Bill Guerin Nearly Loses Cool on Michael Russo at Press Conference

Minnesota Wild general manager, Bill Guerin, and head coach, Dean Evason, did their end-of-season press conference together late Tuesday morning. That means, in all likelihood, Evason will be back on the Wild bench next season. The press conference duet came moments after it was announced that trade deadline acquisition, Marcus Johansson, had signed a 2-year contract extension.

Guerin opened the presser up with a long, winding dissertation that started with a thank you to fans and ended with how proud he was of his 2022-23 team, even if things ended in disappointment. Billy wouldn’t admit the season was a failure but did openly confess to how badly the dead cap hits, from Parise and Suter’s contracts/buyouts, are hurting them from a roster-building standpoint.

Bill Guerin vs Michael Russo

The highlight of the press conference happened during the very first question, which finally came five minutes in. The question was asked by The Athletic reporter, Michael Russo, and it was about what the team needed to get “over the [first round] hump”. Billy wasn’t a fan and showed that before Russo could even finish his question (back and forth transcribed below).

Russo: “So Bill, with that said, how do you get this team over the hump when the same…”

Guerin interrupts: “What hump? What hump do you want us to get over?”

Russo: “To get past the first round…”

Guerin interrupts again: “Why? Are they gonna… [pauses] And I’m not trying to be a smart ass, Mike. They’re not gonna put our name on the Stanley Cup to get to the second round. They’re not gonna give us a ring. But you know what, that’s not our goal. Our goal is not to make it to the second round. Is it gonna feel any better [to get eliminated in the 2nd round]? It’s not.”

Russo: “Well to get to the Stanley Cup, you have to get to the second round so let me ask you this…”

Guerin interrupts again: “So what… what are you gonna write…”

Guerin tries to continue on ranting about whatever it is he currently has against his reporter friend, Michael Russo. But finally, the veteran scribe interrupts him. By this point, Billy is realizing that he needs to chill out. So, he grabs his water and takes a drink, while reluctantly letting Russo ask the question he’s been trying to get out for at least the last minute.

Russo interrupts: “Just let me just ask you this, last year your power playing your penalty kill killed you in the playoffs. This year, your power play and penalty kill killed you in the playoffs. Last year most your players did not come through in the playoffs. This year, yet again, your core players. So how do you fix that with the cap restraints that you just mentioned, with with one hand tied behind your back?”

Guerin: “Yeah, it’ tough. It’s tough to fix it because we are, I mean, we’re down $14 million next year and that’s fine. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of putting a damn good team on the ice with these restraints. So… [looooooooong pause and exhale] I don’t know how… [pause again]. It’s hard because it is disappointing that we haven’t gotten past the first round.”

“But that’s not… that’s not the goal. Yeah, it would be nice. It’d be great… it’d be awesome to get to the second round. It would, but that’s not what we’re building towards here. We’re not… [pause] I think that’s your narrative. That’s what you guys write about. We’re trying to build something bigger than that and sometimes there’s pain involved.”

Minnesota Wild have difficult offseason ahead of them

I’m glad Billy was able to control his emotions, with a little help from Russo. Otherwise, this press conference might have turned into a shit show. Which is where it looked to be going for a moment. I’ve always liked Bill Guerin’s fire, but his lack of emotional control gets the best of him on a semi-regular basis and that could pose a problem at some point.

His press conference or radio interview rants are great for me. Fans love to read about a GM showing frustration with reporters… or anyone else, for that matter. And I love readers. But it may not be a good look for the Wild. And Guerin’s inability to keep his cool, at times, may be rubbing off on his team.

Photo: Glen Stubbe – Star Tribune

In their first round playoff exit vs Dallas, for example, the Stars were able to mess with the Wild’s emotions. Instead of rising to the occasion, head coach Dean Evason, team leader Marcus Foligno, and the rest of the Wild lost their cool. They made excuses for losing and pointed fingers at refs, instead of at themselves. It was an on-ice emotional breakdown.

Life won’t get any easier for Guerin

As mentioned, next year won’t be any easier, financially. The side-by-side 13-year Parise/Suter contracts — which were later converted to dead cap hits when Guerin bought both players out — has already cost the Wild an opportunity to resign Kevin Fiala.

This offseason, those deals will cost them Matt Dumba, probably Filip Gustavsson, and others. Longterm, we’ll see that list continue to grow, until the restraints are lifted a few seasons from now.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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