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Continued: Aeros' Yeo: Minors coach, major ambitions

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 10, 2011 - 8:04 AM

MILWAUKEE -- Mike Yeo had the perfect job.

As an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins for five years, Yeo worked for a franchise with a core of stars that would be perennial Stanley Cup contenders.

Most young coaches would fasten himself to such luxury with Krazy Glue.

But Yeo wanted to be a head coach in the National Hockey League. And there were two problems: Yeo had never been a head coach. And he had never played in the NHL.

A minor-league grinder whose career ended at 26 because of a knee injury, Yeo knew how to achieve his aspiration. He would have to detach himself from Penguins coach Dan Bylsma's side, depart the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin safety net and return to the American Hockey League to run a bench for himself.

And that's what he does for the Houston Aeros, the Wild's AHL affiliate. And, as such, he figures to get major consideration for the vacant Wild post.

"I'm not Kirk Muller," Yeo said of the Montreal assistant and longtime NHLer who has never been a pro head coach, but is expected to soon land an NHL head-coaching job. "Because he's Kirk Muller, he's given more credibility, and I'm very accepting of that. I don't have the name. I didn't play [19] years in the NHL like Kirk Muller. The last couple years, this was something weighing heavily on my mind."

Yeo had been to the Stanley Cup Finals as Michel Therrien's assistant at Pittsburgh. A year later, he won a Stanley Cup as Bylsma's assistant. At the end of every season, Yeo sat down with Penguins General Manager Ray Shero to discuss his long-term goal. Shero would offer guidance, nearly giving Yeo the Wilkes-Barre job in 2008 when former Wild coach Todd Richards left for San Jose.

But Shero didn't want to take the valuable Yeo off Pittsburgh's bench. Suddenly, last year, interest from outside the Penguins organization flooded in.

"It's funny," Shero said. "When [Wild GM] Chuck [Fletcher] called to ask permission to talk to Mike, a day later, other teams called, too."

A perfect fit

Ultimately Yeo, 37, chose Houston. In his first year, Yeo, along with assistants Darryl Sydor and Brian Wiseman, coached the Wild's chief developmental affiliate to the second-best record (46-28-6) in the Western Conference.

The Aeros play a physical, defensively- responsible style, and Tuesday they will be playing Game 7 against the Milwaukee Admirals for the right to advance to the Western Conference finals.

"When I look back, I can say Mike was so ready to be a head coach," Bylsma said. "His work ethic is diligent. The guy is relentless in trying to come up with the right answers and trying to come up with the plan and message to the team.

"He did a lot of the nuts and bolts and a lot of the work in putting together the presentation of the system to the team."

Houston was a perfect fit. Yeo knew Fletcher from Pittsburgh. He knew Aeros GM Jim Mill for years. And he had a history in Houston, where he played five years and captained the Aeros to a Turner Cup championship (in the now-defunct International Hockey League) in 1999.

"I coached him all five years," said Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, a former Aeros player, coach and GM. "Mike was a hard-nosed checker, good penalty killer and sneaky tough. He didn't look for [trouble] all the time, but if you came knocking on the door, you were going to get a surprise."

An overachiever

Yeo, a native of North Bay, Ontario, overcame four surgeries in his first three years of juniors. He once thought he had a contract with the Boston Bruins before failing a physical because of a recurring shoulder injury.

He was never the best player on his team, but he displayed other talents.

"He was so well-respected by his teammates because of how hard he worked," Tippett said. "It was always about the team winning. He had a way to portray that, which made him a real leader."

When unable to play anymore, Yeo became Glenn Patrick's assistant in Wilkes-Barre in 1999. In came Therrien in 2003, and the two were promoted to Pittsburgh in 2005 when Ed Olczyk was fired. Yeo was only 32 -- younger than many Penguins.

"It was [Therrien] and I. No other assistant coach, which is unheard of now," Yeo said, before adding with a laugh, "I got to coach Mario [Lemieux] for one game. I think he saw what he was getting involved with and said, 'I want nothing to do with this.'

"Getting a chance to work with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and many of their other young stars, it keeps you sharp every day. If you want to have credibility with these guys, you better be on the ball and you better know your stuff."

But Yeo was self-conscious of being a very young NHL coach, so he was always trying to prove himself.

"My first six, seven years of coaching, I went to every coach's clinic I possibly could," Yeo said. "I still am to this day a student of the game."

Looking ahead

Bylsma said Yeo's work ethic, passion, loyalty, means of communication and knowledge of the game allows Yeo to attract immediate respect. Yeo's experience is why Shero doesn't think it'll take long for Yeo to become an NHL head coach.

"What he brings to the table is five years as an assistant in the NHL, someone who's been to two Stanley Cup Finals, won a Stanley Cup and won't be intimidated by players. I mean, he coached Sidney Crosby," Shero said. "That goes a long way when you're considering hiring a minor-league coach for an NHL job."

Yeo and his wife, Tanya, have two children, 14 and 12. He admits he's interested in the Wild vacancy after the Aeros' season ends, but hiring Yeo might be a tough sell for Fletcher, after originally choosing the inexperienced Richards.

However, Yeo has much more experience (12 years coaching, five in the NHL) than Richards did (one year as an NHL assistant).

"You're talking to a guy who had less experience as a head coach in the American League than Mike Yeo has now," said Bylsma, who coached 54 games in Wilkes-Barre before he replaced Therrien in 2009. "So do I think he has enough experience? No question at all. Is that the right fit for Minnesota right now? That's a different question. But I'm not sure I want to coach against Mike Yeo if he's in the National Hockey League."

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Chicago 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 111 FINAL
Orlando 96
Brooklyn 99 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Portland 105 FINAL
Charlotte 97
Washington 87 FINAL
Cleveland 113
LA Clippers 104 FINAL
Detroit 98
New York 102 FINAL
Dallas 109
Toronto 126 FINAL
Atlanta 115
Milwaukee 103 FINAL
Minnesota 86
Sacramento 89 FINAL
Houston 102
Utah 82 FINAL
Oklahoma City 97
Indiana 100 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Denver 112 FINAL
Phoenix 120
Memphis 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 93
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Washington 2 FINAL(OT)
NY Islanders 3
Philadelphia 2 FINAL
Detroit 5
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
Florida 1
Toronto 3 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Chicago 3 FINAL
Colorado 2
Calgary 2 FINAL
San Jose 0
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
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Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
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Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
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Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 72 FINAL
UAB 43
Davidson 95 FINAL
UCF 69
Albany 75 FINAL
Colgate 71
Longwood 66 FINAL
George Washington 91
Delaware State 76 FINAL
Iona 126
Trinity Baptist 57 FINAL
Jacksonville 69
Cleveland State 33 FINAL
Louisville 45
St Johns 70 FINAL
Minnesota 61
PSU-Harrisburg 42 FINAL
Navy 67
Richmond 72 FINAL
NC State 84
Grambling St 54 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Oakland 78
Campbell 64 FINAL
Ohio State 91
Goucher 43 FINAL
Towson 97
Bryant 47 FINAL
Vermont 73
Miami-Ohio 63 FINAL
Virginia Tech 78
Mount St Marys 49 FINAL
Wake Forest 83
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Yale 82
UMKC 63 FINAL
Youngstown St 66
Canisius 60 FINAL
Cornell 67
Va Military 72 FINAL
West Virginia 103
Lehigh 86 FINAL
DePaul 74
UC Riverside 62 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 66
Morehead State 77 FINAL
Marshall 68
Miss Valley St 52 FINAL
North Texas 67
UNC-Asheville 75 FINAL
South Carolina 89
Tenn Tech 65 FINAL
SE Louisiana 86
Texas Southern 59 FINAL
SMU 72
Radford 50 FINAL
TCU 74
TX-Pan American 48 FINAL
Utah 85
Wayne St-NE 69 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Kansas State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 70
Northern Ill 49 FINAL
Iowa 70
Fla Gulf Coast 45 FINAL
Green Bay 59
Carroll (MT) 52 FINAL
Montana 75
Florida A&M 33 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
Auburn 71 FINAL
Oregon State 69
Eastern Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Utah 64
Stetson 41 FINAL
Wyoming 65
Northern Ky 60 FINAL
Eastern Wash 81
Utah Valley U 60 FINAL
Idaho State 57
Florida 65 FINAL
Georgetown 66
Northwestern 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 61
Georgia 76 FINAL
Gonzaga 88
Cal Poly 52 FINAL
California 72
Utah State 70 FINAL
UC Davis 77
Arizona 61 FINAL
San Diego St 59
Alabama State 68 FINAL
North Dakota 75
Portland State 63 FINAL
CS-Northridge 55
Tulsa 58 FINAL
Oklahoma State 73
Pacific 71 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 62
Missouri State 61 FINAL
Colorado State 76
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
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Temple
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(18) Ole Miss
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(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
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(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
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Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
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(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
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Texas-El Paso
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Fresno State
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Duke
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Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
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UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
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Seton Hall 77
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Eastern Illinois 55
Illinois-Chicago 40 FINAL
Northwestern 61
UT Martin 75 FINAL
Samford 79
Niagara 63 FINAL
Binghamton 52
Radford 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 72
East Tenn St 69 FINAL
Indiana 97
North Dakota 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 52
Marshall 49 FINAL
Cornell 58
Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 54
LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Boise State 59 FINAL
Yale 53
Evansville 39 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 83
(4) Tennessee 63 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
Delaware State 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 73
Bradley 74 FINAL
Columbia 81
Providence 56 FINAL
Dayton 72
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Albany 64 FINAL
Canisius 59
VA Commonwealth 48 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Alabama A&M 44 FINAL
Alabama 75
Colgate 35 FINAL
(22) Georgia 66
Memphis 75 FINAL
Southern Ill 82
Oakland 64 FINAL
(16) Michigan State 79
Utah Valley U 49 FINAL
UC Davis 59
Butler 62 FINAL
BYU 81
TX-Pan American 45 FINAL
(6) Texas 72
McNeese State 27 FINAL
(7) Texas A&M 93
Milwaukee 80 FINAL
Marquette 85
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
TX-Arlington 80
Jackson State 70 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Indiana State 74 FINAL
South Alabama 53
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 60
Iona 49 FINAL
Kansas 90
Fresno Pacific 60 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 82
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