Yeo: 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. We can’t have a flash here and there every game; we can’t have a good game, bad game. There’s got to be stretches of good game, good game, good game. As a young kid, obviously, there’s going to be times where you make mistakes or you’re not at your best, but how quickly can you get back to your game, how quickly can you get back to being effective? And that’s what I want to see from him.
Q: Are you most concerned with Zucker’s defense?
Yeo: He’s improved in all those areas. It goes back to that puck possession game that we want to play. I want to see him on the wall in the defensive zone making plays on exits, I want to see him making plays on entries, in the offensive zone — he gets the puck and the other team’s not going to get it. It’s going to still be on our stick, whether that’s him protecting it or cycling to one of his teammates. It’s showing that strength to shield somebody and hang onto the puck.
Q: Which other kids have shots for jobs?
Yeo: Some kids, you pencil in right from the start and others have to earn it. Nino [Niederreiter] is going to get a real good look. [Justin] Fontaine is a guy I’m very interested in seeing. Last year, the way things worked out, he hasn’t gotten a chance yet. 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: You mentioned pencil, is Suter and Brodin being a tandem the only thing in pen?
Yeo: I’d say, yes, but I think it would also be valuable in camp for those guys to get an opportunity to play with different guys, as well. I think Brodin’s minutes can go up and we may drop Suter’s minutes a little, although they’ll both get lots of minutes, meaning there’s going to be times where they’ll play with different guys.
Q: Speaking of which, Parise told me this summer that he likes getting accustomed to playing with two centers. He played with Koivu virtually every shift last year. Do you think you need to be more flexible with him this season.
Yeo: I don’t think that we’ve been a great adjustment team. We like to keep our lines for the most part the same if things are going well because we like certain guys in certain roles, but we’ve got to get better with adjustments. Also with our game. Many times we wanted to adjust and haven’t been good enough. In the early part of the year, we’ll be more aggressive with those things so we become a better team.
Q: Will Heatley get top-line action again?
Yeo: Some of the best hockey that that line [with Parise and Koivu] played, Heater was on the line. Those guys were putting up points. A big reason why we switched it is we needed to balance things out. We were getting scoring from that line and nobody else. I would be awfully surprised if you didn’t see them together at some point this year. For Dany, it’s a big year for him (contract year), and I know that he’s really motivated and I want to put him in a spot where he can be successful because I think he’s going to have a good year. I really do. He’s been working hard this summer and we missed him big time last year. When he got hurt, his size and scoring ability and his hands — those are all things we were lacking. We have to make sure he’s playing with guys that can help get him the puck and put him in position where he can score goals.
Q: Is it now or never for Marco Scandella?
Yeo: This typically is a year where defensemen make a big jump and we need that from him. The most common thing with young players is inconsistency. That’s impressive to me about a Brodin and Coyle. They know what their game is and play it night after night for the most part. We’ll make sure those guys are coming in with the same attitude that they have to prove themselves and can’t take a step backward. But Marco must take a step forward. We need Marco to be able to deliver night in and night out. He’s going to have a huge role on the team.
Q: How much do you need a bounceback year from Kyle Brodziak?
Yeo: He will. It was a messed-up year. It was just different. When I was at the draft, every coach I talked to was just incredibly frustrated with the [48-game, 99-day] season, with how you felt you had to coach, and things you had to let your team get away with, and the way you felt handcuffed. It was just a really difficult year. And I think it was the same way for the players. If things weren’t going well, there wasn’t an opportunity to take a step back and regain any type of traction. It just felt like you were clawing away all year long and couldn’t quite grab hold. Brodzy was a good example. He was sick at the start of the year and it had a big effect on him. And when things were not going well, he seemed to be the lightning rod for it. A lot of it was mental, not being at his best. But I think it was the circumstances of the season. So I’ve got full confidence he will bounce back and have a good year for us and develop a chemistry with Cooke. Brodzy has a huge role on the team. We talk about No. 2 center, but a lot of times you’re using Brodzy as the No. 2 centerman just based on ice time. I’m counting on him being a hard guy to play against and I have no doubt he will be.
Q: Where does Nate Prosser fit in with Scandella in the mix, Dumba getting a shot, Ballard signed and Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner in the fold?
Yeo: I want to give Pross a good chance in camp and I think he can step up and be more than a seventh defenseman. I know when we put him in the lineup, we won a lot of games last year. So I want all our defensemen to make sure they’re ready and know this guy is ready to push for more than a seventh defensemen spot. [Jonathon] Blum, too, has great experience in Nashville, so I think that was a really good organization signing.
Q: You’re entering the final year of your contract. Have you talked to Chuck about an extension?