Following the Minnesota Wild’s loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday, the team’s 8th consecutive loss, head coach Mike Yeo was fired by GM Chuck Fletcher. This came as welcome news for legions of Wild fans who have long called for the head of the franchise’s third ever coach. When teams like the Wild that have huge expectations on them lose 13 of 14 games, it’s not entirely shocking that a coach’s head might roll. However, upon looking at the situation closer, I have a hard time blaming Yeo for what has transpired this season. He was just the scapegoat here. Ultimately, the players are the ones who determine the outcome of the game.
Mike Yeo’s record in 4+ seasons as the head coach of the Minnesota Wild was 173-132-44. For those like me who despise math, that’s a 62.18 points-percentage. Despite the disappointment of losing to the Blackhawks every year, Yeo coached the Wild to the playoffs for three consecutive years and the Wild are one of only five teams in the league that have advanced past the first round of the playoffs in consecutive years.
Mike Yeo didn’t forget how to coach overnight, something else happened.
It’s well established that coaches in the NHL have an expiration date and people lose their jobs all the time in hockey. Perhaps Mike Yeo reached his expiration date and perhaps his firing is for the best. But that doesn’t excuse what happened on Saturday in St. Paul when the Wild played the Bruins.
The Minnesota Wild showed absolutely no fight in a listless loss to B’s. Wall play was atrocious, board battles were lost all over the ice, turnovers were made, and ill-advised penalties were taken by team “leaders”. Simply put, the Wild quit on their coach.
As if to basically implore Chuck Fletcher to get rid of Mike Yeo, the Wild showed next to no desire to win that game Saturday. Effort and energy was lacking from the beginning. Yeo’s post-game press conference was telling; he looked defeated, if he didn’t already know he was gone he had a pretty good idea.
And that’s exactly what Fletcher did, he let Yeo go. If the Wild did want Yeo gone, they did it the wrong way. And it’s likely that the players had enough of Mike Yeo; nothing was more telling than Thomas Vanek saying after Yeo’s firing that he hadn’t talked to the coach since he scratched him in St. Louis three games prior. And apparently, the Wild were having a great time at practice Sunday despite not having won in almost a month.
Vanek, asked if he talked to Yeo after the announcement: "I haven't talked to Mike since he scratched me in St. Louis." #mnwild
— Jess Myers (@JessRMyers) February 14, 2016
Lots of smiles on the ice today at Wild practice.
— Kent Youngblood (@BloodStrib) February 14, 2016
If the players wanted Yeo gone, they could have gone to Chuck Fletcher privately and told him about their concerns with the direction of the team. That’s what professionals do, heck, that’s what adults do. Instead the Wild apparently decided to rob the fans of hard-earned ticket money and embarrass themselves in the process by no-showing on Saturday for their 8th consecutive loss.
But now Yeo is gone, and the players have nobody to deflect blame from them anymore; if they continue to lose and nosedive in the standings, it will be on them, nobody can scapegoat Yeo any longer.
Unprofessionalism and an embarrassing lack of effort by the Minnesota Wild cost Mike Yeo his job; can the Wild pull out of this slide, or will it cost them a season as well?
Nate has been a Minnesota Wild contributor at The Hockey Writers since 2014 and previously spent time covering the University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team. For everything Minnesota Wild related, follow him on Twitter @natebauer.