Regardless of what Wild fans think of the moves that Chuck Fletcher has made so far, you can’t deny one thing. He’s an exciting GM.
Yesterday night, Fletcher moved the team’s first draft pick in the 2005 Entry Draft, Benoit Pouliot—a player that the previous regime, under Doug Risebrough, considered to be untradeable at the end of last season.
And you know what? He actually got something of value for him.
The trade will send Pouliot to his hometown team, the Montreal Canadiens (Pouliot grew up just 75 miles from Montreal), for Guillaume Latendresse.
At surface value, this trade is one of players who just needed a change of scenery.
It seemed as if Pouliot would never be successful in Minnesota, no matter how hard he tried. This season, he was given his best chance to succeed under a new coach and a new system that should have been tailor-made for his style of game. Instead of displaying the kind of talent that got him selected fourth overall, Pouliot disappeared early, finding himself as a staple in the Wild pressbox.
He was, however, starting to put things together. His game looked significantly different in the last game he played for the Wild and he was beginning to do the little things that he hadn’t done before.
It apparently was not enough to keep him off of the trade block, however.
Meanwhile, Latendresse was in a similar situation in Montreal. He found limited success in Montreal, averaging around 15 goals per season in his time spent wearing a Habs sweater, all while averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time.
There is no doubting that he has talent, but "Laty" just hasn’t been able to stick in the Habs lineup, just as is the case with Pouliot in the Wild’s.
The scouting report on Latendresse, according to The Hockey News, is as follows:
Assets: Has an outstanding combination of size and hockey sense. Is equally strong scoring goals or setting up teammates. Already possesses excellent hitting ability.
Flaws: Is a liability in the defensive zone, so he needs to work on his play without the puck. Has skating issues that could hamper his development as a scorer.
Career Potential: Power Forward
One of the biggest knocks on Latendresse, as the scouting report states, is his skating ability.
Skating has always been something that the Wild have stressed throughout their existence. In fact, skating ability has been one of the team’s main factors in both their drafting and their free agent acquisitions.
In other words, if you could skate, there was a place for you on the Wild.
But this move is yet another move by Fletcher that is moving away from the players acquired by the old regime. Fletcher has publicly stated that he wants bigger and stronger players up front and that he is looking to get bigger and stronger as a team.
This is certainly a move in that direction.
To be blunt, I’m still unsure as to whether or not I like this trade. On the surface, I like it. Latendresse brings a lot more to the table than Pouliot did—at least immediately, which is what the team needs.
Pouliot was starting to grow on me, however, and the fact that the team traded him is, honestly, a bit of a surprise to me.
But, that’s the nature of the beast in the NHL. Fletcher obviously saw something that he liked in Latendresse and saw the means to acquire him. Again, Fletcher is a bit hamstrung when it comes to trading for players due, in large part, to the ineptitude of the previous managerial regime.
The roster is continuing to be in flux in Minnesota as Fletcher continues to shape his team. Of the 23 players that are currently on the Wild’s roster, 15 played with the team last season and I have a feeling that number will continue to change this season.
Wild fans will have to get used to the fact that their favorite players may not be safe on this team, but fans also need to remain patient. This is a man who has helped build winning teams in the past and he will do so again.
It’s just going to take time.