Souhan: Wild GM Guerin doesn’t care about your feelings (and that’s good)

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Bill Guerin doesn't care about your feelings.

He doesn't care about star power or name recognition.

He didn't care that Jason Zucker was popular and talented. He traded him.

He didn't care that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter revived the franchise, that one of them may have been the best overall player in franchise history and the other was buddies with the owner. He cut them.

In a little more than two years on the job, Guerin, the Minnesota Wild's general manager, has remade the roster while jettisoning big names and elevating the roles and status of younger players.

The 2021-22 Wild team will be younger than its recent predecessors.

Guerin is betting on it being better.

I think he's betting correctly.

It takes guts to ditch big names, and to bet on youth. If a general manager sticks with famous and popular players and they fade into obsolescence, the GM probably won't receive much blame. If a general manager keeps highly paid players on guaranteed contracts, like Parise and Suter, well, what else was he supposed to do? They're built-in excuses.

Instead of playing it safe, Guerin ruthlessly executed difficult maneuvers that placed him in the cross hairs of popular opinion.

That's what good general managers do.

(Sometimes, it's also what bad general managers do, but I think Guerin deserves the benefit of the doubt for the moment.)

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What Guerin has done is clear a path for his best young players to take ownership of the team, and to do so without any grumbling from certain veteran players. In hockey, who leads matters, a lot.

Football teams don't need locker room harmony, or at least much of it. There is no need for defensive and offensive players to be friends, or even know each others' names.

Baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team sport. As long as no one is breaking their hands on each others' faces in fights, baseball players don't need to like one another.

Basketball and hockey are different. These are claustrophobic sports with relatively small rosters. These people spend hundreds of hours together in confined spaces. A player's willingness to share puck (or ball) and the credit can mean everything.

This year, Parise will not be complaining about his role, and Suter will not be running to the owner. This team will belong to the likes of Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno.

Kaprizov is the star. He'll have to prove he can handle that role. He demonstrated as a rookie that he is supremely well-conditioned, that he will play the hard game, that he will share the puck, and that he wants to be great.

Foligno is the right kind of veteran leader and team spokesperson.

Guerin and coach Dean Evason will ultimately be judged by their team's performance. So far, they have acquitted themselves as straight shooters who seem to understand how to build a cohesive team.

Meanwhile, Parise will play on a one-year contract worth $750,000 for the New York Islanders. The market has confirmed Guerin's assessment of him.

Suter signed a four-year deal worth $14.6 million, which reflects his steadiness and remarkable durability. But Guerin correctly determined that Suter had to make way, because of his personality and playing time, for rising young players.

Even if I hadn't agreed with Guerin's decisions, I would have appreciated his decisiveness and bluntness. Guerin was bound to anger a portion of the fan base, and that portion might be the majority.

Friday night, the Wild opens the 2021-22 season. No longer are they trying to surround Parise and Suter with complementary players, or trying to appease their egos.

Now it's Kaprizov's team, and it's a younger team, a more likable team and probably a better team.

From the outside, Guerin's decisions were widely regarded as controversial.

Inside team offices, I'm guessing they were merely considered necessary.

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