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Minnesota Wild Coaching Candidate: Mike Yeo

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The list of possible Wild candidates is not long. Six names have been reported, a mix of veteran and "rookie" coaches, most of whom are more Jacques Lemaire than Scotty Bowman. The list includes impressive resumes like Craig MacTavish and Ken Hitchcock, and it includes guys looking for their first big break like Peter Horachek and, as we study today, Mike Yeo.

Wild fans seem split on what they want, save that they want to pay to watch a team that wins. The coaches on the list have certainly done their share of winning, but only one of them is doing any winning right now, and that's Yeo.

Make the jump as we talk with the greatest Houston Aeros writer of all time, Ms. Conduct. You can find her work at her own blog bearing her name, at The Third Intermission, and at Pro Hockey News

HW: How does Yeo get buy-in from players?

MsC: He comes in with tremendous credibility, for starters he played at this level, he won championships at this level, he's coached a team to the Stanley Cup. 

He builds strong relationships with the leaders on the team, but he also knows every guy on the team and gives of himself to them and their development and their well-being. And they reciprocate by doing what he asks. And the cycle completes itself when they see that his systems bring success, so they keep doing what he asks.

He creates a positive environment, not that he can't be a hard ass but that's not his general MO. He puts guys in a position to succeed rather than forcing them into roles that don't fit them. His lines are stable, generally, so that guys can build chemistry and there's little confusion about who has what role.

The team culture celebrates not just scoring but blocked shots, great defensive efforts, and smart play without the puck. He's smart enough to be diplomatic without being condescending or withholding unnecessarily, when talking to the media and talking publicly about his team.

The message is consistent: Play to the process, not to the result.

He is a good and fair man and I think players respect that. If they honestly give their all, they're going to get a fair shake and they know it.

HW: We know he has an "up-tempo" style, but will it work for the Wild?

MsC: It's uptempo but if I had to pick a "hockey term" for it, this team is really more about puck possession. Win the little battles as often as possible. Never ever give up on getting a puck off their stick and onto yours and once you have the puck, protect it with everything you've got. Be in the right place without the puck to give your teammate with the puck an option to get it to you cleanly. 

It's literally like a team full of Andrew Brunettes, except with speed.

HW: What does accountability look like with Mike Yeo? Bag skates? Is he a players coach? 

MsC: The players are accountable to each other. I don't know how you establish a culture like that, but somehow he's done it, and I think being accountable to each other is more important than being accountable to the coach. Because when you have leadership like this team has (DiSalvatore, Ortemeyer, Peters, O'Sullivan, etc.) and you see the level of accountability and professionalism they show, and you commit to living up to that standard, too, you really have no weak links in the chain. But that's all tone at the top. That's all coming from Yeo, ultimately.

And yes, he is a players coach. And I have no idea about bag skates. I'm sure they've had a few through the season because it certainly hasn't been smooth sailing all the way by any means. But because he's not a guy who is full of bluster generally, when he does get mad or have something to say, it's not falling on deaf ears.

MsC: Now that you got me all weepy about how amazing Yeo and this team are, I have to tell you why you should avoid him at all costs? Okay, I'll try:

Things that Absolutely Suck about Mike Yeo

  • He's bald and the glare is distracting.
  • Sometimes he wears glasses, sometimes contacts, which indicates indecisiveness and lack of ability to commit.
  • He's got that godawful Canadian accent. "Aboat" this, "aboat" that. Learn English!
  • He never yells at reporters for dumb questions. How the hell are we supposed to learn?
  • He sent Petr Kalus packing. Geez. Doesn't he know he scored 8 goals in his first pro game? He was a superstar in the making, no question.
  • The real reason he moved back to Texas was his raging Whataburger addiction. Get help, man.
  • He's only 6'1". #midget
  • All those championships he's been a part of? Just showing off, really. Cocky bastard. 
First off, let me thank Ms. C for taking the time out of her schedule to help with this. Not like she is in the middle of jetting around with the team covering the Calder Cup Finals or anything. Oh... wait. Please note, Ms.C would really like if the Wild hired someone else, leaving Coach Yeo in Houston and winning more games for her favorite team. 

Mike Yeo is the only coach on the list that I have had the pleasure of dealing with. Last year at the Wild's development camp, Yeo made himself available to media each day, and was gracious with his time and his answers. He does not seem the type to blow smoke, and while he is certainly slick with his answers, he gets the message through loud and clear. 

As for on ice results, Wild fans should all be aware of just what he has done with the Aeros. Not only does him have them in the Calder Cup finals, but he has developed many great prospects for the NHL team, and continues to do so with this run. Asked last year if he planned to win the Calder Cup, his answer was that the job of the Aeros was to make the Minnesota Wild a better team, and that a long playoff run would certainly help with that.

He delivered that, and has got to be a front runner in this particular contest because of that.

His time with the Penguins doesn't hurt his chances, although if you listen to Penguins fans, he was responsible for the demise of the Pens power play, something Kevin from Hitting the Post disagrees with, and something that does not match up with what we see in Houston. Having his name on the Stanley Cup probably doesn't hurt either.

Chuck Fletcher is in a tough spot with this coaching hire. He took a gamble on an unproven "rookie" coach with Todd Richards, and that did not work out. Many pundits say Fletcher has to go with a veteran coach, someone who can handle NHL personalities, rather than be handled by them. This puts MacTavish and Hitchcock at the top of the list.

There are a growing number of media and fans alike that are leaning toward Yeo, however. Despite Ms. C's reasons not to hire him, Yeo is the logical extension of what had to be the plan Chuck Fletcher was putting in place. His style is similar to Richards', without being a duplication. His style of coaching is similar, but with proven results. He is already in the organization, and he has proven he can make more out of a team than the sum of the parts.

Mike Yeo is busy coaching the Aeros in the alder Cup finals. The Wild have not hired a coach, despite interviewing some of the top candidates out there. The decision is either resting on Yeo being a top candidate, or on Yeo at least being given the respect of an interview. My personal feeling is Yeo is the front runner, but I admit, I have nothing to base that on other than gut feeling.

This is the guy in my book. What say you, Wilderness?