1. Mike Yeo fired: Minutes after the Wild’s third coach in team history said after a Feb. 13 loss to Boston that he was not “quitting on this group” and was “operating under the assumption” he would be on the Wild’s charter to Vancouver the following day, Yeo was fired by General Manager Chuck Fletcher.
A week after Fletcher said his job was safe, Yeo was let go after the Wild lost its eighth in a row (0-6-2) overall, eighth in a row at home (0-5-3) and for the 13th time in 14 games (1-11-2).
Yeo was 173-132-44 in parts of five seasons with the Wild and guided the franchise to three consecutive postseasons, including the conference semifinals twice. He was the league’s fifth-most-tenured coach.
2. John Torchetti named interim coach: The lovable “Torch” did a heck of a job in his short promotion from Iowa. He won 15 of his first 22 games with the Wild before the team backed into the playoffs with five consecutive regulation losses to end the season.
But the key word? Playoffs. Thanks in part to eight wins in his first 11 games and a six-game winning streak in March, Torchetti guided the Wild to a fourth straight playoff berth. The Wild lost to Dallas in the first round after Mikko Koivu’s overtime winner in Game 5 extended the series. And with four third-period goals in Game 6, the Wild nearly forced a Game 7.
3. Stadium series rout over Chicago: In Torchetti’s “home debut” Feb. 21 in front of 50,000 fans on an overcast 35-degree day with some snow flurries at TCF Bank Stadium, the Wild smoked the Blackhawks 6-1 in part of its 5-for-5 season sweep of its Central Division rival. Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Dumba, Ryan Carter and Erik Haula scored and Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves.
“You can see why football players get fired up running out on the field,” Dubnyk said.
Added Pominville: “You’re caught in awe. … There’s fireworks. The plane [flyover]. Everything’s just great. It’s a treat to be able to play in one of these. They never get old.”
4. Zach Parise’s season-ending back injury: After playing the entire second half with a herniated disk, the Wild veteran was checked by San Jose’s Logan Couture in Game 81. Parise, who had already received the maximum three cortisone shots, missed the regular-season finale and the entire playoff series against Dallas. Parise opted against surgery and instead rehabbed all summer to get ready for the World Cup and the Wild’s season.
5. Hiring of Bruce Boudreau, Scott Stevens: Eight days after the veteran coach was fired by Anaheim after a seventh Game 7 defeat in his career, the former Capitals and Ducks bench boss was hired by the Wild. One of the most successful minor league players and coaches in history, the candid, funny, affable Boudreau has eight division titles in nine years on his résumé and is the fastest coach to reach 400 wins in NHL history. His .661 (432-201-84) winning percentage is tops in NHL history among coaches with more than 208 games.
A month later, Boudreau’s hiring was buoyed by the hiring of Stevens, a Hall of Fame defenseman, as assistant coach. He brought immediate respect. Stevens captained the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup championships and four Finals in a nine-year span, played 22 NHL seasons, took part in 13 All-Star Games and won a Conn Smythe Trophy.
6. Buying out Vanek to sign Eric Staal: Feeling it had to acquire a top-six center, the Wild bought out the final year of Vanek’s contract so it could afford a center as a free agent. Vanek’s cap hit of $6.5 million this season was reduced to $1.5 million this season and $2.5 million next season, and the Wild signed Staal, having a renaissance season, to a three-year, $10.5 million contract.
Vanek scored a career-low 18 goals in 74 games last season, and his 41 points were the lowest of any non-lockout season.
7. Winning streak: What a way to cap 2016. The Wild set a franchise record with a 12-game winning streak and 13-game point streak before the Columbus Blue Jackets ended those streaks Saturday. That gave Columbus a 15-game winning streak and 17-game point streak. It was the first time in North American pro sports history two teams met with concurrent win streaks of at least 12 games.
Dubnyk had a 10-game winning streak and 14-game point streak.
“We talk about winning being fun, and that’s the truth,” Dubnyk said. “We’ve all enjoyed it in here, we’ve all gotten a lot closer throughout this stretch.”
Boudreau and Staal, especially, have the Wild chasing Chicago for the Central Division lead.
“Bruce and Eric, their mind-set is great: Don’t look behind, keep looking ahead,” GM Chuck Fletcher said. “Why can’t we win our division? Obviously it’s a tough league, but they’re setting the bar high, and I think it’s important for this group. There’s a lot of good teams, but we have a good team.”
THE WILD'S WEEK AHEAD
Thursday: 9:30 p.m. at San Jose (FSN). Saturday: 3 p.m. at Los Angeles (FSN)
Player to watch: Brent Burns, Sharks
The woolly mammoth and former Wild defenseman recently signed an eight-year, $64 million extension and leads NHL blue-liners in scoring.
Voices “I have no idea. We want to be hungry to win. I’ve gotten lucky.” — Wild coach Bruce Boudreau on why he has coached four teams with double-digit winning streaks.