Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Minnesota Wild

Guerin honest about where Wild has been, where he hopes it's going

Wacky first year on the job hasn't deterred rookie GM as he sets course on his first true offseason in Minnesota

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

It has been 356 days since Bill Guerin was named general manager of the Wild, and 355 since he was introduced to the State of Hockey as the fourth GM in franchise history. 

But Guerin's experience in GM years would be akin to dog years to a human. Taking over just one month before training camp, spearheaded by a consequential trade, making a coaching change and a global pandemic that wiped out action for nearly four months means that, while Guerin has one year of actual experience under his belt, it probably seems more like six or seven.

Needless to say, it's been a long and unpredictable year since a smiling Guerin sat on stage at Xcel Energy Center and accepted a job he worked a decade to achieve.

Through all of the ups and downs, Guerin has remained his same old, positive self.

"I didn't see the pandemic coming that's for sure. It's been eventful and I've learned a lot and I think in the long run this year will help me. It'll help me be better," Guerin said. "It's just been crazy. I hope we can get back to somewhat normal soon. But you know what regardless, it's been one of the most enjoyable years of my career and there have been some tough decision that have been made in some trades and some things like that. But it's been great."

Guerin came aboard with only a few weeks to try and get settled before the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September, which in the past, has been the unofficial start of the season. 

Media obligations and state fair appearances and first pitch honors at baseball games aside, Guerin still had to find a way to get settled away from the rink, something that took several months to accomplish.

But that didn't slow him down on the job.

Video: Becoming Wild: Bill Guerin

He made his first big trade as a GM by working a deal with his old boss in Pittsburgh, acquiring Alex Galchenyuk, prospect defenseman Calen Addison and a conditional first-round pick in exchange for Jason Zucker.

It was a trade that was widely lauded in league circles. 

Just a couple of days later, he relieved coach Bruce Boudreau of his duties and named Dean Evason as the interim head coach. Minnesota went 8-4-0 down the stretch to put itself in on the cusp of a playoff position when the league suddenly went dark for the better part of four months.

Once the NHL finally returned in July, Guerin removed the interim label from Evason, signed the team's top prospect Kirill Kaprizov to a two-year contract, then accompanied the club to Edmonton for two weeks while the Wild played in the qualifying round in the NHL's Return to Play tournament.

Even after all of that, don't expect Guerin to sit back and rest. He's eager to turn the Wild into a Stanley Cup contender and he envisions his first real offseason as the team's GM to go much the same was his first season with the club went. 

"I don't know about other teams but I know we're going to be extremely busy," Guerin said. "My first year here, it's been crazy, but I didn't really have an offseason here last year to get certain things done. So we're going to be busy."

The Wild presently has $16.2 million in cap space, according to the website capfriendly.com, but some of that will be eaten up by contracts with restricted free agents Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway. Galchenyuk, Carson Soucy and Mikko Koivu are unrestricted free agents that Guerin will have to work on, but none will likely break the bank, which means Guerin should have some financial flexibility to render some changes, especially as COVID-19 has kept arenas empty and the salary cap flat.

"We've looked at the free agent pool, we do that pretty consistently through the year, just seeing who's going to be available and what positions, and if somebody would help. You don't just want to jump at somebody, you want to make smart decisions and thought out decisions," Guerin said. "The trade market, we'll see. Teams that were disappointed in the way their season ended are usually looking to get better. So, we'll see what comes of it, but I'm always listening and always willing to listen to another teams ideas and we have some ideas of our own."

And while that sounds cautious, Guerin was refreshingly honest about where he feels the Wild sits in its efforts to put a consistent championship contender on the ice. 

Guerin would know too; he won two Stanley Cups as a player and two more as an executive in Pittsburgh. 

That is the kind of pedigree he hopes to bring to Minnesota, but one he understands won't happen overnight. He hopes to make a big leap this offseason, though.

"I think we need to get faster. We could use some more skill up front," Guerin said. "We're just going to have to improve the team, and that starts today."

During his season-ending media availability earlier this week, Guerin was especially critical of the Wild's goaltending this season, which allowed the eighth-most goals per game in the NHL, a departure from what has historically been one of the league's stingiest teams. 

"I was disappointed in the goaltending this year," Guerin said. "Al [Stalock] had a tremendous year and Devan [Dubnyk] had an off year, and it needs to be better. That's just the way it is. And if I told you anything different, I'd be lying to you. It was not a strong point for us."

Asked if that could be an area where changes are made, Guerin said that he'll look at all avenues as ways to make the team better. That could mean coming back with Dubnyk and Stalock, promoting someone like AHL Goaltender of the Year Kaapo Kahkonen, or going outside the organization for help. 

"If I have an opportunity to make it better, I will. But I'm also confident if those guys come back that they're gonna be battling for a spot," Guerin said. "It just has to be better … flat out. So I can't promise anybody a spot. Al did himself a lot of good. He played hard, the guys played for him. But, still, next year is next year and we're going to be better."

Another area of focus for Guerin this offseason could be at center, where he believes the Wild could use additional high-end reinforcements.

How he goes about making those additions, whether through free agency, at the draft or via trade, won't be easy, but it will be a focus. 

"That's just the fact: Teams don't trade No. 1 centers," Guerin said. "They just don't. Usually it's got to be done in the free agent market or through the draft. It's a position that I think this organization has needed for quite some time and we're going to try to address it. It's not the easiest thing in the world. Like I just said, teams just don't trade No. 1 centers. You usually get them through the draft or free agency and we'll see how that plays out."

All of this work will need to be accomplished in an offseason that, if everything goes as scheduled, will be substantially shorter than a traditional one.

The hope is for training camp to begin in mid-November, with the opening puck drop of the 2020-21 season coming around Dec. 1. 

By the time the Stanley Cup Playoffs conclude in October, teams will have a little more than a month to conduct a draft, make trades, sign free agents and get any new additions settled during an uncertain time.

Luckily for the Wild, Guerin has received plenty of on-the-job training over the past year when it comes to managing unprecedented situations. 

Most importantly, he isn't intimidated. If anything, he's eager to get to work.

"I think we're a good team. I do, I think we're a good team but there definitely have to be changes," Guerin said. "There are always changes. We haven't had success here. Things need to get better, thats just the way it is ... we are a good team, but we just need to be better."


Related:

View More