Blog Post by: Kent Youngblood
- April 11, 2011 - 3:13 PM
Mikko Koivu added
Here's a transcript of Chuck Fletcher from today. There may be a few typos, but just wanted to get this up for you. I got him one-on-one after and will toss stuff up later.
Also, here is an exclusive Todd Richards article from my phone conversation with him a little bit ago. More later
Told Richards this morning he's done.
"It's a very difficult decision and a very difficult day on many levels.
From the outset, I want to mention how hard Todd and his staff worked
this year, and I really want to thank him for his commitment and his
efforts in driving this team forward. His work ethic was unbelievable.
His passion to win was great. He's a good coach. He's a good hockey
coach, but ultimately it's my responsibility to make the right decision
for the organization and I felt going forward we needed a new voice and
a new direction, and I made the decision to let Todd go."
Toughest decision you've made here?
"Yeah. Professional sports is a great business to work in, and most days
are great days. This is not one of them. He's somebody I've worked with
in the past and certainly did not take this decision lightly. There's a
human side to this. He's got a family, and certainly it's not easy on
anybody. Again, we're in the business of winning and losing games, and
the results are what they are. Part of my decision was based on the
results of the past two seasons. Part of my decision was based on the
fact I thought we needed more from some players. And part of my decision
was based on the fact that going forward I thought we needed a new voice
to maximize production from this particular group of players. I will
point out: I really do believe in sports that not every coach is the
right fit for every team. Teams have different personalities. There's
different talent levels, and not every coach fits with every team. Just
like every player doesn't fit with every team. It comes down to a feel
and what you feel you need to do going forward, and I felt that to get
the most out of this group of players -- certainly the players that are
coming back -- we needed a new voice and a new direction. It's as simple
Need to make the playoffs, huh?
"Again, we're in a results-oriented business. We're all judged that way.
Results are a part of it, but there's also, as I mentioned, you want to
have the right fit for your particular team going forward, and this is
the decision I felt we had to make."
Why was Todd not the right fit?
"You know, it's a lot of different factors you have to contend with, and
it's just my judgment that we need a different voice and a different
When did you decide?
"It's been a fluid process, Bruce. Certainly it's not a knee-jerk
reaction. It's something I've been analyzing and looking through, and I
felt this was a change we needed to make, and once you make that
decision it's important in fairness to Todd and the organization to make
it as quickly as possible."
When did you let him know?
"I let him know this morning."
What was his reaction like?
"Heh, well, um, we talked. It was a brief conversation. I just want to
leave it at that. He's naturally disappointed, as was I, and it wasn't
easy. Our relationship goes back a few years, and we've been through a
lot of good times and good seasons and this did not end the way either
one of us wanted."
You assured by Leipold that your job and front office is safe?
How much do ticket sales factor into this decision?
"My job is to put a winning hockey team on the ice and build a team that
ultimately gets to where we all want to get to. When we do that, the
season tickets will follow. This was not a reactionary move. It was a
move I put a lot of thought into, and Todd's a very good coach. He's
going to coach again in the NHL in my opinion, and he's going to do a
good job somewhere. Again, I felt for this particular team this was a
decision we needed to make."
You consulted with Craig on this?
"I spoke to Craig this morning and advised him of the decision I thought
we needed to make. Craig hired me to run the hockey team, and he's been
great. He's allowed me to make the decisions I feel I need to make.
Again, it's been a fluid process."
So this was your call, right? Not his? Not together?
"This was my decision. This was my decision."
So this is your roster and your hire. Did you mess up?
"I put pretty much all the responsibility on me. It's my job. It's
ultimately up to me to deliver a winning hockey team, and so far we've
had two non-playoff seasons. I do feel strongly in the direction we're
going with respect to the young players that are coming, and I do feel
we've had a couple good drafts now. I do feel we've developed players
thanks to the efforts of Brad Bombardir and Mike Yeo and many other
people in the organization, and we are going in the right direction. We
are going to add more talent, and we are going to get better, but
clearly the last two years we haven't made the playoffs so that speaks
to itself and ultimately we need to get better from here, and we'll
endeavor to do all that this summer."
DO YOU HAVE REPLACEMENTS IN MIND
A: “Not yet, no.’’
HOW QUICKLY DO YOU YOU WANT TO DO THAT:
A: “As quickly as it takes to get the right guy. There are no artificial time frames or timetables. We’ll go through the process, and when we find the right guy then that will be the right time.”
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE STAFF:
A: “We’ll talk about that. We’ll see. But generally that’s what happens (bringing in a new staff) in this industry. And certainly the assistant coaches worked very hard and will have a chance to go down that path later on once we have a clear direction as to who the head coach is.”
WHAT TYPE OF HEAD COACH WOULD BE A GOOD FIT? FEEL YOU NEED A MORE VETERAN GUY RATHER THAN A FIRST-YEAR GUY AGAIN:
A: “I don’t know that you have to. There has been a lot of rookie head coaches who have come in and done a great job. Lindy Ruff jumped into Buffalo without any head coaching experience and did very well. Everybody has to get their experience somewhere and somehow and you know, coaching is coaching. Most teams seem to play the same systems these days. There’s not a lot of stylistic differences between teams on the ice. You’re looking for accountability, you’re looking for structure, and you’re looking for somebody to motivate and push the group forward. So it has to be the right fit. Communication skills are a big part of it. And there… It’s a lot of different factors. But I don’t think we’re going to limit ourselves to experienced or inexperienced. Because I think there are a lot of experienced hockey people that may not have a lot of head coaching experience.
HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL TODD
A: “I met with him in person. It’s not easy. It’s not.. as I said. There are a lot of great days in pro sports, and this isn’t one of them. You feel for Todd, for his family. Again, it’s a decision I felt I had to make.
HAD TIME NOT BEEN AN ISSUE, COULD TODD HAVE BECOME THE RIGHT GUY?
A: “You know, I don’t think it’s fair to Todd to get into a lot of speculating. Todd is a good coach. He battled hard. The team had streaks where we were a very good hockey team. And unfortunately we came up short. He was disappointed by that. It wasn’t from lack of effort. And again, there were times we were a very good hockey team.
WHAT COMES NEXT ABOUT FREE AGENTS
A: “Next we have the exit interviews. Certainly you have to sit with the players. There are a lot of dialog that needs to take place with our players right now. Certainly some expectations need to be set. Certainly there are some things, as a group, that the players need to do better. It’s up to me to put some demands on them and create some expectations for coming into next season. And I feel that there was more in the tank from some of them. We need to find a way to get that out of them. To me, that’s the critical next step. After that we proceed to scouting meetings, getting ready for the draft in the summer. There is a lot of time to deal with the pending free agents, and at this point it’s about dealing with the returning players. We have to raise the bar here, we have to raise the level of expectations. And there were some good things that happened this season. And I look at the growth of certain players. I look at the return of Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and the way he played, in particular the last month, as he gained his confidence and his conditioning and his timing back. And you look at the emergence of Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon and you look at Kyle Brodziak continuing to get better and Cal Clutterbuck, netting 19 goals. Look at the work ethic of an Andrew Brunette and John Madden, some of those players. You certainly look at Jose Theodore and the games he gave us. Nick Backstrom, how well he played, particularly in that January-February stretch when we had the best January in team history and the best February in team history. So there are a lot of positive things this year. But we didn’t end the way we wanted to, that’s the focus of this summer.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FIND A COACH THAT WILL EXCITE THE FAN BASE
A: “I think winning excites the fan base. And I think that is the focus. The players play, and they’re driving the entertainment quotient on the ice, and the fans pay to see them. The coach has to guide them and help us win. And that’s the mandate.
THERE WERE A TON OF VETERAN COACHES OUT THERE TWO YEARS AGO… DO YOU REGRET NOT GIVING THEM MORE CONSIDERATION?
A: “Well, first of all, I gave consideration to a lot of different coaches. So I don’t think it would be accurate to say I didn’t give consideration to several other coaches. You can’t live in the past. We make decisions. Talking to Ray Shero the other day and, it’s funny. We make decisions. Not every trade we make works out. And not every hire we make works out. But again, I really believe in fits. And sometimes things don’t work out. And in this case, I think Todd worked hard and pushed this team. It’s just my opinion that we need a new direction to go forward. Again, once you make the decision, you have to move on. The good ones and the bad ones. You can’t look back.
Reaction: “Well, obviously I think it’s disappointing for all of us. And I think it’s part of the game. But at the end, it’s basically the guys on the ice who play the game. And it’s the coach’s job too, to be a part of it. Usually when there aren’t playoffs, the head coach is usually the guy who gets the blame. And not the 20 guys on the ice. That’s the thing you feel bad about. You feel disappointed as well. That’s something for all of us to realize as well. We’re all in this together, and everybody has to think about what to do better and how can we help this team.
Obviously disappointed and for Todd, it’s…It’s tough, I’m sure. He did a lot of good things here. He taught us a lot about the game, on and off the ice. But I’m sure he’ll still a young head coach, he knows the game very well. I’m sure he’ll be back sooner than we’d think.”
Did you play the way he wanted you to down the stretch: “Well I think everybody tries to play the way he’s hoping for. And the coaching staff, what they want. It’s always 20-plus guys on the ice. And obviously, there are a lot of things that are involved with the game. So I don’t think it’s about trying or the effort. It’s like I said, it’s a lot of things. Confidence, and things like that. So , of course, you feel bad for not only making the playoffs, but for letting him down. Not making the playoffs, not winning enough. We’re all responsible for that.
Does this give you the first step towards turning team around, with a new coach, starting over: Well, I mean, first of all, individually, everyone in this locker room has to think about what we can do better. And it starts with the players, like I said, individually. Then it comes to be a better team. So of course, yeah. We want to get better. That’s obvious. But before you can look forward and think about next year, before that you have to think about what we did wrong, what we can do better. And make sure these mistakes don’t happen again.
Do you think Todd did a good job: “Yeah. I think personally I learned a lot in these two years. And I’m sure as a team as well. There are a lot of good moments, good periods of time, in these seasons. And I think Todd and the whole coaching staff did a lot of good things. But we just, as a team, came up short.
When things were coming unraveled, could he have done things differently: “I think he did it his way. Since day one. I always say I respect when a coach does it his way, and when he believes in the systems and everything. I think that’s the right way to do things, and that’s what I think he did. Since day 1 he did it his way, (to the end). I respect that. “
Was it always clear what the coaches wanted: Yeah, of course . The first year, the changes, is huge. After one coach being here for so long. Obviously that took some time for us to adjust on the systems and to learn to play with the new players. I think that will happen every time you have changes. It will take some time. But other than that, everybody knew what was going on. It was all clear for us. And so, yeah, I think that was all clear.
What sort of coach does this team need going forward: Well, that’s not really for me to comment on that. That’s not going to be the players’ decision. I’m sure they’re going to take a good look at it, obviously take some time to think about that. We’ll see when the time comes for that. I don’t feel that’s really my (place). Especially when we finished the season last night. So, I can’t think about that right now.
How was your personal relationship with Todd: Yeah, I think it was good. I mean, there are, during a long season, always things that you have to talk through and kind of see what everybody thinks, so we’re on the same page. But, I think we were… we had an honest relationship and I think both ways, I think we were both honest. And I think for the team, too, there are always ups and downs. That’s part of the game. That’s part of life. But yeah. I think everything went well. Like you said, there was a respect between each other. Honest as well.