Chuck Fletcher described this past season as a “triage.”
Every day he woke up during the season’s second half, the Wild general manager’s sole focus was, “How do we win a game today to get in the playoffs?”
It was exhausting, which is why Fletcher will take some time to decompress from what he called a “disappointing season” before determining first and foremost who will become the next coach of the Wild.
He called interim coach John Torchetti “definitely a very serious candidate” and said “it’s important that we find a coach that can hold the players accountable and put a system in place and get them to execute the system and hold them accountable to it.”
Fletcher said he’s in no rush. He wants to first deconstruct how a team that had the best first half in franchise history (52 points) can then lose 13 of its next 14 games to cause Mike Yeo to be fired, how a team that won 15 of John Torchetti’s first 21 games could then slide into the postseason with five consecutive losses.
“That’s a quarter of the season where we won one game,” Fletcher said. “In that sense, it’s remarkable we did make the playoffs.”
During Fletcher’s end-of-the-season media event Thursday, Fletcher tossed out the usual glowing statistics (12 10-plus goal scorers, one of seven teams to make the playoffs four consecutive seasons, etc.) but also bemoaned the inconsistencies that plagued the team throughout.
But he insisted, “We don’t have a character problem. The character in that room is tremendous, the pushback and the fight. You could see it even in the playoffs. … So I love the pushback of our group, I just wish we didn’t have to push back so much.”
He maintains the Wild is “still on the rise as opposed to a team that’s on the decline,” but he added, “We need to upgrade our personnel. I need to bring in a player or two if we can to help upgrade the talent of our team. I’m certainly not passing the buck on that one. We need to get better.”
That could come either via free agency or trade.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with teams, and we’ll be looking at the trade avenue,” Fletcher said. “We have 12 or 13 players that are 26 or younger. We have several good kids that are coming. If I could add a forward for example in that age group that would be ideal. … My goal is to keep this team at a very high level for 10 years.”
‘John did a great job’
As for the coaching search, Fletcher will meet in the near future with Torchetti.
“He was able to push and prod and pull this team into a playoff position,” Fletcher said. “He’s a very bright guy, a very detailed guy; strong communicator; holds guys accountable and I think John did a great job.”
Fletcher’s only prerequisite for a new coach is that he has previous head-coaching experience.
“Whether in the NHL, I’m not sure,” Fletcher said.
There is little doubt Fletcher will interview former Stanley Cup winners Randy Carlyle and Marc Crawford. He worked with Carlyle in Anaheim. He also worked with Ducks assistant coach and former Ottawa coach Paul MacLean.
There’s also much speculation that Anaheim might fire Bruce Boudreau after being eliminated Wednesday by Nashville. In 681 regular-season games with Washington and Anaheim over nine seasons, Boudreau has a 409-192-80 record. That .659 points percentage is tops in NHL history by any coach with more than 210 games.
Boudreau’s downfall has been the postseason. He has won no Stanley Cups, has coached past the second round once in eight years and is 1-7 in Game 7s.
The St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round of the playoffs, but veteran coach Ken Hitchcock’s contract also expires June 30. Hitchcock was one of the runners-up when Yeo was hired.
“The process is taking shape, and next week we’ll start to have better ideas about how it will go,” Fletcher said.
Chemistry talk ‘overblown’
The big key this summer will be trying to diagnose why the Wild is so inconsistent. Fletcher polled his players during exit interviews and found no consensus.
“There’s no smoking gun, it’s not the old guys don’t like the young guys and vice versa,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher says the perceived chemistry issue inside the team is simply because of makeup. He said it’s overblown and denied Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter had any more influence over decisions than the normal relationship a GM and owner have with star or high-priced players.
“We have a group of players, maybe six or seven of them, that are older than 30,” he said. “And the rest of the team is basically  and under. So you have a bunch of single guys on the one hand, and then you have a group of guys that are married and many of them have kids and so there’s a little bit of a generational difference there and a lifestyle difference, for sure.
“There were times when the communication could have been better. … Not everybody’s best friends. But they got along great. Could it be better? Could we have a little bit more dialogue at times? Absolutely. But I think that part’s overstated.”