Wild In Awkward Position Heading Into Season After Firing GM
The Wild have fired GM Paul Fenton, and while there "certainly was discontent throughout the organization" during his one season with the team, the "timing of the move still comes as a surprise," according to Dane Mizutani of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Wild Owner Craig Leipold "made it clear that there wasn’t one big issue" that led to yesterday's decision. It was a "growing list of issues: questionable roster moves, a lack of clear direction and poor morale throughout the organization." Asked why Fenton was not let go before the NHL Draft and free agency, Leipold said, "I wasn’t ready at that point. I just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger." Mizutani notes a search for a replacement "will begin immediately." Wild Assistant GM Tom Kurvers "will run the show" in the interim. Leipold will work alongside Wild President Matt Majka again "during the hiring process" and also "plans to enlist the help" of Hockey HOFer Mike Modano, who was hired as an executive advisor in the front office this offseason (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/31).
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: In Minneapolis, Sarah McLellan writes Fenton's firing was an "unsurprising move in the sense it capped off a tenure that was tumultuous but a decision that puts the organization in a bizarre spot seeking leadership about six weeks ahead of training camp." The Wild last year "missed the postseason for the first time in seven years and looked caught in the unenviable position of having too veteran a roster to embrace a rebuild but not competitive enough to seriously contend." The team in its search for a new GM "isn’t operating under a deadline, a patient approach that makes sense considering the calendar" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/31).
STARTS UP TOP: THE ATHLETIC's Michael Russo noted Leipold "owned his mistake" after announcing the firing. He said, "I missed it, and this is on me." Leipold acknowledged that he "started to really wonder after the season if he made a dire mistake." Exit interviews with players gave him a "sense that 'things weren’t all right'" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/30). THE ATHLETIC's Scott Burnside wrote firing Fenton after one season is a "bombshell of a move" that "nudges the Wild into laughingstock territory." When an owner "makes crucial mistakes in judgment," he "doesn’t pay for it with his job but with his credibility and the credibility of his franchise." That is "why Leipold has to take ownership of what transpired since he took over the team" in '08, and "more specifically, he must take ownership for hiring Fenton, which has now been revealed as a colossal error." This "fiasco ultimately lands at Leipold’s feet" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/30). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes under the header, "Craig Leipold Shares Blame In This Wild Debacle." Now Leipold’s decision making, "not Fenton’s, becomes the Wild’s biggest problem" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/31).