By Michael Russo
(updated 11:45 p.m., Tuesday)
Believe it or not, I’m back in Minnesota — for a few hours at least. Because I got too tan in Hawaii, I’m heading to Ireland on Wednesday to untan, but just for the weekend. Everybody who knows me can attest to the fact that I’m a globetrotter.
But I’ll be back in town well before a new coach is hired.
Chuck Fletcher, who wouldn’t divulge where he was calling me back from late tonight because then I’d figure out what he was up to(ha), is still in the research phase of the coach hunt process. He’s compiling a list of names, then will do some due diligence and then will decide whom he wants to speak with. He said literally everybody and anybody is on the list, so he hasn’t defined exactly who’s really on the list. He wants to get it down to about four before conducting interviews.
He will definitely interview San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards, as I reported over the weekend. I also talked to Peter Laviolette today, who is interested in the job. Here is the link to that story. I listed a bunch of possible candidates in the article.
In the former-NHL-head-coach-department, Laviolette makes a ton of sense. Yes, he’s won a Stanley Cup, but he also coaches a system very similar to the prerequisites Fletcher has laid out — communication skills, up-tempo, physical, offensive.
Pat Quinn and Tom Renney are off the market. Craig MacTavish is still on the market, and he’d make the writers happy (quote machine). Fletcher also has a history with Newell Brown and Paul MacLean.
In the meantime, Fletcher was in Winnipeg on Monday night to watch the Houston Aeros, who were eliminated in Game 6 of the conference finals. He’ll be in the office later Wednesday and Thursday to meet individually with the staff and as many players (who are still in town) as he can. He will be in Toronto this weekend for the draft combine.
He’s started calling players as well.
To clarify one thing that was reported earlier this week, he has decided no staff member is leaving or staying. He’s been in the office for three hours total, and has met a precious few. He said there’s no reason for anybody to be walking on eggshells, but stories that he’s told anybody they’re safe or unsafe were premature. What does that mean? He’ll meet with staff over the next several weeks, ask a ton of questions and then things “will become apparent to me,” and that does include Tom Lynn and Tommy Thompson.
Incidentally, Fletcher’s played telephone tag Tuesday with agent Ron Salcer regarding initial contact on Marian Gaborik.
Fletcher’s old team, Pittsburgh, advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, and wow, actually touched and picked up the oft-snubbed Prince of Wales Trophy — thus, delighting the NHL. The Penguins are a better team this year than last, and Bill Guerin looks as ageless as ever.
Assistant GM Tommy Thompson and his staff are in Toronto interviewing players at the Draft combine. Thompson said the Wild interviewed a single-day record 23 draft-eligible players Tuesday.
Okee dokee, I’ve got to pack. I’ll hit a few golf balls for ya.