The NHL coaching community witnessed a day of vengeance last weekend. The trio of coaches celebrating first-round playoff victories Saturday did so against former employers.
Mike Yeo, who the Wild fired 14 months ago, and his new employer the St. Louis Blues finished off Minnesota in Game 5 with a 4-3 overtime victory in St. Paul.
Yeo wasn’t the only coach to experience some payback.
Alain Vigneault led the New York Rangers past the Montreal Canadiens in six games with a 3-1 victory Saturday. Todd McLellan coached the Edmonton Oilers to a first-round victory over the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 win Game 6.
Hockey analyst David Amber designated it "Revenge Saturday."
Yeo’s firing was the most recent among this group, but he told media Saturday this series was never about getting revenge.
“It’s not about me, and I’ve been sincere when I’ve said that,’’ Yeo said. “I don’t think what I’m feeling right now would be any different if it was any other team.
“Obviously, it’s a little bit of irony that I’m facing my former team. But our goal is to advance in the playoffs, and for our group to continue to grow and have a chance to keep competing for a Stanley Cup.’’
The Blues hired Yeo last June as Ken Hitchcock’s eventual successor. Yeo assumed the head coaching job in February after Hitchcock was fired.
Wild beat writer Mike Russo wrote Monday, “It has been established by now that the problem with the Wild didn’t sit at the feet of Mike Yeo but more likely rests inside the locker room.”
It is hard to argue with Russo after Yeo coached an arguably less-talented Blues team past the heavily favored Wild in the first round.
Vigneault started his head coaching career with the Canadiens in 1997 and led the team for four seasons. He only appeared in one postseason with the franchise and was fired in 2000.
McLellan started his head coaching career in San Jose where he spent seven seasons and earned six postseason berths. He and the Sharks mutually agreed to part ways after the 2014-2015 season.
Three other coaches still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have the chance at payback. Barry Trotz, the Washington Capitals head coach, spent 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators. Randy Carlyle, the Anaheim Ducks head coach, spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto coach Mike Babcock also coached the Ducks.