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.
Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.
The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.
Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL. He said in May he has zero plans to return to Russia.
However, it remains to be seen if any team will take a chance on him.
Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.
The Blues did extend qualifying offers to defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.
Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.
Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.
In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.
While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.
In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.
No word yet on financials for either guy.
Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.
Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.
The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.
Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.
The Hockey Hall of Fame will welcome five players and two builders into its doors as part of the 2017 class.
Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi and Danielle Goyette were officially inducted as players on Monday afternoon, while former Canadian collegiate coach Clare Drake and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs were inducted under the builders category.
Overall it is an extremely impressive class of players. Selanne, Andreychuk and Recchi are all among the top-20 goal scorers in league history, while Goyette was a 10-time gold medalist for the Canadian women’s hockey team, including twice at the Olympics. Drake was the long-time coach of the University of Alberta Men’s ice hockey team, coaching the team to six University Cup championships in 28 years. He coached the Edmonton Oilers for one season in 1975-76 when they were still in the WHA. Overall his coaching career spanned 40 years at various levels of Canadian hockey.
Selanne’s induction seemed to be an obvious one, but for Andreychuk and Recchi it ends what were pretty lengthy waits to finally have their names called.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, Recchi, Selanne and Andreychuk were the only retired players in the top-30 of the NHL’s all-time points list to not already be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The only active players in that group are currently Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton, and both seem like locks to eventually get in once their careers end (Jagr certainly is a lock).
Pierre Turgeon, 31st all time with 1,327 points, is now tops among retired scorers to not yet be inducted into the Hall of Fame.