Today, the Wild officially ended a dark period in their franchise history, when they announced that 2007 first round pick Colton Gillies was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. It officially ended the final five draft picks held by the team's previous GM, Doug Risebrough, which amounted to absolutely nothing. Between 2004-2008, the team drafted AJ Thelen, Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, Gillies, and Tyler Cuma. As you can see, not exactly the cream of the crop there. And as Russo mentions in his blog today, it is a big reason as to why the on ice talent has been suffering.
We can't yet close the book on the Risebrough era. We are still reaping the rewards of his more notable draft picks (Koivu, Schultz, Bouchard, and Harding). But today was a big step in doing so. Sure, we can say the team made 3 postseason appearances under Risebrough and have yet to make an appearance under current GM Chuck Fletcher. But, the way the team was left to Fletcher was a disaster. The team had just lost its best player (Gaborik) to free agency. They were coming off an abysmal season that saw them miss the postseason. Their farm system was in the bottom 5 in all the NHL. And with the retirement of Jacques Lemaire, the team lacked a coach. Not exactly a shining franchise to take over.
In his three seasons, Fletcher has vastly improved the farm system (Now ranked in the top 2 by most people). He has now found a coach that should work out (Mike Yeo, but only after we suffered through two years of Todd Richards) in the long run. And the team is now on the verge of perhaps of returning to the postseason (If they can ever get out of this rut they are in). The team still lacks a true goal scorer, but who's to say that that player is not among one of our top prospects?
The best times of the Chuck Fletcher era are ahead. That is a fact. He has done all the right things (except for the Richards hire) in his time here, and should continue to do the same in the future. All he has left to do now, is get this team in the playoffs. And that, possibly, could happen as soon as this season.