Todd Woodcroft


Flahr to be named assistant GM

Monday, July 27th, 2009

As originally anticipated here on the day Tom Lynn was dismissed June 15, Ottawa Senators Director of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr has been hired as Wild GM Chuck Fletcher’s new right-hand man.

An announcement to name Flahr assistant GM is expected as early as Tuesday.

Flahr, 35, and Fletcher have been friends since their days working with the Florida Panthers in the mid-90s. I know Flahr from covering Florida as well, and he’s a sharp, smart guy and familiar with Minnesota, too. In fact, I ran into him a few times when he was scouting Minnetonka’s Jake Gardiner a few years back, and the Anaheim Ducks — the team Flahr worked for at the time – did eventually draft the now-Wisconsin defenseman in the first round. 

Flahr, a former Princeton captain originally taken out of the ticket office in Florida, spent eight seasons with the Panthers, working at times as a scout, video coordinator and assistant to the GM. He spent four seasons as an amateur scout with the Anaheim Ducks, with which he worked with Fletcher, and the past two as director of hockey operations for the Ottawa Senators. 

Flahr will oversee the hockey operations department, as well as scout and assist Fletcher with contract negotiations. Tommy Thompson will remain in his role as assistant GM/Player Personnel (in charge of scouting).

The Wild has also made changes to its amateur and pro scouting departments, including not renewing the contracts of Director of Player Development Barry MacKenzie and pro scout Todd Woodcroft.

There will be other roles in hockey ops changing as well. 

Fletcher, Russo back in town; Richards still the frontrunner

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Yes, I’m back. Yippee do!

I figured I better blog because the smart aleck son of a friend of mine sent me a text message saying, “Think you’ll blog again this year?”

Like father, like son :)

Back from Hawaii, and Ireland, and I’m ready to go back to each. Two awesome places.

The Brown Fox — Chuck Fletcher — is back in the office after landing this afternoon from Pittsburgh, where he attended Game 3 of the Finals and attended his first official GM’s Meeting — well, as a non-Interim, non-assistant GM — in history. Had to be cool.

What’s Fletcher been up to? Well, while I was in Ireland, he attended the Draft combine in Toronto last weekend, where he interviewed players and dined with the staff, including Tommy Thompson. On Thursday and Friday, he’ll conduct his first pro scouting meetings with Tom Lynn, Blair Mackasey, Jamie Hislop and Todd Woodcroft, among others.

They’ll be talking free agency, trades and likely whether the Wild should tender any offers to their own unrestricted free agents (i.e. Skoula, Veilleux, Bergeron or Foster). We know they’ll go after Gaborik, although it’ll be difficult at this late juncture.

(updated)

Fletcher has also been working on the coaching search. Same candidates as I’ve mentioned before. Todd Richards is still the frontrunner. I know for a fact Chuck went out to California to interview Richards, and that’s the place he wouldn’t tell me he was calling me back from (remember?).

But I still think he’d want to interview Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean, who’s a bit busy right now.

If Richards gets the job, possible assistants include Claude Noel, Curt Fraser, Tony Granato and Mike Ramsey. Like I’ve said, I think Matt Shaw and Bob Mason have tremendous shots at being retained.

Lots of news going around the league. Jacques Martin is now the coach in Montreal, leaving Florida at a marvelous time with less than a month before the Draft and free agency.

All sorts of rumors out of Montreal that Mario Tremblay could eventually join Martin on that bench.

Florida will now conduct a full-on GM search, but owner Alan Cohen appears close to selling the team because I’m told that GM candidates are being referred to Alternate Gov. Bill Torrey and Tony Tavares, the former Anaheim Mighty Ducks head who just so happens to be leading the ownership group close to buying the Cats.

Some possible candidates in Fla.? Former Panthers coach Doug MacLean, former Panthers GM Rick Dudley, former Panthers captain Scott Mellanby, Hall of Famer and former Panthers analyst Denis Potvin, former Bruins assistant GM Jeff Gorton, TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire and former Lightning GM Jay Feaster. Maybe former Wild GM Doug Risebrough would be interested, although he’s still on a two-week solo canoe trip, so he may not even know the job’s available :)

Lastly, aren’t you glad you’re a Wild fan? Imagine being in Colorado. Sorry, but at least Wild owner Craig Leipold conducts a far and wide GM search to get the best possible candidate and then announces him with a little fanfare.

The Avs do what they always do — hire internally.

Greg Sherman — the assistant GM — was hired today to replace Francois Giguere accompanied by the most underwhelming press release announcement ever. From Pierre Lacroix: “Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business.”

I bet Avs fans everywhere are excited after that line.

It was also classy of Lacroix to finally fire Tony Granato after offering his job around the league for a month, including to former Avs star goalie Patrick Roy. Kudos to Denver Post writer Adrian Dater, who’s been all over that story for some time.

Speaking of Dater, he talked to Marc Crawford, who’d be interested in returning there as coach. Dater reports that Joe Sacco’s got an inside shot. Wonder if Jacques Lemaire would be interested, eh?

OK, I’m back on the clock folks. Blogs will be updated more regularly.

Aeros advance to the conference finals

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Lookee here

 constantine.jpg

After keeping one eye on the Caps-Pens Game 7, for the first time in the series, the game didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Boy, the Pens just kicked butt, eh? Can you say butt on a blog?

The reason why I only kept half an eye really on the NHL game is I attended the Houston Aeros’ Game 7, 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. The Aeros became only the third club in AHL history — and second Aeros’ team — to win two Game 7′s on the road in the same postseason (Peoria last round).

Kevin Constantine — or KC, as I’ve learned he’s called — won three Game 7′s as an NHL head coach — all three on the road, meaning that’s 5-0 in the NHL and AHL. And he says it’s even better because he did the same thing a few times in junior.

“I have no idea why, either. I wish I did,” Constantine laughed.

By the way, and I’m sure it’s been written by Ms. Conduct & Gang on their great Aeros’ blog, but the playoff beards are out and Constantine’s got the chops going for sideburns. Great story on that I’ll probably throw into the paper tomorrow.

They’re the triangle sideburns all the way down his cheek. Very John Fogertyish. I’ll think of a better description and blog it during my drive home (I’ll pull over first, I promise). And if you don’t know what Constantine looks like, he’s got red hair, so it’s a great look. I nearly almost took a picture of Constantine just for the blog with my camera phone while I was interviewing him, but to be quite honest, Constantine scares me.

Oops, thought of one. It kinda looks like this — Hans Klopek from the Tom Hanks’ movie, the Burbs (as a kid, I toured the Universal lot when they were filming that movie) — only much more grown in and nothing on his chin.

hans.jpg

After losing 7-0 in Game 6, the Aeros shockingly bounced back. Corey Locke and Krys Kolanos scored 49 ticks apart in the first, Milwaukee cut it to 2-1 and then there were several tense moments until the third as the unorthodox Anton Khudobin made some great saves and offered some heart attacks. He’s raw folks, very raw.

Clayton Stoner, who played a great game, scored a huge power-play goal, then former Admiral Tony “Circus” Hrkac set up former Admiral Bryan Lundbohm for the backbreaker on a beauty of a 2-on-1. Locke popped one in an empty net.

Justin Falk, I thought, was the best defenseman. Outstanding game, especially in the third. Robbie Earl can skate like one of those NHL ’95 games I used to play where you can press a couple buttons and the player goes into turbo boost speed. He’s one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen. Effortless, like the Niedermayers, but with more speed, believe it or not. Danny Irmen played a solid game as well. A couple other players didn’t play so well, but I won’t mention them and one particular because I’ll keep it positive for a change (give it a guess though).

I had other things I wrote down, and of course, I left the paper in my car (I didn’t blog last night because there was no wireless in the Bradley Center). I also watched the game from owner Craig Leipold’s suite along with Tom Lynn, Chris Snow and pro scout Todd Woodcroft — on condition the words “GM” and “search” never came out of my mouth :)

I appreciate the invite by Leipold. He’s a lot less stressed during non-Wild games, but still stressed enough. So it was interesting to get that up-close perspective. Next year I plan on watching every game from the owners’ suite at the X :)

Leipold had the Aeros over to his home earlier in the series, and he said it was a blast. So Leipold’s current farm team knocked off his old farm team — and actually the Wild eliminated Nashville twice if you consider the last home game of the NHL season. And continuing the theme I mentioned before the series, Tom Lynn beat Paul Fenton in the battle of the Wild GM candidates. Just a joke.

Funny moment during the game. They flashed the Marlins-Brewers score. I had no clue the Marlins were in town, and one of my best friends happens to be one of their announcers. I phoned (Canadian verb) him, happened to catch him between innings and we got to hang after the game for the first time since last hockey season when the Wild was in S. Fla. (he’s a Panthers’ announcer, too).

So that was cool and random. I know I had other things to mention, but I’m on little sleep and it’s on that sheet of paper that’s conveniently in the car. I’ll hop back on later.

So, after the game, the Aeros took a bus to Chicago to spend the night. They fly to Winnipeg today and open the conference finals against the Manitoba Moose on Friday-Saturday.

I have to hit the road for five-plus hours. It was a cool trip over to Milwaukee to see the Wild’s farm team in person for the first time.