I've covered the NHL since 1995. Never before have I sat in a coach's office 45 minutes before an important game talking about a scratched player. You can bet Mike Yeo wished he could have been doing something else, but he chose this time and venue to respond to this morning's conversation I had with scratched defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Check out that blog below or by clicking this link.
Here are Yeo's comments. Check out the story in Wednesday's newspaper. I'll also be on KFAN at 9 a.m.
“One thing for sure, we’re going to talk. This is not the right way to handle it. Much the same as I wouldn’t want a player to pick up the newspaper one day and read something like, ‘Woah, I didn’t know the coach thought that.’ Like, come into talk to me if there’s a problem. There’s always more than enough communication from our side. It’s got to go both ways.”
On not being told the first time he was a healthy scratch the first time? “The lineup was written on the board [before the skate]. I think if anything he’s confusing not being told with not being told what you want to hear.”
You trying to change him? “One problem for me is when he says I can’t change. 1) One it speaks to the buy-in for me, but 2) I don’t want him to change. I don’t ask Cal Clutterbuck to change. I don’t ask Matt Cullen to change. I don’t ask Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, any of these guys. I haven’t asked Marek Zidlicky to change either. I want them to be themselves, to play their game, but to do it within the team concept. That’s it. No. 1, that way works, wins hockey games. No. 2, like for a guy like that, I’ll point to guys like Kris Letang. He’s playing the same way, the same system, same way. Sergei Gonchar, played the same way, same system. It worked for these guys. So, not only would it be beneficial to him, but it would also be beneficial to the team. But it’s about buying into it. There are very, very clear expectations for every player. As a team, we knew three years in a row we haven’t made the playoffs, so we knew we had to change the culture here. We knew we had to change the environment either. So in order for that to happen, the players No. 1 had to know what was expected of them and No. 2 everybody has to be held accountable. That even means Marek Zidlicky. But with that, like, it also tells me that we’re not there yet. I’m willing to do that. I owe that to Craig, to Chuck, to the fans, the players, the players that are out there battling and doing everything they can for each other. I owe it to them. But I will know that we’re there when the players start holding themselves accountable to those standards.”
How do you now handle this now with Zidlicky. Do you just throw him back in the lineup? “Well I’m just going to go into tonight’s game and we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. But after tonight’s game regardless, I’m going to have a talk with him.”
Did he tell you who should be on the power play and what to do on the power play? “He never talked about schemes, and that’s one thing for sure, and I asked [assistant coach Darryl Sydor], who’s in charge of the power play, and Syd said he’s never talked about that.”
Where does this go. Obviously Chuck’s going to try to trade him, but are you worried he’s going to create a distraction during an important month? “For me, I’ve always been one to be able to forgive. But this is going to be something we’re going to talk about as a group even. I’m going to talk to Zid. This is about how we learn and get better, and for him, players always decide. You think he would be out of the lineup today if he was playing really well? His play dictates that, how he handles this dictates that. Greg Zanon decided how he was going to get back in the lineup. He had a great, great attitude. He worked his rear-end off in practice and forced us into making another hard decision. We could have kept scratching him, but it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right and he’s forced us to keep him in the lineup with his play the last few games. Players decide. We just see what they do and then we go along with it. … He is a really good player. And he has the potential to be a great player and our team can’t be as good as it can be until we get everybody playing up to their potential. But I’ve never asked him to change. I’ve never asked him to be someone other than what he is. Every player is the same. We have a bunch of different players contributing in different ways. They all have different roles. We ask them to play their game, do it their way, but do it within the team concept. And it works. That’s what he needs to do.”