The Minnesota Wild have decided to go with 48-year-old Bill Guerin of Worcester, Massachusetts as their new general manager. The club announced his hiring on August 21st, about three weeks after former GM Paul Fenton was let go. Fenton didn’t hold the job for long as he took over just 14 months earlier. But with the Wild missing the playoffs last season franchise owner Craig Leipold decided he wasn’t the right man for the position.
Guerin has been working with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last eight years with the past five as the club’s assistant general manager. He was a player development coach for the first three years of his stint and won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins in 2015/16 and 2016/17. He also had his name engraved on the cup in 2008/09 while playing for Pittsburgh. In fact, he’s a four-time Stanley Cup winner as he played for the 1994/95 New Jersey Devils team which hoisted the trophy.
This will be Guerin’s first stint as an NHL general manager but he gained experience in Pittsburgh and was also the GM of their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Many fans may know Guerin from his days as a player after being drafted fifth overall by New Jersey back in 1989. Guerin ended up playing 1,263 regular-season NHL games with New Jersey, Pittsburgh, the Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues between 1991/92 and 2009/10.
He racked up 856 points on 429 goals and 427 assists while serving 1,660 minutes in penalties. Guerin also appeared in 140 postseason contests and added 39 goals and 39 helpers for 74 points. He was named to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team for 2001/02 and skated in four All-Star games. Guerin was the first NHL player of Hispanic descent and represented his homeland in the Olympic Games in 2006, 2002 and 1998. He was also the first NHL player to post a 20-goal season with seven different clubs.
Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford said he’s sad to see Guerin go but knows he’ll make an excellent general manager fir Minnesota. He said Guerin was instrumental in helping Pittsburgh develop their players over the years and exhibited excellent leadership skills for the organization in the font office and as a player. Guerin now becomes just the fourth general manager in the Wild’s 19-year NHL history.
He was originally hired by Pittsburgh as a player development coach in June of 2011 and exactly three years later was promoted to the job of assistant general manager. After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2015/16 and 2016/17 he was then named GM of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after Jason Botterill left the post to join the Buffalo Sabres.
Guerin wasn’t the only candidate to take over in Minnesota however. It’s believed that Don Waddell was the team’s first choice, but he decided to remain in his role as general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. Scott Mellanby, Tom Fitzgerald and Ron Hextall were also believed to have been interviewed for the position.
One of the first things Guerin will need to do in Minnesota is introduce himself to head coach Bruce Boudreau. The upcoming 2019/20 campaign will be the fourth behind the bench for Boudreau in Minnesota and Guerin will be the third general manager he’s worked with since joining the team. It’s also important to know that Boudreau is entering the last year of his current contract so unless there’s some chemistry between the head coach and new general manager this could be Boudreau’s last season with the club.
Guerin also needs to work closely with the Wild’s scouting staff to make sure they’re on the same page when it comes to the squad’s needs for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Guerin wasn’t involved in drafting players while working in Pittsburgh so it will be interesting to see how he makes out next summer.
As far as current players go, Guerin will be hoping to talk 29-year-old blue liner Jared Spurgeon into re-singing with the Wild. Spurgeon is entering the last year of his contract and if Guerin can’t get him to agree to terms on a new deal there’s a good chance Spurgeon will be dealt elsewhere before next season’s NHL trade deadline.
Guerin jumped in feet first when arriving in Minnesota as he announced the re-signing of 22-year-old forward Joel Eriksson Ek. The restricted free agent was inked to a new two-year deal shortly after Guerin arrived and will be paid $1.4875 a year. Eriksson Ek notched seven goals and seven assists in 58 NHL outings last season and also played with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League where he notched nine points in nine games.
Eriksson Ek was taken with the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft but has registered just 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points with Minnesota so far. Both Boudreau and Guerin will be hoping he enjoys a breakout season in 2019/20. The new GM has just two other restricted free agents to re-sign in rearguard Louis Belpedio and forward Kevin Fiala.
Another task in front of Guerin will be to rebuild Minnesota’s analytics department. Both Alexandra Mandrycky and Andrew Thomas have left the club and the Wild’s analytics department is more or less non existent. With the NHL implementing new player tracking information this year it’s imperative the club has an analytics team in place to sift through all the new data that will be sent its way starting this season.
The Wild missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years last season and with Fenton making some questionable trades and signings it wasn’t really a surprise he was let go. Guerin’s priority next year will be to return to the postseason and if his time in Pittsburgh is any indicator, fans should expect the Wild to play more than 82 games in 2019/20.