Penguins General Manager Ray Shero has made many key acquisitions this summer.
However, the biggest one of all may be hiring Chuck Fletcher as Assistant General Manager.
Sure, Fletcher won’t score any goals or stop any pucks, but his impact will be felt throughout the organization – especially in cultivating its young talent at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and bringing in new personnel.
“One of the major jobs will be to oversee Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – get the players and work with the coaches there on a day-to-day basis. Also, I will do a lot of pro scouting,” Fletcher said. “Both Ray and I will negotiate the contracts. We’ll split them up and see how that goes over time. I expect to be involved with a lot of the NHL administration and contracts and I will be around here from time to time.
“It’s a great opportunity to come work for an organization that is young and upcoming, in terms of the talent. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of changes over the next few years, but with the core of players we have and the nucleus of talent, it’s a very exciting time to get in with the club,” he continued. “Ray offered me the job and presented me with a great opportunity, so I am really looking forward to working alongside him in a lot of the areas we need to do and have a chance to try and build a winner here in Pittsburgh.”
It is the first time Shero and Fletcher shared a common employer. In the past, they had met on many occasions as rival executives – Shero with Nashville and Ottawa and Fletcher with Anaheim and Florida.
“This is the first time we’ve worked together. He started as an assistant general manager in Ottawa around 1992 or ’93 and I started in Florida in 1993. We were both kind of in similar jobs for many years and we talked from time to time about contracts, both of us were negotiating contracts for our teams,” Fletcher said. “More recently, since he was in Nashville and I was in Anaheim, our farm teams – Cincinnati and Milwaukee – were bitter rivals and we played each other in consecutive playoffs. I have run across Ray a lot over the years in the American Hockey League and NHL ranks. We’ve just gotten to know each other fairly well over that period of time and I think we have a pretty good relationship. He communicates really well and it’s a great opportunity here.”
Fletcher, son of longtime NHL executive and Hall of Famer Cliff Fletcher, who led the Calgary Flames to the Stanley Cup as their General Manager in 1989, has 13 years of NHL management with Florida and Anaheim – serving as Assistant General Manager, Director of Hockey Operations and Interim General Manager during that time. He has been heavily involved in player development and scouting while also handling contract negotiations, day-to-day hockey operations and other administrative duties.
A 1990 Harvard University graduate, where he played college hockey, Fletcher worked for two years as a player representative with Newport Sports Management before entering hockey management with the Florida Panthers in 1993. He served as Assistant General Manager for seven-plus seasons before being named Interim General Manager on Dec. 3, 2001. His main responsibilities with the Panthers included scouting, player development, contract negotiations and the supervision of the day-to-day hockey operations of the club.
Fletcher joined the Anaheim Ducks as Director of Hockey Operations in 2002 and was named Assistant General Manager, Hockey Operations in 2004. Under Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke, Fletcher oversaw amateur scouting operations and the evaluation of Anaheim’s prospects, in addition to coordinating training camps and conditioning camps.
Making the switch from the West Coast to the East Coast is not exactly easy. However, Fletcher has an advantage as he is very familiar with the young players in the Penguins’ organization.
“Three of the last four years, I was the head pro scout in Anaheim in addition to running the farm team, so I saw Wilkes-Barre/Scranton play a lot, in particular [2004-05] I watched them play seven or eight games alone,” he said. “So, I am quite familiar with the players and familiar with the league and I have been to their rink several times and it’s a great rink and a great area for players to play. For being in the league for such a short period of time, it has a tremendous tradition of winning already. So, I am looking forward to working with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and we have a good crop of young players slotted to go in there. We’re trying to round it out with some quality veteran talent and keep it competitive. It will be a great challenge to keep the winning tradition there.”
Also, Fletcher and his family are happy to be back in the East.
“I lived in Florida for a long time and Boston for a while, so my family is really looking forward to moving back East,” he said. “California was wonderful, but you’re a long way away from a lot of things. I’ve heard great things about Pittsburgh and I have been here many times over the years. I am looking forward to living here and relocating my family here.”
The organization’s goals are high and Fletcher knows that, through hard work, results can come quickly.
“It’s the same challenge everywhere. I went to Anaheim four years ago and we were coming off a 66 point season. In the three NHL seasons I was there, we got to the Stanley Cup Finals and the semifinals,” he said. “Things can turn around quickly, but it’s the same project everywhere you go – trying to put together a winning team within your budget and trying to draft and develop as many quality young players as you can. I think that’s the goal here. We’re going to try to compete in the NHL as quickly as we can while simultaneously building for the future. It’s difficult to win now and still build for the future, but I know that’s Ray’s looking forward to doing and that’s the challenge.”