by PuckStopsHere on 04/17/09 at 03:19 AM ET
The Minnesota Wild front office will look different next season. Their coach Jacques Lemaire quit at the end of the season. He had been their only coach in franchise history and had built a very successful system that had made the Wild a much better team than their talent level would have predicted. Minnesota is a team that has only ever had one player who can be considered a scoring star in Marian Gaborik. Despite the fact that Gaborik is injury prone and was held to 17 games played this season, Minnesota barely missed the playoffs this year finishing in ninth place in the West Conference. It was a common, but incorrect, opinion that the problem with the Wild was Lemaire’s defensive scheme. The theory was that it prevented the Wild from offensive success. A much more reasonable theory is that the Wild had little offensive talent and their defensive scheme was what gave them the success that they had. The man who was at fault for the lack of offensive talent is the general manager Doug Risebrough. Yesterday, the Minnesota Wild announced his firing.
Risebrough is the only GM in the history of the Minnesota franchise. I am not overly impressed by his tenure as Minnesota GM. He did not do a particularly good job of providing the team with top level players. His main success was providing a top level coach who consistently helped the team finish above its talent level in the standings. Without Lemaire, Doug Risebrough would likely have been fired long ago.
It is not clear what the future holds for the Minnesota Wild. We will have to wait and see how they fill their front office vacancies. Owner Craig Leipold did a good job when he was in Nashville with his hiring of David Poile. If he can do as well in Minnesota, things should work out in the longer term. In the short term, it is most likely that the team will drop. It is rare that a coach can make as big a positive impact on his team as Jacques Lemaire was doing in Minnesota. That is almost impossible to replace. A more average coach would have left the Minnesota Wild well out of the playoffs this past season.
Next season, the Minnesota Wild will have a new general manager. They will have a new coach. They will most likely be without the top scorer in franchise history, Marian Gaborik, because he is an unrestricted free agent. Most likely the Wild will take a significant step backward. A good GM signing will help the team make a faster trip back to playoff contention. I don’t know that Doug Risebrough was up to the task, but it is hard to say his successor is either until we know who he is.
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