After a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the team’s eighth setback in a row and 13th in their last 14 games, the Minnesota Wild fired head coach Mike Yeo on Saturday night. In less than five seasons as head coach in Minnesota, Yeo had a 173-132-44 regular season record with three straight playoff appearances.
The hot seat under Yeo had turned scalding in the midst of the Wild’s annual midseason struggles this season, so it was really only a matter of time before he was relieved of his duties if things didn’t change. And relieved is just what Yeo should be, since he was made an easy and convenient scapegoat for a situation that was not entirely his creation.
General manager Chuck Fletcher was not the driving force for the biggest moves the Wild have made in recent years, the Fourth of July signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2012. That came with owner Craig Leipold‘s stamp and his willingness to authorize 13-year contracts for two marquee free agents.
A closer look at Fletcher’s record as Wild general manager shows bad contracts (Niklas Backstrom, Jason Pominville), a series of short-sighted, unimaginative or outright bad trades and a minor league team in Iowa that has little in terms of even fringe NHL talent. That is not a coach’s fault, but with the cliche that “you can’t fire all the players” in mind, Yeo could not coax the best from what he was given.
A lack of effort by players has been visible in recent games, so whatever Yeo’s message was seemed to be falling on deaf ears. Whether it’s veterans, young players or both that simply wanted a new coach, now the group of underachievers in the Wild locker room will get their wish.
John Torchetti, who has been coaching Minnesota’s AHL team in Iowa this season, has been named interim head coach for the Wild starting Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks. He has a lengthy pro coaching resume, including two previous stints as an interim head coach in the NHL. Time will tell if Torchetti can spur a turnaround, but he is clearly qualified to be an NHL head coach.
Yeo is not without fault for the Wild’s recent dismal run, and the coach is always the first to be held accountable when results don’t measure up. The bigger picture of blame clearly rests on Fletcher’s shoulders, though, and whenever the Wild’s season ends he should also be unemployed fairly quickly.