Owner Craig Leipold said Thursday that he had decided a month before season's end to get rid of Doug Risebrough as the Wild's president and general manager. Any second thoughts on the subject must have been taken care of during Monday's news conference, which formally announced the departure of coach Jacques Lemaire.

Lemaire's revelation that he was gone came minutes after the Wild concluded a non-playoff season on Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio.

This gave Risebrough 36 hours before Monday's media session to reflect on the season. This is what he came up with:

"One of the things I regret as a manager not doing is managing the expectation a little bit."

So, there you had it, Mr. Leipold and ticket-buying loyalists: It wasn't falling from a division-winning 98 points in 2007-08 to 89 in 2008-09, with more losses (42) than victories (40), that had Risebrough feeling guilty earlier this week.

The shortcoming, apparently, was he had not informed the customers they should show up at the St. Paul hockey palace expecting less from the defending Northwest Division champions.

Risebrough was hired as a Wild vice president and general manager in September 1999, a year before the first training camp would open. He had the advantage of teaching hockey to principal owner Bob Naegele Jr., an eccentric Florida taxpayer.

Naegele was quick to believe in Risebrough's genius, to the point that the owner added team president to the general manager title in July 2003. The public seemed to share Naegele's opinion, since his third-year hockey club was coming off a shocking run to the Western Conference finals.

There were behind-the-scenes shocks in the months that followed, when a reporter started hearing from Wild employees in the business (rather than hockey) operation that Risebrough was as easy to work for as Leona Helmsley.

As a public figure, there was no evidence of Risebrough's red neck as a boss -- or the extreme sensitivity to criticism he would later reveal.

An over-the-top example of Risebrough's thin skin came at the trading deadline in February 2008. The Wild had the look of a team capable of making a playoff run, if the GM were to succeed in bringing in one more standout forward.

The names being bandied about included Peter Forsberg, Marian Hossa, Olli Jokinen, Michael Peca and Bobby Holik. Risebrough's acquisition turned out to be Chris Simon, for the ransom of a sixth-round draft choice.

The Wild would be his eighth team, equaling Simon's number of suspensions. Any hockey man bringing in a thug such as Simon had to know he was going to take heat.

We had a phone conversation on the afternoon of the signing. Risebrough became agitated when I asked about Simon's past and then followed up with a couple more questions on the subject.

"You're the one who has brought it up more than anyone," Risebrough said. "... You asked questions about the past, I answered them, and you asked a number of times."

When you sign a guy who tried to stomp on another player's right foot with his skate, there are going to be questions, but our guy Risebrough didn't see it that way.

A couple of weeks later, I stepped into the press elevator at Xcel Energy Center and Risebrough was standing there.

"Hello, Doug," I said.

Not even a nod. The hockey boss still was in full pout over the Simon conversation.

What Risebrough should have been was embarrassed, since Simon proved to be a player Lemaire didn't want on the ice -- or in the locker room, for that matter.

A couple of days after season's end, Risebrough offered his postmortem. Was he now willing to admit that bringing in Simon was a gaffe?

Of course not.

He came up with this as his 2008 shortcoming: "I had too many guys playing in their unrestricted years this year."

For decades, we've been told about athletes playing extremely well because "it's a contract year," and now that was a failure for Risebrough to advertise to avoid mentioning Simon.

Chintzy as was that explanation for the first-round playoff flop, it was far outdone by the shortcoming embraced Monday: failing to keep expectations low enough.

That had to reaffirm for Leipold he was making the right decision on Risebrough's job status.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP • preusse@startribune.com