Now we're cooking!
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has earned my admiration and - arguably more importantly - my patience with his actions since the end of the '10-11 season.
First the Richards firing - though Fletcher was complicit in the creation and the proliferation of the situation that created the untenable environment that necessitated Richards' removal - indicated that, if nothing else, Fletcher was not going to sit idly by and wait this thing out.
That was a sin that Fletcher's predecessor committed far too often for my liking. And I am big enough to admit that I bought into Risebrough's entreaties for patience. But, fool me once, etc.
Second, Fletcher's handling of the Burns situation and subsequent trade was spot on for my taste. I assume the conversation with Burns and his agent indicated that Burns would at least be considerably expensive to sign to a new deal, and Fletcher was able to leverage Burns into the means to continue addressing the most critical need on the team (read: young, skilled players) in not-one-but-three pieces. Outstanding job of analyzing the team and moving to address weaknesses by dealing from strengths.
Third, what looks like the impending buyout of Cam Barker. Fletcher inherited a team whose fanbase had been stung by the previous GM's willingness to let impending UFAs walk for nothing. With under-appreciated defenseman Kim Johnsson getting ready to do just that, Fletcher pulled the trigger on a deal that brought back a former 3rd-overall draft pick. Yes, Fletcher had to include a high pick of our own to get the deal done. But the bottom line is he got something for his UFA. That the trade didn't work out is not immaterial to the story. But Wild fans would be remiss to ignore the context in which Barker came to be on the team in the first place.
Now, the trade didn't work out. And so Fletcher moving to close that door by (likely) buying Barker out - which in itself is also a very different situation than the Parrish buyout, given Barker's age and the rules pertaining thereto - indicates to me that Fletcher is both a realist and a pragmatist. Rare is the Wild fan who would associate Risebrough with either of those personality traits.
As I've said, I like the draft and develop bearing Fletcher has steered the Wild into now. I'm willing to give it a couple years - even if they are marked by poor performance in the win column. And actions like the Barker buyout only serve to make me more patient.
Even more impressive: two of the three things I mentioned above were Fletcher righting his own wrongs. Riser would have just told us we'd let our expectations get too high.
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