Perhaps as a testament to our collective impatience in 2018 — mine included — there has been a fair amount of idle grumbling recently that the Wild’s search to replace general manager Chuck Fletcher sure seems to be taking a while.
Fletcher was dumped on April 23, exactly three weeks ago. There were initial reports that Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton was a frontrunner … and then not much concrete detail for a while. Star Tribune beat writer Sarah McLellan wrote late last week that the Wild is now vetting finalists for the job, including Fenton and Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald. Both could be in for second interviews this week. They could be meeting with Craig Leipold right now … or not.
If fans are getting antsy that a new GM needs to be in place ASAP, with the draft a little over a month away (June 22-23) while more immediate key roster decisions await, perhaps a history lesson will calm them down. (Or maybe it will just make them more upset about the last search. But I digress).
See, back in 2009, the Wild fired Doug Risebrough on April 16 — a full week earlier then it dropped Fletcher, since the Wild didn’t have to wait even a brief playoff appearance nine years ago.
And they didn’t hire Fletcher until May 22 — a little over five weeks after the search began. That year, they also had to hire a head coach to replace Jacques Lemaire. They didn’t settle on Todd Richards until June 15, since first a GM needed to be hired and then a coach.
Now is the point when you might be saying, “This is supposed to make me feel better? A search that yielded a GM whose tenure adds up to an approximate grade of B-minus (B if you are feeling generous) and a coach fired two years later is the standard for all searches?”
I feel you. I’m just saying: These things can take time, especially when a search is running concurrently with the interminable NHL playoffs. That said, none of the candidates linked to the Wild are with teams still alive in the playoffs. Maybe things will speed up and yield some results soon?
We can only hope. Wild fans, to be sure, are eager to buy what Leipold is selling. When he let go of Fletcher, Leipold said, “What I want is a new set of eyes and take a look at where our strengths and our weaknesses are. Somebody will come in that doesn’t feel an ownership to certain players, and I want someone to take a look at what we can do to tweak our team.”
Uh-oh. If that sounds a little familiar, here’s what Leipold said according to a search in the Star Tribune archives, after he fired Risebrough nine years ago — a move that ultimately led him to hire Fletcher: “I just saw things, and my gut says now’s the time for a change so we can go out and get the best person out there who can take this incredible brand and great franchise and great team to the next level. It’s time we get some new eyes in here.”
Maybe the lessons here are that it takes a while to find a new set of eyes … and that after a while they all turn old anyway.