By Michael Russo
Aloha from the North Shore of Oahu.
It’s been 25 hours since Chuck Fletcher was officially introduced as the Wild GM, and NHL sources say he already has permission to speak to the one coaching candidate I anticipate will be a heavy favorite — San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards.
As you’ll see from this San Jose Mercury News blog by David Pollak, a Sharks’ spokesman has confirmed to David that the Sharks have given two teams permission to speak to the former Gophers star. Only the Wild, Edmonton and Calgary are without coaches, and I’ve confirmed through a league source that the Wild is one of the two.
Lots of respect between Fletcher and Richards. Fletcher originally hired him in Wilkes-Barre. Yesterday morning, I talked to Penguins GM Ray Shero about Richards, and not only did he give him a glowing recommendation, he talked a lot about the skills Richards has and they’re probably not so coincidentally some of the ones Fletcher said he wants as the next Wild coach.
Shero on Richards: “I have a great deal of respect for Todd Richards. He was one of my first hires when I came here. [With Nashville], he was one of my first hires in Milwaukee as an assistant coach. I got to work closely with Todd for a number of years. When I came here, I had already hired Chuck. While I knew that Todd was my guy, Chuck had all the responsibilities of running our farm team in Wilkes-Barre. Part of that was hiring a coach. I told Chuck I really believe Todd was a guy worth talking to, but having said that, it’s your decision. Chuck went through a real good list of candidates – maybe five, six, seven people to interview and came back and said Todd is the most qualified and best fit. So it was his decision at the end. Our organization has a lot of respect for Todd – his intellect, his communication skills, his passion for the game, he pushes the pace. One of the first things I heard back on Todd from Chuck was that our pregame skate was harder than some team’s practices. He really pushes the pace and makes players better. … He had the opportunity to move on to San Jose. It was a fantastic decision for him. This job in San Jose I believe really prepared him to being around the pro game with the fantastic coaching staff they have in San Jose. He’ll be a great head coach in the NHL, I believe, whoever will give him that opportunity. He’s got the right age, he’s got the right experience. I’m a big Todd Richards fan. He’ll be a great fit for someone.”