Even though one of his longtime assistant coaches won’t be on the ice for at least the first part of training camp, Mike Yeo said the Wild coaching staff will be fine dividing Darryl Sydor’s duties for the immediate future.
Yeo, at a company retreat at owner Craig Leipold’s Wisconsin summer home last week, was stunned when he learned of Sydor’s Aug. 20 arrest in Fridley for drunken driving with his 12-year-old son in the car. Yeo knew Sydor was in treatment for alcoholism last summer, but he watched Sydor work hard at his sobriety last season.
“He was great last year,” Yeo said. “Unfortunately he had a setback here, but I know he can get back to where he was last year. We just want to do everything we can to support him and give him a chance to get better.”
Sydor flew to California on Sunday to begin at least 30 days of inpatient treatment. He will miss at least a week of training camp, but his attorney has said it could be longer. The Wild hasn’t commented if Sydor will return to the team, although Yeo indicated he expected that to happen at some point.
“Once he gets through what he needs to get through, he’s going to have to figure out where he’s at,” Yeo said. “But I don’t see any reason why things would change.”
Yeo said there’s no plan to hire another assistant coach. He has three other assistants in Rick Wilson, Darby Hendrickson and Andrew Brunette, and he said there are plenty of extra hands with goalie coach Bob Mason, Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir and even Iowa coach John Torchetti during training camp.
“We’ll be fine,” Yeo said. “My only focus is Darryl getting better right now. We care about him. I know he’s a good person. This is obviously a very big mistake and a real tough thing for him and his family, so I just want to be there for them right now.”
For the past two weeks, Matt Cooke has skated hard in Edina with several NHLers including Zach Parise, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Okposo and Ryan McDonagh.
The only difference between him and many others is the veteran winger hasn’t latched onto an NHL team since being bought out of the last year of his contract by the Wild in June.
“This is the first time I’ve had to go through it,” Cooke said. “I knew it was coming. I just thought it might be after next year as opposed to this year, but it’s the cards that I’ve been dealt.
“I was hurt last year. There was some mismanagement on my [hip] injury, and part of that is my fault. It led to me getting hurt twice in one season. I’m 36 years old, I only played 30 games last year and then me getting bought out, that’s a tough scenario [to find a job].
“Patience is a virtue and right now all I’m doing is making sure I stay ready, that I get ready. We’re still three weeks away [from camp].”
Cooke said he is healthy. He hired well-known fitness trainer Andy O’Brien this summer and has been working with local skating coach Diane Ness.
If Cooke doesn’t land a job and this is the end of his career, he said he has no regrets.
“I’ve been blessed to play this game for 17 years and make a living out of it and provide opportunity for my family,” Cooke said. “I have fire in my belly, I still feel I can play, I worked hard to make sure if I get the opportunity that I can contribute to whatever team gives me a chance.
“If it doesn’t come into fruition, I’m not going to get upset. It’ll be an opportunity to spend time with my family 24/7 for the first time in a while.”
Ballard mulls retiring
Former Wild and Gophers defenseman Keith Ballard is leaning toward retirement, but he’s not yet ready to make it official despite his latest concussion suffered Dec. 9 still causing symptoms.
“I’m just trying to get healthy,” he said. “If I make a full recovery from this one, I’ll chalk it up to good luck. But I hit admit, if I’m hit like this again, I’m a little freaked out about what would happen the next time.”