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

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 9/22/14 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