Now that his season is over, things will get very interesting for Wild head coach Mike Yeo.
Following Tuesday’s elimination loss in Chicago, discussions turned to Yeo’s future in Minnesota. His three-year deal is now up, and there are questions as to whether or not the Wild will bring him back for a fourth.
If the opinions of alternate captains Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are any indication, Yeo would return.
”I think he did a great job,” Suter said, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “I think we’re going to have a bright future with him.’’
“I think [all the coaches] did a good job,’’ Parise said. “We were prepared. We made adjustments when we needed to make adjustments, and we switched lines when we needed to.”
Yeo, the NHL’s youngest coach at age 40, came into this season with an uncertain future following last year’s lockout-shortened campaign. It was a decent season — the Wild made the postseason for the first time in five years — but hardly a banner one; Minnesota sort of backed into the playoffs as the eighth seed, and were quickly bounced out of the first round by the ‘Hawks. Given the big free agent and trade splashes made (Suter, Parise, Jason Pominville), it’s not like Yeo worked wonders… and it’s partly why he went into ’13-14 with no assurances of a new deal.
So, did he earn one? The short answer is yes but, for the sake of discussion, let’s explore.
Minnesota finished with 43 wins this year, third-most in franchise history, and 98 points in the ultra-competitive Central Division, which featured the NHL’s third (Colorado), fourth (St. Louis) and seventh (Chicago) place teams. The Wild also won a playoff round for the first time in 11 years — dispatching of the Avs in seven games — and showed great resilience against Chicago in Round 2, rebounding from an 0-2 deficit to make the series quite competitive.
Yeo did all this despite tremendous uncertainty in goal all season long, using four different starters while losing the services Josh Harding after he played at a Vezina-calibre level to start the year. Yeo also kept the team afloat as injuries sidelined Parise, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund for a combined 51 games.
All that said, there remains no definitive word from the Minnesota front office about keeping Yeo, and such uncertainty has to be worrisome. Other NHL coaches were extended despite achieving less this season — Randy Carlyle in Toronto, Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, Paul Maurice in Winnipeg — so one has to wonder if there’s a reason the Wild haven’t done the same with Yeo.