of the last two years is virtually impossible.  The motivations and health of a particular player is not under the control of a team’s GM.  The only thing a GM can do is judge the player on their performance and talent level.  Arguably Fletcher has done that, with the personnel that he has signed and traded for.

For example how was Fletcher supposed to predict that Thomas Vanek a former 40 goal scorer would have a sub 20 goal season at the time he signed him? In the summer he signed him Vanek was coming off a 27 goal campaign with three different teams, so Fletcher saw adding 27 goals to his lineup and decided to go for it.  The price might have been a little high, but who’s to say the production would tapper off, or that another team would have paid that same price for Vanek?

Additionally it could be said that Vanek’s first two seasons in Minnesota have been lower production due a hernia last season and broken ribs this season. Had Vanek not been injured this year he most likely would have gotten above the 20 goal mark.

Draft pick management is another critique of Fletcher. Many would point to the fact that the Wild have used many of their draft picks to acquire talent as in the Jason Pominville deal, that they have hedge the future on the present.  Sure the Wild may only be picking in rounds 1, 4 and twice in the 7th of this year’s draft, but you can argue that Fletcher still has the sight picture on bringing in young talent.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Wild have signed a three impact players at the conclusion of the NCAA season this year to bolster the lineup in Iowa. Also it can be argued that the way the current CBA is written drafting a player is not nearly as important as signing them.  Take the case of Mike Reilly an free-agent who’s draft rights expired, this is an excellent way to cash in on young talent without using draft picks.  Additionally looking to sign free agent talent from the KHL and different European leagues is also something that minimizes the true urgency to recapitalize through the draft.

The last two seasons Fletcher has made the appropriate adjustments for the situations the Wild found themselves in during the season. Last season’s acquisition of Devan Dubnyk saved the season, and it can be argued that it wasn’t a mistake that Fletcher tapped the Coyotes for him.

This year many have criticized his virtual inactivity at the trade deadline. I’d argue he made the right move as the team did not permit an upgrade in personnel.  When a GM looks to make a trade of a valuable piece they have to insure their current lineup is worth of it.  In the case of this year’s Wild lineup it can be said that one new piece would not have changed the outcome of the season, so staying quiet might have been the best move Fletcher could have made.

This offseason will be key for Fletcher as he has promised a shakeup that will put the Wild in position for a more consistent season. Craig Leipold sees something that we all might not, that Fletcher has a plan that could work in his eyes.  In his opinion he needs to give him another season to get it right.

Next: The Minnesota Wild's Lost Season

Finally, when looking at Fletcher’s body of work…is the team better now than they were under Doug Risebrough’s tenure as GM? Remember be honest.