Wild General Manager Paul Fenton and coach Bruce Boudreau have dwelled in the hockey world for years, with the two playing against each other in the minors before representing different teams in the NHL.
They knew each other only in passing, but that’s about to change. Forging a partnership is a priority of Fenton’s as he settles into his new role.
“That’s the most important thing, me building a relationship, him starting to learn to trust me, to trust what I’m going to see and look at certain things,” Fenton said.
Getting familiar with the Wild’s personnel is also on Fenton’s agenda as he transitions to the organization, and Boudreau is ready to help. Not only did he and his staff gather end-of-season information to pass along, but he’ll share his insights on pro scouting and free agency if asked.
“If he wants my input, wants my help, I’m there,” Boudreau said. “If he doesn’t, then I’ll coach whoever he gets me and we’ll do a good job at that.”
What Fenton won’t do, he said, is tell Boudreau how to coach.
“I’ve never been a coach,” Fenton explained. “I’ve been on the management side of things. I can evaluate, and I can tell you what I see in certain situations. The coach is going to coach and the manager is going to manage, and we’re going to meld together.”
This outlook is “great,” Boudreau said, but he wants a collaborative effort and likes to seek advice. He believes strong communication is key.
“We have mutual friends that say good things about each other, so I don’t think it’s going to be a difficult transition at all,” Boudreau said. “We’re hockey guys and when we’re getting together, we’re going to be talking hockey all the time. That’s what we love to do. He spent a lot of years looking at the minors. I’ve been a lot of years in the minors. I think it should end up being a really good relationship.”
With his right ankle tucked in a boot, defenseman Ryan Suter was getting around Xcel Energy Center during Fenton’s introduction on crutches.
But the 33-year-old will be able to put weight on the foot in a few weeks.
“It’s getting better every day,” he said.
Suter has been on the mend since breaking his talus and the outside of his right fibula March 31, a severe injury that could have ended his career if he played a different sport.
“My upper body is getting kind of big from being on the crutches all day long, so hopefully I won’t be too top-heavy,” Suter said. “But no, I’m finding ways to keep busy. I’m spending time with my family, which is nice. Normally I’m always on the go, so it’s nice to spend some time with them.”
While he’s started to move around more in his downtime, Suter is eager to walk. Once he accomplishes that, he said he feels he’ll leave the injury in the past.
“The goal is to get back for Game 1 and just have a good, hard summer workout program going and just kind of see where it goes from there,” Suter said.
Time to prepare
Fenton will be in Buffalo for the NHL combine next week before returning to the Twin Cities for amateur and pro meetings. From there, he’ll travel to the draft, which is June 22-23 in Dallas.
“I don’t think I’m going to sleep the next month,” he said. “The strength of every organization is the draft. It’s the way that we develop. It’s the way that we’re going to put our minor league system in place. I’ve run [Nashville’s American Hockey League affiliate in] Milwaukee for pretty much 20 years, and I believe that the minor league team has to be the vaulting stone to get to the next level.”
• Fenton doesn’t anticipate making any changes to the Wild’s hockey operations department until getting to meet the staff. “It’s like seeing the car outside and I like that car,” he said, “but I’m not going to know it until I drive it.”
• After suffering a fractured sternum in the playoffs, winger Zach Parise “feels it every now and again,” Boudreau said, but Parise has a checkup next month. When the season ended, Parise said the injury would heal on its own.
• Owner Craig Leipold is scheduled to undergo hip surgery Tuesday.