Wild owner Leipold likes the nerve of GM Fletcher

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2014 - 11:17 PM

Chuck Fletcher’s bold dealings have struck the right chord with Wild fans and management.

hide

Wild owner Craig Leipold, left, talks with Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher in the first round of the National Hockey League draft Friday June, 24, 2011 in St. Paul. This year's draft is Friday.

Photo: Andy King, DML - ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Three years ago, Chuck Fletcher pulled Craig Leipold off Xcel Energy Center’s draft floor to tell the Wild owner: “It’s done. We’re going to trade Brent Burns.”

Leipold instantly got butterflies: “I’m thinking, ‘Oh geez, we’re in our arena. What reaction are we going to get by trading an incredibly popular player?’ ”

Fletcher, the Wild general manager, was nervous, too. His daughter, Kaitlin, 13 at the time, was the Wild’s draft runner. So before NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Burns was heading to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick, Fletcher shooed Kaitlin to the other end of the table in case, as assistant GM Brent Flahr said, “we had food thrown at us.”

“It was pretty evident quickly that our fans were happy,” Leipold said. “They weren’t happy losing Burnzie. They were very happy they had a GM that wasn’t scared to pull the trigger if he felt it would make the team better.”

It has been five years and a month since Leipold hired a brown-haired, 42-year-old Fletcher, a Harvard graduate who grew up inside the game as Hall of Fame manager Cliff Fletcher’s son.

He inherited a bare-boned franchise that had lost respected coach Jacques Lemaire and was about to lose goal scorer Marian Gaborik. The Wild had no prospects close to making the NHL leap and a roster full of 30-somethings and bad contracts.

Despite a franchise in need of rebuild, Fletcher never envisioned missing the playoffs his first three seasons. It has been a grind, but in the past two years the Wild made the playoffs and last season advanced to the conference semifinals.

With a stable of quality veterans and promising youngsters, we’re starting to see the fruits of Fletcher’s labor as he approaches his sixth draft at the Wild helm Friday and Saturday.

There have been hits and misses. And like that Burns trade, there have been a host of gutsy decisions that have made Leipold fall hard for his bold, brash general manager.

Leipold won’t reveal how long Fletcher, now 47, has left on a contract many believe was extended last season.

“The beauty of not telling you is we don’t have to answer questions, ‘Are you going to re-sign him?’ ” Leipold said, letting loose a playful laugh. “Nobody knows when he’s due. He’s locked and loaded.”

Gutsy hits and misses

Fletcher’s outward appearance is what Leipold calls “Ivy League conservative.” But in 2009, what Leipold kept hearing from Ray Shero, the former Pittsburgh Penguins GM who strongly recommended his right-hand man, is that Fletcher had a great sense of humor and was aggressive.

That first interview, it was clear to Leipold that Fletcher “thought outside the box and was incredibly prepared.” But Leipold didn’t see that personality come out until a second interview over dinner.

“You could see a different side of him, and I was sold,” Leipold said. “Now, I never saw this maverick guy that would do the big trades. But clearly he’s not afraid to pull the trigger, and I love that in him. He listens to input from his great staff, and when he’s ready to do it, he goes, ‘Let’s do it.’ He’s got guts.”

Examples?

• The Jason Pominville trade with Buffalo in 2013. In exchange for the Sabres captain and a fourth-round pick, Fletcher parted with prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett and first- and second-round picks.

“When it was decided it was going to be Pominville, the scouts were like, ‘No, please don’t give away our first-round pick. Please, please, please, please,’ ” Leipold said. “But at the end of the day, he makes the decision.”

  • related content

  • Wild opens Oct. 9 vs. Colorado; no outdoor game in 2014-15

    Saturday June 21, 2014

    The NHL's schedule is expected to be announced Sunday

  • NBA, NHL drafts at-a-glance

    Sunday June 22, 2014

    NBA DraftWhen: 6 p.m. ThursdayWhere: New YorkTop five picks: Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, UtahTop prospects: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas;...

  • Chuck Fletcher has remained bold, even with a few misses.

  • Scouts balked at giving Buffalo a No. 1 draft pick for Jason Pominville last year, but he wound up leading the Wild with 30 goals this past season.

  • NHL DRAFT AT A GLANCE

    When: 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday

    Where: Philadelphia

    Top five picks: Buffalo, Edmonton, Florida, Calgary, N.Y. Islanders

    Top prospects: Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL); Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL); Sam Bennett, LW, Kingston (OHL)

    Wild’s first round pick: 18th

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
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: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close