Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said he had two goals for Mike Yeo when he made him an NHL coach three years ago: Win games, and develop young players. Yeo said his ambitions were to create a culture and identity for his team that would provide the foundation for long-term success.
Both men said Friday they were happy with the progress toward those goals, but both emphasized they are not satisfied. They spoke at a news conference at Xcel Energy Center to discuss Yeo's multi-year contract extension, which was announced six days ago. Fletcher and Yeo both said there is a lot of work yet to be done, but they are happy with the direction in which the team is going.
Highlights of the news conference:
--Fletcher said he did not consider a coaching change. He waited until the end of the season to talk about the contract extension, he said, because "the right time to do these things is at the end of the year.'' Fletcher added, "Mike is the only guy who was going to be here.''
--Yeo said he never became nervous about being re-signed because Fletcher reached out to him quickly. Still, he said he was "very relieved'' to have it done.
--Fletcher praised Yeo's work with young players and his adaptability in difficult situations, as injuries forced the Wild to deal with constant lineup changes. "You'd be hard-pressed to name a player that isn't better,'' he said of the players' development over the season.
--Both Yeo and Fletcher said they expect the Wild's coaching staff to remain intact. Fletcher said he already has re-signed the front-office and amateur scouting staffs; the next step is to re-sign the assistant coaches and pro scouts, and he hopes to have that completed by the end of next week.
--Fletcher revealed that defenseman Keith Ballard had sports hernia surgery after the season and is recovering well. Erik Haula, he said, did not need surgery for the broken jaw he suffered in the world championships but is drinking "a lot of milkshakes.'' Josh Harding is feeling well, he added, and Niklas Backstrom's rehabilitation is going smoothly.
Yeo sounded as if he wished next season started tomorrow. "Winners have an attitude that they're never satisfied,'' he said. "We've gotten a lot of pats on the back. We have to make sure we understand that the work starts right now. I believe we have a group that is extremely committed to winning.''