After losing their eighth straight game on Saturday, the Minnesota Wild have relieved Mike Yeo of his coaching duties. Taking his place as interim head coach will be Iowa Wild coach John Torchetti, who returned to the organization last season as a midseason hire after the firing of Kurt Kleinendorst. Both pieces of news come from a report by Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.
“I would like to thank Mike for the hard work and dedication he provided behind the bench for the Minnesota Wild organization and wish him the best in the future,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release.
Fletcher had recently held a press conference to give Yeo a vote of confidence and assure fans that Yeo’s job was safe. The team then went and lost a three-game homestand for the second time in 2016.
As of Saturday night, no word has been given on whether Yeo’s staff is safe or not.
Losing in the New Year
The Wild have lost 16 of 19 in 2016 and are starting the season second half with a massive swoon for the fourth time under Yeo’s leadership. Yeo, who was the NHL’s fifth most tenured head coach, has led the team into unexplainable tailspins at the midpoint repeatedly, including a turn in his freshman campaign from the best record in the NHL to missing the playoffs.
In the 2013-14 season they had a 5-12-1 run in late December, then went 23-10-7 to make the postseason. Last season they went 7-12-5 from late November through mid-January before acquiring Devan Dubnyk and going on a 28-9-3 run to make the postseason.
But the miracle run hasn’t started this year and it’s getting mighty late for a team that seemed like a lock for a wild card slot a month ago.
It was bad before the All-Star break, but the wheels have fallen off the bus since then. They’ve lost six in a row, allowing an average of 4.17 goals per game and failing to create much offense.
They’ve been the recipients of some bad luck, to be sure, but things haven’t shifted fast enough.
In the game before the break the Wild were up one with under two minutes remaining, on a power play, when Dubnyk pass the puck to a Coyotes forward from behind the net giving them an empty net to put in a tying, shorthanded goal. The Wild went on to lose in overtime.
In their last three games, they’ve regularly outplayed the competition but have failed to finish tap-ins and execute offensively. In Saturday’s 4-2 loss they outshot the Boston Bruins 33-19.
Yeo has been furiously coaching for his job, including calling a timeout with just over 30 seconds remaining in Saturday’s game after Mike Reilly scored his first NHL goal to make it 4-2. He also scratched Jason Zucker and Thomas Vanek during the slump to send a message to veterans, who have disappeared from the scoresheet.
Torchetti had previously been in the organization as the coach of the AHL’s Houston Aeros and returned last season to help implement Yeo’s system with the Iowa Wild, preparing players for quick recalls to seamlessly slot into the NHL roster. He was originally named the coach of the Aeros in July of 2011, replacing Mike Yeo.
Torchetti moved from the Aeros to the KHL as the Aeros moved to Iowa to become the Iowa Wild. The team went with Kleinendorst as the AHL coach for one full season and part of last year.
In their three years of existence the Iowa Wild have finished dead last in the AHL twice and aren’t too far up from that this season. They went the entire month of November without a win.
But despite that horrendous start to the season, they’ve been an inverse image of the Wild’s woes with Torchetti leading them to a 10-6-1 record in 2016.
Torchetti was coaching the Iowa Wild on Saturday and there is no word on who will take over AHL coaching duties at the time of publication. Fletcher isn’t expected to address the media until after he speaks with the team before the get on the plane for a three-game Canadian road trip Sunday.
The Iowa Wild have announced that assistant coach David Cuniff will serve as interim head coach in Iowa.