ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher is about to embark on another coaching search, the third of his tenure and a critical one for the immediate future of the team and Fletcher’s own standing as the leader in the front office.
A three-month scramble to get to the playoffs hasn’t left him much time to consider the exact qualities Fletcher is looking for in the next coach. But he did acknowledge that the best man for the job may be sitting right in front of him.
Fletcher called interim coach John Torchetti “definitely a very serious candidate” to be the team’s permanent coach in his end-of-the-season media briefing on Thursday.
“The great thing is I know John. I know his personality. I know his work ethic,” Fletcher said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of time like you would do in a normal interview getting to know each other. It’s just about how his vision and my vision align. I look forward to that conversation.”
Torchetti took over for the fired Mike Yeo in February and helped turn around the Wild. He inherited a team that had gone 1-11-2 in its previous 14 games to plummet out of the playoff picture. The Wild finished 17-15-1 under Torchetti, including the first-round playoff loss to Dallas.
The break-neck finish to the regular season and the emotional rollercoaster of the six-game loss to the Stars in the playoffs has left Fletcher with little time to think about the next coach. He wouldn’t put a timetable on his decision, but said there is no rush to get one hired.
The Wild have made the playoffs each of the last four years, but they took a big step back this season. After beating St. Louis in the first round last year, they entered the year with high expectations to make a deep playoff run.
But they barely qualified for the playoffs, and did so with just 87 points. In a microcosm of the season, the Wild fell behind 4-0 to Dallas in Game 6 at home before roaring back in the third period, only to lose 5-4.
“We need to upgrade our personnel,” Fletcher said. “I need to bring in a player or two if we can to help upgrade the talent of our team. I’m certainly not passing the buck on that one. We need to get better.”
Star forward Zach Parise did not play in the playoffs because of a back injury. Fletcher said Thursday that current belief is that Parise will not need surgery, but there is significant concern among fans for the face of the franchise.
“He’s confident that he’ll be able to play next year, and certainly long-term he should be fine,” Fletcher said. “He wants to be a 35, 40-goal scorer in this league again. That’s awesome. I’ll take 30. But he’s fired up; he’s ready to go.”
Fletcher said he will have more flexibility to make roster moves this summer than he did last year and acknowledged that backup goalie Darcy Kuemper could be one of the pieces traded to try to add another goal scorer.
But it starts at the top.
“We’re looking for a good coach,” Fletcher said. “I think it’s important that we find a coach that can hold the players accountable and put a system in place and get them to execute the system and hold them accountable to it. It’s up to the players to buy into what we’re doing and to do the right things from a team perspective.”
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