By Brian Stensaas
Hello from Gate 1 of Xcel Energy Center. The last time I was here, sitting in this exact same setup, Chuck Fletcher was introduced as the new Wild GM. Now he’s running the show, having just introduced Todd Richards as the new coach of the franchise.
It’s a standing room only crowd here in the lobby, with Wild defenseman Brent Burns among those without chairs. Owner Craig Leipold is also standing in the back – don’t you think that he could get a seat?
In introducing Richards, Fletcher said he was “proud and excited” to do so.
“He’s a proven winner and an ideal fit for this franchise going forward,” Fletcher continued,. “He’s earned my trust and I’m confident he’s the right person to coach this franchise at this time.”
Just like Fletcher, Richards received a No. 09 Wild jersey and team cap upon being introduced.
“I am truly, truly excited and honored – and very humbled,” Richards said.
Our own Michael Russo – having some microphone issues – has opened the questioning.
Richards said as a kid growing up on metro area ponds, the Crystal native never dreamed of being a coach.
“The type of hockey we want to play is up-tempo, fast,” Richards said of his style. “You can watch teams that were in the (Stanley Cup) Finals this year and they both play the same style. We believe we have that foundation here. Defenseman have to be part of the rush. Forecheck as a group of five.”
The mics are not working, and I’m in back by the plug-ins so it’s kind of tough to hear. But I believe the topic of Richards having no NHL head coaching experience has come up.
“He’s certainly paid his dues,” Fletcher said, noting Richards’ six years in the AHL. “Talent is the most important thing. How you communicate.”
Said Richards: “In this business as coach, I’m trying to sell something to the players. And I think they’ll buy it.”
Richards’ two sons, 13 and 11 years old both play hockey. He was asked about possibly bringing Minnesota players to the Wild roster.
“Minnesota is rich in hockey players,” he said. “Playing (college) at Minnesota, there was pride in having a roster of all Minnesotans. Us (the Wild) as an organization, it’s about the best fit for the organization. If it happens to be a Minnesota player, that’s great.”
Of course, the Marian Gaborik situation came up. He’s an unrestricted free agent as of July 1.
“It’ll be nice to have a coach to present as a part of our package,” Fletcher said.
Richards has not gotten to talk with current Wild assistants or other possible candidates yet.
A good quote from Richards about receiving the final offer from Fletcher: “It wasn’t like I hung up the phone and said, ‘I have to think about this for a half hour.’”
He had his fingers crossed hoping he would be the one for the job.
Well, that’s it. Russo and columnist Jim Souhan will have it all covered in tomorrow’s paper.
For those fortunate enough to watch and/or listen to the presser live – what are your early thoughts on the new coach?