VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Since taking over the Wild last offseason, General Manager Paul Fenton has been administering a patient examination of the roster that has sparked minimal change.
And a recent downturn by the team isn’t about to change his approach.
“I’m going to do it on my timetable,” Fenton said Tuesday before the Wild began a three-game, Western Canada road trip in Vancouver amid a season-high, three-game losing streak. “I’m not going to let a couple of losses probably turn things in a different direction. For me, I continue to evaluate our team, look at it and see if there’s something that’s going to fit for us. That’s the path I’m going to take.”
After a dominant stretch from mid-October to the end of November when the Wild won 13 times and dropped only five games, Fenton wasn’t shocked by the ensuing struggles — acknowledging the roller coaster vibe of the season.
He felt the team deserved a better fate Saturday, when the Wild outplayed the Toronto Maple Leafs despite falling 5-3. And the first-year GM mentioned he’s not disappointed by the production from forwards Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, two of the players who entered the season under the microscope amid a change in leadership since they finished last season in scoring slumps.
Through 26 games, Coyle has four goals and 12 points and Niederreiter has chipped in three goals and 13 points.
“With a little bit more luck, they have a lot more points and a lot more goals,” Fenton said. “They’re adding to our lineup. They’re adding to the balance of our lineup. They’re giving us a chance to win every night so for me, that’s the biggest thing. If they contribute that way, they’ll eventually get rewarded for it.”
Seattle makes 32
Planning for an expansion draft will be on every general manager’s long-term agenda, as Seattle will become the NHL’s 32nd franchise after the Board of Governors unanimously approved the addition Tuesday.
The team will begin playing in the 2021-22 season.
“It’s great for hockey,” Fenton said.
Seattle will adhere to the same expansion-draft rules that Vegas used last year; during that process, Fenton’s former employer — the Nashville Predators — were among the minority that protected more than three defensemen.
“You just gotta make the decision, and hopefully you don’t lose as much as you think you’re going to,” he said.
The new team will play out of the Pacific Division, with the Arizona Coyotes set to shift to the Central Division. Each conference will boast 16 clubs.
“Seattle’s been an overlooked market for 50 years,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “For the people of Vancouver, what a great rivalry it’s going to be.”
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon played his junior career in Washington, skating for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, and he remembers games in Seattle against the Thunderbirds receiving strong local support — which is the reception the Chiefs also had in Eastern Washington.
“We had a great fan base,” Spurgeon said. “Fortunately for us, we had a good team. … I loved my time there.”
Old boss gets job
Less than eight months after being dismissed from the Wild, Chuck Fletcher is back at the helm of an NHL team — getting hired Monday to take over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Fletcher replaces Ron Hextall, who was fired from the GM post last week.
“Really happy for him,” Boudreau said. “[He’s] a great man, and I think he’ll do really well in Philly.”
Wild prospect Kaapo Kahkonen was named the American Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Month for November after going 5-0-3 with a .960 save percentage, 1.21 goals-against average and three consecutive shutouts.
Kahkonen surrendered only 10 goals on 248 shots, and he went an Iowa franchise-record 222 minutes, 22 seconds without giving up a goal.
The 2014 fourth-round pick is 6-1-3 overall and leads the AHL in save percentage (.950) and goals-against average (1.45). His three shutouts are tied for the most in the league.