ST. PAUL -- With his nearly two-decade playing career nearing an end, Andrew Brunette had no idea how his post-career days would be spent.
Brunette, who debuted in the NHL with the Washington Capitals during the 1995-96 season, played in the nation's capital for three seasons, before going to Nashville, playing for the inaugural Predators team. After that, he spent two seasons in Atlanta, playing for the first-ever Thrashers club, as well.
It wasn't until he came to Minnesota in 2001-02 that Brunette finally found a home.
Now, 16 years later, Brunette has continued his ascent up the hockey operations ladder. He, along with Shep Harder, was promoted to assistant general manager of the Wild earlier this month.
Brunette said he doesn't think much will change with his day-to-day duties; he's done a little bit of everything for the organization over the past couple of seasons, but the title certainly allows room for a little more responsibility.
"It'll probably be similar to what I've been doing on the pro side," Brunette said. "Last year, [I was] maybe involved a little bit more in those things, a little bit more in Iowa. Very similar to what I've been doing, but a more refined title."
Like many of his teammates with the Wild, the organization finds it beneficial to keep former players involved.
Darby Hendrickson has served on multiple coaching staffs over the past seven seasons. Both Brad Bombardir and Richard Park remain critical cogs in the Wild's player development department.
"They're passionate guys. They're good people. They played here, had success here and had a lot of pride in playing for the Wild," said Wild Vice President of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr. "They all wanted to live here after their playing careers and they're all good hockey people. For us, we're just fortunate."
Since retiring as a player following the 2011-12 season, Brunette has served as a hockey operations advisor and as an assistant coach before spending another season last year in his old advisory role.
But unlike his first stint, Brunette was more hands on, especially in Iowa, where coach Derek Lalonde sang his praises on numerous occasions.
"When I first started, that first year was basically to see everything," Brunette said. "I kind of just trailed [Flahr] around and saw Iowa, saw some amateur scouting. It was a short year that year, so it was a quick glance at what goes on [throughout the organization]."
It helps that many of the players in Iowa can easily relate to a guy like Brunette, who was never the speediest or most skilled player on any team he played on at the NHL level.
"He was given nothing as a player. He had to really work for it," Flahr said. "There were times when he probably thought he was never going to play in the NHL. He spent a good number of years in the minors, going up and down, and learning how to deal with the send downs, coming up and playing limited minutes. It's one of those things you have to be able to get over and that's a very good teaching tool for some of our guys who may struggle when they get sent down."
Flahr, who was promoted to senior vice president of hockey operations on the same day Brunette was moved up, held the assistant GM title for the past eight years.
While Flahr is and has been largely responsible for the Wild's entry draft selections, Brunette's job involves a great deal of scouting and evaluating. He will continue to help out in Iowa, while also being a presence for the Wild at the World Junior Championships and helping out with evaluations of college free agents.
"There's a lot that goes into it," Brunette said. "But largely on the pro side."
Brunette said his two-year stint on Mike Yeo's coaching staff also helped him in his front office work, allowing him to evaluate and see players from a completely different perspective.
"I think it's extremely important," Brunette said of his time as a coach. "When you're in the trenches every day, you see things a little differently than you see them up top. I think the experience helps me tremendously in where I am now; just the structure of the games and the teams and being able to feel what they feel what they feel down there while knowing what we feel up here.
"Being able to understand that side is crucial to the role I'm in. It gives you a way better understanding of the whole picture."
Whatever comes next for Brunette, whether it's a continued climb up the Wild's ranks or eventually somewhere else, Flahr sees a guy capable of someday running his own operation.
And knowing Brunette's history as a player, it'd be wise to not count him out.
"He was a very intelligent player and he knows the game very well," Flahr said. "He's a hockey lifer. Even when he played, he knew what was going on around the League. He loves the game. The sky is the limit."