It’s been barely two months since the Wild abruptly fired general manager Paul Fenton only a little over a year into his tenure, replacing him a few weeks later with Bill Guerin.
The timing of it all, deep into the NHL offseason and with the Wild’s major free agency decisions and draft already done, was bound to make 2019-20 a strange season.
Guerin was another fresh set of eyes — to borrow a phrase used when Fenton was hired — and it stood to reason he would be re-evaluating (and adding input to) not just the decisions made by Fenton but also the players who skated out of the playoffs under Chuck Fletcher’s watch just 18 months ago.
The result of a lot of old parts blended with the new vision that helped get Fenton fired, all being overseen by a new regime with new ideas … well, it hasn’t been pretty so far.
Our Sarah McLellan captured the spirit of the Wild’s latest 5-2 stumble at Winnipeg (and really its entire 0-3 start) quite nicely when describing it as a “jumble of fragmented efforts.” The lines don’t seem to make much sense no matter how they are arranged. Devan Dubnyk hasn’t been particularly sharp.
There’s enough talent to generate moments of optimism, and yes it’s fair to point out all three losses were on the road and that a lot of young players are getting major minutes, but Bruce Boudreau is right: “We do a lot of good things right for a lot of the games. We just haven’t been able to complete it.”
That’s what mediocre and downright bad teams do, and the Wild sure looks like one or the other — a team in transition, a mish-mash of ill-fitting parts, a season that could go off the rails in a hurry.
What’s also true is that, if we were being honest, this is about how the 2019-20 Wild was likely to look regardless of whether Fenton or Guerin was in charge. Maybe this will bring the Wild closer to the thing that owner Craig Leipold has consistently resisted: something resembling a real rebuild. Perhaps what seems like the inevitable short-term pain of this season will bring better days ahead under Guerin’s watch once he’s able to fully assess things and chart a course.
What’s most true, though, is this: It’s strange in the moment that Guerin was left to preside over the puzzle that Fenton inherited and the mess he accelerated.
It’s almost a shame Fenton isn’t here to watch it up close like the rest of us.