Ken Hitchcock on Wild candidate list

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2011 - 12:00 AM

The team received permission from Columbus to interview the veteran coach. Michel Therrien and Craig MacTavish already have talked to GM Chuck Fletcher.

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Ken Hitchcock watches behind the bench for the Dallas Stars in 1999.

Photo: Lm Otero, Associated Press

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General Manager Chuck Fletcher's methodical search for the third coach in Wild history doesn't appear close to a conclusion, but the list of legitimate candidates is beginning to take shape.

Coming off his stint as coach of Team Canada at the world championships, Ken Hitchcock has joined two other veteran coaches as a candidate. The Wild, according to sources, has received permission from the Columbus Blue Jackets to interview Hitchcock, a veteran of 15 seasons as an NHL head coach.

Sources say Fletcher also has interviewed former Montreal and Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien, who joins former Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish, who was interviewed in late April.

Fletcher declined to comment on the search.

Hitchcock, 59, ranks 13th all time with 533 regular-season victories and coached Dallas to the Stanley Cup in 1999. Though he was fired by Columbus after 59 games in 2009-10, he has one more year left on his contract with the Blue Jackets at $1.3 million. Therrien, 47, coached the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals and scouted for the Wild last season. MacTavish, 52, coached the Oilers to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals and works as a television analyst for Canada's TSN.

All three are proven coaches who could bring structure and accountability.

"Hitch is definitely one of the smartest coaches I've ever played for," former NHL star Jeremy Roenick, who played for Hitchcock in Philadelphia, told the Star Tribune last month. "He has a great knack to understand players, he has a great system."

Hitchcock is known as a big believer in playing fast defensively so his teams can get out of the defensive zone quickly and get on the attack. Hitchcock's longtime assistant in Dallas is Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson, whose future is in flux because of the Wild's coaching vacancy.

Therrien is considered a no-nonsense coach and Jacques Lemaire disciple. They're friends who share similar philosophies, and Therrien played for Lemaire in 1982-83 when he was a 19-year-old defenseman for Longueuil of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"His teams always have good structure, and he loves discipline," Lemaire said Thursday. "He demands a lot from his players, there's no doubt about that. He knows what it takes to win games."

According to sources, Fletcher also has talked to Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller, who played 19 seasons and won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1993. However, Muller has not yet been interviewed.

Fletcher also is expected to interview Houston Aeros coach Mike Yeo, who has the Wild's American Hockey League affiliate one victory from a Calder Cup finals berth against Binghamton.

Fletcher has been in the Toronto area talking to candidates the past few days.

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