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The trap is back? Ken Hitchcock interested in Minnesota Wild job

May 20, 2011, 8:57 PM EDT

Ken Hitchcock, Jakub Voracek, R.J. Umberger AP

We’re pretty sure that Minnesota Wild fans weren’t exactly overjoyed while Jacques Lemaire was at the helm with his defensively controlled style of game. While Todd Richards wasn’t quite able to bring the excitement back to Minnesota, it appears that the Wild could be looking to a name synonymous with stifling defense to lead them back to the playoffs.

Former Stars, Flyers, and Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock is on the Wild’s short list of candidates to take over their top job. Hitchcock has a history as a defensive task master and a guy that demands positioning and dedication out his team to shut down opponents from scoring at all times.

While Hitchcock is still on the payroll of the Blue Jackets, the Wild have received permission to talk with with him about their opening. The Wild have also gotten permission to talk with former Penguins coach Michel Therrien and former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. As for Hitchcock, he’s a guy that comes highly regarded by many as Michael Russo or The Star Tribune finds out.

“Hitch is definitely one of the smartest coaches I’ve ever played for,” former NHL star Jeremy Roenick, who played for Hitchcock in Philadelphia, told the Star Tribune last month. “He has a great knack to understand players, he has a great system.”

Hitchcock is known as a big believer in playing fast defensively so his teams can get out of the defensive zone quickly and get on the attack. Hitchcock’s longtime assistant in Dallas is Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson, whose future is in flux because of the Wild’s coaching vacancy.

That would lend us to believe that Hitchcock is being spoken of well by Wilson. Therrien’s connection with the Wild is also strong as he spent the past season with the team as a scout. MacTavish has spent the past year working for TSN in Canada as an on-air analyst also seeking to get back in the game.

We’re thinking that Wild fans want to see the team winning again without a doubt, but Hitchcock’s style of game doesn’t lend itself well to exciting offensive production. It puts the onus on Wild fans to decide if they want exciting hockey to watch or whether or not they want a potential winning team. Ideally you want to have the mix of both to keep everyone happy, but Hitchcock’s struggles in Columbus, even in spite of helping the franchise to their only playoff appearance, were due to a roster filled with poor talent and one that struggled adjusting to the speed of the “new” NHL.

The Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher have fascinating choices to make ahead here as the fans in Minnesota are frustrated and want to see things turn around fast.

  1. whatagreatfootballmind - May 20, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    Look, Lemaire may have been a boring defensive style coach. But the fact is, he can win, and did win. If Hitchcock can get this team to the playoffs and maybe just maybe someday actually win a series, even better.

    Every team plays a version of the trap. To label the Wild and more specifically Lemaire and Hitchcock all trap coaches would be unfair. Hell, even the Blackhawks, Penguins, Capitals, and Canucks all play a verison on the trap.

    Fans here are frustrated. But do know, we are not frustrated at either the coach to be named or Richards or even Fletcher. Everybody is frustrated with Risebrough leaving the cupboards absolutely bare.

    IRisebrough should have…

    -trade Marian Gaborik for anything instead of letting him walk as a free agent, and knowing he was injury prone and not trading him at the beginning of the year when he had trade value has set this team years behind.

    -trade Brian Rolston and/or Pavol Demitra instead of letting them walk for nothing.

    -don’t sign Mark Parrish to a ridclous contract and then buy him out. Hell, he is STILL against the Wild’s cap for this coming season and hasn’t played here in years.

    -don’t trade as many draft picks for players like Chris Simon.

    I’m not saying Fletcher is perfect either because he hasn’t been. But he has done a hell of a better job than Risebrough did at the end.

    • Maurice - May 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Amen. “The Trap” is just what lazy reporters, who want to write about scorers, call defense these days — and lest we forget, the league changed a ton of rules to open up the game since ’95. You remember, the fluke year Lemaire won the cup in NJ in a truncated season? Trouble was, they won two more cups with two different coaches.

      These articles are so lazy. You can tell by “We’re pretty sure…” Oh? So, you’re just guessing? Maybe go and talk to an actual Wild fan.

  2. Maurice - May 21, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    “We’re pretty sure that Minnesota Wild fans weren’t exactly overjoyed while Jacques Lemaire was at the helm with his defensively controlled style of game.”

    Yeah, it sure sucked being in the hunt for the playoffs all those years and making it to the Conference Finals and such. I really hated that. I’m so much happier with a team that lacks defense, ’cause there’s nothing more exciting than watching opposing teams fill your net with goals!

    You know what’s really great, when the Wild has to pull its goalie! Man, I love, love, LOVE that! In fact, I don’t even know why we have defensemen out there at all. The Wild should experiment with just one man on defense — or maybe only putting four players on the ice instead of five, ’cause that would mean even LESS defense, which is apparently the part of the game we just gotta stamp the hell out.

    Also, it might help to get a goalie with no arms.

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