Coach Mike Yeo, who has blasted the team in each of the past three postgame press conferences, huddled the team to start practice today and basically said the same stuff, saying if they're not building toward the playoffs, this is all one big waste of time.
So imagine his words in the last few press conference, only in a louder tone for about a minute, with many four letter words starting with F sprinkled in.
At one point, he pulled the team around him and said since they spend all night in the defensive zone anyway, they might as well be good at it and started defensive-zone drills afterward.
It definitely set the tone for practice.
Asked what the message was in practice, Yeo said, "It’s just not good enough. It was not designed to be a fun practice. It’s about looking in the mirror, and we’re not good enough right now, and it’s about some harsh reality, and that’s not fun. It’s not fun to hear, it’s not fun to accept, but winners respond. And for us, wins, losses, winning the game tomorrow, obviously that’s our goal, but the bigger goal more than anything else is about building your game. You build a game that you play consistently, that’ll deliver the results. And you build a game consistently that will give you the habits that when you get into the playoffs, when the heat’s on and you’re not able to think, that you’ll be responding and performing the right way."
Players felt they came to work today in the right mind frame, so it was definitely an interesting way for things to start off.
"Now we’re looking for leadership," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We need leaders. We need guys, coaching staff, players, we need people that are going to lead. It does no good to pout and get [ticked] off at each other. You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to coach and be a leader when things are going good."
Said Zach Parise on Yeo's pre-practice message about building for the playoffs and don't mope, etc, "You guys saw it. I don’t know. To me, I came to the rink with a good attitude and ready to work on some stuff and excited to practice. I don’t think any of the players did either, I don’t think any of the players came here with the attitude to pout around or mope around. We were ready to work and ready to practice."
In practice today, the coaches reunited left-shot defensemen Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin for the first time this season and Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon. Those have been the pairs the last few seasons. Personally, I think they're reunited no only because the team is trying to rediscover its quality defensive play, but because Matt Dumba continues to struggle bigtime.
Suter wasn't thrilled by being detached from Spurgeon. This is no swipe at Brodin because Suter respects him as a player, but Suter's had a solid start to this season, especially offensively, and he thinks playing with a right-shot like Spurgeon gives him more options in all three zones.
On skating with Brodin, Suter said, "Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there. He decided to change things up. I don’t know what they’re thinking."
On how it changes things, "It’s different. Like I've said, I need to play with a right-handed defenseman to give me more options, neutral zone, offensively and even coming out of D zone. It’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.
"I don’t if that was just for practice today or what it is. They didn’t say anything."
Asked if he's OK with the move, Suter said, "No. We’ll talk about it. We’ll figure it out. Maybe for certain points you have to do this to play against certain guys and situations. I know Scandy’s coming back, so I don’t think it’s going to be an end a result. He’s the coach."
Suter did make very clear when the cameras were off that he will do whatever it takes to win, and if the coaches think this is the best way to go, he has no problem with it.
Yeo said, "That’s our job as coaches is to decide what’s best for the group, and it’s also our job to surround players and give them the best chance to succeed. We take all that into consideration (Suter wanting to play with Spurgeon) for sure, but ultimately we have to decide on what’s going to help us win. That’s first and foremost. Part of it is making sure players are in the right mindframe. Our group of defensemen is as good as any group in the NHL, so we should be able to put different guys on the ice with whoever and we should be able to be successful as long as we’re all on the same page."
Asked how much this has to do with Dumba, Yeo said, "I’m anxious to see, ... I thought he responded to a real tough game against Winnipeg real well. He had one turnover, but I don’t think the puck support was there for him so I don’t completely fault him on that, but overall I thought it was a little bit more of a game I’d like to see from him consistently. That’s what I’m looking for. We’re not asking for perfection from anybody right now. There are mistakes that happen through the course of the game, but it’s pretty clear to see when we have the focus toward playing the game a certain way, then you’ve certainly got that feeling."
On the slump, Suter said, "I think we better get it moving now or it’s going to be a short season. We just all got to get on the same page. We all want to win. We just have to go about it the right way. … We better start figuring it out because it takes a toll on you when you do have these slumps like this.
"It does no good to talk about the last games and oh we’re moping around and we’re having [crummy] practices. You come out and you work hard and you show up for work and you play and you get better. That’s how you get out of things like this."
The Wild's healthy for the first time in weeks.
Scandella practiced today, as did Ryan Carter. Both are expected to play against Chicago.
Christian Folin was recalled from Iowa. Jordan Schroeder cleared waivers and was assigned to Iowa.
On the Wild being healthy, Yeo said, "That’s good. It’s a nice thing to have. It’ll create a little bit more stability with the group and the guys you are going out with, but I think as much as anything else, it’s that internal competition. Now we have a healthy group to push each other here.
"There’s a level of comfort that creeps in when you don’t have somebody pushing you and challenging you, so if youre not doing the right things, we’re a little bit limited as far as cutting somebody’s ice time down or whatever the case is. On the flip side, if you’re going to have an off night, you don’t have somebody else to pick you up or to relieve some of that pressure. That’s part of it. but we have a healthy group now, so we should be good to go.
The Hawks are back from their annual Circus trip. They went 3-1-2. Patrick Kane, the league's leading scorer, is riding a 19-game point streak (11 goals, 31 points), the longest in history by a U.S. born player and the longest in the NHL since Sidney Crosby racked up 50 points in 25 straight games in 2010.
"We can’t do much about what happened against Dallas. The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and get better as a team. You’ve got to start with the game against Chicago against a team we should be excited to play against and a team that has been playing really well. That should be what we’re thinking about, not about Dallas. We should learn from mistakes and try to improve on a daily basis. That’s our approach."
Biggest issue? "It’s tough to pinpoint. Our power play hasn’t been very good. It’s varied from game to game. Like I said before, I’ve only been back for two games. It’s easy to criticize from up top and that’s not fair. I thought we played a pretty decent game against Dallas minus the third period. We didn’t give them a lot. And they’re a good team, they’re going to get scoring chances, they’re going to make plays. I thought the game before that, we weren’t very good in the neutral zone and didn’t handle the puck very well. that was the difference. So it has been a different story each game. I don’t know about one consistent glaring thing. I think we’re turning the puck over a lot. That’s hurting us. But we’ve got to watch the video and see our mistakes.
Is everybody buying in? "Again, it’s hard to pinpoint because we haven’t seen one consistent thing that we’re not doing right. It’s hard for me to say that we need to do this a lot better when one game it’s one thing, another game, another thing. But I wouldn’t question the amount that these guys want to play hard and want to win and buy in. I would never question that. We have a hard working group of players that are hungry to learn and hungry to get better. We just have to start playing better.
On getting out of this in past years: "I’ve always said good or bad that the past doesn’t really impact today. I don’t think we want to sit here and say to ourselves, we can go 30-2 after Christmas. No. 1 that’s not realistic and I don’t think we want to put ourselves in that position again. You look at the standings, we’ve had a tough last stretch, but we’re still right in the thick of it. We just have to start playing better and that’s it."
If you didn't read my article in today's paper on Mike Yeo fearing the team's annual swoon, here is the link.
Here is also a chart that documents the three out of three winter swoons in his tenure.
If you want to hear something very funny, Blackhawks NHL.com correspondent Brian Hedger tweeted the other night that 11 Twitter followers unfollowed him because he allegedly jinxed the Hawks into blowing a lead and losing in Los Angeles.
I joked back to him on Twitter to not worry, that after the Wild collapsed in the third and lost to Dallas, I blocked 11 followers and he can have them (I was kidding, it was actually 2). Apparently that Twitter back and forth between Brian and I inspired a Wild fan named Kari to make a funny parody of Adele's Hello.
She describes it as, "a little story from the perspective of someone you blocked on Twitter and how they are struggling to cope."
I do admit, I probably have too quick of a block trigger finger, but life's too short to be stressed by haters and anonymous Twitter trolls. Just be glad I don't have the ability to block some of the blog commenters. Mgala would have been banished years ago (kidding Larry).
#onemorechance is my new favorite hashtag.
On Thursday is the first of four Star Tribune Fans Night Out events at the St. Paul RiverCentre before Wild games. The first one features myself and former Bloomington Jefferson, St. Cloud State and longtime NHLer Mark Parrish and myself. If you know Parrish, this is bound to be very funny.
If you want information for how to attend, here is the link. The package includes admission to the Chalk Talk, a lower level ticket for the Wild-Maple Leafs game and more. I promise you, I don't make one penny from any of this, by the way (I only add that caveat because a Wild fan asked me the other day and I don't want folks thinking I do).
On Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub, Jim Souhan and I will tape another Russo-Souhan Show for malepatternpodcasts.com
Come on by before the game against the Avalanche, ask questions and listen.
On Tuesday, I will be on KFAN at 9:15 a.m.