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  • Why Did Bill Guerin's Expectations Suddenly Change?


    Justin Wiggins
    Image courtesy of © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    We all remember it. The moment Bill Guerin truly enamored the fan base as the general manager of the Minnesota Wild. The moment, perhaps, that jump-started the “In Guerin We Trust” online trend.

    The former Stanley Cup-winning forward turned NHL general manager had just bought out the contracts of two of the largest icons in franchise history. A few months later, with an unrecognizable lineup and the leadership room completely flipped over, the Wild were preparing for their first season sans Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Mikko Koivu in a very long time. Guerin asked newly anointed captain Jared Spurgeon what Minnesota's goal was in 2021-22, and the mild-mannered Canadian quipped, “hard work and having fun.”

    And most of you, like me, probably smiled in that brief moment. There was Spurgeon, the man we had all watched grow up from a young boy and into one of the NHL’s elite defensemen. Surrounded by his teammates, many of them new, as they smiled too. Guerin had shed the locker room burdens that were Parise and Suter, and it looked like they were having so much fun!

    Aww… shucks, guys.

    “F&*K THAT.”

    Tense silence.

    “This is about fu&*king winning!”

    Woah. What did he just say? The GM who had just put them into cap hell for the next four years was yelling out expletives on the team account? This guy is nuts!

    But he wasn’t. That team went on to have the best regular season in team history. And they made the postseason again this past year. Guerin had established a culture of winning, damn those dead cap hits.

    So, forgive me for being shocked and confused during his end-of-season press conference this past Tuesday.

    “I don’t view this season as a failure,” he said.

    That was the quote directly from the suddenly less-brazen general manager when a reporter asked how he viewed Minnesota's season, following, yet again, another first round departure.

    Excuse me Billy, but f&*k that. I thought this was about f&*king winning?

    What happened to the “no excuses” attitude that made Guerin such a polarizing figure in the State of Hockey? It felt so odd seeing Guerin sitting in his press conference Tuesday, defending his stance that being eliminated in the first round for the fourth straight season was indeed, not a failure.

    We deserve better than that. Why? Because that wasn’t the standard that he set. Not by us, the paying fans. But by Guerin himself.

    Guerin’s first season as Wild GM was perhaps unlike any other first-year GM in NHL history. First, Minnesota hired him after abruptly firing Paul Fenton late in the offseason before the 2019-20 season started. Then he fired incumbent head coach in Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with Dean Evason on an interim basis, a man Fenton hired.

    And then the world stopped.

    The COVID-19 outbreak postponed the season. The NHL delayed the entire off-season until after the weird bubble playoffs in the fall, and Guerin handled his first summer operations with snow on the ground. Part of those off-season decisions included removing Evason's interim tag and naming him the sixth head coach in franchise history.

    It was an unusual choice for a new GM to make, to promote the guy the previous GM had hand-picked. But it was the first sign of Guerin’s demeanor as GM. He doesn’t care about what you did or who you knew before. Winning is paramount. And Evason did just that after replacing Boudreau.

    Then, Kirill Kaprizov arrived. And oh, what a magical season it was.

    This time, the Wild didn’t just make the playoffs as a middling team that snuck in. They entered as a true threat and took the eventual Western Conference finalist Vegas Golden Knights to seven games before bowing out.

    And yet, Guerin wasn’t pleased. To him, the locker room wasn’t structured in a manner conducive to winning. He shocked the hockey world when he announced that the Wild would be buying out Parise and Suter's remaining contracts later that summer.

    A first-round exit to a Stanley Cup contender wasn’t good enough. He identified leadership as the issue and swooped in. Having a more inclusive locker room was of utmost importance to winning. And Guerin was here to win.

    It paid off. The Wild followed the shock of the roster shakeup with the best regular season in franchise history. 53 wins. 113 points. 310 goals scored, and perhaps the most exciting on ice product in Minnesota professional hockey history.

    They lost in six games in the first round.

    Guerin publicly challenged the coaching staff to improve over the offseason. Special teams had put the team into a nosedive following a 2-1 series lead. Not again. Afterall, this is about f&*king winning.

    And then this year. An up and down regular season buoyed by elite goaltending and first-line scoring. They were in the playoffs for the fourth straight season and the special teams had improved! But, yet again, a 2-1 series lead. Yet again, a series defeat in six games. They lost the special teams battle heavily and they couldn't score.

    And yet, the message was “I don’t view this season as a failure.”

    Excuse me? What changed from previous season failures for the message to change so suddenly? Evason and his staff clearly failed their challenge from Guerin following their round one last year. So many players didn’t step up, it’s hard to keep count. The special teams were a disaster. The team folded like a house of cards for the second straight season with a 2-1 series lead, and it’s not a failure?

    How about, We didn’t get better at the things we needed to this year. It was unacceptable, and our coaches and players know it. We will be better next season. That would have at least passed for being acceptable to your paying fans. But no. For the first time in his tenure, Guerin chose to accept losing as okay.

    What happened to “it’s all about f&*king winning?”

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    How about, We didn’t get better at the things we needed to this year. It was unacceptable, and our coaches and players know it. We will be better next season. That would have at least passed for being acceptable to your paying fans. But no. For the first time in his tenure, Guerin chose to accept losing as okay.

    What happened to “it’s all about f&*king winning?”

    This is a completely fair set of questions, what happened? Why wasn't this a failure? We've all heard the cliche "Rome wasn't built in a day." Special teams failed us again, that part is the failure, but as a whole was this season really a failure?

    I think Guerin's statement was completely true. It looked like this team was going to fold in February when they went through what looks like a typical Minnesota swoon. But then they picked it up in March, once again forcing Guerin to buy instead of sell at the deadline, even though he had helped other teams out with the cap.

    But, there were also successes. It looks like the Marcus Johansson trade was one that got Boldy a wingman. Boldy's season was an A at the end with 30+ goals. Kaprizov had a strong season going prior to having an elephant fall on him. And Brock Faber came out from nowhere to provide some real solid defense. Gaudreau's year built on last years bargain signing. And, we were a #3 seed going away looking more like division challengers than squeaking by for a WC invitation. And let's not overlook Gustavsson in goal who may be a longterm answer to our goaltending depth. Walker and Beckman showed improvement, while not quite ready.

    But with it were some failures, like Rossi being able to make the leap, Addison refusing to acknowledge that the ice surface has 3 zones. Hartman playing through injuries was not the same player he was last year. WE STILL NEED CENTERS. Our special teams looked better in the regular season, especially with the threat of shorties, but in the playoffs they were dreadful. We were not as lucky with injuries either. 

    You can't judge this season with the mentality of "If you're not first, your last." If you look at the successes, some of those have longterm implications. We were promised a team the last 2 seasons that would be "competitive." Competitive does not even remotely mean Champions. Competitive means you're playing meaningful games with 10 games left in the season. That this team once again accomplished that and made the playoffs gives them at least a C. That is not an F.

    I know that you guys had the 694-494 loop built quite awhile ago. It was under construction when I lived there. It seemed to be under construction forever. Here, in Charlotte, we've been building our own loop which started in 1990 and was completed about 20 years later. Now, since they built it too small construction is once again tying things up as we go from 2 to 4 lanes. I knew they built it too small to begin with! While this is a little more drawn out than building a hockey team, it is similar. A draft pick under the Guerin/Brackett era has yet to play a full season in MN.

    Our new guys, the guys Guerin will count on, are getting better. Some will gain roster spots next season, some the year after. Rossi, Lambos, Wallstedt, Ohgren, Yurov are the 1st rounders. But just like my roads, they are under construction. We wait and wait, and there are traffic delays every day, but eventually the construction will be finished. This is what the Wild are right now, a team with a bunch of cement barriers and orange cones all over the place including traffic pattern changes. 

    So, why wasn't this season an F for failure? Because when the construction dust settles, we are closer to the goal than when we started the season. It is about winning, it's all about winning, but this season, and probably next will be evaluated differently than wins and losses. The blueprints look good, soon we will see if those blueprints actually produce a Championship Roster!

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    Guerin is changing his message a little, because he doesn't want to answer the logical follow up question. If Guerin were to say the season was a failure, people would then demand an explanation for how he plans to fix things.

    What does the owner think of Bill Guerin? Does Craig Leopold view this latest first round exit as acceptable?

    Until the Guerin and Brackett draft picks reach the NHL, we won't know the full outcome of whatever Guerin has planned. 

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    Hopefully the Minnesota Wild make it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2024 and Hopefully the Minnesota Wild make a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run between 2025-2027

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    I agree with Mnfan, I think it's hard to view this season as a failure. Most people didn't expect us to make the playoffs, or to sneak in as a WC. We were playing without a significant portion of the cap, and entered the playoffs down our best center, on a team with no true #1 center and a lot of players who are player center, when it is not their normal position.

    Bill Guerin bought out Parise and Suter, he knows the cap consequences. He also likely knew the team would not win a cup without 14 million in cap spaces. He is playing the long game, the whole being about "f*cking winning" is just publicity talk. What he is doing is building a positive culture for our new players and up-and-comers to develop in. Where players will actually give them advice and help them improve their game, rather than scorn them for being newbies. I think the (particularly Suter) Suter and Parise problem wouldn't have allowed this to happen.

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    His problem is he is a pretty straight forward guy and being seen in that light is important to him.  I expect he wants everyone to like him and he has a blindspot, thinking his story will be bought as it always has been.

     

    But when you've been around awhile and have said enough,  people start nagging you on these inconsistencies.

     

    Billy's job is to lie to people.  You wouldn't want it any other way.  You don't want a GM telling everything he knows.  Being honest doesn't come with the job.  Whatever his plan is, no one wants to hear, "We've got to get worse before we get better."

     

    In the Summer of 2026, when Kaprizov's contract is over, we'll know if whatever the heck he's doing pays off with a Championship.  If so, they'll put a statue of him on 7th. If not, aloha Billy. 

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    GMBG will be judged when salary cap purgatory is over.  If he has developed 6 to 10 players from the feeder system into a solid playoff potential team.  He will have done his job.

    Side note:  The first 6 weeks of the season were hard to watch.  The rest of the season was a fun ride.  The players poured everything they had into the year to get where they did.  I appreciate the effort of those players.  This isn't an easy game.  I am already looking forward to next season.

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    23 hours ago, jabuyer said:

    In the Summer of 2026, when Kaprizov's contract is over, we'll know if whatever the heck he's doing pays off with a Championship.  If so, they'll put a statue of him on 7th. If not, aloha Billy. 

    And there's the rub. I'm fairly convinced already BG hasn't got what it takes and the salary cap is going to keep him here and protect him for far to long. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't think I am. And what gets me the most is they have a fantastic coach who most everyone wants to get rid of. It should be just the opposite in my opinion.

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    On 5/5/2023 at 10:55 PM, Jay Meginnes said:

    Hopefully the Minnesota Wild make it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2024 and Hopefully the Minnesota Wild make a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run between 2025-2027

    I’m not seeing how they are going to be much better in 2024..

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