The Minnesota Wild were a promising team just a few seasons ago. They were enjoying playoff success and maybe just a couple pieces from contending for the Stanley Cup. Minnesota hired Paul Fenton a little less than 15 months ago to keep them in that window. Sadly, it did not work out as he was relieved of his duties on July 30th.
Now, the odd part was when he was dismissed. Consider, it was six weeks before training camp and nearly a month after free agency and the draft had concluded. There is just a lot of bizarre there when one lets a general manager shop for the groceries and pick the meals then suddenly, they are gone.
So, the question becomes who will guide Minnesota next? Craig Leipold will complete an exhaustive search as he is still interviewing candidates. Let’s take a look who their new GM could be.
First, there is Bill Guerin.
Guerin is the assistant general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Guerin seems to find success wherever he goes. He won a Stanley Cup as a player then a few more in management. Teams seem to like him, and the former right winger has been interviewed twice already.
Those interviews have gone rather well, and he looks to be the early favorite for the job still. He would be a pleasant departure from what they had in Fenton and with Guerin, a trade like the Viktor Rask for Nino Niederreiter one likely does not occur. Guerin is rooted in making moves with thought and deliberation. Lastly, he can rally a team around him. He has done that as both player and management.
Second, Scott Mellanby is another candidate
Mellanby serves as the assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. If that is not a high- pressure job, then who knows what is. He has held that position for five years now. Craig Leopold interviewed him twice as well and some feel that Mellanby may be the best candidate for the job.
His interviews have progressed nicely too. The question is who does Leipold and Minnesota management decide on. This is a critical decision for a team who has an edict of not only making the playoffs but making a deeper run. Mellanby deals with the Montreal media and fans so he has experience in a pressure cooker environment.
Third, there is Ron Hextall
Now, depending on some schools of thought, Hextall may be one of the favorites also. Yes, this gets that confusing. Hextall was general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers for four plus years before he was let go last November. There had been some disconnect in the organization as far as vision.
Hextall built a nice base in Philadelphia full of young talent – Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, Shane Gostisbehere, Carter Hart, etc. The problem became Hextall’s slow approach to building a team. Would he change that for Minnesota who needs a quick retooling and a more aggressive but smart general manager? That’s a great question.
Hextall lost the battle between himself and the old guard of Philadelphia to top it off. That led to the in-season departure more than anything else.
Fourth, Tom Fitzgerald is kind of in the mix.
The Minnesota Wild know Tom Fitzgerald well. He finished runner-up to Paul Fenton the last time around. So, a lengthy process for him is not necessary. The assistant general manager to the New Jersey Devils knows team structure well and it is established that New Jersey will not stand in his way if he wants to leave.
Again, one snag in the process is the most obvious. It appears Minnesota does not want to go in this direction. Remember, Matt Majka (team President) and Mike Modano are involved in this search too. So, it is not just one man’s decision.
Finally, there are a few other candidates
One somewhat prominent possibility is Chris MacFarland, the assistant general manager under Joe Sakic in Colorado. Out of the group of the rest, MacFarland looks to be the most suitable for the job. At least for this position, he seems to be on the outside looking in.
Simply, this general manager search can go a variety of ways. While Bill Guerin remains the favorite, Scott Mellanby and Ron Hextall cannot be discounted either. The general manager who is hired will need patience but be able to strike fast as the window on Minnesota is closing quickly.
By Chris Wassel