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New GM Guerin arrives in Minnesota with winning pedigree

Longtime player and executive has won four Stanley Cups, been a part of some of the NHL's winningest franchises

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

Bill Guerin has accomplished a lot in his nearly three decades as a NHL player and front office executive. But the one thing he's done more than just about anything else is win.  

After 18 seasons as a player and eight more as a player development coach and an assistant general manager with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Guerin will bring his winning pedigree west after he was named the fourth general manager in Minnesota Wild history on Wednesday. 

In the process, the Wild added a proven leader and one of the finest American-born players in NHL history. 

During Guerin's tenure in Pittsburgh's front office, the Penguins have more wins (370) and points (802) than any other NHL team. Nobody has more wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (56) during that span as well.

Video: Ryan Carter meets new Wild GM Bill Guerin

But winning hasn't been just a front-office trend for Guerin. 

During a playing career that spanned eight different franchises and nearly two decades, Guerin became one of the most respected players in the game ... and one of its winningest.

It's a bullet point on his resume that Wild owner and chairman Craig Leipold took note of when he decided to tab Guerin as the man in charge of his hockey operation.

"Bill has been a winner throughout his hockey career," Leipold said in the team's release announcing the hire. "I am extremely pleased to be able to add his experience to our organization and The State of Hockey."

In that regard, Guerin plans on getting right to work. 

While his ability to make an immediate mark on the complexion of the team will be limited initially, simply by the timeline of his hire, there is one thing he said that he wants to make crystal clear to the group that will arrive for training camp in less than a month.

Video: Guerin prepared for General Manager role

"The only teams that win are the teams that put the team first," Guerin said. "We all have to put the team first. Anybody's individual agenda comes second. The team winning comes first and foremost and that's it. Everybody sacrifices their personal interest for the betterment of the team."

It's a lesson Guerin said he learned early in his career with the New Jersey Devils, when Jacques Lemaire took over behind the bench in Guerin's second full season in the NHL.

On a team with a number of veteran players, buy-in was critical. Lemaire got it, leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 1995.

The championship was the first of four that Guerin has experienced since the start of his playing career.

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"I was so fortunate to come to an older team with a lot of veterans, guys like Scotty Stevens, John McLean, Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver, Claude Lemieux," Guerin said. "Guys that I really admired and still do admire. I'm friends with all of those guys still today. Just to be able to be around the room and watch how they carried themselves, how professional they were, how they approached the game day in and day out. I learned a ton at a young age."

Those lessons sustained him for 18 seasons and helped mold him into the kind of trusted presence he'd one day himself become. 

Drafted by the Devils, Guerin played his first 5 1/2 seasons in New Jersey before being traded to Edmonton.

Stops in Boston, Dallas, St. Louis, San Jose, Long Island and Pittsburgh followed. He wore an alternate captain's 'A' with the Bruins, Oilers and Stars before being named the 11th captain in Islanders history. He wore the 'C' for each of his two seasons in New York.

Former Wild forward Jim Dowd broke in with Guerin with the Devils late in the 1991-92 season and spent five seasons with him in New Jersey.

"He'll do the Wild [job] right," Dowd told Wild.com via text message. "Great guy, great teammate. He's a great friend who is a winner."

Former Wild forward Matt Cullen has been around Guerin in two recent stints with the Penguins and played against Guerin for more than a decade.

"Great guy, a very honest, tell-it-like-it-is guy," Cullen told Wild.com. "He's done a real nice job in Pittsburgh and has really good relationships with the players there."

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Guerin played junior hockey for the Springfield Olympics, where he played for his mentor in hockey, Gary Dineen. 

A native of Montreal, Dineen started the junior program in Springfield and ran it for more than 20 years.

"I went to his hockey schools growing up and he was the guy who really molded me and guided me along before I was a pro," Guerin said. 

After two seasons at Boston College, Guerin was the last player cut from the U.S. team ahead of the 1992 Winter Olympics. 

Instead of heading to Albertville, France to represent his country, he instead went to Utica, New York to begin his pro career, where he played for Herb Brooks. Guerin played 22 games in the AHL that season and 18 more the following year but became a full-time NHLer after that.

Sometime during the middle of his career as a player is when Guerin knew he wanted to someday work in management. A leader with the NHL Player's Association, Guerin got his first taste of negotiations during the 2004-05 lockout. 

"It really opened my eyes up to the business side of hockey," Guerin said. "Being involved in the lockout in 04-05 and really seeing how things were operated really fascinated me. Theres just great opportunity for players after their careers if you want to work at it. It's just something I really found an interest in and decided to pursue it."

Traded to Pittsburgh in 2009, Guerin was a critical late season addition to that Penguins championship team, scoring five goals and 12 points in 17 games down the stretch for the Pens. But he made his presence felt in the playoffs, where he scored seven times and added eight assists. 

He would play one more season after that, scoring 21 goals and 45 points in his final season as a 39-year-old before announcing his retirement as a player in 2010. 

The following summer, Guerin began his climb up the management ladder, one that began working under Ray Shero and continued under Jason Botterill and, more recently, Jim Rutherford.
 

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"I was fortunate enough to work under a lot of great people in Pittsburgh that gave me an opportunity," Guerin said. "I enjoyed going through those steps and learning from everybody along the way. It's all experience and you need that experience to prepare you for this job. 

"It's something new every day, no matter what role you have in hockey operations, whether it's player development, assistant GM, general manager of an American League team, whatever it is, something new comes up every single day and you have to deal with it and you have to make it right."

Now, Guerin will attempt to make the Wild right after Minnesota missed the postseason for the first time in seven seasons last year. It's a challenge that Guerin said he's ready for. 

If history is any indication, plenty of winning playoff experiences -- and hopefully Stanley Cups -- can't be too far behind.

"I think the lineup here is good. I like a lot of the pieces that we have," Guerin said. "I know what a special opportunity this is. I just want to come in here and get better. This team can definitely get better and if we do the right things at the right time, everything is here for us to win. 

"It's a great market, a great community, great fans ... everything is here. We just have to put our nose to the grindstone and get to work."


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