A ONE-ON-ONE WITH MINNESOTA WILD GM PAUL FENTONAug 7, 2018
When Minnesota Wild named Paul Fenton as the organization’s new general manager, owner Craig Leipold stressed his experience and judgment.
"Paul is uniquely suited for this job, having played 10 years of professional hockey and holding 25 years of management experience in the NHL,” Leipold said. “I know Wild fans are going to love Paul's infectious passion for the game and unsurpassed work ethic. He's the right person to deliver a Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey."
Since being hired, Fenton, 58, has been busy making changes in the Wild’s front office, including bringing in Tom Kurvers as an assistant general manager for Minnesota and general manager of the Iowa Wild. Fenton says it has been hectic, but he has enjoyed the transition to the “Fenton Era” of Minnesota Wild hockey.
Tom Witosky of iowawild.com recently spoke with Fenton about his first few months at the helm of the Wild and what fans can expect for this upcoming season in Minnesota and Iowa.
Tom Witosky: Obviously, it’s been a hectic summer. Do you feel now as if you are swimming upstream or downstream?
Paul Fenton: It has balanced out pretty well. The first six weeks were kind of crazy with all the meetings, preparing for the draft and free agency, as well as hiring people and making sure our staff was in place. It took a lot from everyone involved, but now it’s a lot better. It’s gotten a lot better. I am getting more comfortable with my staff and I feel much better.
TW: What has been the most interesting part of this summer?
PF: It has been an accumulation of everything. It’s just about keeping the big picture in front of you.
TW: What is your assessment of the Iowa Wild as of now? What is your general impression of what needs to be done?
PF: Having Milwaukee play against Iowa so many times over the years, I just want to get to the point where we establish a winning atmosphere. We want to get to the point where we have the development chain established as it was in Milwaukee, when we had the saying, “the way to get to Nashville was through Milwaukee.” We have to have the same type of atmosphere in Iowa. We have to develop the right type of players who will be successful in learning how to win at the professional level. They will then advance to Minnesota while continuing the notion that we are going to win here.
TW: When do you know players are ready? Tom Kurvers suggested the goal is to have a player “arrive with authority.”
PF: That’s a great answer and I agree with that.
TW: Then is it possible there are younger players who may be challenged to develop more in Iowa before getting called up to Minnesota?
PF: The biggest thing for me is when you put a player in a position, you want him to be ready to play in the role we feel he should play. It’s easy to play a game in the National Hockey League, it is really easy. You can do it, but to have a career, that is the biggest challenge. And the biggest challenge is to put people in a position to succeed. In the old days, you could call a kid up who was a scorer and you would play him on the fourth line and create a role for him that he wouldn’t be comfortable with. So, when our guys are ready to play, we will hopefully be putting them into a position where they can play in the role they are capable of playing well.
TW: What characteristics does Tim Army, Iowa’s new head coach, have to be successful?
PF: He is going to be a development guy who brings a positive attitude to the rink every day. He is going to be, first of all, a teacher, and that’s what we need. We need a teacher who is going to have the kind of expectations that will push our kids to become better players. If he can put that in place, we will have a winning team in Iowa.
TW: We have Minnesota coming to Des Moines play St. Louis in a preseason game on Sept. 19 at Wells Fargo Arena. What kind of team are fans likely to see?
PF: We are still a ways away, but we will put together a pretty good team.
TW: You have said several times you want everyone on the same page. What does that page say?
PF: As you get to know me, you will be able to figure that out. I am very inclusive with everyone who is on our staff. I want to make sure we all believe in the same thing and have the same objective. There is no gray area in the way I operate. We are in this together. We win together, we lose together. But also, there will never be a mystery about what I am thinking about. I will be direct with people and tell them what our expectations are. At the end of the day, it is a family type of discussion where you don’t always get along but you are going to be on the same wavelength as far as what we need here.
TW: What role will Tom Kurvers have with Iowa as the general manager?
PF: He is going to be in charge in Iowa. We have a lot of pieces in place here in Minnesota and down in Iowa that we have inherited. Over time, we are going to be making changes with the different people that we have. His influence over the coaching staff there is going to be really big as well as an extension of what we have in Minnesota. He is a pro and a great person. That was a part of my criteria when I talked with him. He thinks in the same fashion as I do while also having the passions and the morals that I think makes an organization successful. If he can apply those passions and morals to these kids, we will have a good product both in Minnesota and Iowa.
The above interview has been edited for clarity and length.