It was pretty obvious from watching game two of the Wild and Avalanche series that these are two very different hockey clubs. The Wild, coached by Mike Yeo, play more structured, even-keeled, and defensive minded. Patrick Roy’s Avalanche on the other hand, play aggressive, fast, and in-your-face. How much does a coach’s demeanor and personality reflect on his team and the locker room environment? How much of a coach’s bench management depends on his roster?
While Yeo shows little emotion behind the bench (save for swigging his water bottle), Roy shows plenty. In his first game as head coach of the Avalanche, Roy lost his cool and started yelling at Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. Roy was so fired up, he began pounding on the glass partition separating the two benches. Mike Yeo isn’t known for getting particularly fired up, rather remaining pretty calm and collected. He doesn’t yell at his players, although I’ve seen him chirp at other coaches and players on the opposing teams. In fairness, I haven’t seen Roy yelling at his players, either, he just has this intensity about him.
Just how much of the Wild’s game plan and identity is tied to Yeo’s personality and hockey philosophy and how much is him trying to work with the talent and match ups on his team? Keep in mind that having consistent goalie play completely changes a coach’s game plan. Yeo has had four different goaltenders start 10-plus games this season. If you don’t have consistency and confidence in your goaltending, you can’t afford to take the kinds of chances the Avalanche have been able to take.
Yeo’s teams rely heavily on a structured, defensive-minded game. Roy’s team is fast, physically aggressive, and a little brassy. The demeanor of the Wild players are too mild- mannered and very worker bee-like. The Avalanche players’ demeanor is much more brash and full of piss and vinegar. How much of that can be attributed to the coaches and how much is a coach having to craft a game plan based on the personnel and circumstances he’s working with? Those calling for Yeo’s head on a platter should probably take a moment to reflect on this.
I did a random Twitter poll asking people to describe this year’s Wild team. Here are some of the responses: "bipolar", "soft", "defenseless", "inconsistent", "underachievers", and "yeo-yeo" (my personal favorite). Conversely, I asked for people to describe this year’s Avalanche team.
Here is a sampling of responses: "Well coached", "young", "fearless" "young", "young guns", "fast", "sneaky good", "really, really fast".
Interestingly enough, the average age of the Wild is 27.8 years old and the average age for the Avalanche is 27.3 years old. Not a huge difference in age there, so if we’re saying the Avalanche are young, then so are the Wild.
The bottom line is this: How much can we pin this team’s play on Yeo, when considering everything that has transpired this year, including having a relatively non-physical squad. I’ve read countless tweets calling for Yeo’s head, yet some fail to realize that this style of "Minnesota" hockey existed long before Mike Yeo became head coach. By that I mean passive, non-physical, shutdown and trap type offense.
How many accolades should be heaped upon Patrick Roy for the Avalanche’s success this year? He’s inherited a young and fiery squad that is both fast and very physical. He has no previous head coaching experience, save for Juniors, while Yeo was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh before coaching the (then) Houston Aeros and took over a team that was much less fiery and physical. I think it’s obvious this has been lacking in the Wild lineup for a very long time.
Roy is a flashy, passionate, cocky head coach. He was the same way as a player. I would argue that if Mike Yeo were given a similar lineup, he, too, could produce results similar to those that Patrick Roy is producing. Considering the Wild’s history of playing it safe, I’m not sure we’ll ever know if that could have happened.