This is a tough one for me. I was initially going to come out and lay down a Zdeno Chara slapshot in my defense of Mike Yeo and company. Then the Wild went into a tailspin that would Maverick and Goose envious.
And today the news is that the St. Louis Blues sit atop the Western Conference. What's a Wild fan to do? We could have had Ken Hitchcock, we start thinking. Who the hell is Chuck Fletcher going off and hiring Mike F'n Yeo as head coach?
Ok, I can see the sentiment. But as the self-appointed President of the Mike Yeo Apologists Union, I have to go on record here and point out that with a healthy lineup, he had the best team in the NHL. All he had to do was go out and not mess it up too badly, and the Wild would have a decent seed in the playoffs.
But the wheels fell off. The Wild lost two top-six forwards, and what was once a team difficult to defend against became a one-dimensional team. And with the loss of Koivu to a shoulder injury, the Wild became even thinner on offense. As Michael Russo pointed out via twitter, when Darroll Powe is on your second line, you've got problems. Yeah, there was talent out there in the forms of Casey Wellman, Chad Rau, and Jarod Palmer. But those are the tweener guys - think Patrick O'Sullivan - who will be good to great AHL players that will struggle to make it at the NHL level. I don't care if you put them on a line with Sidney Crosby, they're not the type of guys who will be any more than a temporary callup for an NHL team.
As much as I like guys like Jed Ortmeyer and Warren Peters as fourth liners, they're not going to carry this team, nor are they the Cal Clutterbucks of the league - guys who come up for a cup of coffee and never leave.
Mike Yeo doesn't have the answers when he loses two or three top-six forwards. But name me another coach south of Jacques Lemaire or Scotty Bowman who can take poopburgers and make them look like Filet Mignon.
So I'm willing to give him a pass for this season's epic collapse. Some of my friends want to give Yeo an Incomplete for this season, but I think that's unfair. He kept the team going when the defense was thinner than Kate Moss after skipping breakfast. Even when the goalies started getting hurt, the team didn't give up.
From October to December, he deserves an A. The team was the best in the NHL.
From December to March, he gets a C because he was able to find some bright spots and things didn't completely fall apart. Ok, the team has lost its shit the last few days. Too many bad goals allowed and one goal scored in three games.
Normally I'd expect the coach to at least keep the team from losing it. But without Steady Nick Schultz on the back end, and without Zanon sacrificing his ability to walk in 20 years in the name of blocking shots, the defense is adrift. Without an entire top line, any offense is ephemeral at best. And with Josh Harding off his game, Backstrom hurt, and Matt Hackett thrown into the lion's den, is it any wonder the Wild are not only losing, but losing ugly?
For his first season, I'm giving him a B-. As long as he has a healthy lineup, I think he can take this team a long way. Clearly, the special teams need help, and just as Fletcher brought in Rick Wilson to help Todd Richards coaching the defense, I think that bringing in an assistant who's forgotten more about special teams than Mike Yeo will ever know, is a wise idea. Might even make grading him next year downright reasonable.
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