Ever since he stopped playing and joined the coaching ranks, Dean Evason has wanted to lead an NHL team.
After stops in the Western Hockey League and American Hockey League and multiple seasons behind the bench as an NHL assistant, Evason is finally at the helm of his own squad.
General Manager Bill Guerin named Evason the Wild's interim coach for the rest of the season Friday after he fired Bruce Boudreau, a move that caught Evason off guard but a change the 55-year-old is ready to embrace.
"Regardless of the situation and how you get here, this is something that I've strived for," Evason said. "I've got the opportunity, and I'm going to try to do it the way that I've learned how to be a head coach through so many different head coaches that I've had and hopefully do the right things in order to allow our hockey club to have success."
Added to Boudreau's staff in 2018 by former GM Paul Fenton, Evason arrived with a successful track record. Not only was he an assistant with the Capitals for seven seasons, most of which culminated in division titles and playoff berths, but Evason was 242-161-53 when he was the head coach of Milwaukee in the AHL before leaving to work with the Wild.
Since settling in Minnesota, he has focused on the power play and taken the time to get to know the players — communication that goalie Devan Dubnyk believes will be a priority of Evason's as he adapts to his new role.
"He's developed great relationships with just about everybody in this room," Dubnyk said. "So that will be an easy transition that way and make it easier for us going forward."
The vibe during Evason's first Wild practice Friday at Tria Rink was crisp and quick, and Evason plans to emphasize an aggressive style. He thought the Wild was passive in the third period Thursday when it gave up a two-goal lead before falling 4-3 in a shootout to the Rangers.
Guerin said Evason has the power to make the changes he feels are necessary to win.
"I know Dean has his own thoughts and beliefs and what he believes is going to give us success," Guerin said. "I have full confidence in him. The one thing I really do like about Dean is his passion, his fire for the game. I am hoping that that translates to the players.
"I think these guys really like Dean a lot. He goes at the game just like he played, and that's aggressive and with a lot of passion and emotion. I have confidence in him."
Wild players aren't expecting too much of a systems overhaul, but they do expect Evason to hold them accountable and push them — motivation that Evason recognizes he can help stoke every now and then.
"Sometimes you've got to give a guy a kick in the pants, and sometimes you've got to pat him on the back," said Evason, who played 13 seasons in the NHL. "That's our job as the leadership group of the team, the coaches, to figure out which ones need the boot and which ones need the pat."
What Evason and the staff also must decide is how to put the players in positions to succeed.
"It's our job to try to make those decisions intelligently and put the right people on the ice at the right time," he said.
But Evason doesn't have much time to prepare for this challenge. His first test behind the bench is Saturday, when the Wild hosts the Sharks.
"The players, assistant coaches, we all have to feel some responsibility for what happened," Evason said. "But my focus now obviously is to go forward."