The Wild named Mike Yeo as the 3rd coach in franchise history on Friday. There were rumors that General Manager Chuck Fletcher would choose more of a veteran coach, someone like Craig MacTavish or Ken Hitchcock, since the last coach didn’t work out very well missing the playoffs in both seasons.
A lot of people think the Wild just hired the same coach they had in Todd Richards, a coach with very little experience in the NHL. Todd Richards was coming off only 1 year in the NHL as an assistant coach in San Jose and had only coached for 7 seasons when he was hired to be the 2nd coach in franchise history two years ago. The other 6 seasons were in the AHL. Two of them were as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins minor league affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.
Mike Yeo’s been coaching for 11 seasons, 6 seasons as an assistant coach in the AHL and 4 seasons in the NHL as an assistant coach. 10 of those seasons were with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. He just finished his first season as a head coach in the AHL.
Mike Yeo knows what it takes to win championships. He’s won championships both as a player and as a coach so he knows how to lead a team both on the ice and from the bench.
As captain of the 1998-99 Houston Aeros*, Mike led them to a Turner Cup championship in the now defunct International Hockey League (IHL).
*Brian Wiseman, one of his assistant coaches last season, was also on that team and still holds the Aeros’ record for most assists in a season with 88. Two names that might interest Wild fans, Manny Fernandez was the starting goalie on that team and Cam Stewart was also a big reason why they won the Turner Cup that season. Also, Dave Tippett, current coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, was the head coach.
Mike Yeo was an assistant coach for the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. It was his 3rd season as an assistant coach with the Penguins and his 6th season coaching under head coach Michel Therrien*.
*Ironically, Michel Therrien was one of the coaches Mike Yeo beat out to get the job with the Wild and will now have to coach against Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett. That’s the Circle of Life, people!
That season, Therrien was replaced with Dan Bylsma after 57 games, because of a disappointing 27-25-0-5 record (Win-Loss-Shootout Loss-Overtime Loss.) Dan Bylsma was coaching the Penguins AHL minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Dan and Mike helped lead the Penguins on a historic run to the Cup by going 18-3 in their last 25 games (with 4 overtime losses), securing the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and winning it all in the playoffs.
In June of 2010, Jim Mill, the Wild’s Assistant to GM Chuck Fletcher, finished up his search for a head coach for the Wild’s primary development affiliate Houston Aeros by choosing Mike Yeo out of the Pittsburgh organization. Mike, being familiar with GM Chuck Fletcher and Wild head coach Todd Richards from his days in Pittsburgh,* had his heart set on getting the job in Houston and his similar hockey philosophy of puck pressure and defensive responsibility fit right in with what the Wild were trying to do.
*Chuck Fletcher was assistant GM for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2006-2009 and Todd Richards was the head coach for AHL Penguins in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2006-2008.
All Mike did in his first season as a head coach is take the 2011 Houston Aeros to within 2 games of winning the Calder Cup. It was easy to tell how hard the team was playing, even from following them through Twitter and internet radio broadcasts. They were getting great performances out of some players Minnesota Wild fans should get used to seeing in the coming seasons. Colton Gillies, Matt Hackett and Chad Rau all had great playoff performances for the Aeros along with Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Casey Wellman and Patrick O’Sullivan, who are already familiar names to most fans.
So the Minnesota Wild have a coach with a lot of coaching experience but only one year of head coaching experience. Does it make a difference if you’re the head coach or an assistant coach? The head coach has final say on the system, the lines, special teams, etc…but he has to use his assistants input on all of those things as well. Assistant coaches have the responsibility of implementing the system, coaching the offense, defense, power play, penalty kill and the goalies.
Mike didn’t seem to have any trouble getting his team to buy in to his system in his first season as head coach in Houston. He’s coached great players like Crosby and Malkin and developed players in Pittsburgh. He’s gotten great performances from Wild prospects in just one season. Chuck Fletcher says Mike Yeo is the right man for the job. I believe he may be right this time.
What do you think? Did the Wild hire the right coach to get them back to the playoffs? Will they take the next step to becoming a contender for a championship?
Bring the CLUTTER!!!