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WildHBcommunity: Taking Inventory on What Comes Next for Fletcher

January 29, 2015, 2:22 PM ET [39 Comments]
Tony Dean
Minnesota Wild Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
WildHBcommunity: Taking Inventory on What Comes Next for Fletcher

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Things are Getting Tense in The State of Hockey Take Cover

In what has been a lost season for the Minnesota Wild, I think we are finally to the pressure busts pipes portion of the fall out from elevated expectations and under performance. Honestly I welcome it because far too many times here in Minnesota apathy sets in before decisive action is taken.

This is the land of the bad fan propaganda machine meaning if you call into question the GM, Coach, or Kaptain then you are being a bad fan and your knowledge and opinion is not valid! What a farce to be honest. The best fans and passionate hockey people in this state should be the most vocal in their support and criticism of the franchise they are loyal to and love.

I think anyone who has entered the professional world as an adult realizes that self-preservation is paramount. That being the case do we really expect Wild players under contract and at the mercy of the coach to be forth coming about what has created this let down of a season and an obvious disconnect for the team this year?

Listen anyone that frequents the WildHBcommunity can attest that I ate my words when the Wild dug themselves out of the hole last season and rallied around head coach Mike Yeo. I think that he put all his cards on the table laying himself at the mercy of the fanbase and his bosses. The players responded and it was a great story.

This season many things have gone wrong and with the Stanley Cup aspirations and expectations laid out clearly by owner Craig Leipold and general manager Chuck Fletcher before this season began I think Yeo will lose his job. I think most of agree that Yeo not the primary cause for this season this being lost.

I think I tend to be more hyper-critical of the decisions Yeo has made on assignments and roles of individual players which I believe to be a re-occurring theme and issue his time as bench boss here in Minnesota but that is completely overshadowed this season given how poorly the goaltenders performed.

The goaltending situation falls squarely on the shoulders of Fletcher who got it wrong three times with his evaluations of Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom, and Darcy Kuemper. Sure with regard to Harding it could have played out different had he not broken his foot but realistically there is more evidence to prove he was not going to be capable of sustaining healthy throughout the 2014-15 NHL season than was present that he was capable of being the #1 guy here.

Is Fletcher Safe?

I have always been a Fletcher-guy which I think comes with a certain bit of context, from where he arrived here to where this organization is now is night and day different or to be more precise I would say better.

I think there certainly exists a conversation to be had given the expectations and performance this season, on whether Fletcher has enough equity with Leipold to get a third shot at hiring a coach if Yeo is fired.

Fletcher has put together a group of veterans and young players he believed would allow for a deep run at the Stanley Cup this season. Fletcher's group is nearly eliminated from playoff contention with 14 games left before the NHL trading deadline March 2nd.

Will Fletcher be a seller at the trade deadline with the Wild eliminated from the playoffs? If so who goes and who does he approach what will surely be a need to shakeup a roster where the pieces although individually talented didn't fit together this season.

Fletcher for all the things he has gotten right as top personnel man here in the State of Hockey, has also made mis-steps with moves that have cost his teams. I think the Nick Leddy trade is definitely a dead horse. Fletcher also is the guy responsible for painting himself into a corner with the contracts of Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom, and Keith Ballard. To a lesser extent with Ballard and I dont want to kick a guy while he is down but that was a swing and miss by Fletcher to give him a shot to return to Minnesota and rediscover his game.

On Koivu at the time the franchise had just watched Marian Gaborik walk away with nothing coming back in return which was the nail in the Doug Reisbrough coffin. Fletcher signed Koivu to be the franchise player here with his first major move as a first time GM which I completely believe to have been the right move given the situation.

Now though I think it very reasonable to wonder if Fletcher needs to get ahead of the curve on seeing if a deal can be made to move on from Koivu. I realize there are two very defined camps on Koivu so its either love or hate. I believe it very reasonable to point out that Koivu's trajectory and status here is going to be a conflict/confrontation point no matter the coach or his role on this team.

Now obviously only Fletcher knows if teams are interested in taking a run at Koivu or if a deal can be completed especially that makes sense for the Wild but it certainly has been talked about internally according to Michael Russo of Star Tribune.

I am not in the camp of people that go outrage strip the captaincy from Koivu, because I trust Russo when he has said that the players dont see that as being an issue. I do though think it is very relevant to compare Koivu to other franchise players on other teams around the NHL and come back disappointed. I always laugh at the Angry Mikko story lines because your franchise guy should not need motivators to elevate their play. Just my opinion.

On Backstrom, I think Fletcher made his most costly error recently and maybe ever because the goaltending even back to last year has been a mess. It is well documented that Fletcher tried to get into the Jonathan Bernier and Ben Bishop trade discussion before coming back to Backstrom on a 3 year deal.

It is clear now that even though he has another year on his deal at a cap hit of $3.5 Million, Backstrom has no chance of being on the roster for the 2015-16 NHL season. What's worse is that because of Backstrom's age and contract factors Fletcher was hamstrung going in a different direction this year and even before in contract negotiations this summer with Kuemper.

Fletcher now must find a #1 netminder this summer who is capable of carrying the load or at minimum being in a time share with Kuemper next season. Toughest position in the NHL to address especially given how specialized the development of NHL goaltenders is.

Looking at this roster headed into the off season Kyle Brodziak, Nate Prosser, Ryan Carter, Stu Bickel, Devan Dubnyk, Harding, and Ballard are all unrestricted free agents. In addition Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Christian Folin, Jon Blum, Michael Keranen, Brett Bulmer, and Johan Gustafsson being restricted free agents.

Fletcher is going to have to make several decision based upon evaluations of the players I listed above. Fletcher gambled a bit on Granlund and Haula not working out long term deals with them before they hit RFA which it looks like will benefit him given that each took a large step back in a contract year.

Of the unrestricted free agents I really would only like to see Carter retained but I could see him seeking out employment elsewhere. The core of this team is in place and if Fletcher identifies this year as an anomaly or believes that goaltending ruined what was a competitive group than maybe he doesn't move anyone of the core veterans.

We could also see him be aggressive and blow some things up. I certainly think he will not be safe just returning next fall making NO MOVES, which was basically the case last summer besides adding Thomas Vanek which was a bit foregone to be honest.

Hold on tight to the flickering playoff hopes flames, I would love nothing more than this team shocking the world again this spring when counted out by everyone. Just think with the way the NHL points system functions and the remaining schedule it puts a foot on the neck of this squad and adding Dubnyk or criticizing the 2nd power play unit is just not enough to matter now.

I think it reasonable to begin talking about what is next for the franchise so that we prepare ourselves to process what the next couple of decisions will truly mean to the direction of the franchise!

Here is the Latest #WildWednesday on Jeff Dubay Show

I tried my best to address what comes next for Fletcher, Yeo, and the Wild in this Wild Wednesday conversation. Then tried to elaborate here above. Please give this a listen/download! I always want you to know i appreciate every read and listen to my content. Thanks for the love, support, and fellowship/friendship!

Just My Take,
Tony Dean

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