NHL

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Wild took even-keeled cues from Yeo, who improved as coach 'by leaps and bounds'

  • Print

ST. PAUL, Minn. - When the Minnesota Wild hired Mike Yeo as a first-time NHL head coach, he fit their criteria for a bench boss who could develop several top, young players.

Yeo has undergone his own growth in that time, too, and the Wild were satisfied enough with the results on both fronts to make another commitment to him.

After his three-year contract extension was finalized last weekend, Yeo appeared with general manager Chuck Fletcher at a news conference Friday to discuss the deal and the team's future.

The Wild advanced to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history, and Fletcher praised Yeo's ability to help keep the players on an even keel during some challenging stretches as injuries piled up.

"He improved by leaps and bounds, and it's not just understanding that you have to make those adjustments. It's the confidence to make them, and the confidence to sell them to your team," Fletcher said, recalling their conversation from last summer about areas where both the Wild and Yeo could improve.

In the final year of his contract, Yeo was in a precarious place after a six-game losing streak to finish 2013. But despite notable absences by Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and the top two goalies, Yeo and his staff not only held together the group but guided a resurgence that transcended the regular season.

"I'd be hard-pressed to sit here and name one player that wasn't better now than what he was at the beginning of the year," Fletcher said, adding: "The funny thing: At the exact point in the year when you thought we'd fall apart, we actually became a team. And there's a lot of work that went into that, and again Mike and his staff deserve a lot of that."

Yeo, who will turn 41 next month, has a career record of 104-82-26, plus 7-11 in the playoffs. Though Fletcher waited until June to address his status, Yeo said there was never a point at which he became nervous. That's a hallmark of his, actually, as evidenced by his demeanour through and triumph over the losing streaks and fluke injuries of the 2013-14 season. Yeo gave four different goalies 10 or more starts each, and the carousel didn't stop spinning once the playoffs came.

Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov both took turns, due to injury and performance, but the Wild beat Colorado 4-3 in a first-round thriller and gave Chicago fits until falling 4-2.

"The team took on Mike's demeanour, and I think that helped us get through," Fletcher said. "'Hey, we're down 2-0. No big deal. They come back late and score? No big deal.' We just kept finding a way to hang around and hang around until we could put the last shot in the net."

Yeo showed a knack as a tactician during those series, too, making plenty of adjustments to his front lines that paid off against a pair of opponents in the Avalanche and Blackhawks that boast a lot of fast, skilled forwards.

"The line switches, that's something I tried to make a conscious effort of at the start of the year, not only for me to grow as a coach but also for our team to get more used to it," Yeo said, adding: "But it's always the players that make you look smart."

Yeo said he didn't feel any more pressure to win this season than in his first one. He also pondered a question about when he felt the Wild truly clicked in the last few months before punting on the answer.

"It never really gets to that point," he said, laughing. "I wish it did."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lauren Bacall 'loved' working in Canada

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS June 23, 2011 Local - A Monarch butterfly is perched on a flower  in the newly opened Butterfly Garden in Assiniboine Park Thursday morning.
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who has been the Bombers MVP so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google