Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher goes into his first off-season with high expectations as he looks to change the culture in Minnesota.
A priority for Fletcher will be reaching out to star winger Marian Gaborik but his top priority will be finding the right coach.
Under Fletcher, the days of playing a tight conservative defensive game will be long gone.
It’s widely believed that Fletcher will implement a fast, up-tempo, aggressive system, similar to the style the Penguins have moved to under head coach Dan Bylsma.
At the top of Chuck Fletcher’s radar is San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards according to industry sources.
Potential Coaches on the Wild’s Radar
1. Todd Richards – San Jose Shark Assistant Coach
Richards is highly regarded around NHL circles and was the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach for two seasons (2006-2007, 2007-2008).
Richards guided Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a 51-24-2-4 record and a second-place finish in the AHL’s East Division during his first year as head coach with Wilkes-Barre.
Fletcher worked very closely with Richards for two seasons and if things didn’t work out with current Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, Richards was believed to be at top of Ray Shero’s wish list.
Richards has also drawn interest from the Edmonton Oilers for their vacant head coach position.
2. Pierre McGuire – TSN, NBC Hockey Analyst
McGuire, the current lead analyst with TSN was the runner up to Chuck Fletcher in the Wild’s GM search.
McGuire is looking to get back into the game, either in a front office role or behind the bench.
McGuire is highly regarded by Wild owner Craig Leopold and league sources indicate McGuire will be a candidate for the Wild’s head coaching position due to his relationship with Craig Leopold.
McGuire won two Stanley Cups as a scout and assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. McGuire was named head coach of the Hartford Whalers in 1993,, leading the Whalers to a 23-37-7 record in 1993–94 before being replaced by Paul Holmgren the following season.
Due to his close relationship with current Pittsburgh Penguins General manager Ray Shero, McGuire was offered an opportunity to join the Penguins coaching staff and work under Michel Therrien in the summer of 2006.
McGuire was also mentioned as a candidate to replace Michel Therrien prior to the Penguins taking the interim tag off of Dan Bylsma.
3. Newell Brown – Anaheim Ducks Assistant Coach
Hired in 2005, Newell Brown just completed his fifth season as assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks.
Brown has over 19 years of coaching experience at the NCAA, American Hockey League (AHL) and NHL levels.
Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher served as assistant General Manager, and vice president of amateur scouting and player development for the Anaheim Ducks from 2002-2006.
Fletcher has close connections to the Anaheim Ducks organization and orchestrated the Ryan Whitney trade in February.
His close connections to Anaheim will lead to Newell Brown being on the Wild’s radar according to league sources.
Brown is highly regarded in the Ducks organization especially by Ducks Assistant GM David McNab who Chuck Fletcher has a close relationship with.
Brown is a longshot but is one of those dark horse names to keep an eye on the process.
*A few former NHL coaches being mentioned through the NHL ranks right now are former Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette, former Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau and long-time coach Pat Quinn who has already expressed an interest in the job.
All three coaches like to play an open offensive style which would be attracted to free agents. Quinn is a longshot due to his age as Fletcher is looking to bring in a young promising coach like Todd Richards.
Two coaches who will not be contenders for the Wild’s open head coaching position are former New York Rangers coach Tom Renney and Houston Aero’s (Wild AHL Affliate) head coach Kevin Constantine.
Constantine was a leading candidate to replace Jacques Lemaire and was hired for that reason by former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, for when the time came that Lemaire would step down.
With Risebrough out of the picture, Fletcher may be forced to cut ties with Constantine as the Wild look to move away from a trapping system.
As the process for a new head coach begins, the odds point towards Fletcher hiring Todd Richards for the second time in his career.
Richards is expected to interview for the job on Wednesday or Thursday. A number of candidates will be in the mix but it’s Richards job to lose as the interview process will begin this week.