As the general manager of the Minnesota Wild, in one of the nation’s most provincial states, he has traded away Nick Leddy, a standout from Eden Prairie.
He has traded for failed forwards and fading forwards.
He has traded away Brent Burns, perhaps the NHL’s most dynamic defenseman.
He has traded and failed and then traded again but his fearlessness, which in more difficult times goes by the alias of recklessness, has built the best team in the Western Conference, and on Sunday night Chuck Fletcher demonstrated that he doesn’t know why anyone would bother putting yellow on a traffic light.
In his latest gamble, he is dealing from the top of the standings and the bottom of the deck. Sunday, he traded three draft picks for Coyotes center Martin Hanzal and winger Ryan White. The Wild’s organizational depth makes this trade sensible. Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher.
This is the right time for the Wild to go for it for many reasons. This is the best Wild team in franchise history, and the Western Conference is as vulnerable as it has been in years, even with Chicago stomping on the gas.
Because of the Wild’s dominant play, its draft picks will reside near the bottom of each round. With roster and organizational depth, the Wild can afford to trade picks.
Fletcher owes it to himself and the franchise to push for a championship while his best players are in or near the end of their primes and his goalie is playing like a star.
Hanzal’s arrival protects the Wild against the possibility that Eric Staal has hit a wall he will not be able to climb. It gives the Wild flexibility at the center position and quality checking depth, as White likely will play wing on the fourth line.
The deal also reduces coach Bruce Boudreau’s reliance on young players who may not be ready to face the intensity of playoff hockey.
Fletcher dramatically improved his lineup without giving up one of his top prospects. He won this deal.
Good general managers never overreact to one game, but the Blackhawks’ victory over the Wild before the bye week provided a reminder that if the Wild wants to win a championship it may have to match up well man-for-man with Chicago.
The Blackhawks are finding their big-game legs and too often Tyler Graovac looked lost against them. The Wild’s advantage over Chicago is forward depth, and that advantage was waning as young forward after young forward showed cracks in their games of late.
Fletcher traded Leddy in 2010 for Cam Barker, who seemed to spend his time with the Wild learning how to skate backward. That was a bad deal.
He traded Burns for Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi and a draft pick that would become Zach Phillips. That is a net loss.
Fletcher also has spent assets at the trading deadline on players like Matt Moulson. He also added Jason Pominville, who has scored at a disappointing rate but has performed well as a two-way player on a team that prides itself on strong team defense.
Wild owner Craig Leipold could have made a case for firing Fletcher last year. Instead, he stayed with Fletcher and has been rewarded.
Fletcher hired Boudreau, who should be the NHL Coach of the Year.
He signed Staal, whose personality and play enabled the Wild to race to the top of the standings this fall.
He traded for and re-signed Devan Dubnyk, a move that saved one season and set up this year’s team to win big.
He also traded Cal Clutterbuck for Nino Niederreiter, now one of his best players.
Every time Fletcher makes a big deal, he has to justify it to his owner and face second-guessing from the public. He’s the rare human who can burn his hand on a hot stove and then decide to make a living as a chef.
He added quality ingredients on Sunday.
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