Mike Yeo has returned to a familiar place. Apparently, he’s back on the hot seat, his home away from home.
The Wild not only stinks, but Yeo’s players appear lost and disinterested, and so #FireYeo is trending again. Former player/broadcaster Jeremy Roenick called for Yeo’s dismissal after the Wild’s no-show effort in Chicago on Sunday night. That chorus is growing louder by the loss.
This has become the sports world’s default setting in times of crisis.
Fire the coach. Fire the general manager. Fire everybody!
Yeo has stood at this professional precipice before in recent seasons with people calling for his job. He’s always managed to avoid that next step. Maybe the Wild’s brain trust has seen enough wallowing in self-pity from his players and will make the move this time and replace Yeo in-season.
The Wild is so screwed up and looks so dysfunctional that firing the coach would be like giving a clunker a new set of tires. The problems run deeper than just Yeo.
Yes, the coach bears ultimate responsibility for the product on the ice, but shouldn’t players and the man who assembled this roster — General Manager Chuck Fletcher — be held accountable, too? But since firing 20 players is impossible, the coach typically takes the fall.
Personally, I’d give Yeo another few weeks to see if he can pull his team out of this death spiral. If nothing changes and his players continue to mope and perform like a bunch of shrinking violets, then maybe this operation under Yeo truly is a lost cause.
The wild card in this discussion is Craig Leipold, who remains as competitive as any owner in professional sports. Leipold isn’t known for his patience. He’s poured a lot of money into the roster with the belief that the Wild would win big because of his aggressiveness.
Last place in the division at the halfway mark is not what he envisioned.
So will Leipold stand pat in the face of a pitchfork fan base and a team that has underachieved more than any in the NHL?
Sports can be so oddly unpredictable. Yeo did a wonderful job in the postseason last spring to earn a contract extension. He matured as a coach. His players openly praised his message and strategies.
Now, his players look like they’ve quit on him.
Yeo deserves his share of criticism and blame, but he’s not a bad coach. The problem is, he’s played just about every card imaginable trying to fix this mess. He’s cursed players and coddled them. He’s juggled lines and held private meetings. Nothing has worked.
This should be his next tactic: Take the “C” off Mikko Koivu’s sweater and give it to the real captain. Everyone already knows who that is, right?
This is Zach Parise’s team. He’s the leader in the locker room and the best player on the ice.
Koivu looks slow and injured and just plain tired. It’s time to see if Parise’s presence as captain can spark the team.
That move alone wouldn’t guarantee a turnaround, but Yeo might as well try everything at this point. This is desperation time.
Fletcher also should do everything in his power to obtain a goaltender via trade without mortgaging the future. The goalie situation is a joke and has sucked the life out of the entire organization.
Much like a baseball team with crummy starting pitching, a hockey team without reliable goaltending is doomed. Players aren’t dumb. They know they’re in trouble before they even hit the ice. That must be mentally exhausting.
Is it Yeo’s fault that Fletcher didn’t solve this problem in the offseason, or that Darcy Kuemper looked overmatched as the No. 1 goalie?
I supported the team’s decision to give Kuemper the job out of training camp because he was the best possible option at that point. The front office gambled on Kuemper, and it blew up on them.
Bad goaltending doesn’t excuse a lack of professional pride, though. The Wild doesn’t show much grit or toughness when pushed into a corner, and that includes veterans and youngsters alike. They just kind of go through the motions, then sing the same sad song after games.
Is it too much to ask for a little fight, a little gumption, and stop acting like playing professional hockey is such a burden? Their body language is terrible.
Ultimately, Yeo might pay the price for this lost season. Happens all the time in hockey as teams look for a quick fix.
I might be in the minority, but I don’t believe firing Yeo right now, today, will solve their problems. A coaching change certainly would provide a jolt, but this mess seems larger than one guy.
Chip Scoggins email@example.com