Bill Guerin

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Advice for new Wild GM Bill Guerin

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In a lot of ways, it’s fitting that the Minnesota Wild announced Bill Guerin as their next GM during Ottawa Senators Day at PHT.

After all, Guerin is stepping into a GM gig that might be just as tough as what Pierre Dorion is dealing with in Ottawa, even if the challenges are different.

Despite missing the playoffs in 2018-19 and failing to win a series from 2015-16 through 2017-18, Craig Leipold continues to drink the Kool-Aid, rather than pulling off the Band-Aid. He wants the Wild to contend, so if any rebuilding happens, it needs to take place while the Wild also try to compete.

Mock former GM Paul Fenton all you want, but that isn’t exactly an easy juggling act.

The question, then, is will Guerin be able to juggle better than Fenton? (After all, he does have the hands of a former NHL sniper.)

Here’s some friendly advice for Guerin because, frankly, he’ll probably need all the help he can get.

1. Find out who wants out

As a former player, Guerin likely has a leg up on most GMs when it comes to being able to relate to other players. That might come in handy when it comes to a sensitive subject: waiving no-trade and no-movement clauses.

Theoretically, it would be awkward to have such a conversation with a veteran player who’s meant a lot to the franchise, whether that be Zach Parise and his seemingly eternal contract, or Mikko Koivu on a one-year deal. Yet, as we’ve seen from Parise doing some summer soul-searching with The Athletic’s Michael Russo (sub required), some of these players have already pondered moving on. It’s easier to have such chats when you’re accomodating a veteran player trying to win that elusive Stanley Cup than it is to ask if you can uproot their family via a trade, after all.

2. Identify your core, and don’t settle

Such clause talk brings up some tough decisions for Guerin when it comes to who is a core Wild player and who is expendable.

As stuck as the Wild seem right now, it’s remarkable how much of a clean slate Guerin can enjoy in the not-so-distant future … at least if he makes smart calls. Via Cap Friendly, the Wild have about $9.5M in cap space, although RFAs Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek still need deals. Even if the cap remained at $81.5M, the Wild’s 2020-21 cap space would rise to $22M, and then all the way up to about $44M heading into 2021-22.

With that in mind, Guerin needs to be cold and calculating. Should the Wild sign Jared Spurgeon, a soon-to-be 30-year-old defenseman who figures to be expensive following this upcoming contract year, or would it be smarter to trade a quality defenseman for what could be a big haul, and build for the future? The Wild have already seen how bad a long-term contract can look, and while Spurgeon could age gracefully, he could just as easily become another albatross.

Spurgeon isn’t the only tough call, but he’s among the toughest.

[From Wild Day at PHT: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

3. Invest in analytics

Firing Fenton after a bit more than a year wasn’t the greatest look for the Wild, but the silver lining was that it kept Fenton from flubbing a Jason Zucker trade in the same way he made the worst blunder of his time, the atrocious Nino Niederreiter trade.

According to Russo’s scathing, incredible rundown of Fenton’s reign in Minnesota, the Niederreiter trade was essentially made during a Florida retreat where the Wild’s top analytics staffers weren’t even invited.

The dream would be for Minnesota to be cutting edge, yet at a minimum, Guerin can avoiding shooting himself in the Fenton … er, foot.

4. Bring in your people

On the other hand, Russo’s reporting also enforced why it can be so important to surround yourself with people you trust.

As much criticism as Fenton drew in that piece regarding being paranoid about leaks … it also is worth mentioning that stunning details ended up leaking out of Minnesota about Fenton’s foibles. Is that ironic, or Alanis Morissette ironic? Considering all that surfaced, can you blame Guerin if he poaches some of the people he knew from Pittsburgh?

Guerin must aim for the right balance between hiring people you can trust, and fresh faces who innovate. I’d wager there’s a sweet spot between Lincoln’s “team of rivals” and Jon Gruden sending his scouting staff home during draft time out of paranoia.

5. Manage Leipold

Perhaps reality will slowly dawn upon Leipold that the Wild need to at least reboot things a bit. In the meantime, though, Guerin needs to hit the right buttons: keeping this team reasonably competitive, without totally mortgaging the future for marginal present-day gains.

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Chances are, there will be missed shots here and there for Guerin, but if he gets big picture decisions right where Fenton right wrong, the Wild might just become the top-shelf team Leipold demands.

Eventually.

MORE:
• Did the Wild learn from the Fenton era?
• Why the Wild are better off being terrible this season
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wild names Bill Guerin new general manager

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Bill Guerin is finally getting a chance to run an NHL team and he has a big challenge ahead of him.

The Minnesota Wild has announced the hiring of the 48-year-old Guerin as their new general manager. He will replace Paul Fenton, who was fired in July after only one season.

“Bill has been a winner throughout his hockey career and I am extremely pleased to be able to add his experience to our organization and The State of Hockey,” said Wild owner Craig Leipold.

Guerin has worked for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization since 2011 starting as a development coach before moving his way up to assistant GM under Jim Rutherford. He spent 18 seasons in the NHL and won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins and the New Jersey Devils.

Leipold and team president Matt Majka headed the search for Fenton’s replacement and were helped out by executive advisor and Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, who played with Guerin for three seasons with the Dallas Stars as well as the United States national team. Guerin had been a candidate for several GM jobs over the last few years, and even interviewed with the Wild last summer before they hired Fenton.

[MORE: Will Wild learn from the failed Fenton era?]

The Wild failed to qualify for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, this first time they’ve missed since 2012. With a roster loaded with older veterans eating up cap space and sprinkled in with some young talent, there will be plenty of work for Guerin to do to try and figure out a way to make the franchise a consistent winner again. There is no teardown coming as part of a full rebuild and it’s going to be a long wait before some of the contracts on their books expire. Guerin will have to get creative in order to infuse the roster with new blood and hope some of the organization’s youngsters take big steps forward.

Despite the turbulent off-season, the confident from up top in the organization is high.

“I believe we are a playoff team,” Leipold said after Fenton’s firing. “We have to get everybody believing that and moving in the same direction.”

MORE:
•  Advice for new Wild GM Bill Guerin
Do Wild have short-term path back to playoffs?

• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Calmer Crosby enjoying early season success

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Bill Guerin still shows up to the rink in a suit on game days; however, when the puck drops he’s high above the ice watching from a suite as the Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager.

The view gives him a new found appreciation for the game’s biggest star, Sidney Crosby.

Guerin was a teammate of Crosby’s for parts of two seasons (2009-10) capturing his second Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.

“Night-in, night-out you get spoiled watching him,  said Guerin. “One of the best things is watching him in practice, watching his work ethic, watching what he can do with the puck when it’s practice, when you’re working on things and you’re trying different things.

“That’s when you get a real appreciation for what he does.”

Originally the fifth overall pick at the 1989 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils, Guerin appeared in 1,263 games with the Devils, Oilers, Bruins, Stars, Blues, Sharks, Islanders and Penguins scoring 429 goals and 856 points.

Guerin first played with Crosby six years ago, with a then 21-year-old ‘Sid the Kid’.

According to Guerin, the biggest improvement he’s seen in the now 27-year-old Crosby has nothing to do with his on-ice skills.

“I think he controls his emotions a lot more,” said Guerin. “I think he’s really brought a calming affect to the room.”

Crosby admits he’s learned to pick his spots better and approaches the game with a calmer demeanour.

“Hopefully with more experience you learn that it’s a little bit better to stay even keel,” Crosby said following his second three-point performance of the season Saturday. “I don’t think you want to take the emotion out of the game. I feel that passion and energy is something that I need to play with.

“But I think just knowing when to maybe turn it down is important so hopefully that’s something that gets better as you get older.”

Added former linemante Pascal Dupuis, “He matured as a hockey player, matured as a person and it shows on the ice.”

With three goals and six points through the first two games of the season, Crosby is off to his best start since the 2011-12 season when he had seven points in the first three games of the season.

He appears further motivated by how the 2013-14 season ended – a loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Easter Conference semifinals.

In the offseason the Penguins cleared out the front office firing GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma.

“You come in with the mentality that you want to start quick, get some momentum, get some confidence,” said Crosby. “Had a long summer, had a lot of time to think about last year, we’re all pretty excited to get started. I think everybody’s excited to get started, but it’s nice to see it translate into a couple wins.”

He’s also learning to play with a new linemate in offseason acquisition, Patric Hornqvist.

“It’s really fun; he competes hard, goes to the net hard. He’s got a great shot,” said Crosby. “I think between the three of us we try to dig lose pucks out, go to the net and generate chances.”

The line, which includes Chris Kunitz, has combined for six goals and 12 points through the Penguins first two games of the season.

They’ll have plenty of time to grow as a line this week as Pittsburgh doesn’t play until Thursday when they host the Dallas Stars.

Guerin, Weight headline 2013 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class

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This year’s U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class is a doozy.

Headlining this year’s group to be honored are former NHL stars Bill Guerin and Doug Weight. Both are Stanley Cup winners (Guerin twice, Weight once) and each played in three Olympics for Team USA. Overall, Weight represented America at nine international events while Guerin did so at seven.

Both players were also college hockey stars as well with Guerin playing at Boston College and Weight for Lake Superior State.

This year’s other inductees are nothing to sneeze at either. Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr., legendary college hockey coach Ron Mason, and women’s hockey pioneer Cindy Curley round out the class.

Karmanos’ legacy as an owner isn’t one that’s well-remembered in Hartford after uprooting the Whalers, but after 50+ years of building hockey at all levels in the United States he’s more than earned the honor.

Mason finished his coaching career with 924 wins, a mark that was tops in college hockey until BC’s Jerry York surpassed that mark this past season. His legacy as a coach at Michigan State, Bowling Green, and Lake Superior State makes him a legend amongst coaches.

Curley’s work to establish women’s hockey in the United States cannot be stated enough. She was a member of the first IIHF Women’s World Championship team in 1990 and represented the U.S. in numerous tournaments to follow that. As a pioneer of the game for women in America, it’s about time she was recognized for her work.

Andreychuk to NBA players: Get a deal done

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We’re a few days late on this one, but the Orlando Sentinel published a story Wednesday in which former NHL player Dave Andreychuk advised NBA players to get a deal done and end the lockout before the season is officially canceled.

“In the end, it will be worse,” warned Andreychuk, now Tampa Bay’s Vice President of Fans. (Seriously, that’s his title. Guess it’s better than Senior Associate of Fans.)

Andreychuk isn’t the first former NHL player to implore NBA players to suck it up and take what the owners are offering. Bill Guerin said the same thing in October.

Looking back on the lost 2004-05 NHL season, Andreychuk remembers what it was like to be locked out.

“As the pressure built — after a month, two months, three months — it started to sink in,” he said. “Guys were saying to themselves, ‘I’m 25 years old and hockey is how I make my living. We need to get a deal done.’”

Andreychuk concludes, “At the end, we were so willing to sign, we had to agree to what the owners wanted. We gave back a tremendous amount just to get a deal done so we could go back to work.”

In a related story, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr has emailed Andreychuk the link to the following video: