Minnesota Wild Season Ticket Holders from across the State of Hockey gathered Tuesday evening for the Wild Town Hall, where they offered up questions to Owner Craig Leipold, General Manager Chuck Fletcher, and Head Coach Bruce Boudreau.
The event, which was attended by 250 season ticket holders, gave fans the chance to hear from team leadership on topics ranging from important offseason acquisitions to how Boudreau will reshape the team’s systems. With laughs and candor, the trio addressed some of the most pressing circumstances facing the Wild as it transitions to a new season.
Here are Five Takeaways from the event.
First Takeaway: Bruce Boudreau was Craig Leipold and Chuck Fletcher’s top pick for a head coach.
One of the biggest questions facing the Wild as it entered the offseason was whether Interim Head Coach John Torchetti would remain with the team. Though Torchetti did “a tremendous job” leading the team into the playoffs, as Fletcher said, both he and Leipold knew that once Boudreau became available, he was the right man for the job.
“You only get so many opportunities to hire a coach like Bruce Boudreau,” Fletcher said. “His teams have always excelled, they’ve always achieved, if not overachieved.”
Leipold echoed Fletcher’s positive sentiments about the new coach and added a key reason of his own for picking Boudreau: his championship drive.
“He wakes up every day thinking about the Stanley Cup,” Leipold said. “We want to get our name on the Cup and that’s something that really connected me to Bruce.”
Second Takeaway: Boudreau brings a much-anticipated change in mentality to the team.
Boudreau was a crowd favorite, taking around, if not more, than 50 percent of the total questions asked. Fans in attendance were curious about the mindset Boudreau brings to coaching the game of hockey and how he’ll get the players to buy into his system.
His answer? He’ll keep things simple and develop personal relationships with each player.
“My whole philosophy is to simplify everything, but do everything extremely well,” Boudreau said.
To avoid a midseason slump like the one that haunted the team last season, Boudreau plans on figuring out what makes players tick before any sign of a downturn.
“The best way to keep accountability is ice time,” he said. “It’s my job to find the Achilles Heel on every player. They’re all different. Some guys need a pat on the back more than they need a kick in the butt.”
Boudreau also emphasized the importance of setting short-term goals when it comes to staying focused and on track, and he intends to use smaller goals as a way to help the Wild reach its larger goal.
Third Takeaway: Eric Staal and Chris Stewart will add depth and grit to the roster.
While Fletcher targeted Staal and Stewart for their size and their experience, he sees them playing different, yet important, roles next season.
The Staal signing fixes what Fletcher sees as a hole at center, and it allows Mikael Granlund — and potentially Charlie Coyle — to move to the wing, where he really shines.
Stewart, who played for the Wild back in 2014-15, is the only player Boudreau has coached. He will add grit to a Wild roster that has lately favored speed and skill over size.
“It was amazing how much more confident we were on the road [with Stewart],” Fletcher said. “He can move up and down [our] lineup, he gives Bruce some versatility … and the opposing team knows he’s on the ice.”
Fourth Takeaway: Fletcher and Leipold understand what went awry last season.
During the event, Fletcher took the time to dismiss rumors about locker room chemistry.
“We don’t have chemistry issues on our team. Last year we had accountability issues,” Fletcher said. “We weren’t executing the game plan, guys were going off individually, and we lost focus on team goals there for a while.”
When speaking about the disappointing end to the Wild’s 2015-16 season, Leipold was straightforward.
“We left the season feeling like we just didn’t get to where we wanted to go,” he said. “Although we made the playoffs, our feeling was that we should’ve done better.”
That feeling was a major factor in the team’s offseason moves, especially in the hiring of Boudreau.
Fifth Takeaway: Leipold, Fletcher, and Boudreau are confident in their roster, but are looking forward to seeing where young prospects could fit in the lineup.
Fletcher sees this season’s training camp as a key juncture where a handful of prospects could impress him and the coaching staff.
“I think this year, we have a lot of players challenging,” Fletcher said. “Whether it’s Jordan Schroeder or Zac Dalpe that played last year or young guys like Joel Eriksson Ek or Alex Tuch that are competing … I think there’s going to be the opportunity for a young forward to step up and make the team.”
Even though there could be room on the roster for a few younger players, the trio stressed time and time again that they believe this is a lineup that can be competitive enough going forward to make a run for the Stanley Cup. They know their pipeline of future NHL talent is solid, but their main focus is constructing a champion-caliber team.
“It’s not like we’re taking over an expansion team,” Boudreau said of his transition to the Wild. “We’re taking over a really good team [whose] goals are pretty lofty right now.”