'Bad fit' ruled out of fashion

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2011 - 11:19 PM

GM Chuck Fletcher said Todd Richards did not bring out the best in the players. Finding a worthy replacement is but one of the jobs that await him.

When Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher's eyes welled Monday, it was proof positive how excruciating a decision this was for him to make.

Fletcher and Todd Richards are friends. Some of their best professional memories are shared.

Monday's was the worst.

After only two seasons, Fletcher fired Richards, saying the first-time NHL head coach he hired in the first place turned out to not be the "right fit" for the team he's trying to build.

"I really do believe in sports that not every coach is the right fit for every team," Fletcher said a day after the Wild missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season and two hours after calling Richards into his office to deliver the news of his dismissal. "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."

Fletcher wouldn't get into why he felt Richards, who was supposed to bring an up-tempo, entertaining style to the Wild after eight seasons of Jacques Lemaire, was not the right fit.

Under Richards, the Wild had 13th- and 12th-place finishes and went 77-71-16. He was marred by inconsistency for two seasons and for a second consecutive March, the Wild crumbled to pieces during crunch time.

Tickets have to be sold, and the fan base is frustrated. And there's no transparent, quick fixes in terms of the roster, thanks to expensive contracts, little salary-cap flexibility and a lack of high-end talent.

That created pressure to react, and Richards turned into the fall guy. Assistant coach Dave Barr and video coach PJ DeLuca also were fired. The rest of the coaching staff is in limbo.

"We're in a results-oriented business," Fletcher said.

Experienced coach likely

Fletcher spent the week seeking guidance from some of his closest mentors, everyone from Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero to the Wild's already-frustrated owner, Craig Leipold.

"It's ultimately up to me to deliver a winning hockey team," said Fletcher, who has two years left on his contract.

Fletcher said it will be a couple of weeks before he "dives into" a coaching search.

Two years ago, he went young and inexperienced. Fletcher came from Pittsburgh, where he watched first-year coach Dan Bylsma win a 2009 Stanley Cup. He watched Mike Babcock take Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003 and ultimately win a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.

Fletcher was in Florida when Panthers assistant coach Lindy Ruff was hired by Buffalo in 1997 as a first-time head coach. Ruff is still there, the longest-tenured coach in the NHL.

So Fletcher got swept up by the notion of making the next great non-retread hire.

By doing that, though, he passed over men with vast experience such as Dave Tippett, last season's Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) winner with Phoenix, and Peter Laviolette, who coached Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Both men's teams are in the playoffs yet again.

"Things are always clearer much later than at the time you were making the decisions," Fletcher said. "This business will consume you if you live that way. I think you have to learn from things you do well and learn from the things you don't do well, and you have to learn from the good decisions and the bad ones."

Possibilities

Rookie Houston Aeros coach Mike Yeo has done a masterful job with the Wild's minor-league affiliate. But after going the rookie route the first time, Fletcher may naturally go with a veteran this time, somebody who might command more respect and bring more accountability.

Ken Hitchcock, 13th on the all-time NHL list with 533 wins and prepping to coach Canada in the World Championships, has tons of experience. Hitchcock also led Dallas to a Stanley Cup in 1999, with he and Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson, who has one year left on his contract, being quite the tag team with Dallas.

Former Los Angeles, St. Louis and Shattuck-St. Mary's coach Andy Murray is available, as is former Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish, former Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau and former Florida coach Pete DeBoer.

Fiery former Montreal and Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien, a disciple of Lemaire, has been scouting for the Wild all season.

Asking for more

A number of contenders reached Monday by the Star Tribune voiced their interest but didn't want to speak publicly. Ottawa, Florida and New Jersey also have coaching vacancies.

"You're looking for accountability, you're looking for structure, and you're looking for somebody to motivate and push the group forward," Fletcher said. "But I don't think we're going to limit ourselves to experienced or inexperienced."

A coaching change, though, is but one part of the equation. Fletcher will be seeking more talent, including through the draft, through college free agents (such as North Dakota's Chay Genoway) and through acquiring forwards with a "shoot-first mentality," either via trade or free agency.

He also will be looking for internal improvement. He's looking for a big year next year from Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He feels veteran Matt Cullen, who didn't score in the last 24 games, can contribute more. He feels Cal Clutterbuck, who scored 19 goals, has an "even bigger ceiling."

And you can bet he plans to lay down the gauntlet for Guillaume Latendresse, who arrived at last fall's training camp out of shape and abruptly got hurt.

"There's a lot of dialogue that needs to take place with our players right now," Fletcher said. "It's up to me to put some demands on them and create some expectations for coming into next season. 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.

"We have to raise the bar here, we have to raise the level of expectations."

Staff Writer Kent Youngblood contributed to this report.

  • related content

  • Richards' script ends with crash scene

    Tuesday April 12, 2011

     Fired as Wild coach following a late-season fade that cost the team a playoff spot, the Crystal native said he simply "needed to do a better job."

  • About Todd Richards

    Monday April 11, 2011

    Age: 44Hometown: Crystal (Armstrong High School)Personal: Wife Maryann; sons Zachary, 15, and Justin, 13.Wild record: 77-71-16 (two seasons).Other coaching experience:...

  • Players take share of blame for firing

    Tuesday April 12, 2011

    The coach took the fall, but Wild players heading off for the summer were willing to share the blame for Todd Richards' dismissal Monday.

  • Russo's coaching candidates: hot shots and long shots

    Monday April 11, 2011

    It's early on in the Wild's coaching search, but staff writer Michael Russo takes a look at some potential candidates to become the third coach in franchise history:

  • Todd Richards

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close