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Q&A with Craig Leipold

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild caught up to Craig Leipold on Friday, when the Wild owner talked about the direction the club is taking, perceptions and expectations, how his new hire will help the team live up to them and why Chuck Fletcher is the right guy for the job. While you don’t exactly get a say as to how the perception may change with this hire, it almost assuredly will change among fans. How would you like them to view the hiring of Chuck Fletcher?

Leipold: I’ve seen some of the things being said here and there, and it's pretty much right on -- Hey, we have a new guy with new ideas and new energy, looking at a new system and a newer way to develop our younger players.

If you look at the teams he has been a manager on, they’re up-tempo kinds of teams. He's coming in as a person who has been part of winning franchises. I want this to be another one of those winning franchises he's been a part of -- we just want to take it one level further than he's been. My sense is that with this opportunity, in this market, you didn't have to do a lot of selling, but did you feel as if you had to sell the position?

: No. I did not feel like we had to sell, but we sold anyway, only because it's fun selling this. When you have this franchise, we wanted to make sure all the candidates would look at this and really want it. You are on record as saying you like to let the best people do their jobs. Will that same philosophy extend to your new hire?

: As we were interviewing Chuck, asking about his management style, culturally how he would like to build the team, what his thoughts are for coaches and how to let them coach, I looked at his answers -- it was right in line with what I believe. So I don't think I'm taking a high risk. I'm investing in a general manager who manages the way I hoped we could find somebody to manage. I'm real excited that he's the guy.

He's coming in with great credentials and coming from a great system, and I'm hopeful he can take that and put it into our team. Did you enjoy this process?

: Yeah, I did. I really did. It was long. The interviews ... every interview was three or four hours, so you had to really be prepared. I learned an incredible amount about our team, our players, our drafts. It’s the kind of information you would pay a lot to see, and now we have gained it. You may strike some as a gut-feeling guy, but this isn’t the kind of decision that is made entirely on feel. What, from a more analytical approach, went into this decision?

: You look at the experience that he has, then you compare it to all the other candidates, and I can't think of any other candidate who had more. The second part is chemistry. How's the chemistry between the two of us? We have to be able to work together, the same kind of styles, the same business philosophy -- which is to hire the best people you can and let them do their jobs.

You take that and you look at the kind of history he has, where he comes from, the kind of person he is -- he's the total package. It was just a very easy decision. When you bought the team, you talked about what a dream it was for the stars to align the way they did, and while there clearly have been peaks and valleys, today’s announcement probably ranks as among the fun times. How much better does it get, right?

: Obviously, it has been an interesting year, and it has been a lot of fun. Still, not making the playoffs is not acceptable. It's not acceptable from a fan standpoint. We have too good a team. Once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen.

Next year, that's really our hope. In terms of how much more fun can it be, it can be a lot more fun. The kind of general manager that we have now, with Chuck, I think he's going to go out and get the same kind of coach -- one who believes in up-tempo, who has the kind of belief that we have, and you build the team around that.

Chuck coming in today is a gigantic step to where we want to go. There are more steps that we have to take, and, frankly, the next steps are Chuck's to make, which is getting a coach, getting the right players in place and then moving forward. You mention the next moves are those to be made by Chuck ...

: Yes, absolutely. There's no question. I'm going to hold him accountable, and he's more than willing to take that accountability, but I have to give him the freedom to do what he thinks he has to do. He knows that he has the freedom to do what he wants to do, to build his own organization. We have great people in place right now, and he's going to give everybody a chance to succeed who is in (his or her) place right now. But the fun part is still building the organization, and it's his organization to build.
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