As deflated as Dean Evason looked and sounded Sunday afternoon in Detroit after the Wild lost a seventh straight game, he hadn't run out of ideas to try to snap the team out of its funk.
"We put a video together on the day off of playing fast and getting out of our zone," Evason said.
But before Evason could show that video to the Wild ahead of their Tuesday game vs. St. Louis at Xcel Energy Center, Evason was called into Wild headquarters on Monday by President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Bill Guerin.
Evason was fired.
The Wild also released assistant coach Bob Woods and appointed John Hynes their new head coach.
"I have no ill feelings," Evason told the Star Tribune on Wednesday morning. "I'm very proud of what we did. Certainly, Bob and I were let go, but I'm very proud of what I did as a head coach here.
"I'm just thankful for being given the opportunity to coach here in Minnesota. It's been fantastic."
Throughout the season and even as the losses piled up, Evason didn't think he'd be dismissed.
“Don't get me wrong. Am I cheering for the Minnesota Wild? No, I'm not. But I am cheering for the players.”
He thought the team was on its way to climbing out of its rut and that he'd get the opportunity to see that through. But when Guerin called him into the office, Evason understood the purpose of the meeting.
"I immediately called my wife and just said, 'I'm pretty sure we're going to get fired,'" Evason said. "You just know. You just have a feeling."
After walking into the building, Evason said to Guerin, "You're firing me," and Guerin shook his head in agreement.
"He came out from behind his desk, and we hugged," Evason recalled, "and then we had a great conversation."
Evason joined the Wild a year before Guerin arrived, getting hired as an assistant in 2018 by former GM Paul Fenton on then-coach Bruce Boudreau's staff.
When Boudreau was fired in February 2020, Guerin didn't tab an outside replacement: he promoted Evason on an interim basis and then made Evason the franchise's sixth full-time coach in July before the season restarted in a bubble due to the pandemic.
A year later, Evason and his entire staff secured three-year contract extensions, and the commitment was justified by the results on the ice.
In the shortened 2021 season, the Wild fast-tracked what should have been a transitional year into a seven-game playoff series vs. Vegas. The following season was statistically the best in franchise history, the Wild reaching 53 wins and 113 points while scoring more goals (305) than ever before.
Last season was also a boon, the Wild again eclipsing 100 points before another first-round exit, a long-standing issue for the organization that predates Evason.
Most of that lineup returned, but the team didn't play the same.
Injuries, personal skids and special-team struggles combined to capsize the Wild, who already weren't on a level playing field with much of the league since almost $15 million of their budget went to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts instead of their roster.
"We for whatever reason couldn't score," Evason said. "That really hurt us a lot here early in the season."
Coaches tried yelling and screaming; then it was time to "build" up the players, and they had meetings with Matt Boldy and Filip Gustavsson.
"Let's get going," Evason said. "You guys are great players."
Evason felt the Wild were on the right track, and on Tuesday they earned a slump-busting, 3-1 win over the Blues in Hynes' debut that was their most complete performance of the season. They were fast, too.
"They knew," Evason said. "The team knows how to play. They needed a spark. Billy believed they needed a spark by bringing in his guy and letting us go, and that's the spark that they got."
Evason and Woods watched the game, and Evason was happy for Frederick Gaudreau (who scored his first goal of the season), Boldy (who had a goal for the first time in 11 games), Gustavsson (who hadn't won in more than a month) and the penalty kill (which went 4-for-4).
"Don't get me wrong," Evason said. "Am I cheering for the Minnesota Wild? No, I'm not. But I am cheering for the players."
Like Woods, Evason has heard from every Wild player, either talking to them or receiving a text message.
Most of them have been with Evason from the start of his Wild tenure and executed the aggressive brand of hockey he implemented that produced so many victories.
"We take great pride in having a part in that, there's no question, and the group played hard," said Evason, who went 147-77-27 and was a Jack Adams Award finalist in 2021 before finishing fourth in voting for coach of the year in 2022. "They played hard. The style of game we played was fast and fun and exciting and when and if I get another job, then my teams will be doing the exact same thing."
Evason, 59, wants to coach again, and his excitement for the game was always on display when he was behind the bench — especially in times of celebration.
Frankly, he wore all his emotions. That's just who he is.
"I didn't go into a game going, 'I'm going to jump up in the air. [Assistant Darby Hendrickson] and I are going to have an embrace,'" Evason said. "You don't go into it like that. It just happens. That's what this game brings out of you, and yeah, I'm very passionate about what I do."
In the meantime, Evason will pack up his home in Minnesota and eventually return to his place in Montreal.
He's also going to travel, to see his children and his mom.
This is a new experience for Evason, getting fired during the season, and it comes after what was also a new experience for him just a few years ago.
"I was very proud and appreciative of the opportunity to start my head coaching NHL career here in Minnesota," Evason said. "I loved the players. I loved everything around Minnesota, especially the fans. The management, they do things the right way here, and they've got a very bright future."