I wanted to give you some more reaction from people close to Chuck Fletcher that I wasn’t able to squeeze into the main story for tomorrow. First, I was able to confirm that both Tom Lynn and Tommy Thompson were asked to remain in their current jobs by Fletcher and both have accepted.
Also, our editor Mark posted an update from Russo on the beach about any potential Mike Keenan rumors but wanted to recast it. According to Russo (in between drinks from his mai tai) it’s not going to happen.
Fletcher said he hopes to begin interviewing candidates next week and have a guy in place by the draft. He said head coaching experience is not necessarily a requirement.
Also, Russo was able to chat with Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero today and passed along his quotes.
“It’s so well-deserving for Chuck. He’s had such success in his career. Chuck and I have known each other a long time, but not real well. But when I got the job here, I approached Brian Burke about speaking with Chuck. He took the chance to come and it was a great fit. We have such similar backgrounds with our fathers (Fred Shero and Cliff Fletcher) being involved with the game and us being around the game forever. He’s got a great sense of humor.
“I gave him a ton of responsibilities that [Nashville GM] David Poile gave me. It was basically the same job I had in Nashville. The thing with Chuck I found is he’s very decisive. He makes decisions, and being my right-hand guy, for anything I did here, he would always be my first and last voice I went to for a final decision before I made mine. The great thing with Chuck is there never was any waffling. He had a strong opinion one way or the other, which is what I needed.”
(How instrumental was he in helping you figure a way of getting Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Fleury to long-term deals in a cap system?) “He was huge. My background with David Poile, David was such a planner. David was always looking ahead. The coaches worried about the upcoming game. David worried about next year. That’s what I learned from David, and that’s what Chuck and I always tried to do here, whether it was looking at available free agents and what that market can be and trying to stay ahead of everything as best you can. Chuck had so much to do with all the success we’ve had here so far. The good thing with Chuck is he was so experienced and it was good to bring in someone that had that type of background with different organization working with so many different people. It was perfect for both of us.”
Russo also asked Shero about Todd Richards, who presumably will be a leading candidate to become next head coach.
“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.”
I also talked to Lou Nanne, who is close friends with Fletcher and his father. Lou had this anecdote about Fletcher’s work ethic:
“When [the Penguins] beat Washington in Game 7, they flew home and got home about 1 in the morning. He jumped right in his car and drove to Wilkes-Barre three-and-a-half hours away because the farm team got beat that night and he had to have exit interviews with all those players the next day. He did that, got right back in his car and went back to Pittsburgh. He’s really a committed guy. He loves the game and loves being in the game.”