(AP) - The architect of the Minnesota Wild since its inception has been let go after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in three years.
The Wild announced Thursday that general manager Doug Risebrough will not return next season, the decision coming less than a week after coach Jacques Lemaire resigned.
Owner Craig Leipold said in a statement that the search for a new GM will begin immediately. Assistant general manager Tom Lynn will take over until a replacement is hired.
In a note from Leipold posted on the team's Web site, the new owner of the franchise told fans that it was a "very difficult decision not to renew Doug Risebrough's contract beyond the 2008-2009 season. I have agonized over this decision for some time now, but ultimately, I reached the conclusion that change was in order."
Risebrough didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.
Former owner Bob Naegele hired Risebrough in 1999 to build the expansion franchise from the bottom up.
Risebrough hired his former Canadiens teammate Lemaire to coach the team, and together the pair helped the Wild quickly assert themselves as a competitive organization.
It took just three seasons for the Wild to make the playoffs, which included a stunning run to the Western Conference finals in 2003. The team won its first Northwest Division championship last season, but injuries contributed to the team missing the playoffs this season.
"I cannot begin to thank Doug enough for all that he has done for this organization over the past nine years," Leipold wrote on the team's Web site. "When he arrived he brought instant credibility, expertise and extraordinary work ethic to an expansion franchise in desperate need of those things. He then worked tirelessly to build the Minnesota Wild into one of the premier franchises in the NHL.
"So much of our success - on and off the ice - is directly attributable to Doug's leadership and his legacy will remain evident for years to come in the aura of success and winning tradition that defines this place."
Risebrough drew some heat for letting players like Brian Rolston, Pavol Demitra and likely Marian Gaborik leave in free agency, rather than get anything in return through a trade.
The Wild have also been mediocre in the draft, trading picks and failing to cash in on others in a pattern that has weakened the team's base of young players.
Leipold said he will appoint a new general manager first so that person can hire his own coach to start the next chapter in the franchise's history.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)