By Michael Russo
Fletcher McGuire Quinn Lynn
Happy Cinco de Mayo! I love that Seinfeld episode where Elaine shops at Putumayo and then goes to Cinco de Mayo and screams at Gladys Mayo, “Sales commission, bye-bye-O.”
Or something like that.
The Wild’s search for a GM is heating up as the Wild — owner Craig Leipold, former CEO and current MSE board member Jac Sperling and COO Matt Majka — has trimmed the applicant list of nearly 30 down to a handful.
The frontrunners, sources say, are Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Chuck Fletcher and TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire. McGuire didn’t work for TSN Monday and isn’t working tonight, and he’ll be in Raleigh on Wednesday, so it’s not difficult to figure out that the million miler traveler will interview today. Fletcher is expected to interview later this week, and if he is offered the job, one would think he’ll be allowed to leave immediately. I doubt the Penguins allowed him to get this deep into the process only to forbid him from taking the job if the Penguins are still playing.
Also in the running are longtime NHL coach and GM Pat Quinn, Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton (and maybe still Director of Hockey Ops Mike Santos) and Wild acting GM Tom Lynn.
I also heard Monday evening that Tampa Bay Lightning assistant GM Claude Loiselle has had conversations with Leipold, but it was unclear whether he’d get an in-person interview.
This seems like a two-horse race, although the one thing I’ve learned in these type of things is anything can change on a dime. Some people interview poorly, some people blow you away in interviews, last-minute candidates emerge.
But I’ve talked to dozens of people around the league the past month, and I’m pretty sure on the names still alive — so to speak.
I know both Fletcher and McGuire very well just from covering the league since the mid-90s.
– I covered Fletcher for seven of his nine years in Florida, and he’s as sharp as they come. I remember Bobby Clarke, the Panthers’ first GM (which not many people recall), hired him in the Airport Marriott in Toronto. And I remember Fletcher telling me once that his first duty once he got to the expansion Panthers was to figure out where to buy a washer and dryer for the practice facility at Gold Coast Ice Arena in Pompano Beach, Fla.
It was a funny story, but here’s this 25-year-old kid that could barely do his own laundry wondering, “OK, do I just go to Brandsmart or something.”
He’s come quite a long way. He’s considered the next big thing, and a lot of it is for all the reasons I’ve mentioned lately. You don’t find 41-year-old’s with 16 years of experience in management, and quite frankly, 41 years of experience when you consider he’s lived inside hockey rinks since he was born. He’s about high-tempo hockey, and after seeing the job Dan Bylsma has done on the Pittsburgh bench this season, I think he’d probably want a young coach (and remember, he originally hired former Gopher Todd Richards in Wilkes-Barre).
– I’ve known McGuire from Day One of covering this league and he’s as plugged in as they get. He knows the sports inside-out. While he hasn’t worked for a team for some time, few people have had the unfettered access to players, coaches and managers like McGuire. And I’m not just talking at the pro level. I’m talking at the amateur level. He’s done all the national tournaments for TSN. In fact, ironically, he once showed me a picture of his son — then probably five or six — racing Colton Gillies at the world championships.
He’s about high-octane offense, games played with an edge and has great relationships with team personnel and agents throughout the league. He’s a salesman, too. He’d probably be able to lure top players to this market.
I’ve talked to players over the past couple weeks, and there’s a genuine excitement about the two names seemingly leading the pack.
As I wrote today, owner Craig Leipold is grabbing what he feels are the most intriguing candidates from different categories. You have the traditional, been-in-this-sport-forever candidate in Pat Quinn. You have the hot commodity and young energy and smarts in Chuck Fletcher. You have the passion and experience of somebody who’s watched more hockey than most in Pierre McGuire. And you have the internal candidate with deep knowledge of the Wild in Tom Lynn.
I think Lynn will have a tough time just because Leipold seems intent on “new eyes,” but Lynn wasn’t always in lockstep with Doug Risebrough as people may think and maybe the only impediment of Lynn identifying problems before and changing them was the fact he wasn’t the man in charge.
Regardless, I think Lynn will be a GM in this league at some point.
Fenton I think will have it tough as well. I don’t know him. I know he’s highly respected, but I think in the end, Leipold will be a cognizant that there could be a perception – fair or not — that he took somebody from his old team, Nashville.
Even though he might ruin my Hawaiian trip, Leipold’s going about this the right way
Also, if you didn’t see the game or the highlights, get a look at Monday night’s 4-3 Washington win over Pittsburgh. The hockey world wanted Ovechkin vs. Crosby, and we got it alright. Both dramatically recorded hat tricks.
Ovechkin was just scintillating. Man, the excitement he brings to this sport is second to none. He is just a spectacular player. I thought Pavel Bure loved scoring goals when I covered him, but it’s unparalleled to this guy.
Although, I can’t believe Crosby actually admitted in his postgame news conference that he complained to the referee that they needed to make an announcement to stop throwing hats on the ice after Ovechkin’s third goal.
Here’s a hysterical status report from a Facebook friend today: “Ref, could you please make an announcement to get the fans to stop throwing hats on the ice? *sniff* *sniff*” – Sidney Crosby”
OK, that … is … it for now. Houston-Milwaukee, Game 3, in Houston tonight, fyi.
I will be on WCCO with Dark Star tonight at some point. I’ll also be on Hockey Night in Canada radio today at 5 p.m. CDT.