Tag: firing rumors

Todd Richards

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


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.

Are people asking for the wrong Sutter brother to be fired in Calgary?


The way things are going for the Flames, it’s tougher to find a reason for optimism in Calgary than it is to find a beaming smile on a Sutter brother’s face.

Yet when it comes to the typical need to find a scapegoat, it seems like media members are focusing on the wrong unsmiling countenance. While rumors fly that Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter might be shown the door, the truth is that his brother (general manager Darryl Sutter) is the architect of the shambling wreck that is this franchise’s roster.

Looking at the Flames roster, it’s tough to be chipper about any outlook – long or short term. In the present, the team is stocked with high-priced players who are getting long in the tooth (from aging captain Jarome Iginla to floating mass Olli Jokinen). The short and long-term future isn’t much better, as they’re low on prospects and only own one draft choice in the top 100 spots this year.

When you spend the kind of money Calgary does on a roster that sits at the bottom of the Western Conference, it’s reasonable to wonder what kind of job the coach is doing. Yet, when it comes down to it, George Johnson of the Calgary Herald is right in resting most of the blame on Darryl instead of Brent Sutter.

Should they be better? Given the geriatric makeup, yes. Somewhat. Is that partly Brent Sutter’s fault? Of course. He’ll admit as much.

Yet it’s utterly astonishing how many times this requires repeating: The downfall is in construction, not coaching.

They’re old, expensive, set in their ways. One pick in the Top 100 this draft year. Outside of Mikael Backlund, their top “young” players are 27 (Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester), 29 (Rene Bourque) and soon-to-be 29 (David Moss). Yessiree, now THERE’s a boy band that’ll top the charts!

Geez, people, roll out of bed and sniff the dark roast already.

Yet the ground is littered with casualties (the unfortunate Jim Playfair, the not-so-unfortunate Mike Keenan, assorted assistants — it’s always, apparently, a coaching deficiency) and Darryl Sutter still stands defiant, apparently as bulletproof as Eliot Ness’ flak jacket. Why? How?

There is plenty of value in ownership showing some loyalty and patience. After all, there’s enough randomness in sports that an “off” season can happen. Yet it seems like the Flames organization is stubborn in its support of Darryl alone.

It doesn’t take long to notice that the team is not structured to succeed much past the next few seasons. And considering their current results, the present isn’t much prettier than the future.

So, the question is: do you think that Brent, Darryl or both Sutter brothers should go? Personally, I think that the awkward familial connection means that they’re a package deal. Brent’s in a tough spot, but it would be strange to seem him work with a different GM. So perhaps it’s all or nothing, then?

Personally speaking, I would clean house and probably see what kind of value the team could get for Iginla and some of the other team’s older assets. At some point, someone with clear eyes will need to come forward and assess the clear reality of the situation: this is a team that should be in rebuild mode.

Darryl Sutter doesn’t seem like he’s that man.