Tag: Doug Risebrough

Chuck Fletcher, Mike Yeo

Minnesota’s offseason transformation necessary for Wild culture change


When the Minnesota Wild take the ice for their first game of the season on October 8 at home against Columbus, it’s going to be a night that will demand the fans buy a program to know just who they’re watching on the ice. Thanks to three separate deals with the Sharks as well as some free agency mixing, matching, and cutting the Wild are going to have a distinctly different look next season.

Gone is coach Todd Richards (fired) and players like Cam Barker (buyout), Jose Theodore (signed in Florida), and Antti Miettinen (KHL) while James Sheppard, Brent Burns, and Martin Havlat were all traded to San Jose. When you file away all those players and bring in the likes of Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Darroll Powe, and Mike Lundin you’ve got the makings of what will be a virtually brand new team in St. Paul… And the Wild needed that change desperately.

Gone are the “tweener” players like Miettinen and Sheppard. They were guys who you weren’t sure if they were defensive forwards trapped in a skilled players body or vice versa. The same applies for Barker as a defenseman. Barker was brought in in what may turn out to be one of GM Chuck Fletcher’s more infamous trades which saw him send former first round pick Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson to Chicago for the once promising Barker.

At the time the deal was done, it seemed it would be a winner for the Wild as Barker showed tremendous upside in Chicago, but his Wild career was a series of mistakes and poor plays that saw him turn into a guy that former coach Todd Richards couldn’t trust on the ice. Barker’s time in Minnesota went so poor the team bought him out.

Sheppard’s departure was like the gift to those who were excited to see former GM Doug Risebrough get the boot two years ago. Sheppard represented one of many failed draft picks under Risebrough’s leadership and for the guys at Hockey Wilderness, Sheppard’s departure is a major relief as Bryan Reynolds expresses quite clearly.

As for the Wild, the poster boy of the old regime is gone. The days of poor drafting and piss poor development look to be behind the franchise, and Sheppard’s departure is the perfect symbolic end to that era. There were bigger busts in the draft, to be sure, but none were as long and as painful to watch unfold as James Sheppard. The fault for that is shared, the end result now squarely on his shoulders.

All-in-all, a great trade for the Wild, one I never would have predicted in a million years. Chuck Fletcher deserves a nomination for fleecing of the year, if only because he got something, anything, in exchange for one of the biggest flops in team history.What it means for the Sharks is up to their team and their fans to debate. I don’t get it, but I’m not an NHL GM for a reason.

With those guys out and the new blood in, roles are more clearly defined on the team. Heatley and Setoguchi are there to generate offense and score tons of goals for the Wild. They’re there the sort of players they haven’t had since Marian Gaborik left town as a free agent.

Powe is there to be a checking line force with Cal Clutterbuck and hit everyone in sight. Powe’s eventual work on the penalty kill will have him earning praise all over Minnesota. Lundin is getting a shot to get more minutes on the blue line and show how well he can fit in as a two-way blue liner. The high hopes that Barker failed to bring will be balanced out by Lundin’s steadier presence.

Making the team roles more defined was a necessary move in Minnesota. When you look at the Wild roster the last couple of years, you see what they’ve had and wonder how they were able to throw it all together to win any games. Throwing essentially four lines of the same sorts of players at opponents works fine when your system is clearly defined (see: Jacques Lemaire) but under Richards it just didn’t work right and the team faltered.

If new coach Mike Yeo can get the team focused and turn them into a better attacking squad with a tough team defense, the Wild have the opportunity to do something they haven’t done since 2007-2008: Make the playoffs.

Family, friends and many from hockey world gather for Derek Boogaard’s funeral

Boogaard Funeral Hockey

Family, friends, teammates and many members of the hockey community attended Derek Boogaard’s funeral in Regina, Saskatchewan on Saturday. Judging by the reactions from just about anyone who interacted with “The Boogey Man,” it seems like he was a fearsome enforcer on the ice and a teddy bear off it.

Boogaard was found dead in his Minnesota apartment on May 13 from an accidentally toxic mixture of alcohol and the pain killer oxycodone. He was only 28 years old.

The Canadian Press reports that hundreds gathered for the funeral on Saturday, including many people associated with the sport. Included in that group were people associated with his most recent team, the New York Rangers (such as Sean Avery and GM Glen Sather) and the team he spent most of his NHL career with, the Minnesota Wild (defenseman Brent Burns and former GM Doug Risebrough were among the people associated with the team who made it to his funeral). Jordan Eberle and Brendan Shanahan also attended the funeral, among others.

Here’s what Risebrough said about Boogaard.

“Derek had a way of attracting people. He had a way of comforting people. A big man with a soft heart,” said Risebrough. “On the ice, players were trying to get away from him. Off the ice, the people were trying to be around him.”

Boogaard’s funeral allowed many an opportunity to find closure regarding the enforcer’s untimely death, while Wild fans provided their own informal memorial last weekend. Boogaard’s longtime friend Jeremy Clark probably said it best when he described the impact Boogaard made on those around him.

“For some of you, he was the protector. For others, he was the big goof with that infectious grin ready to victimize you with a prank or a trick word,” said Clark.

“Some saw the quiet giant, the thoughtful friend. Others saw the gracious guy that was ready to pick up the tab for complete strangers at a restaurant. I think for all of those we can agree — he was a giant with a giant heart who leaves behind a giant hole.”

Minnesota Wild coach Todd Richards shouldn’t take the blame for another disappointing season

Todd Richards

It might seem a bit absurd to call a team that nearly hits the salary cap ceiling “scrappy,” but that could be the best way to describe the 2010-11 Minnesota Wild. The description may have been apt when they were fighting hard without heart-and-soul player Mikko Koivu, at least.

Yet whatever moral victories you would like to attach to the Wild, the bottom line is that they fell apart down the home stretch of the regular season. For that reason, many – including Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal – wonder if head coach Todd Richards will be the fall guy in Minnesota.

After all, there’s that cliche that you can’t fire a team, so you fire the coach, right?

Simply put, though, if the Wild want to look for a source of blame, they should set their gaze higher up the food chain. There are two ways to look at a roster whose output doesn’t match their cost: either the coach isn’t getting the most out of those players or the general manager did a shabby job putting a team together.

After looking at the Wild’s ugly, expensive roster, I doubt I’m the only one who would lean toward the second option. The biggest problem, though, is that GM Chuck Fletcher isn’t responsible for all the blunders; he gained the title on May 2009 after original GM Doug Risebrough saddled the team with pricey, low-value deals.

In many ways, the Wild are a slightly less dire and depressing version of the Florida Panthers. Both teams play a bland style of hockey and frequently find themselves in hockey purgatory, not being good enough to make an impact in the playoffs but also being just successful enough not to get a valuable high-end draft pick or two. In the long run, both teams find themselves without many blue chip prospects, so the future looks to be full of more shoulder shrugs.

Ultimately, the easiest way to throw some meat to the wolves (aka the many miffed Minnesota fans) would be to fire Richards. The team doesn’t have a ton of money for free agents this summer, especially with Koivu’s far more expensive contract extension kicking in. It’s too early to really blame Fletcher, too.

The problem is that Richards had this team fighting hard before they inevitably fell apart due to the fact that, frankly, they aren’t very good. I could see firing him if he played a dual role of coach and GM, but he isn’t the person ultimately responsible for assembling this tepid collection of half-talent.

Then again, perhaps the only hope the Wild have of persevering beyond their middling existence is to hire some “miracle worker” behind the bench. It might be their only course of action, even if it’s likely that such a move would be an example of change happening for the sake of change.

Marian Gaborik’s return to Minnesota bound to be boo-filled


This hockey homecoming might not quite land on your radar, but expect Marian Gaborik’s return to Minnesota to be an interesting one. Gaborik spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Minnesota Wild. In that time, when he was healthy, he was the one dynamic offensive presence the Wild could count upon when he was in the lineup. During his time with Minnesota, five times he scored 30 or more goals and provided the Wild with the sort of gamebreaking player that was hard to find during Jacques Lemaire’s defense-first tenure with the Wild.

The flip side of that dynamic coin during his time in Minnesota is that Gaborik was often injured. In only four seasons, Gaborik was able to play 70 or more games in the regular season with the Wild. In those other four, twice he played 65 games, and then had two seasons where he played 48 and 17 games.  When Gaborik was out of the lineup, the team’s offensive success often went with him. Enter the anger of the Minnesota fan. Bryan Reynolds of Hockey Wilderness tells us how he’d greet Gaborik’s return to town.

Sure Gaborik will be looking to remind people that he can score, and perhaps give those in Minnesota who doubted him a good “Shove it” kind of evening. Who would ever question his legacy here. Oh, yeah. Me. The great Gaby can jump in a lake as far as I’m concerned, but I know many Wild fans enjoyed his time here, and miss him dearly. Pff. Whatever.

I say boo him relentlessly, but that’s just me.

As for Gaborik, he’s pretty amped up to come back to town and he knows the fans emotions will be running high.

“I can’t control how they are going to act,” Gaborik said of the Wild fans. “Hopefully it’s going to be pleasant. I think I’ve done a lot of good things there and had good success as an expansion team, so hopefully it’s going to be positive.”

Gaborik’s departure from Minnesota is a funny thing. He wasn’t run out of town, he left as an unrestricted free agent. It was clear that the new Wild management wasn’t eager to keep having the team’s fate lie in Gaborik’s health and opted to go in a different direction. Former GM Doug Risebrough had opportunities to make a deal for Gaborik when it appeared clear the organization had reached their breaking point in relying on him as well as having Gaborik turn down contract extension offers from the team.

It stinks to have a guy who was successful leave town, especially under such angst-filled circumstances. Gaborik will get booed and it’s awkwardly unfair to him that he is. He dazzled the Wild fans when they didn’t have a lot else to get excited about. At the same time, being off the ice more than on it his last few seasons and having the team be unsuccessful can leave you feeling empty. Seeing Gaborik head out of town for big money and the big city of New York can leave you feeling empty. As for Gaborik, Wild fans who are booing him might just be upset that he wasn’t around last year to score 42 goals for them last season.