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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What comes next as tension, losses overtake the tumbling Wild?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 31, 2013 - 10:02 PM

Mike Yeo opened his postgame news conference saying this feels like “Groundhog Day.”

It was something I know we can all agree with.

The losses keep mounting, the answers are all the same, we’re running out of questions.

“Winning cures everything,” defenseman Ryan Suter said after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis. “You win games, you build confidence. We have to find a way, any way possible, and then you build off of that.”

The Wild’s now 5-12-1 in its past 18 (11 points out of the last 36 available) and has lost six in a row in regulation for the first time in its 13-year history.

There’s now two games left in the homestand against Buffalo and Washington, which means Yeo’s job security is getting flimsier and flimsier. But there’s no doubt he’s going to keep showing up and working to try to get the Wild out of this until owner Craig Leipold and GM Chuck Fletcher tell him otherwise.

I’m pretty confident Yeo will be behind the bench against the Sabres.

After the game, players like Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville said the system works, the structure works, and it’s up to the players to execute. Please give those quotes a read, and Yeo’s postgame quotes, in the gamer at www.startribune.com/wild.

The Wild looked like it was getting back to that defensive structure during a scoreless first period tonight, but then a couple mistakes cost the Wild in the second.

First Keith Ballard put a puck in Mikael Granlund’s skates and Granlund was forced into a turnover by T.J. Oshie. He scored a breakaway goal. Then, Koivu centered a shot from the wall meant as a rebound. But Marco Scandella overskated the rebound and Nino Niederreiter wasn’t where he was supposed to be, which led to Blues exploding for an odd-man rush and eventually Jaden Schwartz’s goal.

It reminded me of earlier today when I was talking to an NHL coach that said the thing the Wild better remember if it changes the coach is you still can’t make the 21- to 23-year-olds on the team magically grow up and you still can’t get rid of some of the veterans that the Wild is waiting for the contracts to run out on.

In other words, there are bigger issues going on beyond Yeo.

It’s like the Islanders game when some of the youngsters were terrific and then made critical defensive mistakes that led to the loss. Like I always say, the kids will all be good, but it takes time and they’re still making young mistakes, either with the puck (Granlund the past three games) or in the case of Niederreiter, sometimes away from the puck. Charlie Coyle’s still not producing regularly, Jonas Brodin isn’t as steady.

If Yeo loses his job, the question is whether the Wild makes somebody on the staff like Rick Wilson the interim and waits to see the full group of available coaches this summer or does it hire one of the available coaches now. The smartest thing would probably be to wait because that’s when the full allotment’s available, like last summer with Lindy Ruff, Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella (gulp).

But if the pressure’s to get somebody in place now, the experienced coaches available right now include Peter Laviolette (under contract with Philadelphia through 2014-15 at a salary likely north of $1.5 million), Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson and Guy Boucher.

Laviolette was one of the runners-up when GM Chuck Fletcher hired Todd Richards, and remember, that’s when the Wild wanted an up-tempo, play-on-your-toes, offensive-minded coach. The concern with hiring Laviolette now is I think there’s serious doubt if Laviolette’s offensive-minded system is built for a Wild team that struggles so much to score goals.

And it doesn’t struggle to score goals because of Yeo’s system. The Wild has outchanced opponents many nights this season and just don’t seem to have the horses coupled with the fact that the young horses aren’t consistent enough yet to bury its chances. I think the Wild lacks speed still and definitely size.

There is zero doubt that Fletcher does not want to make a change. He believes in Yeo. Heck, he hired Yeo, and if he fired his second coach in five seasons, that doesn’t exactly say a lot about his ability to hire coaches, especially when he passed over several experienced ones.

But the Wild is sinking like a rock, and at some point, Fletcher may have no choice but to make some type of statement.

As I wrote today, he continues to try to make a trade, too.

The scary thing now is we’ve hit a juncture of this losing streak where confidence is fractured, the mood of the room is down, there’s palpable tension around the organization and everybody just seems to be waiting for a bomb to drop.

And if that’s the case, this thing won’t be able to turn around by itself. Trust me, when I was in Florida and covered the Panthers, I covered almost a dozen coaching changes. I’ve seen teams in turmoil that are just waiting for an external move. Once that happens, it’s like a pall hanging over the entire locker room until something actually does happen.

Yeo said, “It’s been evident in our play that we haven’t been the most composed group right now. Whatever that reason is, we have to figure it out. Guys have to figure out how to come to perform at a high level. We need everybody.”

He added, “There were a lot of things that were much better, but we’re not in a position where we can feel good about those things. Build off them, look at them, but there’s still other things we’re not doing well enough to win hockey games.”

That’s it for me. Give the articles a read in the paper. Happy New Year. Talk to you after Wednesday’s practice.


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 7:30 PM
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 100 FINAL
Minnesota 96
New Orleans 101 FINAL
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 3
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
Sacramento St 47 FINAL
Seattle 66
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 68 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Central Michigan 64 FINAL
Minnesota 67
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Wyoming 71 FINAL
Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
Albany 71 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 49
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
CS-Bakersfield 74
(2) Connecticut 86
(10) Louisville 70 FINAL
(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
Miami-Ohio 42 FINAL
(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 55 FINAL
Old Dominion 61
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