At 2:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher will have his team in place for the final 20 games of the season, including Monday’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Whether or not Fletcher’s team looks any different remains to be seen, but the GM will sit down with Wild.com shortly after the deadline passes to talk about what did, or did not happen on Monday.
Recently, Fletcher has been quoted often about how much he likes the character of his team and he’s been very adamant that he doesn’t want to upset the chemistry of this group, while being careful not to rule out anything.
These quotes may fall on deaf ears for some folks out there, because let’s face it, trades are sexy. There’s always a level of excitement surrounding trades because they stir up debates, and then they are analyzed forever, starting with how “proven” players perform in the immediate future, and how “prospects” pan out in the distant future.
When there’s a trade, there will be one faction saying it’s a great move and that the team will see immediate rewards. There will be another group saying it’s terrible and the team gave up too much. And at the time, nobody is wrong.
But ultimately, the decision is Fletcher’s, and if he decides to leave things as they are, it’s tough to argue. But to understand his thinking (if that is indeed the case), you have to go back to last summer.
Upon signing Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and John Madden, Fletcher repeatedly said his team was better, but also the team’s character would be better. Again, “character” of a team isn’t sexy when compared to a bunch of big names with years of offensive statistics on the resume.
But coming off his rookie year as a GM, Fletcher felt confident that the changed atmosphere in the locker room would lead to good things. He then watched the team he put together go winless (against NHL teams) in the preseason, and leave Finland with just one point.
Rumors started flying about the job security of Todd Richards. An improved start from last season didn’t ease concern among fans as the Wild won a lot more games, but also suffered blowout losses at home to the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
If the Wild weren’t written off before the season started, they were certainly discarded by many after falling to a tie for 13th in the West after losing to Nashville on New Year’s Eve.
Then, without anybody seeming to notice, and really without a one turning point in particular, this team came together has been one of the best teams in the NHL in 2011. Key players keep going down, and the Wild continues to win. Rookie defensemen continue to log huge minutes, and the Wild continues to win. Every other Western Conference team gets hot, and the Wild continues to win.
So it stands to reason that Fletcher would want to hold onto the cards that have put the Wild where they are at. There’s not a single guy in the locker room that hasn’t contributed to this massive midseason turnaround at many points. Every player has stepped up when needed, and other than an off night in Phoenix on February 5, the Wild hasn’t had a poor performance in the last 19 games.
Something special is going on with this team, which is why Fletcher might be reluctant to tinker with it. To borrow one of the most overused cliches of all time, he’s watched his team overcome a lot of adversity. That’s not to say he won’t because there’s a chance he pulls off a couple moves tomorrow. If he doesn’t, there will be those who say he didn’t do enough.
But this team got the players Fletcher wanted in July, and Fletcher is seeing the rewards from those signings. Right now, that group has the Wild in position to make the playoffs. We’ll see if it’s the same group that keeps them there.