When the Wild play tonight in Vancouver, they’ll do so with their third coach of the Chuck Fletcher era.
To refresh your memory, Fletcher, Minnesota’s general manager since 2009, made Todd Richards his first hire. When he fired Richards after just two seasons, he tapped Mike Yeo. And when he fired Yeo on Saturday, he gave John Torchetti the job on an interim basis.
Yeo’s dismissal naturally leaves Fletcher even more exposed to criticism. After all, if the Wild don’t make the playoffs — and their chances of doing so have plummeted — it won’t be Torchetti that people blame.
“I take full ownership,” Fletcher said, per the Pioneer Press. “I’ve hired the coaches. I’ve brought the players in. Until January 9, we were achieving. We were a good hockey team and we have the ability to be a good hockey team again.”
The Wild were 22-11-8 on Jan. 9. They’re 1-11-2 since. Perhaps Torchetti can get them back on track.
Of course, squeaking into the playoffs won’t change the fact that Jason Pominville is 33 and signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $5.6 million, or that Pominville is one of five Wild players over the age of 30 with a cap hit of at least $5.6 million that’s signed through next season or beyond. (The others are Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, and Ryan Suter.)
Nor will it change the fact that the Wild do not have a particularly well-regarded group of prospects. According to Hockey’s Future, other than 19-year-olds Joel Eriksson-Ek and Alex Tuch, “there does not appear to be a lot of high-end potential.” Out of 30 teams, Hockey’s Future ranks Minnesota’s prospects 25th.
In other words, the reason the focus has turned to Fletcher is that the Wild were supposed to be in their sweet spot by now, contending for a Stanley Cup, not fighting to make the playoffs. Big money has been committed to this roster. Multiple draft picks have been traded away.
Five points behind Nashville for the final wild-card spot, the players know what’s at stake.
“It’s inevitable,” said Parise. “If it keeps going, there’s going to be more changes.”
After tonight’s game in Vancouver, the Wild play Wednesday in Calgary and Thursday in Edmonton, before returning home to host Chicago outdoors on Sunday.