Bill Guerin has to be ready to make a big move.
Tuesday night, the Wild drafted polished center Marco Rossi. In a few months, we may find out whether Rossi is ready for the NHL, and in a few years, we may know whether the Wild chose wisely.
Will Wild fans have to wait that long for Guerin, the team’s GM, to unveil the endgame of his secret master plan?
So far, almost all of the moves Guerin has made this calendar year have one thing in common.
Not masterful management. Any or all of his decisions could turn out well, but we won’t know for a while.
Not immediate upgrades. As of today he lacks a No. 1 goalie and a No. 1 center, two rather important roles on an NHL team.
No, what Guerin’s moves have in common is that he has rid the Wild of some of their best people and personalities without receiving much in return.
Guerin is right when he says that the Wild hasn’t experienced enough playoff success to stand pat. He’s right to try to alter the roster. But during a sports era in which general managers love to talk about “culture,” Guerin has cut bait on a lot of quality humans.
Devan Dubnyk? Wonderful guy who had a terrible year while his wife was ill. Yes, you can make a hockey judgment that it’s time to find a new starting goalie, but then you have to prove you can find someone better.
Jason Zucker? He and his wife, Carly Aplin, dedicated themselves to charitable efforts. Zucker scored more than 22 goals in only one season, but he produced six in 15 games with Pittsburgh, and the Wild could use more players with his speed.
Eric Staal? A model leader and competitor and a proven winner.
Ryan Donato? Not as productive as the Wild hoped he would be, but a quality teammate.
You can add in Bruce Boudreau and Mikko Koivu as quality professionals, although it’s not uncommon for a new general manager to want his own head coach, and Koivu played past his expiration date.
Guerin signed defenseman Jonas Brodin, who is known for his quiet demeanor. So when Guerin uses the cap space he has cleared, presumably on a center, he’ll need to find a leader.
I’m not sure who qualifies, with the requisite combination of excellent play and take-charge personality, in the Wild locker room.
At least they got lucky in the draft. Rossi falling to the Wild was a nice surprise for the franchise. The team needs a playmaking center, even if he lacks height.
“Depends on how you define ‘size,’ “ Guerin said. “He’s 5-9½, and he’s almost as wide.”
But the biggest move of the offseason is yet to come. We think?
Either Guerin has masterfully wheeled and dealt to set up a big acquisition, or he’s done what anybody could have done — making changes for the sake of making changes.
Guerin got the job last summer when the Wild fired Paul Fenton. He had his hands tied at the time, and spent most of his first season evaluating the Wild.
He was right not to like what he saw, but did the moves he made improve the team or its locker room?
As every sports columnist knows, it’s much easier to identify a problem than to fix it.
Anyone can light a match. Building a bonfire requires skill.
The Wild may have gotten lucky to have Rossi fall to No. 9. “They need a center,” Rossi said. “I’m a center. And I’m 100% ready.”
The first two statements are facts. The third is speculation that, if true, could alter the look of the franchise.
Can you imagine a future first line of Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov and Rossi, if Kaprizov and Rossi are as good as advertised?
Until Rossi proves himself, the Wild still seems to need a No. 1 center and a No. 1 goalie.
Those who know Guerin well trust him.
At the moment, trust is all Wild fans have to go on.
©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)