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Chuck Fletcher's vision being accepted by the masses?; Tons of Wild smatterings

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • July 1, 2011 - 11:49 PM

Evening.

Here's the main Wild story for Saturday on the Wild re-signing Josh Harding and not signing any external free agents on Day 1

Here's the sidebar of Andrew Brunette, talking from London, signing with the Chicago Blackhawks after three missed postseasons in Minnesota

All day, as I sat in this very spot not burning calories and consuming coffee, I was looking forward to going out tonight. But the weather stinks and I've got no life anyway.

So I'll blog.

I'll do my best to not make this a long, convoluted blog because I do want to get out of here, but it may be a bit all over the place because I have some leftovers that I couldn't squeeze into the paper, such as quotes from Cam Barker and Josh Harding and Jose Theodore and Chuck Fletcher.

But I'll start with this. I love Twitter (follow me at www.twitter.com/russostrib  ) because it's obviously a great means of information, but it also gives me a great gauge of what Wild fans are thinking in real-time.

Unfortunately, on the day it was revealed Mike Yeo was the next Wild coach, and on the day of Yeo's news conference, and on draft night when the Wild took Jonas Brodin, traded Brent Burns an hour before deadline (thanks Chuck) and drafted Zack Phillips right at deadline, I didn't get to read a single tweet the fan base sent me. (Sorry, but all your comments that I'm certain were brilliant and witty and thought-provoking went for naught because I was just swamped).

Today, because frankly I wasn't manic dealing with, say, the six signings and one trade my colleagues in Florida had to deal with, I got to read every word you wrote me.

And as I was writing my stories tonight for Saturday's Star Tribune that you plan to purchase, I began to wonder: How come very few people ranted to me throughout the day that the %$@!^#& Wild didn't sign a single %&$*%I@! sole (other than re-signing Josh Harding and signing draft pick Kyle Medvec to an entry-level deal)?

I started wondering, "Is this apathy setting in, did folks just get out of here for the long weekend or are fans starting to buy what Chuck Fletcher's selling?"

So instead of wondering, I took the question to the masses. Yes, of course, I got the few with a couple choice things to say back about the Wild, but take a look at a sampling at the majority of responses:

@russotrib Happy Wild showed restraint. My fellow season ticket holders may disagree

@Russostrib I think the Wild have all their ducks in a row and are smart to build through the draft and trading for a while

@Russostrib The last two drafts have been good/great IMO, along with failed FAs means I'm ready be patient for once.

@Russostrib I'm glad we're not overpaying for second tier players. #stillwantMaddenback

@Russostrib I think we all kind of expected it. Atleast Fletcher has a clear vision for this team now. If he can keep drafting well, I'm in!

@Russostrib we are quiet. why? It is amazing what honesty from a GM and management team can do for fans.

@Russostrib i like the youth movement, keep cleaning.

@Russostrib Harding will be back in a Wild sweater, Fletcher has a good plan, Yeo has the reins. I'm good :) Will miss Bruno though (:

@Russostrib I think we're buying into the formula. In two years I hope to see a @mnwild free agent FRENZY to setup for our REAL Cup run!

@Russostrib maybe it's cuz many of us see that fletch has a plan and we see the future as u pointed out in ur post-draft write up?

@Russostrib Nope. Reality has set in Mike. Build from within. I'm excited!

 

@Russostrib They see how overpriced all the deals are. Best deals this year are the ones not being made.

@Russostrib besides Richards there hasn't been anyone I would break the bank for, lots of average players getting big deals today.

@Russostrib maybe Fletcher managing expectations in his post-draft presser worked? Maybe they realize these are ridiculous deals?

@Russostrib prices are high, and I think most are satisfied with the direction they are headed

@Russostrib We're getting smarter. Subpar UFA class and losing Barker keep us quiet.

@Russostrib cause fans know they actually have enough guys after harding signed, in chuck we trust

@Russostrib I think this is the right approach; allowing the younger players to compete for the open spots instead of overpaying for vets.

Obviously this small sample doesn't express the opinion of every Wild fan, but these were the majority of the tweets I got back. Now, I don't know if the article/blog comments are vastly different, and I'm not naive enough to believe every Wild fan is jovial with the direction of the Wild, but all these responses did get me thinking.

As one of the fans alluded to above, Doug Risebrough was derided for his "manage expectations" line in the news conference before he was fired.

But sometimes as a GM, it's imperative to clearly, succinctly get your message out there, explain to the fans who invest so much into your product what your vision is for the future.

Fletcher's done that the past couple months, but especially weeks. Everybody's not going to buy into it, but you've got to convey it nonetheless.

Some want to use the negative connotation that the Wild's "rebuilding." Chuck Fletcher would rather use the term "building."  

Whatever it is, if Fletcher doesn't make it abundantly clear that the Wild's going the draft and development model, that they're going to fill the majority -- not all, but the majority -- of its holes from within, Wild fans perhaps storm the gates today.

But I do think a lot of Wild fans are tired of the losing, are tired of a franchise stuck in mud, see the fact that the Wild hasn't drafted and developed players nearly as well as other franchises, see the fact that the stars on most other teams are homegrown, and these fans are at the point where they just want to see a clear vision of how the Wild gets from Point A to Point B.

As I wrote in that Sunday Insider, there are no short cuts to success, and for too long, the Wild tried to do two things at once -- draft and develop, while signing expensive free agents and trying to accelerate the process through trades like Cam Barker and Chuck Kobasew. It didn't work.

Now, this could take awhile. There's going to be growing pains. Trust me on that. I'm not going to sit here right now and tell you I believe this team will be better next year. The first wave of kids are coming now, and they're not the top-end of the Wild's growing prospect pool. But it's the next wave of kids where I think you'll start to see some skill in the development pipeline -- guys like Granlund and Larsson, who I'm telling you I keep hearing incredible things about, and Coyle, who was San Jose's No. 1 guy on its reserve list and San Jose's No. 1 guy on last season's Hockey News Future Watch edition.

And then these kids need to, well, develop.

So like I've said for awhile, it may take patience. There could be tough times ahead where we all need a reminder when we snap what the larger picture is. But as long as the Wild brass is right about these kids -- not every one will make it, but the more kids you stockpile, the better the likelihood that you'll find some real deals -- this should prove worth it.

We shall see.

But at the very least, we know what the path is now. The goal of this team is to build from within, keep cap flexibility, fill holes internally, and when the time is right to hit that home-run with a truly top-end player via free agency or trade, pounce. When that is, we'll have to stay tuned. But I'd think that's at least a summer away.

We continue, and since this blog's gone longer than expected like most my late-night blogs, I'll try to make it snappy:

-- Now with all that said, that doesn't mean the Wild will be completely silent the rest of the summer. It just didn't sign anybody on Day One during a crazy, spendy day. As I mentioned on one of the blogs today, I personally see holes and think they could use at least one more NHL-experienced defenseman. They made some calls today, but I think they'll let the dust settle a little bit and then revisit whether there are some fits out there.

Fletcher said he's had a lot of conversations with agents for signings and teams for trades, and he'll see if he can make something happen.

Here's Fletcher on some subjects:

On depth because I keep harping to him 'What if you have injuries????': "I really believe we have a lot of depth. The depth is the best it’s been since I have been here. It’s not to say you can't continue to improve. But we've mentioned we’re transitioning to a younger team and it's very important we give some of these players an opportunity to show they can make it. We’ll see what happens in training camp. But it’s going to be a very competitive camp. That’s how you get better -- as players make our team and gain some experience and bring energy and speed and some cases skill to the lineup."
 
Do you lose veteran presence with no Brunette and Madden?: "I think have good veteran presence still in our group. We'll see. I've had conversations, we'll see what transpires the next couple weeks. Nothing may happen, but there may be the potential opportunity to make another change or two. We'll see if we can make it happen."

On today in the NHL: "There’s been a lot of money spent today. It’s been an interesting day. We’ve been watching it. We’re in our warrom and looking at everybody’s cap situations and rosters, and a lot of big contractual commitments were made. It’ll be interesting to see how some of these things work out over the next season or two, or 10."

-- Cam Barker talked to the Edmonton media today:

How disappointing was it in Minny: "Toughest year of my life, no question. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. I had a couple of injuries. It was extremely frustrating. I'm glad to move on, I'm really motivated and I want to prove people wrong. That's going to drive me to training camp and into next season."

Being bought out? "I didn't look at it as such a bad thing. Obviously it's not the best circumstance. In terms of your career, you don't wish for this. But it's worked out for the best. I wish those guys in Minnesota the best. No hard feelings."

Proving a point now: "There's always the pressure to be that player (third pick overall) and I put it on myself. I want to learn from my time in Minnesota and move on. I want to be the player I was two and three years ago and build on that. I know Mr. Renney is a great teacher."
 
"Glad to be joining a team with fresh talent. I'm a young guy too."
 
See self as top 4 guy? "For sure, top 4 and powerplay. But everybody has to earn their ice-time."
Being hurt in Minny: "Back injury for the better part of three months. Nothing more frustrating than a nagging injury, especially in your back. It just didn't get better. It wasn't a herniated disc, nothing that needed surgery. I saw a different specialist outside the organization and he said to rest it for a month. That month was up a couple of weeks after the season. I've got a clean bill of health now. I've been skating, working out."
 
GM Steve Tambellini: "No risk for us. One year contract. he's only 25. I think he can be a top 4 guy."
 
-- Josh Harding Extra: 

It’ll be interesting to watch Harding in training camp to see his comfort level dropping on his right knee again.
 
But he said, “I think it’s going to be fine. I’ve skated here for awhile now. I’ve had no setback. I don’t think it’ll change me as a goalie. I don’t know I really had a style before anyway. I kind of just try to put myself in front of the puck.
“I guess we’ll see. As for now, I’m pretty sure it won’t hinder me.”

He said, "It’s going to be exciting. Just to get back to the team I started with. Me and Backy (Niklas Backstrom) have had a lot of years together now. We know each other well. I know what he wants of me. I know his routine and when to stay out of his way in a couple situations (laughs). I’m just proud to be a Wild and honored to be with Nik again."

He said Kyle Brodziak will continue to run the music in the locker room even though that was Harding's old job. "I like Brodzy's music. One less thing for me to worry about in my book."

--Jose Theodore extra:
 
Theodore was great talking about Harding as you can see in the main story, but he loved his one year in Minnesota. After not signing until Oct. 1 a year ago despite a successful regular season in Washington, Theodore wasn't messing around this time.
 
He knows how easy it is to get shut out of the NHL as a goalie. Only 60 jobs, and a few openings. So when six calls came from teams early Friday, he pounced. In January, before his shutout against Pittsburgh, Theodore called me over for a long conversation about Florida. He asked me about the neighborhoods in Boca Raton -- my hometown -- and every single detail about the organization.
 
You could see the wheels were churning in his head. He wanted to still be a No. 1 and he knew Tomas Vokoun may very well be gone. So that's why I had been predicting for some time Theodore to Florida. It was "tops on my list, so when they called, it happened quick. It was an easy decision.
 
"I think it'll be pretty easy to adjust to going to practice in shorts in December. Enjoy your fur coats and parkas," he said with a laugh.
 
-- Andrew Brunette extra:
 
Don't really have too much more to say from what I wrote in the article other than I'll miss the old-timer. I've covered some great people here, from Brian Rolston to Kurtis Foster to so many others, and Brunette's right up there.
 
Just a very good dude, and a great player.
 
The Wild didn't try to bring him back. The team's direction was obvious, so I didn't think they would. They're clearly going younger, and after three years of not making the playoffs, they probably figured it needed to start fresh without Brunette.
 
But deep down, you could tell Brunette was hurt they didn't attempt an overture.
 
He talked about that but then said, "You know what though, it would have been a tough decision if anything was brought in by them to make it close. In a way, it's probably the best thing hopefully that I didn’t have to make a gut-wrenching decision."
 
Like I said, I've got great respect for Brunette and can't wait to watch him play with the so-many stars in Chicago.
 
 
--Lastly, this got overshadowed today, but the Wild did sign former University of Vermont defenseman Kyle Medvec, 23, the 6-6 former Apple Valley player. He'll start his pro career in Houston, and we'll be part of the new wave of blue-liners down there (Chay Genoway, Tyler Cuma coming back from surgery, Jeff Penner, etc) with so many like Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser, maybe Justin Falk, getting looks up here. He recorded six points and 28 penalty minutes in 29 games during his senior season at Vermont. He had 38 points (10-28=38) in 139 games in four seasons with the Catamounts. Medvec served as an assistant captain this season and was named to the 2008-09 Hockey East All-Academic Team. He helped lead the Catamounts to the 2009 Frozen Four. Born in Westminster, Colo., and raised in Burnsville, Minn., he played at Apple Valley High School and was a finalist for the 2006 Mr. Hockey Award. He was originally selected by the Wild in the fourth round (No. 102 overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
 
OK, that's it. Finally.
 
That was a very, very long blog. Imagine how long it would be if they signed a player outside the organization!!!
 
Good night folks and if I don't talk to you this weekend, have an awesome 4th!

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