After suffering a embarrassing 5-0 defeat Friday that knocked the Minnesota Wild from the first-round of the playoffs, there is likely to be consequences going forward. At least that’s what The Athletic’s Mike Russo (subscription required) writes, suggesting that general manager Chuck Fletcher’s job may not have the security it did a couple of weeks ago. The GM is in the last year of his deal and is awaiting a contract extension.
For the third consecutive season, the Wild have exited after the first-round and have lost 16 of their last 20 playoff games, suggesting that Fletcher may not have assembled the right players meant to sustain a run throughout the playoffs. Granted, Fletcher has done a lot of good in Minnesota. His team’s have reached the playoffs for six straight seasons and the team has reached 100 points in three of the last four seasons. On top of that, key injuries have hampered this year’ playoff hopes, including losses to defensemen Ryan Suter and most recently Zach Parise.
Russo wrote a story 10 days ago, suggesting owner Craig Leipold felt Fletcher deserved an extension and was ready to extend Fletcher after the playoffs, but Russo now says he’s heard that Leipold might be rethinking that.
Much could have to do with recent moves over the last year. One major blunder that is often pointed out is that the Vegas Golden Knights walked away with two top-six forwards from the expansion draft in Erik Haula and Alex Tuch so the Wild could protect some of their younger defensemen. Both players are starting on the Golden Knights’ second line on a team that has advanced farther than Minnesota recently in just one year of existence, thanks in part to the performances of those two players. Haula, who had 15 goals and 11 assists last year in Minnesota, broke out for a 29-goal, 55-point season in Vegas, while the 20-year-old Tuch had 15 goals and 22 assists in his rookie campaign.
Last season at the trade deadline, the team sent their 2017 first-round pick to Arizona for rentals Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, neither of which made much of an impact for the team’s playoff fortunes that year. The team also traded Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella for Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis in the offseason. Foligno produced one of his worst NHL season with just eight goals, while Ennis was a healthy scratch four out of five times in the playoffs and is a buyout candidate this summer at $4.6MM. Other deals, including signing defenseman Kyle Quincey and then quickly burying him in the AHL (although he never played a game there) after just 18 games.
The franchise will likely take a few days before making any decisions on their management.