The current State of Hockey is suspended animation.
The Minnesota Wild is running on a treadmill to nowhere. The Wild does not look like a playoff contender, despite a reasonable back end with goalie
So what's a new general manager to do?
There are two ways to be good in the NHL: either be smarter than everyone else -- like Detroit and, to a lesser extent, Philadelphia, New Jersey and San Jose, teams that maintain a talent base without the luxury of high picks (Philly's
Fletcher has beefed up and revamped Minnesota's scouting operation in an effort to be one of the smart teams in the coming years, but the temptation must be great to tear things down in order to rebuild them. The problem is the pipeline of Wild prospects has slowed to a trickle.
The top two picks in 2008 (No. 23
Since the fabulous and fragile
Fletcher moved to correct the problem on Monday when he traded
Pouliot never provided any meaningful offense, netting nine goals and nine assists in relatively short minutes in 65 NHL games -- an indication of how Lemaire felt about him. Latendresse is a glacial skater, but he has size and decent hands. If Richards can unburden Latendresse of his oversized sense of entitlement -- the winger went straight from junior hockey into the NHL -- and get him to use his 6'2", 230-pound girth around the net, it should be a modest upgrade.
But neither Latendresse nor
So what's a new GM do? Does he abandon this season in hopes of a faster rebuild, or is he captive to the goodwill of a fan base that has seen little in the way of progress since the shocking run to the Western Conference final in 2003? Does he tinker in hopes that the team slips into a playoff spot and the scouts do a better job of identifying talent in the middle ranges of the draft? Does he hope that college or NHL free agents provide a booster shot next summer?
"I think our fans understand the direction we want to go," Fletcher says. "But it takes some patience. Ultimately we will have an entertaining, winning product, but I think people realize that this is a team in transition."
In other words, fans are stuck in the middle with him.
Washington Capitals defenseman