To say February was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the Minnesota Wild is an understatement.
In 29 days, this team lost its coach, hired a new one, snapped a month-long losing streak, played an outdoor game and crawled back into the playoff picture. It’s been a wild month filled with ups and downs for Minnesota and its fans.
Now that February has come to an end, here are four highlights from the chaotic past month.
1. Mike Yeo
When the Wild’s pitiful play in January continued into February, it was clear something had to be done. Unfortunately for former coach Mike Yeo, that meant losing his job.
On February 13, after the Wild’s eighth-straight loss, Chuck Fletcher decided he had seen enough and fired Yeo after Minnesota fell 2-4 to the Boston Bruins. While it’s hard to say Yeo deserved all the blame for the Wild’s losing streak and poor play, it was obvious that something was wrong with this team.
It’s still unclear what really happened behind closed doors between Yeo and his players, but ultimately, this team needed some sort of change, and a coaching change seemed to get the Wild back on the right track.
2. John Torchetti
After Yeo was fired, Fletcher quickly filled his place with Iowa Wild head coach, John Torchetti.
It wasn’t long before Torchetti’s presence turned this team around, as the team snapped its losing streak and
won its next four consecutive games. Not only did Minnesota win four games in a row under Torchetti’s leadership, but also managed to score five-plus goals in each of those four games.
Throughout the entire month of January under Yeo, the team scored the same number of goals (21) in 13 games that it did in four games with Torchetti. That seems like a pretty clear message.
The Wild have continued to succeed under Torchetti, going 5-3-0 since the coaching change and have even managed to climb back into the playoff picture.
3. The Stadium Series
The Minnesota Wild had a lot of ups and downs in February. The Stadium Series was most definitely one of the ups.
The Wild celebrated its first outdoor game with a dominating 6-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota put on a tremendous show in front of 54,000 fans and proved that the State of Hockey was deserving of an outdoor game. Even Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, took notice of the big game.
“The people in Minnesota were waiting a long time for this … I grew up right there. I have so many memories of playing outside; that’s where I feel in love with the game.” Many more Minnesota’s fell in love with the game that afternoon,” Okposo said.
4. Erik Haula
Ever since Torchetti took over as coach, Erik Haula has been able to show off some serious skill.
With Yeo as head coach, Haula never truly got the chance to demonstrate the player he was capable of becoming. Under Torchetti, Haula has easily become one of this team’s best players. The 24-year-old has scored two goals and five assists throughout eight games with Torchetti – the same amount of points he scored in 19 games under Yeo.
— Dustin Nelson (@dlukenelson) February 28, 2016
Haula, along with many of his teammates, has flourished under the new leadership. It’s hard to say if the coaching change is completely responsible for the increase in offense and the wins, but it definitely hasn’t hurt this team.
This month had downs, but it also had ups. The Wild still has a long way to go if it’s going to make something out of this season, but February was a start.
Alli covers the Minnesota Wild and has been a contributing writer with THW since August 2014. She is currently a journalism and sports management student at the University of Minnesota. For all of your Minnesota Wild news and updates, follow her on twitter: @allibaker23