With the majority of the big offseason events complete, it’s time to wrap up the last few report cards. It’s Dean Evason’s turn and a lot of people have mixed feelings about him. He’s been the head coach for two and a half seasons, after being named the interim head coach about halfway through the 2019-20 season after the team had an 8-4 record under his leadership.
Evason lost the interim tag that summer but had to wait until January 2021 to put it to use in the regular season, as it was delayed and shortened due to COVID. That didn’t get to him, however, as he took the Minnesota Wild to a 35-16-5 record and was a Jack Adams Trophy finalist for coach of the year. Plus he had the Calder Trophy winner, Kirill Kaprizov on his roster.
Evason’s First Full Season
The 2021-22 season was Evason’s first full 82-game season and he led them to a 53-22-7 record with 113 points. It was the Wild’s best season ever in terms of points, wins, goals scored, and a number of team and individual records being set. All in all, it was an amazing regular season for the entire team.
It didn’t come without its challenges, as Evason had to figure out a few times throughout the season how to work around nagging injuries as well as COVID issues. He took each issue in stride and stuck to his game plan. They hit a few rough patches throughout the season where the losses seemed to pile up, but they found ways to get back on the winning track quickly.
While Evason appeared to be set in his ways of always following a set game plan, he wasn’t afraid to switch his lines up when losing became a trend. Sometimes it would work spectacularly and other times he’d keep swapping. In the end, the Wild’s regular season was impressive and he was a big reason for that.
Evason’s Playoff Struggles
This is where the hard part of the season comes in. The Wild failed miserably when it came to the playoffs and it was the entire team’s fault, including Evason. When things started to go south, he didn’t jump to make changes as he had during the regular season. Being it was the playoffs, it was a bit more understandable because the entire season was on the line and if the change makes things worse, the season is done.
However, not changing at all also caused the season to end. The biggest issue was the goaltending, and instead of pulling Marc-André Fleury in favor of Cam Talbot, Evason left Fleury in. It’s easy to see his perspective but it’s also easy to see the frustration of not changing to a different goalie when it could’ve extended the season.
As far as the offense, it’s hard to blame a coach when they aren’t producing. There’s only so much he can do to induce a spark, as most of that falls on the players and their captain. While their postseason ended very prematurely and part of it was Evason’s fault, he still had an incredible run during the regular season.
One final thing to remember about Evason is that this was his first actual playoff series, and mistakes should have been expected. Hopefully, now that he has some experience, the next time should be better.
Evason’s Final Grade
Apart from the goaltenders, giving the head coach his final grade is probably the hardest job. If it was strictly the regular season, Evason would’ve easily earned an A, with still a little room for improvement but overall, a great performance. However, in reality, the postseason has to be thrown in and when the ultimate goal is a Stanley Cup, the playoffs weigh pretty heavy on a final grade.
With that being said, Evason’s final grade is a C-. The regular season was spectacular and if he can continue to replicate those results, they’ll be in a great playoff position every season. Then the postseason hits and this past season was embarrassing, which can’t happen every year. He didn’t make changes until the last game and by then, things couldn’t get back on track.
Thankfully the Wild have the majority of their core back for this upcoming season and they’ll have another chance to make a run at the Stanley Cup. This time, Evason will have a bit more experience and will hopefully know to make the changes necessary to get those wins and actually make it past the first round. He is a great coach who is learning as he goes, and the Wild are lucky to have him behind the bench.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.