Wild GM Fletcher pursues calm as coaches make more line changes

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2013 - 9:38 PM

While GM Chuck Fletcher's pep talk preached staying the course, coach Mike Yeo tweaked lines again.

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Wild GM Chuck Fletcher

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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In a measured, professorial tone, Chuck Fletcher tried his hardest Friday to get everybody from perturbed fans to impatient media members to his own struggling players to take a deep breath and relax.

One day after the Wild lost its third consecutive game and heard loud and clearly what the fans thought of its home-ice performance against Vancouver, the Wild general manager attended practice with in-good-spirits owner Craig Leipold and tried to relieve some of the tension.

Fletcher gave Mike Yeo and his coaching staff a vote of confidence and said he still believes wholeheartedly in the players assembled despite a 4-5-1 start to the season.

"Mike and the coaches are doing a very good job," Fletcher said. "We've got a lot of pieces to juggle in a short amount of time. We're trying to find chemistry, and frankly we can't get caught up in the angst and outside opinions and reactions. We just have to stay focused and concentrate on doing a better job and executing at a better level."

Fletcher said 15 different ways how much he believes in the players. "We have too many good players for it not to turn," he said. "Obviously players are struggling with confidence right now. Things will turn, they always do. Players will play to their level."

The Wild has scored 21 goals in 10 games, and Yeo juggled the lines again Friday.

Part of it was necessitated by Zach Parise's absence because of illness, but Parise is expected to play Saturday night against Nashville. If so, his line with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle would stay intact, while Matt Cullen would move back to the third line with Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak.

The new second line will feature Mikael Granlund, scratched against the Canucks, centering Dany Heatley (no points in five games) and Devin Setoguchi (no goals this season). Setoguchi spent the past two games on the fourth line but "deserves to move up" after responding to Yeo's liking.

By process of elimination, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has one goal and one assist the past nine games, will be delivered a message by dropping to the fourth line alongside two of the following three forwards -- Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell.

Fletcher and Yeo said it's time for players to reset their minds.

"That's one thing that we can all do a better job of and it's difficult. We're trying to all deal with the expectations and all these things," Yeo said. "Nobody wants to win more than any of these guys and all of us."

Yeo has received criticism from fans for his dump-and-chase "system." Fletcher noted "almost every team in the league plays the same way."

The truth, Heatley says, is "the only reason you chip it in is if you have no play. He wants us to make plays if the plays are there. We have the freedom to do that."

If no play is available, if opposing defensemen are standing up at the blue line and not allowing an entry, the next option is to chip the puck deep.

Forwards must do a better job at pursuing and hunting down pucks. The Wild also has to get a better mindset of putting numbers at the net and throwing pucks there, Yeo says.

"That comes from confidence," Heatley said. "When you're not scoring, sometimes I think guys try and do too much, and that's when you get in trouble."

Fletcher says he plans to "absolutely" let things play out with the coaching staff. And as far as the players, he says patience is needed here, too, as the Wild searches for cohesion.

"Look at the amount of changes we've had," Fletcher said. "Look around the league, the majority of the teams that are having success right now have had a lot of continuity. They're teams that brought back a lot of their top players and were able to step in a season with a shortened training camp and hit the ground running. A lot of the teams that are struggling are teams that made more changes.

"The bottom line is we have good players. That's not to say that you're not going to look to make an adjustment here or there, but I'm not sure introducing more change is going to help us get more stability. We believe in these players and we'll keep pushing through."

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