"A Fluid Process"
Posted by Dan Shrader on Monday, April 11, 2011
You could tell Chuck Fletcher had a really tough time with this. It's hard having to fire someone, nevermind a long-time friend.
I guess I'm puzzled as to why, after two years, that Fletcher felt the team needed a new voice and go in a new direction. This is the same guy who told Elliotte Friedman earlier this season that he didn't fire Richards because he "wanted some stability when there was constant change." So...what happened?
Surely there are things that we, the public, will never be privy too- the internal dealings within the locker room, the discussions in the video room, the meetings in the front office; but unless there was something that would raise a giant red flag, I cannot see how firing Todd Richards is the answer.
To me, he wasn't the issue.
Now, while Fletcher is doing his best to make the toy box look respectable and bring in talent (so what does he tell the pro scouts now? Or is it still the "speed and grit" that Fletcher covets?) so this team is a bit more sleek (and less expensive) than the rusted out 1983 Buick Regal it was this season, it just seems like nearly a wholesale change in coaching staff (Rick Wilson is the only one under contract) just creates a new set of continuity problems.
There is a part of me that wonders if Richards was doomed from the start- trying to install a system, based on being aggressive on the forecheck and being proactive, with a team that's riddled with bad contracts and roster holes. Considering the market prices and the lack of assets that were left in the toy box by the previous regime, just acquiring the personnel suited for the new system seemed Herculean, much less trying to win with a team who's overall speed wasn't conducive.
I'm not saying that Richards wasn't infallible in his 164 game tenure as an National Hockey League Head Coach, but when you put the big picture in perspective- trying to win while your GM is attempting to overhaul on the fly without a complete rebuild, he had the deck stacked against him. Especially when you have an owner, eager to create a legacy of success and losing millions doing it, who is cognizant of the fact that the denizens of the Xcel Energy Center haven't been exactly the happiest campers for a couple of years. It cannot be overstated enough just how bad a condition Doug Risebrough left this organization in, and it became really apparent this season when the team was playing well. When stacked up against the other teams in the West, Minnesota was by and large marginally talented, so when there was a need for scoring help or some other fix, it wasn't a viable option because we lacked the resources to get that help.
So he had to make due with what was left to him, and whatever Chuck Fletcher could get without further damaging this team long term, like selling the farm for a what would be perceived as attractive roster help.
Todd Richards was charged with trying to win with a team pieced together, ill-fitting to his philosophies, and still had this team playing at a playoff caliber level. Granted the margin of error was slimmer than some of the other teams in the Western Conference, but there was progress over the course of his tenure. And to me, that progress was worthy of more patience- the development curve was evident.
Alas, here we go into an offseason of uncertainty about who is going to coach the team, how we're gonna play, this that and the other. I suppose it creates fodder for a guy like me to get on his little bully pulpit and shake his fist as if my opinion matters. I think Todd Richards got a raw deal, whether it was Chuck Fletcher's or Craig Leipold's call.
The wheels have been set in motion, and who knows when it started. But this "fluid process" sure looks a bit knee jerk to me.