By Michael Russo
Aloha from Honolulu. About to head out into the night on Waikiki Beach suckers. I think I’ll be on KFAN live at 9:40 a.m. with P.A. — yes 4:40 a.m. Hawaii time because I’m loco like that.
Figured I’d jump back on as promised to toss on some more thoughts on the hiring of Chuck Fletcher as the Wild’s second general manager in history.
Here are the links to the stories from Friday’s papers:
As somebody joked with me a few weeks ago — and I honestly can’t remember who, so I apologize in advance — but if Fletcher got the job, he should be nicknamed the “Brown Fox,” since his dad has always been known as the “Silver Fox.”
Whoever told me this, if you want credit, send me an email and I’ll post. I give credit where credit is due, but my brain is sunburned.
Some call Fletcher Chuckie, others call him Fletch. Funny, but for a name that can easily be turned into a nickname as so often happens in hockey, I’ve always just called him Chuck.
I covered Fletcher for seven of his nine years in Florida, and I can tell you he’s a sharp cookie. I’ll throw on a bunch of stories in the weeks ahead, but as I told him a few weeks back, who would have thunk back in the late 90s that quite possibly one day I’d cover him as a GM — only in Minnesota.
Back in the day, Fletcher was always expected to become the Panthers’ GM, and quite frankly, until the lockout happened, I never considered I’d go off and cover another NHL team.
But Fletcher, considered the next big thing in the NHL for some time, has finally got his opportunity. And by the way, the thing you should know about Fletcher is he has not gone for every job out there. He never wanted just any GM job that came his way. It had to be the right fit, so for him to take this opportunity says a lot about where he thinks this franchise is and can go, and what type of hockey hotbed it is.
First up for Fletcher will be to determine a coach. In the NHL, folks usually hire people they know and are comfortable working with, so right away, Todd Richards becomes a favorite. Fletcher hired the San Jose assistant and former Gopher in Wilkes-Barre, and he had great respect for him.
Peter Laviolette, Craig MacTavish and Pat Quinn would be the obvious experienced coach pickups, Kevin Constantine warrants a look. So does Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean and Chicago Blackhawks assistant John Torchetti. Some respected junior coaches include Portland Pirates coach Kevin Dineen and Manitoba Moose coach Scott Arniel.
Another possible candidate just popped in my head. Anaheim Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown for two reasons: 1) Fletcher’s relationship with him in Anaheim; 2) The Panthers nearly hired Brown a couple times as head coach during Fletcher’s tenure there.
As I wrote in the story, I see Fletcher going young and up-and-coming after witnessing the transformation Pittsburgh had under Dan Bylsma. These hockey players today are young. Look at 20-year-old James Sheppard, who just did not communicate very well with 63-year-old Jacques Lemaire. Sheppard even admitted it after last season with the infamous I’ve been playing hockey since I was 3 quote.
Some of these youngsters need coaches more in tune with their generation. These players today ask why, and instead of being told “because that’s the way I told you to do it,” sometimes you need to take 10 extra minutes and explain why.
I think Fletcher believes that, too. But I think right now Richards is the guy. Word in NHL circles is Fletcher and Ray Shero wanted Richards when they fired Michel Therrien this season but obviously couldn’t get him out of San Jose in the middle of the season. Bylsma was only supposed to be interim so they could hire Richards. But Bylsma did such an amazing job, they extended his contract earlier in the playoffs. So I believe the Moose is the guy.
OK, I’ve got an early flight to the Big Island on Friday morning to cover the Kona Coffee Pickers against the Hilo Gilamonsters in the Hawaiian Hockey League, so I’ll be reluctantly out of touch and will miss the Brown Fox’s introduction to the “State of Hockey.”
But we at the Strib have you covered, so no worries.