Here it is Wilderness, your final installment of the Minnesota Wild post-season grades as brought to you by the editors and staff. Its been a lot of fun analyzing the players and brass here for you. I'm not going to bore you with a massive introduction, you know the drill, so here we go!
<u>Chuck Fletcher - General Manager</u>
He got the two biggest free agents over the summer and added Pominville for two players that I don't think will be legit NHLers.
Parise and Suter. It's really, really, really hard to knock him after that. Insanely difficult. You're starting off with an A+ right there. But let's nitpick some flaws. As good as this roster has been, Fletcher is one amazing free agent signing and an equally amazing rookie from being a worse defense than Edmonton. I know that having those two players covered a lot of their weakness at the blueline, but that weakness reared its ugly head enough to hurt the Wild in the standings and in the first round, and he did little to bolster the depth there. That'll have to improve. The same can be said of not having a proper backup goalie once it was obvious that Josh Harding wasn't going to be a factor. For all he and Brent Flahr (who, as far as I'm concerned, gets an A+ every year until further notice) have done to improve the prospect pipeline, this team still has little in the way of size, which hurts them against teams that can out-muscle (St. Louis, Anaheim, Los Angeles), or plain old out-skill them (Chicago). Mike Rupp was a good start to that, but he's a fourth liner. Maybe Bulmer and/or Graovac can start incorporating that into the lineup next year, but unless Fletch addresses that issue somehow, I think this team has a glass ceiling. And lastly, the Pominville trade is one I think can work out beautifully for the Wild, but two months later, the price of Larsson, Hackett, a 1 and a 2 is still hard to swallow. Not withholding Larsson or the 1st was a price too high. At the end of the day, Fletcher's plans are starting to fall together, and this team has the makings of being a perennial playoff team/contender, but it's not all there yet. A-
Chuck Fletcher made a huge splash with the offseason signing of highly sought free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Let's be honest, Fletcher had a tough job when he came to Minnesota Wild, because he had to undo the damage to the team after Doug Risebrough left the Wild in shambles. The Wild have re-build their farm system and the Wild are young talented team going in the right direction. Three are a few pieces left to the puzzle, but there are better days ahead for the Wild.
He out guns the rest of the league for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. His other FA's, Torrrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka turned out to be great signings too. The young kids he drafted (Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Jonas Brodin) all played significant roles on the roster and made great strides this year. Lastly, his two trades (Darroll Powe for Mike Rupp and Jason Pominville for Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson, and picks) were successful despite injuries taking their toll on Rupp and Pominville late in the year.
For my first season of following the Wild, I feel like Fletcher is a great GM. He scored big this past season with the acquisitions of Parise and Suter, and they have both really paid off us. Despite Suter having a slow start with the Wild, he was a star defensemen for us, as he exploded before the halfway point of the season. Because of that, he was named one of the Norris trophy finalists. Furthermore, Harding also got nominated for the Masterton. If either Suter or Harding won their respective trophies (or if both of them won), it would be HUGE for Fletcher.
After 4 seasons with GMCF I think we all know exactly what to expect. He's not afraid to pull the trigger on the big trade, he's not afraid to make a big splash in free agency, and the kids he and his staff have brought in through the entry draft are some of the top prospect talents in the league. Most importantly, Chuck Fletcher is everything HWSNBN was not, and a very refreshing change in the front office for the Minnesota Wild and their fans. Give this guy an big giant A with a 'Good Job!' smiley face sticker next to it.
<u>Mike Yeo - Head Coach</u>
He got them team to playoffs even with all the injuries, but I think he waited to long at time to change lines when the chemistry wasn't there.
Yeo is perhaps the hardest to evaluate in the organization. What we know: During a blistering March, the Wild were at a legitimate 3rd place in the Conference, overcoming a slow start to the season.They then slumped as hard as they had risen, falling to the very fringes of the playoff bubble, almost being ruined by a humiliating loss against edmonton, a team they ostensibly shouldn't have lost 6-1 to. This cost the Wild the opportunity to face a vulnerable Anaheim and Vancouver in the first round, instead of playing the best team in hockey. While a playoff appearance and win are certainly a step up from years past, this team demonstrated that they were, at the very, very least, a corresponding step up from years' past. Yeo gets some credit for getting the Wild into the playoffs, but it comes with the caveat that A) This team performed to the minimum standards of what should have been deemed "acceptable", and B) This is two years in a row where an impressive stretch by the Wild has been followed by a playoff-threatening streak of losing, with few signs of pulling from a total tailspin. That is concerning. C
I know this is going to be controversial, but I like Mike Yeo. I also think he's a very good hockey coach. Is her perfect? No! None of us are though. I think the Minnesota Wild are about a year or two away from going deep in the NHL playoffs. While some fans wanted the management to pull the pin the Wild head coach, I thought patience was the best approach. Yeo has the Wild going in the right direction and if a few of the young players develop like I think they might the fans in the State of Hockey will be singing Yeo's praises. I think that the Wild are a lot like the 2010 Boston Bruins, before they won a Stanley Cup. Lots of young players coming up through the ranks, surrounded with a few very good players.
After a 4-5-1 start, fans wanted blood. But, the team started winning (capped off by a 7 game winning streak in March), and they all backed off. But then, the team went cold and just barely made the playoffs, and the team was ousted from the big dance in five games by the Pressident's Trophy winners. The fans wanted blood again after the quick playoff exit.
The slow start can be put on the fact there was a large roster turnover, and just one week of training camp. He righted the ship, and got the team on the winning track. Then injuries took over (Cullen, Heatley, Pominville all missed time in April and May), and the team struggled while trying to find the right line combinations, which lead to the cold finish.
He managed his rookies well, in comparison to how other teams use them. He had the kids play third line or higher (Except that one time jason Zucker played on the fourth line before being demoted), giving them valuable experience.
Like the kids, Mike Yeo is still learning too. This year was very valuable to him too. It got dicey at times this year, but he did what he needed to, and got this squad into the playoffs.
The bench boss takes home a solid B
Everyone ripped hard on Yeo this year and many thought he should be fired. Think again! For being his second season coaching the Wild, I have to say that he did something right, especially since he finally got the Wild to the playoffs again for the first time since '08. Sure, he may have switched the lines up a ton, but that was because he was trying to see who played well with who. While I though it got annoying at times, it was for the better of the team. I feel like Yeo will become an even better coach this next season.
Chuck gave him the tools, made the trades, and he couldn't win the cup in a lockout shortened season with no training camp and a handful of practices!?!? A big fat F with a picture of Donald Trump next to it saying "You're Fired!"
(Hope that satisfies the Yeo haters out there)