Souhan: Can Wild ride recent success to playoffs?

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2014 - 12:49 AM

Mike Yeo has struggled with prosperity previously.

hide

Wild head coach Mike Yeo and his players looked for answers against the Blues, an eventual 2-1 loss, earlier this season.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It’s easy to be dissatisfied with the Wild. The Generic Varmints haven’t won a playoff series since 2003. They haven’t drafted and developed a star or pure scorer other than Marian Gaborik.

Their style of play, like that of many NHL teams, can be stultifying. They never seem to play their best when they are healthy, and they are rarely healthy. Their best young players are unreliable, and they are relying on goaltenders who are ill, old or inexperienced.

Given their flaws and challenges, it’s instructive to look at the progress they’ve made over their past three seasons.

In 2011-12, Mike Yeo, in his first year as coach, buggy-whipped a mediocre roster to 81 points. This achievement was not appreciated because the team lapsed in the second half and failed to make the playoffs. Given that team’s talent level, 81 points, or .99 points per game, was a more-than-reasonable return.

In 2012-13, the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, then earned 55 points in a shortened season, averaging 1.15 points per game. The team earned a playoff spot and offered occasional resistance to the Chicago Blackhawks, the eventual Stanley Cup winner.

In 2013-2014, the Wild has often disappointed for stretches, and has often been at its worst when healthiest. In total, though, the Wild is on pace for 96 points, which would mean earning 1.17 points per game. Barring a collapse, the Wild would make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

For those who dreamed that Parise and Suter would turn the Wild into contenders for home ice in the first round of the playoffs and contenders for a Cup, the past two seasons have been disappointing. Given the broader view of how poor the Wild’s roster was before they arrived, and how reliant the current roster is on youngsters and unreliable goaltenders, this can be said:

Parise and Suter have done their jobs well. They have made the Wild relevant again.

Yeo, too, has done his job well over the past month. With Mikko Koivu and sometimes Parise hurt, and often without his top two goaltenders, Yeo has helped the Wild go 11-4-2 over its past 17 games before the Olympic break.

Yeo often has dragged impressive performances out of minor league call-ups and role players.

For the Wild to improve from relevant to dangerous, Yeo will have to prove he can coach just as well when managing a full, not-untalented roster.

Yeo earned the Wild job by succeeding in the minor leagues. He has a natural affinity for unheralded grinders and talented youngsters.

Barring an injury during Olympic play, Yeo should have a full complement of talented skaters when the NHL season resumes. Parise has played brilliantly since returning from his foot injury. Suter remains a tireless and savvy defender. Koivu should return at full strength after the Olympics.

Despite his agreeable personality, Yeo has proved to be something of a contrarian coach. He tends to overachieve when given a mediocre roster, and flail when given healthy, high-end talent. He thrives when rumors of his imminent dismissal surface.

“I guess one thing we do is we try to present the challenge that is out there,’’ Yeo said. “Knowing that competitors, they love a challenge. I think we all do. When there’s a challenge in front of us, it’s fun to go out there and conquer it.’’

Yeo has survived the goalie shuffle. He has survived injuries to Parise, Koivu and Harding, three of the team’s five most important players. He has survived informed speculation about his impending firing when the team slumped.

“Piece of cake,’’ he joked. “Slept like a baby.’’

After the Olympics, the Wild will face its toughest stretch of schedule, and Yeo will face the defining challenge of his head coaching tenure.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas 4 Bottom 4th Inning
Oakland 2
Boston - B. Workman 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - G. Cole
Toronto - R. Dickey 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - S. Greene
Washington - G. Gonzalez 6:10 PM
Miami - B. Hand
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Milwaukee - K. Lohse 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Arizona - V. Nuno 7:40 PM
Colorado - Y. Flande
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 8:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
Seattle - F. Hernandez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - W. LeBlanc
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close