Q and A with Wild coach Mike Yeo

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2013 - 5:42 PM

Team will have a new look, new confidence this season.

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Wild coach Mike Yeo has some changes in mind that he thinks the fans will enjoy: “We’re going to be more aggressive off the rush. … We want to keep the puck. We don’t want to just give it up.”

Photo: Brian Peterson • Star Tribune file,

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The Wild ended a four-year playoff drought last spring when it pulled out a must-win game at Colorado to grab the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Minnesota looks to build on that this season, albeit with a very different-looking team. Following an offseason that was a far cry from 2012 when the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year deals, General Manager Chuck Fletcher had to work to get cap-compliant.

That led to the subtraction of four key forwards — Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard — and defenseman Tom Gilbert. The Wild signed veteran forward Matt Cooke and former Gophers defenseman Keith Ballard.

In addition this season, the Wild largely will rely on the continued growth of youngsters Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin, plus a solid base of veterans — Parise, Suter, captain Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Jason Pominville and goaltender Niklas Backstrom.

As Mike Yeo heads into his third season, the Wild coach sat down with the Star Tribune for a Q and A:

Q: Will there be any system tweaks?

A: Our fans will really enjoy this. We’re going to be more aggressive off the rush. … We want to keep the puck. We don’t want to just give it up.

Q: That sounds like you’re saying you’ll be less “dump and chase”?

A: I hate that people think that we’re a dump-and-chase team. It’s completely false. … But there’s going to be a focus for us to try to create more offensively off the rush. So our entries, we have to find ways to attack the zone with more speed, make more plays with support on our entries so we’re carrying the puck inside the blue line with the puck still on our stick. It’ll give us a chance to score more goals, but we’re going to have to be patient early in the year. It’s going to lead to mistakes, and mistakes lead to scoring chances and goals.

Q: What’s your biggest question mark going into camp?

A: Who’s on our team? Who plays with who? Honestly, I’ve got about 1,000 different combinations right now. Every day I go in the office, my board changes about three times. You’re going to see a lot of different guys playing with different people, guys playing in different positions, as well.

Q: Will Coyle and Mikael Granlund go head-to-head for the second-line center spot?

A: I would say, yeah.

Q: What do you expect from Granlund after a disappointing rookie year?

A: He’s flying right under the radar this year, which is perfect. That’s fine. With young kids, with that kind of skill, you have to have some patience. Some of them find it right away, some of them, it takes them a little bit longer. We saw last year that it was an adjustment for him, … but he’s a very talented kid.

Q: How much will you rely on Coyle and Zucker?

A: I want to see improvement. I thought Charlie really established himself as a player. He came in and for a long period of time played a consistent game. Zuck, he has the flashes that draw everybody’s attention and I know he’s a fan favorite, but the bottom line for me, I want to see the consistency in him now. There’s got to be stretches of good game, good game, good game.

Q: Which other kids have shots for jobs?

A: Nino [Niederreiter] is going to get a real good look. [Justin] Fontaine is a guy I’m very interested in seeing. He’s going to have to earn it, but I’m very curious and anxious to see how he does at this level. I want to see how [Zack] Phillips and [Brett] Bulmer’s doing, and we’ve got to make sure Bulmer’s healthy. [Erik] Haula had a great development camp. And Matt [Dumba] will get a great shot.

Q: What do you expect from Heatley?

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