Did Yeo do enough to stick in Minnesota?

70 Comments

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.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

Getty
1 Comment

Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
Leave a comment

It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

6 Comments

Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

2 Comments

Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.