Reflecting on a year in which pundits saw mostly regression and a lack of team cohesion, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher took to the podium on Thursday to reflect on what he called a “disappointing” campaign.
Among the key takeaways:
“There’s no chemistry issue on our team.“
Not surprising Fletcher had to go here.
In mid-February, the club was forced to fire head coach Mike Yeo amid rumblings the players had tuned him out — which, not coincidentally, came amid a horrific losing streak.
There were also major, season-long issues with veteran players like Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, both of whom woefully underachieved.
Vanek, in particular, was a healthy scratch under Yeo and interim bench boss John Torchetti. The 32-year-old’s effort level repeatedly came into question, and now buyout rumors loom.
Elsewhere, team leaders Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were embroiled in controversy when, following his dismissal, Yeo took issue with the two working with skills coach Adam Oates during the season.
The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo noted that Oates showed up at a Wild morning skate in January, so he asked Yeo about it:
When you say things never felt right, did this start with the Adam Oates stuff? “Yeah. I thought we dealt with it. We talked with Zach, and we had no issues with it after that. And talked with some players, and … Whether it’s something like that, whether it’s the trade rumors, whatever it is, when there’s things that might cause a little unrest, they kind of sit there and they hang out. When things are going well, they’re forgotten and pushed to the side. But when things don’t go well, quite often they come back.”
Did it bother you that Oates came to the Buffalo morning skate? That was at the start of the tailspin? “I’m not going to even comment on it. But I would say, that I would not do the same thing.”
Yeo went on to add he felt there was a divide in the Wild locker room.
“It just felt like there were almost two groups,” he explained. “There were younger guys and there were the older guys. It wasn’t just a group.”
“He’s definitely a very serious candidate for the head coach position.”
That was Fletcher on Torchetti, who’s currently holding the interim tag. The Wild GM praised Torchetti for being “able to push and pull this team into a playoff position,” but stopped short of promoting him to full-fledged head coach.
Well, the Wild weren’t that good under Torchetti.
They went 15-11-1 during the regular season and bowed out to Dallas in six playoff games. Granted, they showed some fight and spirit at times, and a few players definitely played better under Torch than Yeo (Erik Haula was exhibit 1a).
But there were also some alarming moments of apathy and poor play, like a late-season drubbing in Winnipeg which led goalie Devan Dubnyk to remark, “we’re going to get throttled if we’re going to play like this.”
This is probably why Fletcher fielded so many questions about his team’s character and chemistry on Thursday.
He’s done almost everything within his power as a GM with this group — big trades, coaching changes, free agent splashes — yet with the club is still potentially headed in the wrong direction.
That’s why it was time to start questioning the group.
Related: Wild owner says Fletcher’s not on the hot seat