Posted by Dan Shrader on Saturday, March 26, 2011
In any professional sport (you could even expand this into high profile collegiate sport as well,) there is a saying- "coaches are hired to be fired". You see it across the board, that the coach is often the chief figurehead for a team's success, or failure, whether it is deserved or not.
For every Bill Belicheck, there is a John MacLean. The reality is the Lindy Ruffs, the Barry Trotz', the Gregg Popovich's, the Bobby Cox' are exceedingly rare. That's just how the coaching carousel works.
There isn't any question that the interrogator's spotlight is shining brightly on Wild Head Coach Todd Richards. I'll spare you the timeline of the now well-documented flameout; any fan can tell you that this season went from promising to toilet-bound in what would be called ludicrous speed. The Wild have gone plaid indeed. Now that the season's relevance is over, the same vultures that were circling about Richards last season and into the early part of this season have returned. It's just crazy that there was some talk about Richards being a candidate for the Jack Adams, and now we're talking about whether or not he has a job in two weeks.
Hypothetically, if Todd Richards is fired, there would be some rejoicing by a segment of the Wild fanbase. Can someone tell me though, what is it the team stands to gain by firing him?
To me this isn't just a matter of competency; this extends beyond that. There are just some things that are out of a coach's control- Richards can't help that Niklas Backstrom has been just terrible in the past month (and I cannot overstate this enough- I don't think Backstrom is getting enough heat for his play, because he's been a huge reason why this team has bottomed out,) or that Brent Burns has lost his way, or injuries (most notably Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck, and to a lesser extent Guillaume Latendresse,) or that his lineup has been exposed as a group of guys who more or less don't have the ability to create their own offense. Why should Richards take the brunt of the blame when he a.) inherited a lineup that is in the process of being turned over on the fly, and b.) doesn't really have the personnel to play his style of up-tempo forecheck hockey (speed and talent,) and c.) has a team with not much talent. I understand that you have to make do with what you got, but at the same time there are certain limitations when you are trying to install a methodology of how you want a team to play.
I give Chuck Fletcher, who's in a very tough spot considering he brought in Richards, credit for doing what he can as quick as possible to give Todd Richards the pieces he needs, but I also thought Fletcher was absolutely spot on when he told Elliotte Friedman that "all we've done here is make change. New coach, new players, new system. What we need is stability, not more changes." Fletcher can only do so much folks; he's got little assets and is increasingly handcuffed by some very sketchy contracts.
Up until roughly a month ago, Todd Richards had established some legitimacy as a coach, and his preferred style of play, with a moderately talented and ill-fitting roster. Now that 3-4 month stretch should just be disregarded because of the finish?
So we want to forsake patience for what looks like a quick fix? To hell with continuity?
I understand the want and the need for playoff appearances, success, and in the end a Stanley Cup. I get it; I got roughly $6000 with the Minnesota Wild's name on it for ticket renewal- don't think that it isn't a tough pill to swallow. I'm sure I'm not the only stiff paying his/her/their discretional monies to the Wild who feels the same way. I also can understand Craig Leipold's stance too; he's the bankroller here, forking out 60 million for a non-playoff product, with more and more customers becoming frustrated, disillusioned, bitter, sullen, and withdrawn. Not to mention the the reported ten million he is losing a year on this team. No one, no matter their business acumen, wants that.
But there has to be a bit of patience as well; Fletcher's trying to overhaul the roster without completely blowing it up and starting from scratch- so that means that there is going to be some low moments; last year's game against Florida and the 8-1 thrashing by Montreal being the lowest- but there has to be some continuity and a commitment to staying the course moving forward otherwise this franchise won't ever move forward when the coaching turnstile continues to spin.