In a sense, we’ve been through this before. The Wild has become accustomed to going through a deep swoon around this time of the season, only to pull out of it shortly after the calendar turns to the new year. Minnesota winds up making the playoffs and — at least in the past two seasons — uses momentum and energy to garner a first-round playoff victory. Players and coaches then talk about the need to play a solid 82 games instead of relying on a hot streak to bail them out. But then the process repeats itself.
This year’s slide has arrived ahead of schedule and was cushioned by a strong start, so there is more time to make up ground and more points in the bank. That said, this year’s slide (the Wild has lost six of its past seven games) has also been accompanied by an interesting subplot: some public tension between head coach Mike Yeo and two of his best players.
Yeo had (another) meltdown before practice Monday, which seems to be his standard approach to bad times. Neither Zach Parise nor Ryan Suter seemed particularly impressed by that.
Parise was subtle, saying players were “ready to work and ready to practice,” hinting that the rant was unnecessary.
Suter, in a locker room that isn’t known for inflammatory comments, got after it a little harder:
“We’re looking for leadership. We need leaders. We need guys, coaching staff, players, we need people that are going to lead. It does no good to pout and get [ticked] off at each other,” he said. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to coach and be a leader when things are going good.”
That last sentence lingers, doesn’t it? Feels directed right at the head coach, right? Suter’s displeasure continued when discussing some defensive tinkering that was going on in practice Monday as well. The most telling quote from that: “I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
This could all blow over quickly. Maybe Suter and Parise are speaking more generally than specifically. Maybe this is just short-term frustration and not a larger problem. The Wild could win in Chicago tonight, start a winning streak and all will be well.
Or it could fester. Remember, Parise and Suter already raised some eyebrows in September when they brought in Adam Oates for some informal power play instruction in September.
“He’s probably the smartest hockey guy I’ve ever been around,” Parise said at the time of his former assistant coach, Oates, not his current head coach, Yeo.