With yesterday’s 1-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, the Minnesota Wild have virtually locked up the Seventh seed for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It has been an up and down year for the team but they have finished strong down the stretch, beating top seeded teams and controlling their own destiny.
Has this been a successful season for Mike Yeo?
Mike Yeo Leads the Wild to Second Straight Playoff Berth
Mike Yeo has led the Wild to the playoffs two seasons in a row. That is something to cheer about here in Minnesota. The team’s fans have witnessed many seasons end without playoff games being played at the Xcel Energy Center. So credit must be given to Yeo for changing the trend of regular season futility.
Yeo is in his third season as head coach of the team. He inherited a team that could only dream of making the playoffs. Now it is expected that the Minnesota Wild not only make the playoffs but show some success beyond the first round.
I believe that the Wild have continued to improve under Mike Yeo. The team is winning a greater percentage of the total points to be earned during the regular season. In his first season as coach of the Minnesota Wild (2011-2012) the team finished 35-36-11 (49.4 % of points earned). This season the team is currently 41-26-12-12 (57.3% of points earned).
That is a remarkable improvement for the team and I believe that it has a lot to with his approach to the game.
Mike Yeo Maintains a Consistent Approach to His Coaching
Mike Yeo does not seem to be flustered when things aren’t going as planned. While he might have been upset with his boys earlier in the season when they weren’t following his game plan, Yeo kept with it and didn’t panic.
All season, Yeo has stressed that the team had to be good in their own end of the ice, that they don’t make mistakes in the defensive zone and that they get the puck of the defensive zone as quickly and as error free as possible. The Wild have been successful with that part of the game this season.
Yeo and the rest of the coaching staff have also stressed putting pressure (forechecking) in the offensive zone and having pressure in front of the opposing goalie. Earlier in the season that message wasn’t being followed by Wild players but as the season has moved along and especially in the past 15 games, the team seems to have bought into that part of Yeo’s game plan. That is good news for the Wild and hopefully the guys will continue to follow Yeo’s advice. I believe that will lead to the team’s success, even if some Wild fans don’t agree with that statement.
Some Wild Fans Believe that Mike Yeo has Not Been a Success
There are many fans in Minnesota who believe that the Wild have not lived up to their potential. I can count myself in that category for a great part of this season. Many fans were expecting an improvement in the team’s inability to score goals and for the most part, there has been very little improvement with the team’s offensive output. The Minnesota Wild is ranked 26th overall in scoring. That isn’t good enough in my opinion.
Midway through the season, Yeo responded to the media about his team’s lack of offensive power. He told the media that the team was focusing on defense first and then the scoring would come. I laughed at that approach.
Mike Yeo was right. His team is ranked fifth in points allowed. In my opinion that is the reason the team is heading to the playoffs. Scoring against this team has been tough. The defense is led by Ryan Suter and he has shown his worth to the club.
Then there’s the team’s goaltending, which has been very good, despite what The Hockey Writer’s Adam Stafki describes as the “Perpetual Carousel of Starting Goalies”. Stafki is correct. The Wild have had trouble locking down a starting netminder.
Josh Harding who was the NHL’s top goalie at the beginning of the season has had to miss most of the season due to complications with MS. Darcy Kemper, who had virtually no NHL experience had to take over the starting position and despite having a couple of shaky games at the beginning has played well for most of the season.
Then there’s veteran goalie Ilya Bryzgalov who was brought in to back-up Kemper. Ilya has snatched the starting job away from Kemper due to his lights out goaltending. Ilya has played very well in front of one of the best defenses in the NHL.
I guess Yeo was right when he said it starts with defense. It does and in the last third of this season, the boys have had greater success scoring. There’s team pseudo Captain Zack Parise and Captain Mikko Koivu who can be counted on to make big plays when they’re need most.
Ryan Suter has even stepped in to make some great offensive plays and Jason Pominville continues to show team management that acquiring him during the trade deadline last season has paid off. Of course there are other players who’ve stepped up to the plate as well.
Heading into the playoffs the Wild have the ingredients for success.
Defense and Goaltending Win Playoff Games
I believe that defense and goaltending win playoff games. Sure scoring is important but without solid goaltending and defense, teams find it very hard to have success in the playoffs.
As mentioned above, the Wild have been a top rated team in the defensive game. I believe that the team’s solid defensive game coupled with the team’s improvement in scoring and their star players’ knack of scoring big goals, the team has a good chance of winning a first round series.
The key will be to face anyone but the St. Louis Blues. Then again if the Wild win their second to last game against the Wild, they will enter the playoffs with tons of confidence and we know that anything is possible when a team has confidence.
Yeo’s is Still a Success Even if the Wild are One and Done in the Playoffs
I would love for the Minnesota Wild to win a series this season. That would silence Yeo’s critics, including me. That would show Wild fans that Yeo’s teams have improved every season since he has been the head coach of the club.
With that said and for the reason mentioned above, I think Mike Yeo is the right head coach for the team. I like his approach to the game and it looks like it’s starting to pay dividends for the Wild.
Anthony Bloch (AKA Sportmentary) – is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Sportmentary Online Sports Talk.
In addition to running his blog, Anthony writes a weekly column for Last Word on Sports and writes about the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.