Mike Yeo has tried several different methods to jolt his sinking team lately and said many different things in many varying tones following most every defeat.
But the under-the-gun coach said after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues that he’s now taking an unusual approach.
“I’ve stopped talking in the locker room the last couple [of games],” Yeo said. “There’s only so many things you can say after a loss. To me, that’s their time right now.”
Asked if that strategy’s working, Yeo joked, “the other way wasn’t working either. … They’re the players. You can be positive, you can be negative, you can get mad, whatever you’ve got to do. But bottom line, we need guys to be gamers and guys to step up.”
The Wild ushered in the New Year with a sixth consecutive regulation loss, the longest such streak in the 13-year history of the franchise. It fell to 5-12-1 in its past 18 games, picking up 11 of the past 36 points available.
With the Wild spiraling deeper into the Western Conference abyss, the 0-2 start to this four-game homestand only heaps more of a burden on Yeo, who could soon be the fall guy for this downward spiral.
“It’s our job to play the game,” captain Mikko Koivu insisted. “It’s not systems, it’s not coaching. It’s on us. The system works. We have to be better. We didn’t change as players and a team in two, three weeks. We have it here. It’s a matter of how we execute. We can’t worry what’s going on around us. We’ve got to get better as a team, and we will.”
Teammate Jason Pominville, who experienced the first coaching change in his nine-year career last season in Buffalo when Lindy Ruff was fired, said, “[Changing coaches] is not going to change anything. We have to dig deep and find a way to get ourselves out of this. It’s not going to be bringing someone new that’s going to come in and be a hero.
“It really starts with us playing well defensively, not handing them a couple freebies like we did tonight.”
The Wild got back to a solid defensive structure in a scoreless, chess-like first period, but the stingy Blues, coached by defensive master Ken Hitchcock (the runner-up to Yeo in 2011), struck twice off turnovers in the second.
“Those are the kind of games where usually we don’t break, but I guess given our state right now, that’s probably the explanation,” Yeo said.
Warroad’s T.J. Oshie and Jaden Schwartz, who have stepped up with captain David Backes and leading scorer Alex Steen sidelined because of injuries, scored the goals.
The first came on an Oshie breakaway after Oshie forced Mikael Granlund into a turnover after Keith Ballard sent a pass into Granlund’s skates. The Schwartz goal came off a 2-on-1 goal after Marco Scandella overskated Koivu’s rebound and Nino Niederreiter was out of position.
Ryan Suter broke Brian Elliott’s shutout bid with 8.3 seconds left to end the Blues’ 212-minute, 52-second shutout streak against the Wild, but that was all she wrote as the Wild began the second half by falling to 20-17-5.
The Blues, who are 5-0-2 in their past seven road games, have beaten the Wild in seven consecutive meetings. They just made it awfully tough for the Wild. The Wild registered 25 shots, had another 24 blocked, missed 13 shots and passed up golden ones.
The most blatant came between the 1-0 and 2-0 deficits when Charlie Coyle feathered a pass inside the right circle. But Koivu curled away from the scoring chance and turned it over.
“When we feel like we need a goal more and more and more, it seems like the less we shoot,” Yeo said. “That’s our entire group.”
Yeo said it was like the movie “Groundhog Day” after the loss, which probably everybody can agree with.
Where does the Wild go from here?
“Get a win,” Yeo said.
But he might be running out of opportunities.