Being a head coach in the NHL is a perilous job. Turnover is high and guys are constantly shuffled in and out of jobs. Being the coach of a team with high-priced talent and big aspirations means having all the pressure in the world on your shoulders to win.
That’s the position Minnesota bench boss Mike Yeo finds himself in.
Entering his third season on the job, Yeo finds himself at the helm of a team that’s looking for more offense but made the playoffs last season even in spite of those troubles.
After getting bounced by Chicago in the first round of the playoffs, however, some fans in Minnesota were hopeful to see Yeo replaced, especially with the host of coaching talent available over the summer. Instead, GM Chuck Fletcher brought him back for another year.
With expectations perhaps being unreasonably high amongst Wild fans, especially considering many of their players are still very young and they just made the playoffs for the first time in five years, getting on Yeo’s case about coaching them the “right way” might not work out.
Think of the changes the team has seen over the past six years:
- Three different head coaches (Jacques Lemaire, Todd Richards, Yeo)
- Three different systems
- Very little development of their prospects (until recently)
- Little free agency success (again, until recently)
Stanley Cup championships just don’t happen overnight and Yeo did get the team going in the right direction last year…
That said, the team got out to a flying start two seasons ago under him only to crash and burn in December. Last season, they slowed down towards the end of the season going 6-8-1 before the playoffs. Those kinds of streaks stick out in people’s minds.
Getting out to a hot start only to hit a wall two months in will cause heartache with fans again, only this time they’ll be angry and looking for answers.
When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.
With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).
As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.
Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.
You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.
Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.
“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?
Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.
Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.
It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.
Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.
On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?
It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?
* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.