The Halcyon days are over my friends.
Last Tuesday Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, who were acquired from San Jose in separate trades, were formally introduced to Minnesota. The addition of these two wingers, on paper, should solve some of Minnesota's goal scoring woes from last season, and in essence make The Wild a viable contender for a playoff spot.
This last weekend was the Prospect Development Camp Open Scrimmages, in which roughly 6600 fans total came out to watch the likes of Mikael Granlund, Mario Lucia, Johan Larsson, and Charlie Coyle play, giving the faithful a glimpse of what lay on the road ahead. Sure, there would be those who would come out anyways to watch the kids play, but now the pipeline isn't just solid anymore- its very respectable, with some kids who have real shots at being big time NHLers. There is excitement now.
And while it may seem like the organization took huge leaps forward just in the last three weeks, with a praised Draft Class and dealing for Heatley and Setoguchi, the reality is that this is the third offseason into the Chuck Fletcher regime. Three Draft Classes and free agency bonanzas have now come and gone- including the last one, where we bid adieu to guys like Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen. Its not just that they weren't resigned that holds meaning; its that with their departure, the Doug Risebrough era in Minnesota is now officially over.
This is all on Chuck Fletcher now.
Over the course of the past three years Fletcher has waived, traded, released, non-tendered, and essentially weeded out those who he didn't see fit- and replaced them with his guys. Look at the turnover from 2009 (this was the roster he inherited when he took over) to now- by my count there is just seven roster guys who were kept (and the jury is out on Niklas Backstrom because of that albatross of a contract he was given) and the prospect pool has been turned over to an even greater degree, especially with the addition of a number of NCAA free agents- gotta make room for Fletcher's guys.
He set the vision at The Draft; that this organization will be perpetually stocked so there will be inherent competition from within by youth, but that being said, he's wheeled and dealed and altered the NHL roster with trades and free agent signings that its a legitimate team now too- with legitimate talent and star quality.
We can't blame the "scorched Earth" policy of Doug Risebrough anymore on the on-ice failings, that the team just isn't talented enough, or that Fletcher has his hands tied because of gaudy contracts to players undeserving of such. We can't blame those bad contracts on the sketchy prospect development philosophy (first rounders only!) by Risebrough and his nefarious henchmen, which left next to nothing in the toybox that can contribute. Can't blame bad drafting anymore (see Blog title,) the unnecessary trading of Draft picks, and we just can't blame it on the old boss anymore.
So as we move forward from here on out, the onus is now on Chuck Fletcher because over the course of three years he's made it his team with his guys- and its a rather impressive collection from top to bottom, as witnessed with the events of the last week with the introductions to Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, and the elements of the three Draft Classes tied to Fletcher's tenure.
We bid farewell to the Doug Risebrough Chapter in the annals of Minnesota Wild history, but it leaves one solitary question, but a relevant one at that:
Now who are we supposed to make fun of?