When it comes to the world of sports, most fan bases are extremely impatient and need what they want immediately. If something takes longer than a couple weeks, months, even a year, they are fired up and want everyone in charge held responsible. Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse since #CancelCulture entered the online universe.In the Minnesota Wild’s case, I get it. They have been a franchise starved of anything better than mediocre for their entire existence. Outside of a magical run in 2002-03, where they advanced to the Western Conference Finals, the franchise has won a total of two playoff series (’14 & ’15). That’s it. Clearly not even close to good enough for a team rich in hockey history and self-dubbed as the State of Hockey.
Yet, while the past has shown to be nothing but an ex-girlfriend that keeps tugging at your heartstrings, I am convinced that the Wild finally have the right guy navigating the ship in Bill Guerin. Why? Let me explain.
Guerin’s DemeanorFor a guy that I’ve never met, Guerin sure as hell seems like someone I would wanna have beers with up at the cabin. He is a straight shooter and you can just feel that he doesn’t have an ounce of ego in him. Guerin is a man that cares deeply but he also understands that hockey is a business. Hence the shocking buyouts of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last month.
When Guerin is addressing the media, he is relaxed and takes the time to answer every question from every reporter with detail and insight. He is the needle in a haystack that’s full of a shit ton of hay. This short interview that Guerin did with NHL Network prior to the start of free agency is a great example of this.
His Reluctance to MicromanageMicromanaging is one of the biggest issues that people in this position struggle with. They feel like it is their responsibility to get their paws on everything related to the franchise. A prime example of this? Look no further than previous Wild GM Paul Fenton. That guy was micromanaging absolutely everything and doing things without getting opinions from anyone else. He wanted something and he just did it. You can see how that turned out.
Guerin, on the other hand, is polar opposite of Fenton. He takes his time and gets to know people. He gets opinions from others. Guerin lets people be the experts in things that they are the experts in. It’s not some weird power struggle with him. Yes, he is the general manager of the team but he’s not everything else as well.
Take the way Guerin approaches the NHL Draft, for example. He hired Judd Brackett as the Director of Amateur Scouting in July of 2020. With two drafts under his belt now, Guerin has no shame in admitting that he just lays back, mucks some salami sandwiches, and allows Brackett and his group of scouts to do their thing. If they need something from Guerin, he will jump in, but other than that, he is merely existing in their world.
Let’s Talk About Judd Brackett
Now that I’m thinking about Brackett, let’s talk about him for a minute. It is well known that he is a guru when it comes to amateur scouting. In just two years, he has already turned the Wild prospect system from one of the worst in the league to a top-five group in the NHL.Notable names that he has drafted the past two years include Marco Rossi, Jesper Wallstedt, Marat Khusnutdinov, Carson Lambos, Ryan O’Rourke, Jack Peart, & Daemon Hunt. There are likely more diamonds in the rough as well. I really like the game of 2020 5th-Rounder Pavel Novak.
In his previous years with the Vancouver Canucks, Brackett is accredited with drafting the likes of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Nils Hoglander, Vasili Podkolzin, Jack Rathbone, & Adam Gaudette. That’s not so bad either, eh? I don’t blame Billy for putting all of his trust in him.
Just listen to Brackett gush about first-round picks Jesper Wallstedt and Carson Lambos. What a hire this guy was by Guerin.
Guerin’s Ability to Relate to His Players
Okay, let’s get back to Guerin. I think one of the most important things when leading a group of players is relatability. Who is going to listen to you if you have never been in their shoes before? Not many. Guerin provides this with his players while offering them guidance as well.
Billy is a winner. In total, he has won an incredible four Stanley Cups (two as a player and two in a management role). He has played on the biggest stages you can imagine. Most players would consider themselves lucky to win one Stanley Cup, let alone four. Guerin is someone they can know they can approach and trust for honest advice whenever they need it.
Lastly, His “Quiet” Confidence
In my opinion, quiet confidence is always the best way to be a leader of a team or organization. Don’t just talk to talk but speak up when your guys really need it. Be the first one to take that energy onto the ice with you. You will garner a hell of a lot more respect this way and your team will want to go through a brick wall for you.
Guerin was always this type of player for his teams. How many times do you see a player put up a shit ton of points but they never win anything? It’s because they care more about themselves than they do the team. Guerin’s highest point-total of his well decorated NHL career was a modest 69 points but man… did he ever win. A lot.
The first sign of this I saw with Billy during his current tenure in Minnesota was choosing Jared Spurgeon to captain the Wild over veterans like Parise and Suter. To many, one of them was expected to get the “C” but Guerin followed his intuition and chose otherwise. Something like that takes balls.
Fenton was arrogant. Guerin is confident. Big difference. Don’t get it twisted.
In closing, Kirill Kaprizov will get done. Kevin Fiala will get done. Minnesota will eventually have a better center option than Victor Rask. It might not be today but those things will get handled. I promise.
The fact that Guerin isn’t budging on asking prices for trades or overpaying average free agents like many past Wild GMs have lets me know that he is a man with a plan. In a world full of impatient, anxiety ridden sports fans, sometimes a little patience and faith is the best medicine. And Wild fans can confidently put their faith in Bill Guerin.