Leipold has talked on the phone with several candidates, sources indicate, including current Carolina Hurricanes GM and president Don Waddell and former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton. The Wild have been also granted permission to talk to a handful of candidates, sources say, including Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby and Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin.
More interviews are expected to take place Monday and Tuesday.
The Wild, sources say, may show or have already shown interest in last year’s finalist, New Jersey Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, New York Rangers assistant GM Chris Drury, London Knights co-owner and GM Mark Hunter, Columbus Blue Jackets associate GM Bill Zito and Blue Jackets assistant GM Basil McRae, L.A. Kings assistant GM Mike Futa and Canadiens scout and experienced Hockey Canada manager Sean Burke.
Woo, that’s a lot of names.
The whole debacle with now former-GM Paul Fenton getting fired after a turbulent 14 months on the job has been documented well by Russo. It’s quite the mess for whoever the new GM will be to put back in place, and he’ll have to install some “culture” along the way — as it was a highlighted mention by the owner of why he soured so quickly on the job Fenton was doing.
I feel like Wild are gonna end up hiring the most “Not Fenton” guy possible. I dunno if that’s good or bad, but it’s the vibe I get? https://t.co/nS2L4iGDcc— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) August 5, 2019
For that reason, and like Bourne mentions, you would think Guerin might stand out a bit to an organization like the Wild that is looking for a shot in the arm and looking for a “not Fenton” type of manager.
One other very interesting aspect is that Minnesota icon Mike Modano will be a huge part of the interview process this time around. The same Modano that has spent 30 years knowing Guerin - from their U-20 WJC days in 1988 to IMO the best US team ever in the 1996 World Cup to being US Olympic teammates in 1998, 2002 and 2006. They were also NHL teammates for three seasons from 2002-06 with the Dallas Stars. The Guerin/Modano relationship could be a unique edge for this process.
When asked what they’re looking for, Modano said -
“A sharp eye for talent. A leader,” Modano said. “We’re looking for a person who is driven, gets his message across to the media and draws people together. This is a great opportunity to get involved with a franchise and state that deserves a Stanley Cup, and we’re going to hire the person who gives us the best chance to do that.”
Another must, Modano said, is having a great relationship with Leipold.
“Having a solid relationship with Craig is absolutely necessary,” Modano said. “Craig Leipold is a passionate owner and a tremendous person and easy to work for. He’s looking for those same qualities in a GM with a clear plan of winning a championship.”
Being driven, media-friendly and having strong people skills is probably the best traits and attributes Guerin has as an executive. He’s a person who has gotten to where he is with a gregarious personality, strong relationship-building and using his product knowledge of the NHL, where he’s spent his entire adult life as a player or a front office member since 2011.
Guerin can also point to his name on the Stanley Cup four times (twice as a player and twice as an executive) as a sign he’s pretty familiar with what it takes to build a championship-contending formula.
Guerin has interviewed for a handful of full GM jobs over the years, including the vacancy in Pittsburgh in 2014 that was filled by Jim Rutherford. Rutherford just turned 70, but also recently signed a contract extension and has shown no signs of intending to step aside in the very near future. While Guerin could be considered the best internal future option for the job, it certainly remains to be seen if he won’t get hired somewhere else prior to Rutherford going off to retirement.
This process will be interesting to watch unfold, given how much of a circus Minnesota was, and also the personal connection Guerin has with a man in Modano who will have a lot of input in the installation of the next Wild GM. It might end up being someone other than Guerin, but given that relationship plus Guerin meeting a lot of the traits they’ve publicly mentioned, it wouldn’t be very surprising to hear more about Guerin emerging as a candidate that the Minnesota brain-trust takes very seriously.