We have had a run of owners or administrators in this sports market who seem to take delight in prematurely firing coaches. There’s strong speculation that this trend will continue with the removal of Wild coach Mike Yeo before the end of this week.
The Wild was prepared to fire Yeo right after the New Year a season ago, when it was working on a six-game losing streak. The Wild had won 20 of 42 games at that point, and the assumption was if it lost to Buffalo on Jan. 2, Yeo was gone.
The Wild won that game to start a five-game winning streak. Yeo’s lads won 23 of their final 40 games, made the playoffs, rallied to defeat Colorado in seven games, and then fell in a well-contested six-game series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Yeo was rewarded with a new three-year contract. General Manager Chuck Fletcher did not get Yeo a goaltender or a large defender to go with that contract. What Fletcher got him was Thomas Vanek, a player with a reputation for goal scoring and spotty effort.
The goaltending has been awful. Ryan Suter has been overworked. The defense as a whole has been ravaged by injuries and illness. Mikael Granlund (when healthy) and Charlie Coyle have gone backwards. Erik Haula’s pro inexperience has shown.
So, it’s time to fire Mike Yeo, who clearly is at fault because his goalies can’t stop a volleyball, and the young players are finding the NHL transition a bit tougher than hoped, and he didn’t check to make sure the players had their mumps vaccinations as tykes.
The Wild has to fire Yeo because Jeremy Roenick says that’s the thing to do, and the posters on blogs and Twitter would applaud, and maybe a “new voice’’ would get a positive response for a couple of weeks.
Yeah, good old New Voice … a legendary character in the firings of virtually all coaches in big-time sports.
The only real reason to fire Yeo is for Fletcher and owner Craig Leipold to mollify the customers, who don’t really need much mollifying, since there hasn’t been an unsold ticket at Xcel Energy Center this season.
This trend around here of showing full confidence in a coach with a new contract, and then making a grandstand play to fire him, started with Glen Mason on Dec. 31, 2006, after a Gophers’ loss to Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl.
It was a historic loss by size of the lead blown by the Gophers, but third-tier bowl games such as the Insight Bowl were meaningless in 2006, and they will be meaningless as long as they are contested.
University president Robert Bruininks and athletic director Joel Maturi had given Mason a contract extension a year earlier, and they reacted irrationally in firing him after that loss.
Then, the New Voice became Tim Brewster’s, and the Gophers paid for that for the next half-dozen years – his four seasons, and Jerry Kill’s first two.
Zygi and Mark Wilf did the same with Brad Childress during the 2010 season. Chilly arrived 2006, hired a solid staff, used his personnel influence to upgrade the roster, had the Vikings in the playoffs in 2008, and took advantage of Brett Favre’s last gasp of greatness to reach the NFC title game after the 2009 season.
The Wilfs gave Childress a new contract, and in 2010, Favre returned as a shadow of himself, and there were key injuries, and then the desperate attempt to save the season by bringing back Randy Moss.
Childress signed off on the acquisition of Moss. And then, Randy found out the Vikings had no intention to extend his contract, and his attitude became poisonous. Childress did the organization a huge favor by making the unilateral decision to cut Moss.
Rather than being applauded for this, Childress was back-stabbed by others in the organization, and he was fired with six games left on the schedule.
The New Voice in the locker room was Les Frazier’s, and the unquestioned voice in the draft room became Rick Spielman’s, and that spring he shouted, ‘’Christian Ponder.’’ Four seasons later, the Vikings are hoping they have the right voice in Mike Zimmer and right quarterback in Ted (the Glove) Bridgewater.
Remember this in clamoring for Yeo to be fired:
When teams decide the coach that they liked enough to grant a contract extension a few months earlier must be replaced, the New Voice deal doesn’t always work out.