Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Press conference transcript: Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild coaching, Wild news, Wild off-season news Updated: June 17, 2011 - 2:46 PM

Give or take, here's about 2,100 words worth of what Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and new head coach Mike Yeo had to say this morning, transcribed by yours truly, Brian Stensaas (you all remember me, right???).

Please do enjoy:

Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher
6/17/11
 
Fletcher: I wouldn’t use the term ‘agonizing.’ I think the more I went through the process, the more I watched Houston play, their attention to detail night in and night out and knowing what I was looking for in a coach, it just became more apparent the longer the process went that Mike was the guy. This time going through the process it became a more methodical approach because I continued to play devil’s advocate. I continued to ask questions – challenging my won convictions. Trying to find reasons Mike should not be the coach and at the end of the day the only good reason I could come up with why Mike should not be the coach was that he was 37-years-old. He’s got a lot of head coaching experience. He’s a guy that combines a high degree of technical expertise with a terrific ability to communicate with people. And that’s not just speaking. He’s a great listener, he’s an active learner, he’s somebody that’s always looking for new ideas and new approaches. Yet when he makes up his mind he’s firm. He has an edge to him. He’s somebody who will welcome confrontation if confrontation wants to find him. It’s exactly what I was looking for in a head coach.
Craig was apprised of the decision the whole way and was fully supportive of my decision. Mike is the right guy for this team. He’s a good coach and this is a good day for the Minnesota Wild.
 
(How did working in Pittsburgh with talents like Crosby help you?) Yeo: First and foremost it gives you credibility in the room knowing you dealt with those kind of athletes. I’m looking to become teammates with these guys. I don’t want to be coach and they’re the players. We’re going to go to war together here. That’s what we did in Pittsburgh and I was very fortunate to get the chance to do that. It’s not always going to be rosy, not always is it going to be easy that’s for sure. But it gives me the experience and the knowledge that I can deal with those situations and that’s how the credibility is going to come into play. You can talk about what you’ve done before but it’s going to start Day One. And it’s a process from that day going forward. They’re constantly evaluating you and what you bring to the table every day and I know I’m ready for that.
 
(Dealing with your age, some players on the team are older than you) Yeo: I like that you keep bringing up my age. Because I don’t feel 37 years old and no, I don’t look 37 years old. I’ve been coaching long enough – it’s like dog years: for every year of coaching you add 5 years onto your life. I believe in my thoughts and my ideas of how the game should be played and I doint have any doubts about it. I’ve seen it be successful, and with that, I’ve always coached guys that are older than me whether it’s Mark Recchi or Gary Roberts or John LeClair or Bill Guerin. I’ve had the opportunity to work with those guys and alongside those guys to earn their trust. And I know I can do it again. To me, age is just a number. I’ve got an awful lot of coaching experience having gotten into it when I was 26 years old. The lessons that I’ve learned, the things I’ve put myself through to get ready for this opportunity – I’m the kind of guy, I love a challenge. I love adversity, I love the opportunity to deal with things that maybe other people think you’re not ready for or can’t do. I have no doubt in my mind I’m ready for those situations.
 
(You and Mike both mentioned the need to be more aggressive, a tougher team. Is that indicative of what this team has been lacking?) Fletcher: I don’t think it’s a question of what was lacking or what was here in the past. I think it’s more looking at the type of team you need to have to be successful and looking at the elements successful teams have. Mike understands the game very well. He’ll bring very good structure to this team and good teams hold each other accountable. It’s something every team talks about, not just the Minnesota Wild: To be successful, you have to hold yourselves accountable as players, as coaches and as teammates. Everybody has to push for the same goal and it’s the best team that wins. Not the best collection of players. I’m very confident Mike will help build a good team here. As we continue to scout out more talent for this team here, I’m very confident Mike will make us a very competitive team. But most importantly, a team.
 
(Did the fact that so many guys in Houston have a chance to be here next year influence the decision?) Fletcher: I think it’s accurate to say it had some influence. Obviously over the next two, three seasons we’re going to add several young players to our team. We’re going to become a younger team. A younger, faster more energetic team. We’re going to look to fill holes in our roster with players we’ve developed and drafted and signed as opposed to going into the free agency market. Certainly Mike’s familiarity should make for a smoother transition. But I think that’s a nice benefit, but the main reason Mike is being named head coach is because he was the best coach. He’s the best fit for our team.
 
(What players do you have in Houston that might help out here?) Yeo: I’m not going to sit here and name players. There’s a lot of guys down there that just went through an excruciating time together and I just have the utmost respect for those guys, what I’ve seen them do day in and day out. What I can tell you is Chuck, Brent, everybody involved in stocking the cupboards as people like to say, the wheels are in motion. Obviously we have some talent down there but more than anything I think we have a bunch of guys who know how to win hockey games. A bunch of guys who want to contribute and find their niche, find their role. There [are] certainly some guys who are getting close and I’m expecting a lot of these guys to come into training camp in great shape. They know the opportunity that’s in front of them. They’re going to help to make it a very competitive camp.
 
(Have you talked to Mikko or any of the other players?) Fletcher: At this point I haven’t. I will speak with most of the players and Mike will speak with most of the players in the next little while. I believe Brent Burns is the only player in town right now. Most of the guys have gone to their summer homes. Mike is going to reach out to a lot of the players in the next little while. We’ll have a lot of time to speak with them over the summer.
 
(Is there a risk in hiring another coach without a ton of NHL experience?) Fletcher: I think Mike has a lot of NHL experience. I don’t know if it’s about me, a risk for me. I think any time in life your put in the position to make a decision, you have to make a decision. And there’s a risk in every decision you make or don’t make. To me, I hired the best candidate to coach the Minnesota Wild so I see a lot of risk in not hiring Mike.
 
(When you had a chance to evaluate this team during the interview process, why do you think it hasn’t been able to crack into the next level?) Yeo: First off, let me say that my plan is to really take some time over the next little while to get a chance to talk to the players and a little more in-depth with Chuck and the rest of the staff. I’ll be able to form some more opinions right there. Certainly there are key players here that I have a lot of belief in – in their abilities and what they can bring to the table. Now is not the time for me to sit here and say they should have done this or should have done that. I don’t think that is fair to anybody. All I would like to do is sit here and talk about what our plan is going forward. I believe in this group. I believe in the staff that’s here. And for me it’s all about getting things in motion as far as the identity of what we’re trying to build in a team, the foundation we want to play the game with and putting a good plan in place so we’re ready to start training camp.
 
(What is the path with the rest of the staff?) Fletcher: Rick Wilson will be back. That was strongly embraced by Mike. My philosophy on a coaching staff was that I would name one assistant coach and work with Mike on filling the other positions based on his guidance and his thoughts. So I’ve made my decision, now Mike gets to fill out the rest of the staff. IN the next few weeks, Mike will sit down with those that were here and also some other candidates. I’m sure he’ll meet with everyone and make the best decision. With respect to Bob Mason, the goaltending coach is more than just a coaching position – it’s almost an organizational-type of position and Bob Mason will be back for the foreseeable future.
 
(Is the message to Wild fans that you’re in a rebuild here?) Fletcher: I don’t think rebuild is the right word, I think we’re trying to build. We’re trying to build a foundation. We’ve missed the playoffs three years in a row, so clearly we need to upgrade our team and to me we really need to add some talent into the organization, some young talent. We need to add some youthful energy, some speed, some size. There’s a lot we need to add. The best teams fill most of their holes through their own internal development system. That’s the part to me we need to continue to work on, to find ways to get better at. Fortunately our scouting staff, led by Brent Flahr, has done a great job and our development staff led by Brad Bombardir and Mike Yeo when he was in Houston has done a great job developing players. So I think we’re doing a good job of adding more talent to our system and that will be the immediate goal. And obviously we’ll continue to look for more opportunities in the trade and free agency market if we can find some fits.
 
(A lot of decisions about the draft in a short time. What are your thoughts on these deadlines approaching?) Yeo: As I was in Houston watching games on TV I formed some opinions. But I’m going in with a very open mind as far as players. Again, I wasn’t here. Training camp will be a part of that, but there are things before training camp and the next couple days my focus is going to be trying to get my life in order and get ready to move here. With that, I’m anxious to start evaluating things from a different perspective. I will lean on Chuck and his staff. But I’m going in with an open mind.
 
(What were your emotions when you got the call? Has it hit you yet) Yeo: I can tell you what I didn’t do last night and that’s sleep. I was kidding on the way over here that in the days leading up to it I think I got the job and didn’t get the job about 76 times. I kept changing my own mind. But when something like that happens, it’s life changing. You can talk about my experience and all the other things about the journey to get here. But I can tell you one thing, I’ve worked my tail off to get here and I’m very proud of the fact that I’m here. Top be able to share that with my family that has sacrificed so much for me. The wife of a hockey coach, man, that’s a tough job. It’s a lot tougher than mine, that’s for sure. And my kids. We moved from a great spot in Pittsburgh. The kids have had to chance schools and make new friends. Getting a chance to share that phone call with them was very special.

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